29 Iconic Buildings in Sydney: Architecture map

For a young city I think the buildings in Sydney are pretty impressive. I love strolling the inner city area looking up and noticing the small details, especially along Macquarie Street which is home to some of Sydney’s best buildings, a mix of old and new, covering various styles from Gothic Revival to modern skyscrapers. I made this shortlist of my personal favourites to help you learn more about Sydney’s tallest building, the city’s oldest buildings and a few of the most stunning new buildings in the city.

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Sydney is a beautiful city, and although it is blessed with the natural wonder that is the harbour, its artificial structures can be just as impressive. Funny as it sounds, if you’re an architecture buff (or simply someone with an eye for beauty), a walk-through Sydney’s streets with your head craned upwards can be a very rewarding way to spend your day.

Big names in Sydney’s architectural scene include Francis Greenway, the city’s first architect and a former convict, James Barnett, a state employee who built many of the city’s most loved heritage buildings and in more recent times, local Henry Seidler, and international architects Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry and Kengo Kuma.

So in no particular order, we present our favourite Sydney buildings…

New to the city, the Exchange is the focal point of a rejuvenated Darling Square. Designed by a Japanese architectural firm headed by Kengo Kuma, this spiralling hive of wooden ribbons is a monument to movement at the heart of a bustling city.

The Exchange Darling Harbour one of the new iconic buildings in Sydney
Home to some great eats and a branch of Sydney City Library

Over 20,000 metres of Accoya softwood wood covers the six-story building, which features a library, childcare centre and dining options.

Kengo Kuma & Associates

After grabbing some refreshments on the ground floor, make your way to the Sydney City Library, where you can venture out onto the balconies and see the wooden ribbons up close and the city beyond.

Related: If you decide to dine nearby, check this list of our favourite places to eat in Darling Harbour first.

Architect: Kengo Kuma l Opened: 2020
Address: 1 Little Pier St, Haymarket

A popular addition to the city’s southern end, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, is nothing if not unique. Celebrated by some for its fluidity and innovation in design, many have described it as a “squashed brown paper bag”, a name that has stuck.

Frank Gehty Paper Bag UTS
Frank Gehry’s paper bag

“They named the building for Australian-Chinese business owner and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing, who donated $20 million to the project.”

University of Technology Sydney

The building houses the University of Technology Sydney Business School and was created using 320,000 specially designed hand-made bricks. The project, which cost 180 million dollars, is best viewed from the Goods Line between Central Station’s Devonshire Tunnel and Darling Harbour.

Architect: Frank Gehry l Opened: 2015
Address: 14–28 Ultimo Road Ultimo

An expansive building incorporating residential apartments and commercial businesses, One Central Park is best known for the beautiful hanging gardens that run down its glass walls.

Central Park Broadway Sydney
In for foreground is Halo – a wind-powered kinetic sculpture by artists Jennifer Turpin and Michaelie Crawford.

Another eye-catching feature is the cantilevered heliostat, which reflects light down into the shopping centre.

Come darkness, the Heliostat turns into an artwork featuring an LED light display by artists Yann Kersalé.

One Central Park has won seven international awards for its sustainability, including Best Innovative Green Building in 2015.

Architect: Jean Nouvel l Opened: 2013
Address: 28 Broadway Chippendale

One of the newest significant buildings in Sydney, Crown Sydney, is also its tallest at 217.3m.

Crown Sydney at Barangaroo
One Barangaroo can be seen from across the city far and wide.

A very contemporary titan of twisting glass, Crown Sydney is a monument to money. You will need to be cashed up to spend time inside this shiny structure, whether visiting the yet open Casino, the opulent 6-star hotel or buying one of the 82 private residences.

The tower “is derived from a sculptural form that is reminiscent of three twisting petals and takes inspiration from nature, being composed of organic forms without literal or direct reference”.

WilkinsonEyre London

The rest of us can dine at one of the 14 restaurants or bars, including Japanese fine dining experience Nobu and buffet-style restaurant Epicurean.

Architect: WilkinsonEyre London l Opened: 2020
Address: 1 Barangaroo Ave

One of the ten tallest buildings in Sydney, Aurora Place, features two towers, one housing offices and the other private residences. However, these are no ordinary towers. Shunning the box, Aurora Place pays homage to the nearby Sydney Opera House, bulging and twisting like the harbour far below.

