External façade, QVB. Supplied by the Queen Victoria Building

Behind the scenes at the QVB 2018

Focus Tour - Saturday 3 November




George McRae, City Architect

Additional architects

1934–38 Architects Branch, City Engineering and Building Surveyors Department, City of Sydney (remodelling)

1984–86 Rice Daubney with Stephenson & Turner (major restoration and remodelling)

2009 Ancher Mortlock and Woolley, Freedman and Rembel (further restoration and upgrade of interiors)


1987 Sir John Sulman Medal for Public Architecture – AIA (NSW)

1987 Heritage Commendation – AIA (NSW)

Built in tribute to the reigning monarch, the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) was designed by City Architect George McRae and completed, in 1898, on the site of the original city markets and a police court.

Sydney was in the grip of recession at the time and the QVB’s grand, elaborate Romanesque architecture was intended as a vehicle for the government to employ many out-of-work craftsmen on a worthwhile civic project.

When complete it housed shops, studios, offices and workrooms for some 200 traders, dealers and artisans. Its upper levels held bookshops and salons for aficionados of music, painting, sculpture, drawing and dressmaking, as well as amusement halls for popular parlour games such as table tennis.

A 1917 redevelopment saw many of the QVB’s magnificent interiors destroyed, including the beautiful ground-floor marketplace that was deemed to have never quite succeeded. A later redevelopment, in the 1930s, gave the building an Art Deco update, turning much of the interior into offices for the Sydney Electricity Department.

From 1983 to 1986 a major restoration by Rice Daubney and Stephenson & Turner saw much of the QVB returned to its original splendour and use as a grand retail gallery. Further restoration and upgrade of the building’s interiors were undertaken in 2008 by architects Ancher Mortlock and Woolley with interior designers Freedman Rembel advising on the historically interpretive colour scheme, frameless glazed shopfronts, new carpets, lighting and signage.

Every detail of the building is now faithfully restored, from the arches, pillars and balustrades to the intricately tiled floors, glorious stained-glass windows and 19th-century spiral staircase beside the central dome.

Tour experience

Explore the QVB with an experienced and Institute of Australian Tour Guides (IATG) credited guide. Visitors will discover the historical significance of the Queen Victoria Building and experience some of the original features of its construction in 1898.

Visitors will gain access to special off-limits spaces, as well as experience the majesty of the Romanesque architecture, including a special viewing of hidden portraits of yesteryear.


Marie Micallef

Known affectionately as the QVB Oracle, Marie has been working as a tour guide and concierge at the QVB spanning over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge about the historical significance of the building that surpasses none.

Robyn Sullivan

Robyn has been working as a tour guide and concierge at the QVB for close to a decade, with expertise in leading the Behind The Scenes Tours in the past.

Jennifer Farrar

An IATG professionally credited Tour Guide, Jennifer is the QVB's second longest serving member of the team with a wealth of knowledge about the architecture and hidden elements of the QVB that many are not aware of.

Key information

Session duration

45 mins


This tour has a capacity of 15 people per session.

Visitor requirements

  • Arrive 15 minutes before your tour start time. Punctuality is important as once the tour has begun it cannot be joined.
  • Wear comfortable, enclosed shoes
  • Only bring essential items, as storage is limited
  • Participants must be 18 years or older
  • This tour involves three flights of stairs to climb.


There will be no refunds if you miss your tour.

QVB and Sydney Living Museums bear no responsibility for items lost or stolen.

to know

  • Photography allowed

  • Toilets available

  • Food & drink available