Sydney’s Top 5 Historic Attractions

Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, July 2005. So...
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Sydney may today be a flourishing, modern city but remnants of its colonial past still remain. Visit some of these important heritage landmarks and you’ll gain a fascinating insight into the historical, social and cultural development of a city that has constantly changed since it was first founded by early settlers.

Cadman’s Cottage
As Sydney Cove’s only remaining small building from the time of the first settlement and the oldest house in Sydney, Cadman’s Cottage is incredibly important in telling Sydney’s story. This sandstone structure, originally on the shores of the cove but now a fair way back thanks to land reclamation, was first built between 1815 and 1816 and used as the ‘Coxswain’s Barracks’. It became John Cadman’s residence in 1827 when he took up the post of superintendent of Government Craft, and has been restored to the way it would have looked when he lived there.

Government House
Built between 1837 and 1845 in the romantic gothic revival style by famed architect Edward Blore (who also helped to design buckingham Palace), grand Government House looks out over Farm Cove. Castellated, crenellated, turreted and containing oil paintings, antique furniture and many impressive period decorations, it makes quite a statement. It ceased to be the residence of the governor in 1996 and today is managed as a working State House which can be visited free of charge Friday to Sunday, with the grounds open daily.

Fort Denison
The island in the middle of the harbour on which Fort Dension now stands was originally used for punishing and confining convicts. In 1855 work began to build a Martello Tower (one of the last in the world to be built) to defend Sydney against a feared attack by Russian warships. This never happened but the tower stands to this day and can now be visited seven days a week. Highlights include the gunroom which still contains three 8-inch muzzle-loading cannons and the historic prison cells.

Susannah Place
Located in the city’s historic Rocks district, one of the city’s oldest areas, is this row of tiny mid-19th century terraced houses, which give an insight into what life must have been like for the majority of early settlers. Having being used continuously as domestic dwellings up until the late 20th century, it has incredible heritage significance – even the brick privies and open laundries have been retained. You can take a guided tour of the houses and can even purchase nostalgic period items from the turn-of-the-century corner store.

Queen Victoria Building
This stunning romanesque building was constructed in 1898 when Sydney was submerged in deep recession and thus gave employment to many unemployed craftsmen, plasterers, stonemasons and stained-glass window artists. Everything has been restored to its former glory, including mosaic tiled floors, a magnificent staircase, a huge dome lantern, beautiful stained glass windows, arches, pillars and balustrades. The building today houses a number of upmarket shops but is worth a visit to view the spectacular architecture alone.

As a regular contributor to, a global-leading accommodation website, Emily Buckley has written about cities across the world, including many articles on Sydney hotels and attractions.