The Rocks: shopping, markets, pop-up bars – and more

The Rocks — one of Sydney’s most famous neighborhoods, with iconic views and bucketloads of history. There’s loads more to see and do at The Rocks, for locals and tourists alike, then you might already know.

The Plus Ones were invited on an afternoon ‘retail and relaxation’ tour to showcase the best places in The Rocks. From hotels to shops, markets to a pop-up bar, there’s something to pique everyone’s interest. Including stories about Elton John’s wild days in the 80s.

The Rocks Sydney - Holiday Inn

The Rocks Sydney – Holiday Inn

The day began at the Holiday Inn Old Sydney (55 George St, The Rocks). This historic building has 176 family-sized rooms. My +1 — TPO Melbourne writer Ember, visiting for the weekend — and I were left breathless by their rooftop pool. On one side: the Harbour Bridge. On the other: the Opera House.

And yes, you can hire the space for functions. (A company’s fancy Christmas do was on when we visited.) I immediately starting thinking about throwing a party there with The Socialites. Stay tuned…

The Rocks Markets

The Rocks Markets

Fortified with a mocktail, we took the back way through hidden passageways to The Rocks Markets. With 250 stallholders rotating through every weekend, it was all we could do to tear ourselves away from perusing the artwork and handicrafts.

We’ll just have to go back for lunch and a shop. Luckily for Sydneysiders, the Friday Foodie Market is extending its hours to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from January.

The Rocks Sydney - Sardis Boutique

The Rocks Sydney – Sardis Boutique

You’re probably familiar with the main strip of shops fronting George Street. We visited some of the top retailers there. First, a stop at Sardis Boutique (79 George St, The Rocks). This womenswear store highlights 25 Australian designers.

Best of all, they feature clothes from all seasons of the year thanks to cruise ships’ patrons who need winter clothes in our summer. The next time you’re heading to Europe for Christmas, you know where to get beautifully made 0ff-season clothes.

The Rocks Sydney - Joe Bananas

The Rocks Sydney – Joe Bananas

Joe Bananas (103 George St, The Rocks), was one of my favourite stops on the tour — and not just because they plyed us with glasses of bubbles. The irrepressible menswear designers, Evan and Kim, took us through their process for their wonderful silk jackets. Taking their cues from Australia’s nature, everything from paperbark to galahs ends up inspiring their custom silk weaves.

We heard the delightful story of how Elton John, visiting Sydney in the 1980s, once bought the entire shop’s wares. The entire shop. It’s not hard to see why.

The Rocks Sydney - Endota Spa

The Rocks Sydney – Endota Spa

Relaxation is a huge part of The Rocks. New beauty shop Deciem (123 George St, The Rocks) is opening on 13 December. Its tagline: ‘The Abnormal Beauty Company’. You’ll find brands you can’t find anywhere else.

But of course, you can always visit Endota Spa (5/66 Harrinson St, The Rocks). I’ve been lucky enough to have treatments at Endota over the years, and let me tell you — it’s top of the line. Their products and ethos are all about celebrating natural elements, which you can tell the minute you walk into one of of their treatment rooms. Psst, ladies: they have a group room for your next birthday or hen’s party.

The Rocks Sydney - Uashmama

The Rocks Sydney – Uashmama

But time for more shopping! Uashmama (3/140 George St, The Rocks) is a family-owned Italian company that features treated paper products that look like leather. Bags, backpacks, aprons, wallets — it’s all washable. No joke.

You won’t believe the number of great designs. I’ve been using my new bag in quartz (the colour of the season), and still can’t believe it’s paper.

The Rocks Sydney - Sorry Thanks I Love You

The Rocks Sydney – Sorry Thanks I Love You

Sorry Thanks I Love You (140 George St, The Rocks) is one of those shops where you can buy a gift for anyone — and I mean anyone. As we sipped Magic Tea (lemongrass and lemon myrtle), we learned that their m.o. is that everything they sell ‘has either taken hours to design or is made by hand, and all of it has a story to tell’.

They’re also linking with Gourmet Traveller to celebrate their 50th anniversary, so it’s just one more reason to stop by and peruse their offerings.

The Rocks Sydney - MCA Store

The Rocks Sydney – MCA Store

A trip to The Rocks wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the MCA Store (140 George St, The Rocks). As one would expect from the Museum of Contemporary Art, they have a carefully-curated selection of books, tchotchkes.

These are the type of little curiosities that are perfect for Christmas, a birthday, or just because.

Cherry Blossom Bar at the MCA

Cherry Blossom Bar at the MCA

To finish the tour, we hit the MCA’s brand-new Cherry Blossom Bar. In front of the MCA, with views of the Harbour, it’s opened in conjunction with the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibition. It has Japanese-style paper lanterns, gyoza and bento boxes on the menu, and delish cocktails.

My pick of their four cocktails is the Sakura Sunset — vodka, lime, cranberry juice, and lychee syrup. They also have a cocktails, the Tokyo Rose, made with gin Archie Rose tailored with cassia, ginger, and lemon myrtle for Cherry Blossom.

Cherry Blossom Bar at the MCA

Cherry Blossom Bar at the MCA

There’s truly something for everyone in The Rocks, be it an amazing view, Australian designers, or picking up a handmade gift for yourself (or a lucky +1).

Best of all, you can now cap off your day of shopping and relaxing with drinks at a popup bar. Talk about a great day out in Sydney.

– Theresa
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa still can’t get over hearing about Elton John buying an entire store’s worth of merchandise.

Visit The Rocks any time of the week. Many venues are accessible.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Cardinal Spin.
Image credit: The Plus Ones.