There are two truly iconic markets in Melbourne, when you get right down to it. Queen Victoria (which has been going strong since the 1860s) and South Melbourne Market, which first opened its stalls back in 1867.
Needless to say, the city has changed a lot since fruit got delivered by wagon and the biggest problem you had was keeping milk cold.
These days the South Melbourne Market stalls are some of the best stocked in the whole country. There’s definitely an affluent skew to the produce (artisan cheeses, boutique chocolates, fresh-shucked oysters and lavish seafood), but that’s really just a reflection on how wealthy South Melbourne became over the last 50 years.
And there are still a lot of bargains here, if you know where to look. Some of our favourite South Melbourne Market stalls include Atypic Chocolate (try the single origin dark choc tablets), PJ Plants (excellent indoor greenery) and Suki McMaster (very cute homewares, crafts and gifts for kids). You can also pick up free-range eggs from Babe’s and some designer couture from Gianna Molinaro.
All that browsing the aisles really works up an appetite, and there’s a number of ways you can play it. There’s nothing wrong with a $3 borek from Market Borek (the spicy lamb is an absolute steal). Otherwise you can step it up with some spicy Asian fusion at Bambu—they do some of the best BBQ pork buns, chicken satay and gai lan green curry in town.
Of course no visit to South Melbourne Market is complete without picking up a bag full of dimmies from South Melbourne Market Dim Sims. These things have become famous throughout the land. Most fish n’ chips shops in Victoria stock them (although most are cheap imitations). These are the real deal: nuggety chicken and cabbage dumplings the size of your fist. Fried are good, but steamed are better. Don’t forget a big lug of soy sauce.
If you’re after parking, it’s almost always better to head to the rooftop. There is street parking around South Melbourne Market, but on weekends they’re incredibly rare. People set up tents and never leave, defending good spaces with their lives if necessary. Up top you get the first two hours FREE (on market days), and it’s open from 5am in the morning.
Of course the best thing about the South Melbourne market is the fact you’re in South Melbourne (duh). That means you should really use the Market as a jumping off point. Grab a crazy bacon n’ egg roll at Good Egg, try the gnarly baked sourdough at My Son Joy (it’s killer with a wodge of salted butter), go stationery shopping at Paperpoint on Coventry St, and set aside a good 30mins to explore Coventry Bookstore (one of our all-time favourites).
A trip to South Melbourne Market is still one of the best things you can do on a Sunday morning. Don’t forget your trolley.
Image credit: Simon Shiff