Aurora Place Sydney Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano’s Aurora Place

Those lucky enough to call one of the 17 residential floors home have views over the Royal Botanic Gardens while the offices face the city’s west.

Architect: Renzo Piano l Opened: 2000
Address: 88 Phillip St Sydney

This three-story heritage-listed arcade sits in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, connecting Pitt Street Mall to George Street. It was named after The Strand (shopping street) in London.

Strand Arcade Sydney building
Strand Arcade sits between George and Pitt Streets.

The arcade’s custodians have worked carefully to ensure that the shopfronts’ ornate Victorian styles are exact replicas of the pre-Federation originals.

Did you know: Sydney once had 3 Victorian style arcades, Piccadilly, Imperial and the Royal Arcade.

Architect: John Spencer l Built: 1892
Address: 412-414 George St, Sydney

Inspired by the world-famous Tribune Building of Chicago, the Grace Building is stately neo-Gothic on the outside and gorgeous art déco within. When the building opened, it was the headquarters of the Grace Bros Department Store.

Grace Hotel Sydney Building
Art Deco beauty

General MacArthur liked the building so much he made it his headquarters during WW2.

Today you can enjoy the building by booking one of the 382 rooms at the Grace Hotel or dining in one of their restaurants.

Architect: Morrow and Gordon l Built: 1930
Address: 77-79 York Street, Sydney

Towering over Circular Quay, this shining modernist construction has won awards for both its beauty and its features.

1 Bligh Street Sydney
The James Angus sculpture greets you as you enter.

The building’s facades cut glare, cooled beams maintain the temperature, and a plant in the basement recycles 90% of the building’s water, earning a converted 6-star green status.

In 2012, 1 Blight Street won two international awards, the Best Tall Building Award in Asia & Australasia in the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Skyscraper Awards and the International Highrise Award.

Two eye-catching features are the building’s green wall on the Bligh street side of the building and the colourful James Angus Sculpture on the O’Connell Street corner.

Architect: Ingenhoven in collaboration with Architectus l Built: 2011
Address: 1 Bligh Street Sydney

Right on Sydney Harbour at Millers Point, the Hero of Waterloo is a classic corner pub oozing with heritage, so much so that of the it has earned a place on the National Trust List.

The Hero of Waterloo Hotel in The Rocks
A must stop venue on a walk in the Rocks.

Ask about the pub’s mysterious tunnel leading towards Darling Harbour.

The pub is said to be haunted by Anne Kirkman, the wife of one of the publicans who fell (was pushed?) to her death down the pub’s stairs in 1849.

There are many more fabulous old pubs in the Rocks you should explore 😉 in the name of history of course!

Tip: The Hero of Waterloo has great Old Time Jazz and folk music sessions most weekends.

Architect: George Paton l Built: 1844
Address: 81 Lower Fort St, Millers Point

A brilliant example of Gothic Revival, next to the Royal Botanical Garden, Government House has been home to the Governors of New South Wales since the 1840s.

NSW Government House Sydney
NSW Government House in Sydney in the Botanic Gardens

Much of the premises remains open to the public, and you can join one of the free tours to learn more about the building and its residents.

Within the gates of the Royal Botanic Gardens, you can visit the Government House’s own garden every day of the week between 10 am and 4 pm unless hosting official functions. If you are exploring the Botanic Gardens, take a few minutes to pop in.

Architect: Mortimer Lewis and Edward Blore l Opened: 1847
Address: Conservatorium Road Bennelong Point.

Built by famous convict architect Francis Greenway, Sydney’s Conservatorium, part of the University of Sydney, began life as a picturesque Gothic stable for Governor Macquarie.

Known as “a palace for horses”, the building was so expensive it caused Macquarie to be recalled to Mother England.

Conservatorium of Music Sydney
Conservatorium of Music on the edge of the Royal Botanic Garden in Macquarie Street

Today you can visit the building to attend one of the many concerts put on by students or stroll the outside when touring the Botanic Gardens.

