Melbourne’s markets are as important to city culture as her theatres, sports facilities and river. On any weekend you can find locals and tourists strolling – or pushing – their way through one of the many markets Melbourne has to offer.
Haggling (or bargaining) is fine at most markets, unless it is obviously not an owner-run stand.
Most markets are cheaper than supermarkets, with a range and quality of food that tends to be better. Also, the market atmosphere is entertainment in itself – in supermarkets, the kids can’t eat fresh jam doughnuts and have their faces painted, nor can you drop your bags and take half an hour for coffee and cake. Melbourne markets are a great way to spend a Saturday morning, while stocking up on your weekly groceries.
The terms Farmers Market and Growers Market are new to Australia, as the country has a long tradition of buying local produce. They do exist, but most local markets carry fresh produce grown locally. You do not need to look specifically for a Farmers Market if you want to buy fresh produce or organic food.
In addition to small, localised suburban markets, there are some stand-out markets worth mentioning. Most of these are open from early morning (around 6am) to the early afternoon, but are usually closed at least a few days out of every week. Check websites (where possible) to determine days of opening.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen & Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne CBD
The grandmother of all Australian open-air markets. This place is a Melbourne institution. Located at the top end of the CBD, this sprawl of historic bluestone buildings and tin-roofed seller stalls has been offering fresh food, clothing, shoes, jewellery, speciality foods, meat, fish and even furniture for over a hundred and thirty years. The source for the majority of meat and veggies that end up on plates in Melbourne’s finest restaurants, the suppliers here are unmatched. In the spring and summer the Queen Vic is also open on Wednesday nights (as the Night Market) with food vendors from around the world, wine from across Australia, and live music.
163 Commercial Road, South Yarra
Great delicatessens, fresh fruit and vegetables (including organic), butchers and some crafts.
Footscray Market / Saigon Market
Hopkins Street, Footscray
The fish at the Saigon Market in Footscray is plentiful and cheap as one would expect with a large Vietnamese population. The official Footscray market (across from the railway station) sells produce and Asian goods as well. Take either the Williamstown or Sydenham trains from the city (about 10 mins), get off at Footscray station, and follow the smell of seafood.
Crammer & Murray Streets, Preston
The Preston Market has a strong Mediterranean influence thanks to its large European population. A great place to haggle with Spiro the Veggie guy.
South Melbourne Market
322-326 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Offers produce (freshest on Sundays), clothes, and crafts. This market has a Cafe Lifestyle vibe with lots of places to grab coffee, snacks, or world famous dim-sims.
Clow & Cleeland Streets, Dandenong
One stop shopping with a lively atmosphere. If you are looking for tawdry souvenirs and tacky clothes, as well as incredibly cheap food, this is a great place.
Melbourne has a large number of markets selling art and crafts. Although these are great outlets for true artisans, a lot of these markets are cluttered with mass-produced products. Still, they are worth a look, for the atmosphere if nothing else. Of particular note is the Esplanade Market in St. Kilda, which is held on the Esplanade overlooking the sea each Saturday from 8am until around 2pm (or whenever the stall-holders decide they’ve had enough for the day). The fare here is mostly touristy knick-knacks, but in a beautiful location near great cafes. http://www.stkildamarket.com/index.php
A great resource for finding other craft markets (that are held regularly but infrequently) is the website http://www.craftmarkets.com.au/
Evening versions of their daytime counterparts usually held during summer and featuring more food stalls and live music than the same venues during the day. Although there are many of these dotted around Melbourne’s suburbs, by far the best are the St. Kilda Beach and Queen Vic Night Markets.