The Queen Victoria Market may receive the lion’s share of the ‘markets attention’ in Melbourne, however, spend an afternoon trawling the labyrinth-like aisles at the South Melbourne Market, and you’ll want to return, again and again.
You may think I’m making light of the markets’ mazy conditions, but I’m warning you, if you spy a map at one of the many entry points, grab it! Yes, you identify yourself as a tourist, but you’ll thank me later. I wafted around for ages before finding anything that resembled my bearings. Although, this probably says more about my sense of direction than the jam-packed innards of the market’s halls.
Other than the initial state of disorientation, the South Melbourne Market blends the best of supermarket convenience with farmers’ market authenticity. It’s clean, organised, under cover, has an incredibly diverse range, but, most importantly, it’s managed to keep its ‘producer-driven’ soul. Even the token food hall, which can often lose its passion somewhere along the way, maintains the boutique vibe of the busy cafes and restaurants straddling the outside footpaths of the block-wide structure.
My first task; tucking into a massive bowl of laksa from the hall. Despite spilling it on my pants and the accompanying tray, it was more than enough to fill me up. I wobbled back, bloated and content, into the thick of the market.
Much to my immediate dismay, I discovered a condiment-packed seafood island, full of people feverishly shucking away at fresh oysters. This treat will have to wait until next time. Unfortunately, my warm-soup-belly couldn’t possibly fit in any more savoury; my search for dessert resumed.
As I continued to wander, one thing became evident. The diversity of the goods on sale reached that of the Queen Victoria Market; while the overall quality may have even surpassed it. Eyebrow waxing, bicycles, hand-crafted jewellery, hemp, terrariums, as well as all the fruit, veg, dairy, meat and seafood you could poke a very long stick at.
According to the map, there are 140 shops, stalls, stores, specialists, providers and provedores scattered around this traditional village market, which goes some way to explaining its internal complexity. The Market does its best to segregate the various sections, though, with such an assorted array of products in a relatively confined space, you might find the odd chocolatier in the home and living area. Which is certainly a nice surprise.
The South Melbourne Market may be a wee bit further from the CBD than it’s more regal sounding cousin in the north, but it offers more than enough to warrant a visit on an empty stomach.
Oh, and as for my quest for dessert. Macaroons. Yeah, I know. Get jealous.
Get the lowdown.
Open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Trading hours differ. Check out their website for more details.
There are a few different ways to get to the Market, but the simplest, from the city, is catching the 96 tram that runs past Bourke Street Mall, Southern Cross Station and the Casino, and jump off at Stop 127 (South Melbourne).