Come for the food, stay for a coffee, leave before you buy too much stuff to can't take it all back with you.
The Queen Victoria Market is an ever-present thread in the social fabric that makes up Melbourne’s ‘foodie culture’. It has been a traditional working marketplace on and off since 1878, jam-packed full of literally everything you never knew you needed. Beanies made to look like a tiger face. Tick. A mild-tasting Dutch style cheese with a creamy texture. Tick. A bouquet of oriental lilies. Tick. A cheap knock-off of an English Premier League jersey. Also, tick. These items have been acquired, for various reasons, over the years, by yours truly.
So it’s fair to say my trip to the QVM, in autumn of 2017, wasn’t my first rodeo. Though every time I go back, there’s something else that I remembered I wanted to try from the last time. It’s a vicious cycle!
In years gone by, on ‘boys weekends’ and ‘farewell tours’ to Melbourne, I’ve been too hungover to get to to the Queen Victoria Market before 9 a.m. Okay, okay at least midday. But with house sitting responsibilities now keeping me grounded, I took my chance to get in early. It was worth it.
The bustling pace leading up to lunchtime is frenetic; you’ll potentially have to dodge a shopping trolley or two as you wander through. Afternoon trading is also rowdy with spruikers trying to hawk their remaining goods. But the relative peace and quiet of the mid-morning air suited me just fine. It gave me the opportunity to feel unhindered, in the usually helter-skelter environment of the Queen Victoria Market. I’m not making it sound very ‘regal’, am I?
Despite the early start, the typical energetic atmosphere is still very much apparent. And on reflection, this is one of the reasons I keep going back. The constant hum of conversation, the sweet smell of freshly cooked pastries, the insight from the producers and the visual bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables; certainly not something you’ll find in an everyday supermarket.
I meander from aisle to aisle, shed to shed, precinct to precinct, warming my hands with my fair-trade skim milk latte (when in Rome, right?). The aroma of freshly deep-fried hot doughnuts had me floating nose-first across the plaza. Goddamn, they smelt good. Yes, I caved, and yes they were worth it.
While there are rows and rows of touristy knick-knacks and cheap clothing, I implore you to see past the merchandise. Use the QVM as the world-class super-duper-market that it is. As a much younger, much sillier man I used to trawl the souvenir stands hunting for bargains. Yes, there are some quality items in there and by all means, please explore. But I’ve learnt to spend the majority of my market budget elsewhere.
Dedicated produce halls containing fruit and vegetables, organic, meat and fish, dairy, smallgoods, spices and preserves are all located within a three-minute walk of each other. Fresh, delicious, packed full of variety and generally cheaper than what you’ll find in a supermarket. This is now where all my money ends up.
The Queen Victoria Market simply isn’t a place you just visit once. If you’re in town for a few days, I would recommend frequenting the markets and absorbing as much atmosphere as possible.
Get the lowdown.
Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Closed most public holidays). Various trading hours for different sections, check out the QVM website for more details.
Free. Information on paid guided tours is located on the QVM site.