Hobart’s Salamanca Market
Salamanca Market operates every Saturday from 8.30 – 3.00 (some stalls start closing from 2pm) every Saturday of the year, unless it falls on Christmas Day.
It’s been doing this since 1972. These days Salamanca Market is a multicultural affair. Just about as multicultural as Hobart gets.
The dry hum of activity exhumes from the market as I approach. The peasants are in a mix of attire, many fearing the grey Gods above, others are expecting Hobart’s sun to make a random 30-degree appearance.
Entering at the high point at the Davey Street / Salamanca Place junction the narrow snake of shoppers, tourists, onlookers, and empty prams sprawl out before me.
Tent stalls are on each side of the market as it heads down towards Salamanca Place and its old sandstone warehouses that make up much of its infrastructure.
The black flag and black tent of the Sea Shepherd stall is dominant among the generally colourful landscape of shoulder shopping bags, honey and woollen offerings.
The pace through the market is not high. Dawdle is the speed of choice by the masses, and for those trying to break that speed barrier, they are soon stymied.
The food stalls offering “free taste” gather the enthusiastic public, with the House of Fudge a clear winner, turning their toothpick tastings in to sales. I highly recommend stopping in to stab at some fudge. The salted caramel fudge is the best seller per Eben Smith, the stall holder. Unsurprisingly, the Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian Tiger packaging sell well to the tourist crowd. The chilli chocolate has a great taste too.
I soon find rhythm with the shifting crowd, keeping to the left side of the market. The market stalls are not categorised or grouped into niches, they are randomly placed throughout the market. You are likely to see a lavender stall next to a cherry stall, as much as a second-hand book stall is to be next to any one of the multitude of leather shops.
One consistent theme is “Made in Tasmania” or “Tasmanian made”. At some places, it looks like declaration of pride, while other occasions it’s purely a sales pitch. Most stalls claiming Tassie made products or produce will have the people responsible for the crafting of the products displayed before you, and are generally happy to talk through the concept and craft of their art.
The sounds of an overcast summer morning are filled with chatter, in numerous languages and accents, from tourists and locals, discussing what plans they have for the day ahead, and what they did yesterday. It’s a pleasant listen in it’s own busy mish-mash way.
The store holders engage eagerly in conversation about the weather, the sights of Tasmania (“Have you been up The Mountain yet?”), and provide some offerings on where a prospective client says they are from.
Some staff prefer to knit, and call out the price of an item without even seeming to lookup.
The wonderful variety of smell and noise creates a relaxing, almost cleansing buzz. Salamanca Market is a laid back affair, even with the human roadblocks. Taking your time is the way to go, even if adventure is calling.
I edge my way past a gin tasting – it is a bit early for me. If you did want to be as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University (thanks Captain Blackadder), with all the free tastings on offer, it is conceivable to get a good morning feed, and, you could get a bit giddy too stopping at each gin and whisky stand.
Time for a spot of shopping
Is Salamanca Market a good place to get real gifts and Tassie souvenirs? If buying uniquely Tasmanian is of importance, I assure you, there is enough opportunity to take “something” from Tasmania here for even the fussiest shopper.
Speaking of Tassie products… Beautiful, but pungent aromas of 90-year-old cultivated lavender products in all shapes and sizes. The Tasmanian Lavender Gift stall is striking with its array of mauves and lilacs (yes, I just looked up the thesaurus), and its wafting lavender fragrances. Rare leatherwood honey from Tasmanian leatherwood trees is prominent as I make my way through the market. Wood products of every design you can think of – bowls and breadboards seem to be the most common. The fresh scent of marvellous 1000-year-old Huon pine from the far reaches of the wild west coast entice several deep breaths, and immediately cures me of a wrinkle as it transports me to a better, fresher place. Take a sniff. You will love it!
For the less fussy, yes, there are Tassie Devils too.
There’s oodles of fresh produce. Mainly berries and cherries. Punnets of raspberries are value for money. Cherries and assorted selections of blueberries, strawberries, nuts, chocolate coated or natural are all hot ticket items. If my nephews came here they would eat the place empty.
The jewellery available at the market varies in quality from knick-knack to check-the-limit on your credit card. Some of the glass artist’s jewellery is amazing. And equally pricey.
On today’s wandering, I am happy to notice there are not as many over touristy stalls, selling made in China commercial products as I last remember. But as I said, there is something for everybody.
Food. Glorious Food.
The hunger gets to me. I may have missed breakfast on purpose.
Luckily, food stalls are plentiful. I will not go hungry. Korean, Persian, Chinese, Turkish and Vietnamese flavours line the market, along with deep fried selections, wood fired pizza, cinnamon donuts, vegan options, Tassie’s famous scallop pies, baked potato slices, hot dogs and bratwursts. You can’t go to Salamanca and not get a bratwurst. Well maybe you can, I can’t.
I’ve wandered through more than half of Salamanca Market now. The mustard and sauce from my bratwurst is all over my face. I can feel it, but I can’t see it.
Back to Market
A lady has just realised she paid more for her new bag a few stalls ago than the stall she is now at. She is not pleased. Leather hats, bags, belts, wallets, purses, plus clothing of all varieties are found all over the market at different stalls, so be wise and shop around.
In my opinion, some of the best value for money items in the whole market are woollen gloves. Seriously. The wool and merino wool, scarves, socks, jumpers/sweaters, beanies, gloves, shoals are clothing necessities when in Tasmania. It may even snow in summer. You never know.
‘Tasmania’ labelled t-shirts, tea towels, caps, shopping bags are almost nauseating to me, but I have been a sucker for buying similar on international trips. Hola Barcelona!
Tassie is a beautiful place. There are many wonderful images of iconic Tasmanian places. A couple of Tasmania’s leading photographers, Paul Fleming and Luke O’Brien are market regulars. They truly have some remarkable images. Prints are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most photos are of Tasmanian landscapes, wildlife and the Aurora Australis.
Salamanca Market is not noisy in the boisterous marketplace bluster-style. The buskers and musicians of differing qualities compete for attention and tips. Three boys have a card table set up for card tricks, sucking an elderly gentleman in to some form of “pick a card” for $2.
As I come to the end of my morning market expedition, the most amusing event is a guy sitting crossed legged on a table reading a line from a book loudly and wildly, then ripping out the page before reading another line then ripping that page out, and so on, was an entertaining scene for onlookers and passers-by. Think Kramer from Seinfeld, on horrible drugs.
A walk through the entirety of Salamanca Market can take an hour to three hours, if you stop to taste, eat, drink and enquire and are happy to crowd walk for that length of time.
I’ll generously say “most” places offer debit and credit card options which is a welcome relief. One thing I should mention is don’t necessarily expect cheap market prices. This goes especially for second hand items if they happen to be your shopping specialty.
Once at the market, there are the Salamanca Square cafes and there are seating options on the grass nature strip to take a break from being on your feet.
There are also the Salamanca Place eateries that open from lunchtime onwards as alternative options or add-ons, or if you need a glass of wine or a cheeky beer to quench your thirst.
Last and not least, for the art lovers out there, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the Salamanca precinct.
Salamanca Market. It is a Hobart tradition. Come and experience it for yourself. Let me know what you thought.