Architect: Francis Greenway
Opened: 1820
Address: 1 Conservatorium Rd, Sydney

Once called “the finest [house] in the colony”, this sumptuous villa has a classical feel. Constructed in Greek Revival style, it was allowed to decay during the middle of the 20th Century before the villa and accompanying grotto was painstakingly restored.

Elizabeth House Historic House in Sydney
Elizabeth Bay House from

The property was home to Alexander Macleay and his family, and at the time they lived here, its gardens ran to the water’s edge. Today it’s part of the Sydney Museums of History properties, allowing you to tour the beautifully furnished property.

Architect: John Verge l Built:1895
Address: 7 Onslow Ave, Elizabeth Bay

When Australia Square was built in 1967, it was the tallest structure in Sydney and the first modern skyscraper in the country.

Australian Square
Australia Square – Head to the top for a sunset drink at O Bar

Although long since eclipsed by its neighbours, Harry Seidler’s Australia Square remains a modernist Australian architecture landmark.

At the base of the complex is a popular lunchtime food court and bar. Head to level 47 for O Bar and Dining, a revolving restaurant that is the perfect place to take in a Sydney sunset. Facing George Street, you will find a work by American sculptor Alexander Calder.

Architect: Harry Seidler l Opened: 1967
Address: 264 George Street, Sydney

Built to be “the Empire’s Greatest Theatre” at the peak of the Jazz Age, the State Theatre combines Gothic facades with a neoclassical interior and baroque auditorium, giving you a glimpse of the show business of yesteryear.

State Theatre Sydney
The Foyer of the State Theatre By Sardaka CC BY 3.0

The theatre is referred to as the “Palace of dreams”

Seating 2,034 people and filled with an impressive collection of classic art, including work by William Dobell, sculptures and stunning chandeliers, if you want to learn more amount this fantastic property, book one of their guided tours. At the very least, wander into the foyer as you walk past.

Architect: Henry Eli White l Opened: 1929
Address: 49 Market St, Sydney

Filling an entire city block, the building is named in honour of Britain’s greatest monarch, who stands just outside with her faithful talking terrier Islay.

Queen Victoria Building in Sydney in afternoon sun
Slightly blurry, but I took this from my Meriton on Pitt apartment one afternoon and loved the scale.

The Romanesque building’s exterior has been carefully restored. Journey inside to see the reconstructed caged lifts that take shoppers from one stylish boutique to another.

In 1959 they floated a plan to demolish the QVB and build a car park! It was not until 1971 that the building was protected, and in 1974 it was placed on the National Trust.

Dictionary of Sydney
Great Australian Clock in the QVB Sydney
The Great Australian Clock in the QVB

There are two clocks in the QVB that visitors should not miss:

  • The Great Australian Clock at the Market Street end of the building features 130 hand carved figures and 27 paintings detailing key moments in Australian history.
  • The second, the Royal Clock, at the southern end “performs” on the hour between 9 am and 9 pm.

The building was constructed during an economic depression to employ the cities, stained window artists, and stonemasons. Its renovation in the 1980s restored its beauty.

Architect: George McRae l Opened: 1898
Address: 455 George St, Sydney

Built in 1939 in Art Deco style, the AWA Tower and the building beneath might remind the onlooker of Clark Kent’s Daily Planet, evoking a Golden Age of Radio and media.

AWA Tower Sydney
Our own mini Eiffel Tower in Sydney

The 15 storey building is topped by a radio transmission tower and was the tallest building in Sydney until the 1960s.

The tower was modelled on Berlin’s Funkturm Tower, and the Eiffel Tower inspired both in Paris

Dictionary of Sydney

Architect: Morrow and Gordon l Opened: 1939
Address: 47 York St, Sydney

Known affectionately as the Money Box by locals, the Commonwealth Trading synthesises Classical Greek influences with contemporary Art Deco. Built just after the federation, the building symbolised the government’s growing power over the national economy.

Commonwealth Bank Martin Place
I always think of the flags on Fifth Avenue in NYC when I see this building.

It features Ionic columns on the exterior facing Martin Place, Corinthian columns framing the balcony doors, and Doric columns on the roof.

Take a walk inside and check out the towering Eucalyptus coloured marble columns. While the ground floor is still a functioning Commonwealth Bank branch, the building is now home to Macquarie Banks’ global headquarters.

