People always say things like ‘Oh, the Queen Vic Market has been there forever.’ But we often take it for granted: there has been a market at the top of Queen St for over 140 years. Since 20 March 1878 in fact.
And it’s not only Melbourne’s largest surviving market from the 19th century—it’s the biggest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere.
Of course, most Melbournians don’t think about the Queen Vic in those terms. This is a working market. You can still see the butchers’ tracks above the stalls, where the meathooks hang at 4am. It’s where your parents took you when you were a kid to get tongue-scalding jam doughnuts from American Doughnut Kitchen. Or a couple of steaks from Amott Quality Meats. Or a wheelie-trolley full of cheap veggies on a Sunday afternoon, when the butchers and the greengrocers were singing out the day’s specials.
Melbournians don’t have to go on and on about the Queen Vic, we know it’s a special place. That’s why so many people still use it for their weekly shop.
But over the last ten years or so, Queen Victoria Market has done a fantastic job of reinventing itself. It’s not just a massive food and produce market—it’s a destination. Traveller’s who’ve never been to Melbourne make a point of visiting. Its Wednesday Night Markets (running through the summer and winter seasons) are major events on the city’s foodie calendar. Hardly a weekend goes by without some sort of street party breaking out in Franklin or Queen St—Brazilian belly dancers or pop-up paella stands. Mid-winter cider stalls or Chinese dragon parades. If Melbourne has a pulse, this where you check it.
Now the big question, which stalls to visit first?
There are a few cult merchants you just HAVE to check out. Places like Borek Shop, where queues of hungry locals flock every day for delicious $3 boreks (the lamb ones are best). Happy Tuna is the go-to for fresh seafood— Wayne Chitty and his family have owned this spot since the 1920s.
If you get up early, check out M&G Caiafa for hot croissants and bakery goods from Noisette, Crumbs, 5 & Dime Bagels and Burnham Beeches. Really, the best thing to do is just roam. Follow your nose. Stop for tastings, ask questions, get to know the vendors.
Queen Victoria Market runs regular festivals and events, most of them food related. You can generally find out what’s coming up on their Events page, but there are seasonal festivals that come back every year: the summer and winter Night Markets, the Melbourne Truffle Festival (that one usually runs from May to September), and the Family Funday Sundays (June & July). There are even a range of Queen Victoria Market tours (both historical, and delicious), that we’d highly recommend. You haven’t experienced the Queen Vic Market properly till you’ve seen it through the eyes of a hungry local.
Market days are Tuesday (6am – 2pm), then Thursday – Sunday (times vary). Pro tip: get there at 6am on the dot to experience the Market waking up. It's a site not many Melbournians ever actually see.
If you're looking to get behind the scenes at Queen Victoria Market, look no further than their Ultimate Foodie Tour where you'll be led by a guide to discover the best produce on offer, and the history behind the market. Book your tickets, or buy a gift card, here.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re dying for a hot jam doughnut. BRB.
Image credit: Visit Victoria