Whether on the hunt for the best produce, organic cupboard staples or a quirky piece of art, Melbourne’s markets never disappoint. From bustling food stalls to those showcasing local creatives with a flair, spending a day ambling through the markets is a sure way to experience the city and the congenial individuals trading their wares.
The city’s eclectic cultural mix has also resulted in some of the best markets, all offering a diverse range of shopping and culinary delights. Add that to Melbourne’s dedication to sustainability and conscious dining habits, there’s no end to filling a basket or finding that unique item for a special someone. Many of the markets are within easy reach by tram, bus or train from the Central Business District (CBD), and are worth exploring to get a real feel for the city and the people who live there. So, support local when next on a shopping splurge, and take a walk through some iconic and historical market locations to ace the Melbourne experience.
A trip to Melbourne is never complete without a visit to this iconic market, which was recently added to the National Heritage List. Opened in 1878, the Vic Market is an historic landmark spread over two city blocks. It has more than 600 vibrant, small businesses selling everything from fruit and veg, to imported gourmet foods. If it’s fresh food you’re after, grab a tray of oysters from the seafood hall, or haggle with a trader over a box of seasonal fruit. Don’t forget to enjoy the market’s famous hot jam doughnuts alongside some of Melbourne’s best coffee. For clothes, locally crafted goods and souvenirs, head outside where the stalls are lined up under one giant warehouse roof. For those wanting to get the very best out of the Queen Vic experience, book a foodie tour (via their website) and get all the insider information on the market’s hidden gems and best places to shop.
Melbourne’s oldest market, Prahran, opened its doors in 1864 but moved to its current location in 1891. If the sheer size of the Queen Vic Market is too much, then Prahran is the perfect place. With a variety of restaurants and food trucks to sample (The Mussel Pot is a firm favourite), including a store that has every type of cheese toastie imaginable, it’s foodie heaven. The market also prides itself on encouraging vendors to be sustainable, and in 2017 introduced a food waste machine that recycles fish offal and organic waste. You can get to the market via the Sandringham Line from Flinders Street Station and get off at Prahran Station, or take a scenic tram ride on the number 72 to Camberwell (from Swanston Street in the CBD) and get off at stop 30, which is right outside the entrance to the Market.
Home to the famous South Melbourne dim sum, the market is a great destination on the South Bank. With food, flowers, and even a cookery school, it is perfect to browse, no matter what the weather. With the bustling restaurant precinct and events throughout the year (including their famous Summer Night Markets), it’s always a hub of energy with traders willing to share a story or two. The market has a number of green initiatives, such as the Vermicompost Worm Farm Project, which sees an Olympic-sized swimming pool of green waste turned into compost, which is then sold as Market Magic to customers. To get there, take the No. 1 tram from Federation Square towards South Melbourne Beach to the corner of Park Street and Cecil Street (stop 25). The market is a five-minute walk away. Arrive early to grab a delicious pastry from Agathé Pâtisserie.
Christian Ferrante, who works behind the scenes at the Rose Street Market, explains that visitors are attracted to the market for the weird and wonderful items up for sale. “We showcase over 120 of Melbourne’s best artists and designers each weekend, so you just never know what you’ll find here.” Situated in the heart of ever-trendy Fitzroy, it takes its inspiration from similar markets in London, Berlin and New York, giving new and emerging creatives a platform to showcase their work. Ferrante says that while they have showcased over 3,000 designers in the market’s 16 years, customers are currently loving unique, handmade products with a focus on sustainability. An example of this is Aoracreo, where customers can pick up recycled plastic that has been transformed into a variety of vibrant bags, wallets and other products. If travelling to the market by car, there is an all-day car park on Rose Street. If using public transport, catch tram 96 from Bourke Street (get off at stop 16) or tram 11 from Collins Street (get off at stop 17).
Hosted at the Royal Exhibition Building, this bi-annual market is a must if you just happen to be in the city at the same time. The market is globally recognised as Australia’s leading design market, hosting events in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane each year. Starting in 2008, it has grown to inject over $1 million into the Australian economy by supporting creative businesses across the country. Each market is carefully curated to feature up-and-coming talent and new stalls with each edition. There are also food and beverage stalls, live music, two bars, fresh coffee and Melbourne’s favourite food trucks. Held over three days, expect to find 270 independent art and design stalls.
This second-hand market is a much-loved treasure trove of Melbourne’s collectables, antiques, vintage fashion and odds and ends. Held every Sunday in the car park in Station Street, it’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning. While browsing, keep an eye out for things that might be of real value, or those sought-after vintage clothes to spruce up any wardrobe. Operated by Balwyn Rotary, its main aim is to raise funds for a wide range of charitable causes, and those attending are asked for donations on arrival. Get there early, as the market closes by 12.30pm. Take trams 75 or 70 from Flinders Street, or 72 via Swanston Street.
There really is no better way to enjoy the picturesque seaside strip of St Kilda than by visiting this quirky market. A trip here provides a brilliant day out, especially when the sun’s out. With over 140 stalls, the market is known for launching the careers of many artists – some remaining store holders for years. Stroll along the beachfront from Luna Park to St Kilda Sea Baths and delight in the variety of unique handmade arts and crafts on offer, or grab a bite to eat. Catch a quick 15-minute tram ride from the CBD (numbers 16 or 96) to get here.