Brisbane CBD – Old and New

Brisbane CBD Series, Our Brisbane Life

This article was originally posted Nov 2014 – revised April 2020.


Although Brisbane is a relatively young city, the CBD has the a unique appearance of old and new buildings. Some of these look old, but were really only constructed in the 20th century. Still, the juxtaposition of the old style brick and stone buildings against the new, more modern glass towers is striking.

Cathedral of St. Stephen – Old and New

St. Stephens sits proudly next to tall glass towers, creating a delightful contrast of old and new. St. Stephens itself is a contrast of old and new. The old looking sandstone exterior gives no indication of the surprisingly contemporary interior.

For more pictures of the intriguing inside of both of these unique buildings and a little history, go to “Brisbane Open House”

Next door to the Cathedral is the original St. Stephens, which was built in 1850. This is the oldest church in all of Queensland.

Perhaps the most unique contrast of old and new is hidden behind St. Stephens. Mercy House is built in true Queenslander style, a complete contrast to the sandstone and glass CBD.

Albert Street Uniting Church, Old and New

Albert Street Uniting Church is right in the heart of the CBD and is a true old and new contrast. You might remember seeing it in the first blog post “Working in Brisbane CBD.

Poor little church is dwarfed by all these taller buildings looming over it. But it still has presence and catches your eye with its red brick and sandstone carved exterior.


Stay tuned for some more pictures of Albert Street Uniting Church in the post “Brisbane Open House“. This exciting blog post gives an insider view to some old and new places that are not normally open to the public. 

St. John’s Anglican Cathedral

Although St. John’s looks old, it is relatively new. Construction of Brisbane’s largest and most striking cathedral began in 1901 and reached completion in 2009.

Inside, handmade tapestry cushions depicting Australian flora and fauna grace every pew.

Some of the other old and new buildings that grace the city core are not churches, but they do have an interesting place in Brisbane’s architectural story. Speaking of story – or rather, history – here is a little….

Brisbane was  formed initially as a penal colony for British convicts sent from Sydney. Only hardened criminals, and recidivist prisoners (repeat offenders) were sent to the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement. It acquired a reputation for violence, and death from disease. Further, the overseers of the prisoners were prisoners themselves and chosen for that role based on their brutality and ability to maintain discipline through terrorizing the other prisoners. It won’t surprise you to learn that they had to be housed in separate barracks because they were hated and risked being murdered in their sleep.

Brisbane’s desirable suitability for fishing, farming, timbering, and other occupations caused it to be opened to free settlement in 1838, and to cease being a penal colony. The town became a municipality in 1859 and a consolidated metropolitan area in 1924.

Brisbane City Hall and the Museum of Brisbane

Brisbane City Hall is fascinating to explore – especially the Museum of Brisbane, housed inside. Here you will get an excellent understanding of the history and growth of Brisbane, from just over 2000 people in 1851 to over 2.2 million in 2014!

In addition to a really great museum and the offices of Brisbane City Council, Brisbane City Hall, built between 1920 and 1930 (does that make it old or new?), also has 14 venue rooms for rent including one with a ceiling that has a constantly changing light show.

Treasury Casino, Brisbane CBD

Old and New – This old building is fronted by new modern sculptures, creating a nice contrast.

There is a certain humorous irony to the fact that the former Queensland Government Treasury building (built between 1886 and 1928) is now occupied by the Treasury Casino.

Customs House

More on this very interesting building in “Brisbane Open House”.

A Few Final Pictures of Old and New Interest…

Brisbane CBD is a fascinating place to wander around – a great mix of old and new. So be sure to check out the other posts in the Brisbane CBD series for more.

I don’t know the name of the building to the right below, but it has the interesting architecture of intricately scrolled metal railings, popular in many of the early buildings in Australia.

(Above) The National Australia Bank (NAB) is one the major banks of Australia.

(Below) Oh dear, a somewhat unfortunate name for a business.

The Regent Theatre is a heritage listed cinema, built from 1928-1929. It sits next to a modern art installation of butterflies. This building can be found on the popular and busy Queen Street.