Sydney's sandstone real estate

  • Interior photo of the dimly lit Marble Bar


    The magic of the Marble Bar

    Photo: courtesy of Sydney Living Museums.

  • Photo of the interior of The Great Synagogue


    The interior of The Great Synagogue

    Photo: courtesy of Sydney Living Museums.

  • Photo of Darlinghurst Fire Station


    Darlinghurst Fire Station

    Photo: courtesy of Sydney Living Museums.

In real estate-loving Sydney, an open house normally means would-be tenants and hopeful homebuyers on the hunt for that elusive place to call home. But for one weekend a year, the Emerald City hosts a very different kind of open house.

Earlier this month, 50 well-known Sydney buildings threw open their doors to a curious public as part of Sydney Living Museums’ tenth annual Sydney Open event.

Sydney Open is one of those rare excuses to be a tourist in your own city and this year was no exception; locals were out in force and cameras, usually reserved for taking holiday photos, were getting a decent workout.

It’s not possible to see every building in one day, so some planning is required. As a bit of a history nerd, my Sydney Open itinerary took on a disctincly sandstone theme, with a couple of concessions made for the modern landmarks of Deutsche Bank Place and Governor Phillip Tower.

My schedule opened with Darlinghurst Fire Station, followed by Eternity Playhouse, the former Baptist tabernacle where Arthur Stace was inspired to scrawl “Eternity” around the city for the next 35 years. From the outside, the Playhouse is quite a nice old building, but inside reveals stunning stained-glass windows and a simple yet spectacular ceiling. Sydney is home to many lovely buildings, but this one may be my new favourite.

The day included stop-offs at Hyde Park Barracks, the Reserve Bank, Parliament House, The Mint and the Great Synagogue, all of which I’d walked past hundreds of times but never ventured into.

In Macquarie Street I discovered the Sydney Hospital Nightingale Wing, which is home to the Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation Museum – a great place to see old medical instruments, specimens and a collection of fantastically titled journals from the series Morbid Anatomy. St James’ Church opened the crypt beneath the church – another place I’d never really noticed before – so visitors could see the mural of angels on Sydney Harbour in the Children’s Chapel, another remarkable, yet well-hidden city gem.

Sydney Open is an opportunity to see the city through more attentive eyes, reminding us of how much history we walk past every day without taking the opportunity to explore it.

If you missed the day, or didn’t make it to every location on your list, you can still explore the buildings with the #SydneyIsOpen hashtag on Instagram and Twitter. 


Meet Kat Crossley; law graduate, writer, florist, and museum and gallery lover. We call her Gallerina, and she’s one of our Roving Reporters. She’ll be giving us her insights every month in M&Gazine as she flounces around the state from museum to gallery, so stay tuned.

You can find her on Twitter at @kat_crossley or exploring an exhibition near you. 

Museums & Galleries of NSW helps small-medium museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres create exciting experiences for visitors and, through this, thriving local NSW communities. We don't run museums, galleries and cultural centres but we care about those who do. We develop their skills, connect them with others in the industry, provide funding, point visitors their way, and give them access to ground-breaking exhibitions.

Museums & Galleries of NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.

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