Alexandra Rampano visits the colourful weekend markets that sit in the shade of the Harbour Bridge.
Nowhere else but at The Rocks Markets could you be amused by a scavenging pigeon as it loiters around your feet waiting for stray pieces of food to hit the ground.
The relaxed and casual vibe of this Sydney market is infectious. I spent a couple of happy and leisurely hours roaming the stalls bumping shoulders with hundreds of other people. Feeling this good surrounded by such a crowd is a rare occurrence in the city.
Walking around the cobblestone streets with a fresh cob of buttered corn in one hand and a skewer of chocolate-dipped marshmallows and strawberries in the other is a delicious experience in every sense of the word.
Some of Sydney’s oldest buildings create a stunning backdrop here, making you feel you’re in a different time and place, while the Harbour Bridge peeks around street corners. It’s the omnipresence of Sydney’s greatest icon that really gives The Rocks Markets its atmosphere.
Brick laneways and red phone booths are scattered around the streets, reflecting the influence of Australia’s first British settlers.
What was once a convict jail is now the thriving historical heart of Sydney.
The Rocks is transformed of a weekend by the white sails of over 200 stalls that line George and Playfair Street.
A lap around the markets reveals unique and quirky items of every description. If you are looking for an eel-skin wallet, you will find it here – they’re surprisingly gorgeous, brightly coloured and durable.
The markets have an arts and crafts bent, with stretch canvas paintings of all sizes featuring cartoonish old-school VW campervans, Australiana landscapes and coastal scenes, and hand-crafted framed jigsaw puzzles. One art stall with a real difference is Darren Germain’s Space Art. More interesting and complex than the name suggests, Darren creates his artwork on the side walk as people gather round to watch.
His landscapes are created entirely with spray paint and only a few tools, including strips of newspaper, which he uses to shape the scene.
If you tire from perusing the hundreds of products on display, you can seek refuge in any number of pubs and beer gardens in The Rocks.
The Irish Observer Hotel offers Guinness and hearty pub meals, and the music played inside spills out into the street adding to the cheery mood. The Orient Hotel Beer Garden is a great place to retreat to for the afternoon once all the shopping and eating is complete.
Little retail shops are also nestled into side lanes such as the Candle Factory. This gorgeous shop has hundreds of candles for sale, from scented to cupcakes to cute penguins and stunning glass holders.
The Rocks Weekend Markets are open 10am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday and if it does rain, it certainly does not spoil the day as most stalls are undercover.
For a genuinely enjoyable lazy day of wandering and eating, these markets set a very high standard.