Lonely Planet review for Martin Place
Studded with imposing edifices, long, lean Martin Place was closed to traffic in 1971, forming a terraced pedestrian mall. Once the corporate crowds go home, skateboarders and film crews converge upon the ramps, stairs and fountains.
As iconic in its time as the Opera House, GPO Sydney, built in 1874, is a beautiful colonnaded Victorian palazzo that was once Sydney’s General Post Office. It has since been gutted, stabbed with office towers and transformed into the Westin Sydney hotel, swanky shops, restaurants and bars. Inspired by Italian Renaissance palaces, architect James Barnet caused a minor fracas by basing the faces carved on the sandstone facade on local identities. Queen Victoria dominates the central white-marble statuary, surrounded by allegorical figures. Under a staircase in the basement there is a small historical display and a pipe housing the dribbling remnants of the Tank Stream.
Built in 1916, the 12-storey Commonwealth Bank building was Australia’s first steel-framed ‘skyscraper’. Its interiors are largely intact and clock-watching tellers still muse over the inscription on the wall: ‘The Noiseless Foot Of Time Steals Swiftly By’. Another branch has taken over the old State Savings Bank building: it’s a beaut example of interwar beaux-arts architecture, featuring green-marble Doric columns and an enclosed brass-and-marble teller area.
Near the George St end of Martin Place you’ll find the Cenotaph, commemorating Australia’s war dead. Abutting Martin Place on George St is the former Commercial Banking Corporation of Sydney – an impressive marbled edifice, worth a look if you’re passing by.