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 www.hotelclub.com, a global-leading accommodation website, Emily Buckley has written about cities across the world, including many articles on Sydney hotels and attractions.

What to See and Do in Santiago Spain

Eglise Saint-Hilaire Melle
Image by dynamosquito via Flickr

Santiago is one of the most picturesque cities in Spain and a popular Catholic pilgrimage destination. The central focus for most visitors is the Romanesque Cathedral of St James with its impressive Baroque façade. Santiago cathedral was built on what many believe to be the burial site of James, one of the original twelve Apostles of Jesus. The site looks down upon Obradoiro Square and is located in the old city of Santiago, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many people still travel the Way of St James, a medieval pilgrimage route across northern Spain, on their way to this religiously unique destination.

After visiting the Cathedral, especially the Portico da Gloria, stop by the Museum of Pilgrimage. Housed in a 14th century building, the museum is off the beaten path of tourists. The museum’s collections include not only material dealing with the traditional pilgrimage to Santiago but also the idea of pilgrimage as it applies to all cultures and religions. Several rooms are devoted to the Way of St James and one room is dedicated to the Cathedral. The Santiago Peregrino by Juan de Juanes is the most important work on display. The museum chronicles the history of the Apostle James, as well as the city itself.

For a glimpse of old Santiago but with modern flare, stop by the Central Gallery of Contemporary Art. While you enjoy works by contemporary Galician artists, you will be amazed at the city views from the balconies and porticos of this extraordinary building.

After spending the day wandering the old stone streets, admiring the architecture of this historic city, you will want to dine in one of the many local restaurants to savor the splendid food and wine of Galicia. Because the city is home to the Royal University of Santiago and its large student population, the city has an energetic night life. For something a little different, take a day trip to the Finisterre and explore Spain’s “coast of death”. Santiago seamlessly mixes old world heritage with modern life.

Whether you are on a pilgrimage of the faithful or just want to explore a vibrant city with a rich architectural history, Santiago is a wonderful place to visit.