Filling an entire city block in the heart of Sydney, and joined by underground walkways with Town Hall Train Station, this shopping venue hosts iconic international and local brands, as well as a handful of fabulous children’s toy shops on the top floor…
In 1810 Governor Macquarie set aside this land to be a public marketplace for Sydney, which it was until 1898 when this building, named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, replaced them. Designed by George McRae, the elaborate Romanesque architecture housed a concert hall and showrooms as well as a variety of tradespeople. In the 70s, the building faced near-demolition, but instead won approval for renovation and reopened her doors in 1986; further refurbishment in 2009 restored her to all her former glory.
Today many iconic Australian – and international – brands have a shop in this building, including the quality Australian clothing brands Country Road (men’s, women’s and children’s) and Rodd & Gunn (men’s), as well as specialty stores Kikki K (stationery) and Oroton (handbags). On the top floor there is also an Aboriginal Art Gallery as well as an Australian art store where you can find classic Australian prints.
Best of all for children are the selection of toy shops. On the Second Level come two toyshop gems: Just White where you will find a brilliant array of brands and toy genres – from vintage wind-up cars and dollhouses to games, puzzles and baby toys; and Hobbyco, which is a veritable treasure trove of everything from train sets, robots and craft kits to kites, Star Wars characters and puzzles.
Then, of course, there is the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Shop where you will find plenty of Wiggles merchandise, not to mention a host of other familiar children’s brands of books, CDs, DVDs and toys to keep your child’s need for a bribe or two sated.
If you are a bit peckish, there are plenty of eating options with everything from high tea (between 10am and 5pm) in The Tea Room on the Third Floor, to gourmet pizza at Vanto on the First Floor, all the way down to grab-to-go food hall fare (even gelato) on the Lower Ground Floor.
And if you’re needing some essentials while you are there, the Ground and Lower Ground Floors have a host of general stores including a newsagent, a mobile phone centre, hairdressing shops, a Loccitane store, as well as all the facilities you might urgently need with a baby. So it is definitely a place to have on your radar when running about in Sydney!
If you are not staying in the city already, then take the train rather than drive (parking costs are a prohibitive $9 for the first 30 minutes, up to $62 for more than 4 hours). Even if it is a tropical storm outdoors, pedestrians can make their way underground/under cover all the way from here through to Hyde Park via a series of different department stores and shopping centres, including Sydney City’s Westfield’s.
Why go: The top floor is the place to head if you are looking for a toy to reward a tantrumming toddler or a terrible tween.
Who is it best for: All ages, all interests, apart from those with an allergy to shopping.
Top tip: Every hour, on the hour, the clock on the top floor plays a tune and has characters twirl about its portico’d doors – a wonderful thing to surprise children with…
Facilities: There are all the facilities you need in this building. Head to the Lower Ground Floor for change rooms and the top floor for wider, more luxurious bathrooms with sit-down at a mirror style space and large elegant toilets. There are also ATMs here and free wi-fi (simply select _FreeSkyFii from your network options).
Highlights for kids: Hobbyco (Second Floor) for all boys toys (think trains, robots, building kits and the like) and Just White (Second Floor) for all manner of exceptional brands and toy types (from puzzles to robots, dolls to card games); for older girls, KikkiK (Lower Ground Floor) will be another delight with all manner of gorgeous stationery, stickers and books.
While in the area: Pop over George Street to Kinokuniya for great children’s books, or into David Jones’ Food Hall to pick up an excellent selection of delicacies for a picnic lunch in the Botanical Gardens. Alternatively, go the opposite direction and pop into Abbey’s bookstore on York Street, where there is another excellent children’s book section tucked down the back, then head down to Darling Quarter where children can enjoy the amazing playgrounds that have something for all ages.