Getting to Know Parliament House in Sydney

Getting to Know Parliament House in Sydney

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 05/18/2016

Reading time: 3 mins

The oldest building in Sydney is sure to give you an insight into the region’s history and political operations

Sydney is one of Australia’s most vibrant cities, boasting an eclectic smorgasbord of fascinating attractions and activities to get stuck into. One such attraction might fall under the tourist radar compared to other more exciting spots such as the Sydney Opera House or the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but the large political arena known as New South Whales’ Parliament House is one of the best areas to see in the city.

Located in the heart of Sydney City, Parliament House is actually a complex of buildings that can be found on the east side of Macquarie Street. From the outside, it boasts a Georgian design and is actually the oldest public building in the entirety of Sydney. It is flanked by two Neo-gothic buildings that are home to the parliamentary chambers, which are connected to a 12-storey block at the back of Parliament House.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Sydney’s Parliament House is that it showcases a fairly simple design compared to Australia’s other parliamentary buildings. Elsewhere in the country, the buildings feature intricate detailing and eye-catching exteriors, whereas Parliament House in Sydney is not grand at all in its appearance and architectural style. However, despite its limited grandeur, it triumphs in other areas, known as Australia’s first and oldest parliament.

The oldest part of the building dates back to 1810, when it was built as the north wing addition to Governor Macquarie’s “Rum Hospital”. There was no funding from the British government, which was the norm for buildings at this time, so Macquarie arranged to build the hospital using only convicts and a monopoly on rum imports – hence its name.

It was completed in 1816, boasting three two-storey colonnaded buildings and was met with a mixed reaction. On the one hand, it was dubbed “elegant and Commodious,” but it was also heavily criticised for its design and the haphazard construction led by Francis Greenway. In fact, there were so many shortcuts during the building stages, that defects and problem areas were still being found in the 1980s.

Nowadays, the Parliament is still apart of Sydney’s oldest remaining complex of public buildings, seen as the centre of the history of New South Wales. It continues to play a key role in the politics and history of the country. The Parliament’s Fountain Court, the Legislative Council, Macquarie, Jubilee, Parkes and Wentworth Rooms are all open for visits. Simply head to the Parliament buildings and stroll through these historic rooms! Each room has their own artworks, historic memorials, and political purposes, letting you discover each one as you head through the buildings. There are free tours that let you travel through the region with a professional guide who can give you even more detail on the history and culture.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.