Architect: H E Ross & Rowe l Opened: 1916
Address: 120 Pitt St, Sydney

Regarded as one of Harry Seidler’s masterpieces, this white Bauhaus tower blends elegance with functionality to house some of Sydney’s most sought-after office space.

MLC Centre Sydney
The MLC Centre ground food hall is a popular lunch spot for city workers.

It features an octagon floor plan of 67 floors with some breathtaking views of the city offered from offices here.

The MLC Centre was the tallest office building in Sydney from 1977 to 1992

The street-level features a large food court and supermarket. The mushroom looking building in front of the tower is part of the original construction. It is home to the Commercial Travellers Club, which offers rooms, a bar and bistro and meeting facilities for members.

Architect: Harry Seidler l Opened: 1977
Address: 19 Martin Pl, Sydney

General Post Office, Martin Place

“The finest example of the Victorian Italian Renaissance Style in New South Wales”, the General Post Office is built from Sydney sandstone.

General Post Office  GPO Martin Place Sydney
GPO Sydney

Long a landmark of the city, the central Australia Post office until 1996, you will now find a small post office that shares the floor space with cafes, galleries and boutiques. It is also home to the Fullerton Hotel who do wonderful free tours.

Tip: Head to the basement of the building, where you can view a piece of the Tank Stream that once supplied water to Sydney.

Architect: James Barnett, Walter Liberty Vernon l Opened: 1824
Address: 1 Martin Pl, Sydney

The Department of Lands was vital to New South Wales’ expansion as a colony, and its headquarters were suitably grand: three stories of Victorian Renaissance Revival. Though now in private hands, its ornate façade is heritage listed.

Department of Lands Building
How much do you know about these great Australians

The building features 12 niches on each facade that were designed to be filled with statues of explorers. Only 23 statues were placed at the building’s completion, and while two more were suggested, Kingsford Smith and Bert Hinkler, they were sadly not added. A figure of James Meehan was added in 2009.

Among the explorer included are Bass, Blaxland, Bourke, Flinders, Hovel, Hume, Lawson, Leichhardt, Oxley, Parkes, Phillip, Roberton, Sturt, Wentworth and Wills.

Architect: James Barnett, Walter Liberty Vernon l Opened: 1876
Address: Bridge Street

Since before Federation, Sydney’s Great Synagogue has served the city’s Jewish community and is the earliest surviving synagogue still in use. Combining Gothic architecture was the Eastern inflection of Byzantine Revival, the Great Synagogue is a one-of-a-kind building.

Did you know: There were 8 Jewish convicts on the first fleet.

Free tours of the building are usually offered but these are currently suspended. You can, however, make private bookings. See their website for details.

Architect: Thomas Rowe, Walter Liberty Vernon l Opened: 1878
Address: 166 Castlereagh St, Sydney

Like the Opera House, the design for this memorial resulted from a competition. Of the 117 entries received, Bruce Dellit’s was a popular winner.

Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney
The Anzac Memorial and Pool of Reflection is located in Hyde Park South.

You can visit the memorial on weekdays, but because of current social distancing requirements, you need to book. Entry is free, and there are several exhibitions to view.

Architect: Bruce Dellit and sculptor Rayner Hoff l Opened: 1932
Address: Liverpool Street, Hyde Park South Sydney

Once a small chapel, St Mary’s is now an English Gothic basilica and the home of Sydney’s Catholic community. It is a beautiful building lit with stained-glass windows; its interior is filled with priceless devotional objects and a magnificent pipe organ.

St Mary's Cathedral Sydney
St Mary’s Cathedral from Hyde Park

You can take a free tour of the cathedral on Sundays after the 10:30 am Mass. Join the tour near the college street doors.

The Cathedral’s southern spires were installed in 2000 and completed the architects’ original design.

You are also welcome to attend events or masses.

Architect: William Wardell, Augustus Pugin l Opened: 1838
Address: St Marys Rd, Sydney

Sydney Hospital is Australia’s first hospital. It was referred to as ‘The Rum Hospital’ because it was built with finance from local business owners in exchange for rights to a monopoly on the city’s rum trade.

Sydney Hospital with its famous boar statue
Il Porcellino, meaning ‘the little pig’, is a replica of Pietro Battiste Tacc’s original in Florence, Italy.

