Rarely do we find an authentic artisan market in an urban location. No doubt about it, though; Sydney’s Rocks Market delivers. With over 200 permanent stalls, including top picks in fashion, art, homewares, and health, the open-air waterfront market is tops for a weekend jaunt (or three). So grab your toniest market tote and let’s check it out.
The Rocks Market neighborhood
The Rocks Market is located in the northeast corner of the historic Rocks neighborhood in central Sydney – minutes from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and across the water from the iconic Sydney Opera House. In the decades following its development in 1788, the Rocks was one of the city’s more unsavory districts, chock-full of sailors, convicts, privateers, and others on the margins of polite society. Nearly demolished in 1900 in an attempt to arrest the spread of the bubonic plague, the Rocks remained a dilapidated and neglected part of town until a full-on revitalization effort took hold in the 1970s.
Today, the neighborhood’s historic edginess adds to its appeal. Cobblestone lanes with 19th-century sandstone brick colonials are here, along with other buildings featuring traditional parapet gables, banded dressings, and keystone arch designs. Many have been fully restored. Restaurants, cafés, and chic shops are peppered throughout.
The Rocks Market
If you’re the meandering kind who prefers to wander and discover as you go, you won’t be disappointed at The Rocks. Indeed, there is much to see and we can’t cover it all here. Still, for those of you who might want a bit more direction, we have included a handful of recommendations that we think are well worth a peek.
Once across the threshold of Adlon Goods’ Rocks Market stall, that intoxicating, musk scent of rich leather fills your senses and slowly whispers in your ear, “Quality.” And boy, they’re not kidding. Wallets, bags, accessories, and belts are handcrafted in classic styles with only the best leathers and finishings. We personally love the Cognac tan clutch: full-grain cowhide, vegetable-based dye, and a YKK zipper. What more could you want in a bag? A selection of products is also available online at Adlon Goods.
Not a chess player? You might be a Chessplus player. An innovative take on the ancient game, Chessplus flips the game on its head by allowing players to combine their pieces into super-powered game board warriors. Combine a rook and a bishop and the new piece functions like a second queen. The variations are near endless.
Equally as important, the game is a design piece in its own right. Slightly Scandinavian in form, the pieces are simple, elegant, and pleasing to the touch. Made from timber, ash, walnut, or resin, each piece is a small work of art. No surprise then that Chessplus won the 2018 Australian Good Design Award – Design, Innovation and Impact. Chessplus makes the perfect gift for that hard-to-please someone, or maybe even yourself. Chessplus is also available online at Chessplus.
If you’re a bro, or need to find a gift for one, Stuga may be the Rock Market destination for you. Maker of luxury grooming products, Stuga has been in the business of elevating the grooming experience for over 30 years. Select products include handcrafted wooden shaving brushes, hand-poured shaving soaps, and hand-blended beard oils. Perfect for the hipster in your life.
Pronounced “Eder by Anna,” the nearly eponymous brand of fashion veteran Anna Eder is known and loved for its simple, yet feminine silhouettes, natural fabrics, and relaxed elegance. Pieces are mix and match and tend to lean toward neutrals and pastels punctuated with dashes of rich blue, crimson or raspberry. These days, we’re obsessed with the grey terry MG tracksuit. Though perhaps a slight departure from her typical collections, it captures the brand’s attention to detail, feminine spin on a classic piece, and luxe styling. It looks fabulous with heels, are we right? Ederbyanna pieces are also available online and in the storefront in Newtown, New South Wales.
Alex Noble Designs’ modular lighting accessories (among other pieces) combine form and function in a harmonious mix that brightens any room. Is it a lamp? Is it a sculpture? We would say a bit of both. Lamps and pendant lights with organically-shaped, interlocking shades allow the user to reconfigure their component parts to create new pieces. Lighting shades come in a variety of translucent colors and provide rich a warm glow that is evocative, poetic, and modern. All products are made in Sydney and use 100% recyclable, non-toxic, food-grade, and UV-resistant polypropylene and unbleached shipping materials. Selected products are also available at Alex Noble Designs online.
Where to eat
For a quick pick-me-up – the caffeinated kind – there are a variety of cafés scattered around the market. Most are good, but standouts for us include espresso bar ASLAN Coffee Roasters, with a range of single-origin coffees from around the Indonesian archipelago; and La Renaissance Café for that flaky almond croissant of your dreams and a double cappuccino (dry).
For something more substantial, say breakfast or lunch, head to local favorite The Rocks Café. Comfy in a friendly pub sort of way, the Rocks Café is a solid go-to for classic pub fare, locally sourced and nicely presented. We like the Rocks Café Ricotta Hotcakes served with whipped ricotta, fresh strawberries, and maple syrup. Scrumptious for breakfast or lunch.
If you’re looking for a slightly more refined dining experience, we recommend Mode Kitchen and Bar. Something like low-key fine dining, Mode focuses on locally sourced ingredients (including the alliterative paddock to plate), expertly prepared by Head Chef Francesco Mannelli of Balla, Est., and Bistrode fame. Our current favorite is a tossup between the Wood-Roasted King Prawns, Tuscan-Style White Beans & Bottarga; and the Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Tasmanian Mountain Pepperberry & Broccolini. Both are divine. Don’t forget to start the evening off with a signature cocktail – for us it’s the Mode G&T with Archie Rose Dry Gin and Strange Love Dirty Tonic. Pure perfection.
What you need to know
The Rocks Market is open year-round every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-5pm. Located at the corner of Hickson Road and George Street, The Rocks Market is a 5-minute walk northwest from the Circular Quay train station, and a 10-minute walk north from the Wynyard train station. Go to NSW Transport for details and updated train schedules.
For updated market schedules and other details, visit The Rocks Market online.