History repeating: The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is a heritage stay with a story
By Maya Gorman
The parallels could not be more perfect. Just like its stunning sister in Singapore, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney was once a grand General Post Office and remains a beloved local icon, with layers of history to unfold. Launched in 1874, the GPO Building has long been a landmark and meeting spot; its clock tower was once the tallest building in the city – and while Sydney’s skyline has since surpassed it, the allure of this place endures.
The story behind the site is as intriguing as the stay is indulgent. Of course, there’s much on the hotel’s doorstep for those who come to work and play – Sydney’s bar and dining scene, theatre shows and museums are calling – but it would be a shame not to stay in and explore.
The stonework of the exterior – which took months of painstaking restoration before the building was reborn as The Fullerton Hotel Sydney – warrants a long wander and closer look. Classic columns and the exquisitely carved faces of Neptune, Minerva and Queen Victoria offer a glimpse of what was possible for a post office during Sydney’s gold rush.
The facade was also the cause of controversy and even outrage at the time of its unveiling, not for the gods and monarchs but for the carved scenes of daily life below them, which depict characters including a postman handing a letter to a decidedly flirtatious barmaid.
Weaving your way through, there are all the delicious details you could want in a heritage hotel: the grand staircase, sandstone walls and classic columns juxtaposed against modern architecture, a soaring glass atrium and skybridge. And in the middle of it all – the charming presence of original red post boxes in the foyer, which still accept mail.
The intricacies of the moulded ceilings are a reminder always to look up, while downstairs, you’ll discover the stone arches of the former stables and brickwork pipes that transported the stream the city was built around.
It’s a difficult decision where to settle here for your stay. There’s the sprawling Heritage Long Suite in the former postmaster’s office within the General Post Office building, with its marble fireplaces and the postmaster’s original desk.
Or, in the high rise of the hotel, the Tower Premium Rooms allow you to gaze out onto Martin Place and the GPO’s iconic clock tower. It was so treasured that it was dismantled during World War II in case of an air attack, its pieces spread throughout Sydney, and restored in the 1960s. From the domed ballroom, you can peer into its mechanics and seethe spiral staircase that leads to the tower bell. Speaking of staircases, there’s another, particularly mesmerising set that might give you a case of déjà vu – it featured in an iconic scene in The Matrix.
It’s a destination for discovery, but the jaunt from Singapore to Sydney comes with familiar comforts: for food lovers, laksa and satay on the menu hints at the connection. Here, surrounded by glimpses of the site’s past and the ever-evolving heart of the city, we’re right at home.
Where to now?