The original site comprised three Colonial Georgian buildings, the central facility that remains a working hospital today and the north and south wing, which became Parliament House and The Mint, respectively.

“In 1868, Lucy Osburn established the first nursing school in Australia at the Sydney Hospital site after being sent to the colony by Florence Nightingale following a request by the colonial government.”

South Eastern Sydney Local Heath District

Tip: I highly recommend wandering into the central courtyard to view the beautiful fountain. You can also take a museum tour between 10 am and 3 pm on Tuesdays (closed public holidays) on level 1, Nightingale Block.

Architect: John O’Hearen (unconfirmed but considered most likely) l Opened: 1811
Address: Macquarie St, Sydney

Sydney’s most divisive construction, the Sirius building, is possibly Australia’s most famous example of Brutalist architecture. Easily visible as one drives over the Sydney Harbour Bridge or departs Circular Quay on a ferry, it has remained a polarising construction since they completed it in 1980.

Sirrus - Brutalist building in the Rocks Sydney
Sirrus – no longer public housing Credit: Katherine Lu – CC BY-SA 4.0,

Originally designed as public housing to provide homes for locals who had been displaced from run-down properties in The Rocks, it was sold off in recent years.

After a solid campaign to save the building, it has been announced they will keep it intact and renovated. It is expected it will offer 89 private units and some retail space.

Architect: Theodorus (Tao) Gofers l Opened: 1981
Address: 48 Cumberland St, The Rocks

Formerly the depository of the state’s records, the Land Title’s Office (or the Registrar-General’s Building) was vital to New South Wales’ bureaucracy in the pre-digital age. Although now defunct, it remains a heritage-listed example of the Federation Gothic style.

Land Titles Office in Sydney
This building would make a lovely hotel!

ArchitectWalter Liberty Vernon l Opened: 1913
Address: 1 Prince Albert Rd, Sydney

The private residence of art collector and philanthropist Judith Neilson (AM), who owns White Rabbit Gallery. Indigo Slam is the most recent Brutalist style structure to be completed in Sydney. They gave the architects the brief to design a sculpture that could be lived in.

Indigo Slam Building in Sydney
Old meets new in Chippendale

The building has won 18 architecture and design awards and features a dining space to seat 60 guests. The three-story property with a basement is considered one of Sydney’s most beautiful private homes.

Architect: William Smart and Smart Design Studio l Opened: 2016
Address: 51 O’Conner St Chippendale

Located on what was once the shoreline of Sydney Harbour, Cadman’s Cottage is the second-oldest surviving residential building in the city. Built in 1815 as the home of the government coxswain.

Cadmans cottage in The Rocks
Cadmans Cottage

They named the building after its first resident John Cadman, a convict transported for life for stealing a horse. He lived there until his retirement and, after several years, became a water police station.

Take our self guided walking tour of The Rocks to learn more about Sydney’s oldest streets.

Architect: Francis Greenway (unconfirmed) l Opened: 1816
Address: 110 George Street The Rocks

Triangular in design, the Meudon is a high-rise apartment block reminiscent of the famous Flatiron Building of New York. Flats in this Art Deco gem offer a great view of the harbour and go for astronomical prices.

Sydney's Flatiron Building Meudon in Elizabeth Bay
“Sydney’s Flatiron Building”

The building overlooks Sydney Harbour, and when one of the 18 properties occasionally hit the market, they sell quickly. In 2018 an unrenovated apartment sold for 2.15 million.

Architect: Architects Crane and Scott  l Opened: 1933
Address: 13 Onslow Avenue Elizabeth Bay

There you go; we could have easily added a dozen more, but for now, what is your favourite? We would love to hear?

Want to explore more of Sydney’s architecture? Check out this list of Sydney’s oldest buildings.

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4 thoughts on “29 Iconic Buildings in Sydney: Architecture Map”

  1. What a wealth of info this post is. I must admit I much prefer the traditional buildings, and my faves are Govt House, State Theatre, QVB, and the cathedral. Must make sure I visit them next time I’m in Sydney.

  2. This is a beautiful collection. It has inspired me to walk around and find the ones I haven’t come across in this beautiful city. Where can I find your photos please, and do I have permission to frame and display some of them in my air bnb. Thank you very much.

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