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Paddy’s Markets – a Sydney icon

paddy's market toy stall

A toy stall at Paddy's Markets Haymarket

For a fun day in Sydney, whatever the weather, a visit to Paddy’s Markets in Haymarket, near Chinatown, is a good option.

The undercover market, in Hay Street in the part of  town called Haymarket, is a favourite destination for Sydneysiders as well as visitors from further afield. It is well worth a visit from overseas tourists.

Paddy’s Markets are quite different to the smaller, more boutique markets operating in suburban church and school grounds on the weekend —  it is much larger for a start, and is usually run by merchants who have shops elsewhere.

But many of the stallholders have Paddy’s Markets as their main outlet, too.

Sydney’s Paddy’s Market is Australia’s original market, and boasts products as varied as fresh fruit and vegetables, bags and backpacks, cheap clothing, audio CDs and video DVDs, flowers, homewares, sunglasses, jewellery and so on. It is one of Sydney’s major suppliers to the tourist with souvenirs and Australiana, including at least one stall with genuine aboriginal handicrafts such as boomerangs and paintings.

Paddy’s also has plenty of soft drink and food stalls for you to enjoy as you take a break from shopping. It does not have the same laid-back atmosphere of the other markets and certainly no musical entertainment. But for variety, you cannot go past Paddy’s Markets, with its interesting history. Paddy’s Market started in 1834 when Governor Bourke decided to move traders in hay and grain to a site next to the cattle market that was then in Campbell Street, Sydney.

The move created a split among stallholders within the “fringe” market. Some had regular customers among the cattlemen and the hay and grain growers, and they moved to join farmers in the new Haymarket area. (That’s where the area got its name, hey?) The food sellers and second hand dealers also did a good trade, both in the vicinity of the market house and around the Haymarket pubs. The majority, however, stayed on at the George Street market.

Governor Bourke’s decision to allow the market to stay open until 10pm on Saturdays marks the real beginnings of what we know today as Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets.

By 1842, when the market came under the jurisdiction of Sydney Council, the Saturday Paddy’s-style market was well established. The council gave it another boost by allowing the George Street produce market to remain open until 10 pm on Wednesday nights.

The name Haymarket is a misnomer these days, but it relates to its history when it was the centre of farm produce distribution. The George Street produce market closed in 1891 but fruit and vegetables are still sold at Paddy’s. The foodstuffs section has a lot of Chinese vegetables as well, for the benefit of locals of Asian heritage.

The name Paddy’s Markets has been in use since the 1870s and probably relates to the Irish-influenced Paddy’s Market in Liverpool, England.

A Paddy is the nickname given to Irish people and comes from the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Seeing that Australia received thousands of convicts from the Emerald Isle, it seems appropriate that we should have a Paddy’s Market. But, in fact, we have two, as in 1975, a Paddy’s Market opened in Flemington, in the western suburbs, and the Haymarket market was supposed to close down to make way for the new Entertainment Centre. In the end that did not happen, and Paddy’s Market was moved to nearby buildings and the tradition continued.

That part of town has become more  vibrant because of the Sydney Entertainment Centre and more eateries than you can poke a stick at, all adding to the success of the Haymarket Paddy’s.

Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets, as Australia’s original Market, boasts products as varied as fruit vegetables, clothing, CDs, DVDs, flowers, homewares, sunglasses, jewellery – and is one of Sydney’s major suppliers to the tourist with souvenirs and Australiana.

Entry to all markets is free. The Sydney Paddy’s is open from Wednesdays to Sundays 9am to 5pm and Flemington is Fridays 10am to 4.30pm, Saturdays 6am to 2pm and Sundays 9am to 4.30pm.

Getting there: To Paddy’s Haymarket, catch train to Town Hall or Central stations and it is a short walk to Paddy’s; or the Sydney Explorer bus or monorail stops right at the door.

To Flemington, catch train as the market is close to the station.

Image by Dave McLean via Flickr

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