When I first came to Melbourne in 2011, the spot I was most eager to visit was the Queen Victoria Market. I ended up making it a regular weekend trip and for the months I spent in Melbourne it was my place to wander.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ex-market brat myself, but there’s something about markets that I just love. My childhood was spent exploring Mindil Beach Markets where my parents had a stall. It wasn’t profitable, but they had fun with it and every now and again I would spend the night walking in my pyjamas amongst the stall owners the lights and the crowds, just breathing it in. I loved it so much that I gravitated back there, working early in my career almost exclusively at Mindil, as well as Parap Markets in Darwin.
Yes, markets are definitely my little happy place in so many ways. It’s just the feel of them I suppose, the way they pulse and hum with the energy of all those people. I’m definitely not an extrovert, but the swarming mass of shoppers, the intermingling smells of delicious food and the low mutter of crowds interspersed with the yodelling of stall holders connects with me. Markets have all of these things, and I love them for it.
Lucky for me Melbourne has the market goods, in particular force at the Queen Victoria Market. This place is massive, two whole city blocks of bustling market goodness, delivering everything from deli food and doughnuts to produce and presents of all shapes and sizes. You could probably spent most of the day wandering, even if all you’re doing is window shopping and sampling the food here and there. It’s full of little surprises.
Dean and I take a few bites out of what the Queen Victoria Market has to offer. On our first visit we smell the unmistakable delights of Spanish churro doughnuts, but can’t find them despite several laps and so settle for the traditional variety. At the Queen Victoria Markets, these traditional doughnuts are a staple in and of themselves, served from the site of an old Airstream trailer given new life. In the shadows, the queue hums along at its own speed, while around it pedestrians decide if it’s worth pausing to join and savour what’s on offer.
It’s not until our second visit that we have enough of an idea of the Queen Victoria Market’s landmarks that we’re able to track down the churro van. Deliciously crunchy Spanish doughnuts are the best breakfast on a lazy Saturday, dusted in icing sugar and dipped in thin, rich chocolate sauce. I know they’re only simple, but they’re worth every dollar spent for a warm-belly feeling that lasts the entire walk home.By the time we’ve come back for our third or fourth visit, we’re starting to develop the steady familiarity of market regulars. We wander and grab a breakfast bite to eat, either along the small cafe laneways or into the deli section. Bellies full, we head out into the swarming chaos of the produce sheds, smell and touch leading us to the best of what’s available. We marvel, we taste-test, we wish we could haggle but generally settle for the prices as they are displayed, or yelled to the crowd. In our heads, the running tally of best value takes us up and down the corridors, and our bags grow ever fuller with new things to cook and cast our foodie magic over.
There’s so many little details here, things that I have missed and I know they’ve passed me by. I look forward to being a real Queen Victoria Market regular, and one day maybe knowing all that is contained here. For now though I walk through the busy crowds, and I listen to the chorus of stallholders calling out specials as the market heads still bustling towards closing time. There’s still hours to explore yet.
Queen Victoria Market Facts + Tips
- Queen Victoria Market has been in business for more than 130 years. In that time it’s been a livestock and produce market, but at one point it was also a cemetery. C
- Queen Victoria Market is open on Tuesday and then Thursday through Sunday. Hours differ from day to day, so it’s worth checking on the official website for the full opening times.
- Early morning is the best time to visit for the freshest produce, but prices are cheapest as the stallholders pack down (60-90 mins prior to closing). Expect very cheap prices on Sunday and Tuesday afternoons!