Brisbane Heritage Architecture Tour (Self Guided), Brisbane

Brisbane is home to many places where you can get a real sense of what the city was like in colonial times. Each of these exquisite buildings highlights different types of architecture, whether it be colonial, gothic or neo-classic. Used today for everything from cultural events to local administration, these sites are all must see attractions for any visitor to the city.
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Brisbane Heritage Architecture Tour Map

Guide Name: Brisbane Heritage Architecture Tour
Guide Location: Australia » Brisbane (See other walking tours in Brisbane)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: gene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • All Hallows School and Convent
  • St. John's Cathedral
  • Customs House
  • St. Andrews Church
  • The Old Windmill
  • Brisbane City Hall
  • Brisbane Parliament House
All Hallows School and Convent

1) All Hallows School and Convent

All Hallows School and Convent is a P-12 school that lies on three acres of landscaped gardens close to the Brisbane River at its Story Bridge crossing. Opened in 1861, the Catholic school is one of Queensland’s oldest formal education institutions and the oldest running secondary school in the state. It was opened the year after a law was passed in the state allowing religious and other non-state bodies to open secondary schools. Run by the Sisters of Mercy, the school was established to provide education to less fortunate, and often immigrant, young women living in the Fortitude Valley area. From humble beginnings the school is today considered one of the most prestigious schools in Queensland.

The school moved to its current site at the edge of Fortitude Valley on Duncan’s Hill in 1863. The church purchased a pre-existing building and grounds there known as Adderton House for the sum of 6000 pounds. The original building can still be seen to this day, forming part of the convent, and is one of Brisbane’s oldest surviving edifices. The building was extended in 1916 to meet the growing needs of the school. The All Hallows has several high profile Australian women alumni including: Miranda Kerr, model, Tracey Wickham, Olympic swimmer and Thea Astley, author.
St. John's Cathedral

2) St. John's Cathedral (must see)

St. John’s Cathedral is one of the most impressive churches in Brisbane and is used for important Anglican occasions such as the ordination of priests or deacons. In addition, it is an important part of the Brisbane arts scene with its own orchestra that holds many events and concerts throughout the year. It is also home to the largest cathedral pipe organ in Australia and has an acclaimed choir. In the tradition of grand medieval cathedrals in Europe, St. John’s is the only Australian cathedral that has been completed over more than a century with stonemasons, architects and the diocese working together.

The work has resulted in a stunning Gothic revival cathedral designed by one of England’s most prestigious 19th century architects, John Loughborough Pearson. This was to be his final masterpiece and he died just prior to the final plans being approved. The project was taken over by his son Frank. The most recent additions to the cathedral have been the western spires clad in copper, which were hoisted into place in 2008. One of the highlights of the interior of the cathedral are the mosaics brought back from the “Holy Land” by WWI Australian light horsemen: you can see them in front of the cathedral altar.
Customs House

3) Customs House

Customs House is one of Brisbane’s most beautiful colonial buildings and its location on the shores of the Brisbane River make it even more impressive. The building once played a key role in the city’s economics – it was built in 1886 to replace a humble custom’s house at Petrie Bight. It was designed by Charles McLay of the Colonial Architect’s Office and is a magnificent example of the Victorian Free Classical style. The exterior of the building is dominated by the impressive copper dome roof and its beautiful portico.

The building is now owned by the University of Queensland and is used for public and private functions – you can often find art exhibitions or music concerts being held inside. Some of the rooms are open to visitors to enjoy and take in the significant history of the building and remind us that Brisbane was once a great port city. Within Customs House, the Long Room is the grandest and there are historical displays inside showing the building as it was in its heyday. There is also a charming restaurant that can be visited by the public and provides the perfect chance to imagine Brisbane as it was in Victorian times.
St. Andrews Church

4) St. Andrews Church

St. Andrews Church is one of Brisbane’s grandest churches, built in Romanesque style; it is well known for its grand pipe organ. The church was built in 1905 as Presbyterian, but became a Uniting Church when the non-conformist denominations merged in 1977. Originally the congregation met on Wickham Terrace, but when their space was needed for railways a competition was held for the design of the proposed church on the corner of Ann and Creek Streets. It was won by George Payne who presented plans for a Neo-Romanesque style and bagged the 100 pounds reward. Although it was originally viewed with some trepidation by Brisbane residents who were expecting a grand Gothic design, it is now heavily regarded as the finest example of Neo-Romanesque in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the 1920s the St. Andrews underwent extensive renovations with a more ornate entrance from Ann Street into the sanctuary and from Creek Street into the Hall added. In this same period the stunning stained glass windows of the church were finally completed. The church was most recently refurbished in 1999. One of the main features of the façade is the bell tower, which is still used to call the congregation to church on Sundays.
The Old Windmill

5) The Old Windmill (must see)

The Old Windmill is Queensland’s oldest surviving building and one of the very few convict built buildings to remain in the city. It was constructed in 1824 to grind maize and wheat to feed the convict population of the colony. Originally a treadmill the mill, but the cloth sails were added a couple of months after its inauguration; however the treadmill was still put to use as a form of punishment. In 1841 two aboriginal men were hung from the windmill after they were deemed to have been guilty of murdering two members of a surveying party at Mount Lindsay.

Around 1849 the windmill was decommissioned and was put to use as Queensland’s first museum and during the 1930s and 1940s it was used as a broadcasting tower. In fact, it is thought that this was the site of the very first TV broadcast in Australia in 1934. In 1866 a cannon was installed at the windmill and was fired each day at precisely 1pm for the residents of the colony to set their watches by.
Brisbane City Hall

6) Brisbane City Hall (must see)

Brisbane City Hall is located in King George Square in city’s CBD and is the center of the Brisbane City Council. The building is widely considered to be one of Brisbane’s best and one of the most ornate and beautiful of Australia’s city halls. The foundation stone of the building was laid in 1920 and construction was completed by 1930. For many years the hall was Brisbane’s tallest building and to this day you can take the elevator to the top of the clock tower and get an impressive panoramic view over the city. The viewing platform is open 10am to 3pm every day for free. The clock tower is 91 meters above the ground and was inspired by St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy.

Built in the Italian Renaissance style, there is much of interest to see in the building. Above the Corinthian columns at the entrance to the building is the ornately carved tympanum, which was carved by Sculptor Daphne Mayo in the 1930s. It features scenes of the settlement of Queensland with cattle drovers extending out into the lands filled with kangaroos. Inside there are many beautiful rooms, but the highlight is the main auditorium inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
Brisbane Parliament House

7) Brisbane Parliament House

Brisbane Parliament House is the seat of the Queensland State Parliament, which is a unicameral institution and the only parliament of its kind in Australia. Following the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859, a grand building was ordered to be built. Robert Tiffin’s design was selected in 1863 following an Australia wide competition. The French Renaissance style construction was inaugurated in 1868 although additions such as the colonnades were not completed until 1878.

When you enter the main entrance you are greeted by a Minton tile European imported foyer and grand staircase, which leads up to the Chambers and the Reading Room. In the Red Chamber, which was the Upper House until it was abolished in 1922, you find Waterford crystal chandeliers, which were presented to the parliament by Queen Victoria. Stained glass in both the Green and Red Chambers depict the monarch. On a Parliament House tour you can view the mace, which is a stunning gold and silver creation one meter long and weighing 7.7 kilograms. It features many Queensland opals and sapphires and is placed in the Green Chamber when the Parliament is in session. There are guided tours held every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 2pm.

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