Discover the Cultural Charm of the Queen Victoria Market

Boasting more than 600 shops and stalls, Queen Victoria Market is more than just a shopping precinct. In fact, it’s the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere and is the cultural heart of Melbourne City.

Filled with famous food halls, dining spots, and live performances, the market is the place to be if you’re on the hunt for a bite to eat with a difference.

The market itself sprawls out over several blocks in Melbourne and showcases the diverse cosmopolitan nature of the city, selling everything from fresh fruit and veg to imported gourmet food, vintage clothes, handmade goods, and general merchandise.

For artisan cheese and meat lovers, the Deli Hall is the finest attraction in the market. Set against a backdrop of beautiful art deco design, it boasts stalls piled high with soft cheese, Greek dips, truffle oil, kangaroo biltong, and everything in between.

Then there’s the Meat Hall, which does exactly what it says on the tin. You can pick up fresh, local meat here, as well as buy cooked food to takeaway and snack on while you browse. The Fruit and Veg Hall is packed full of local and exotic colours and flavours, while the Organics section serves up an exciting menu of coffee, wine, and organic produce.

Around the market, you’ll find open-air street markets in Victoria and Elizabeth Streets that sell a mishmash of clothes and crafts.

Queen Victoria Market

History of the Queen Victoria Market

The market as we know it today opened in 1978 and its legendary status in Melbourne as being the soul of the city, has led it to be on the national heritage list of protected sites. Over two city blocks, the market stays open for 5 days a week and carries with it a long and sometimes controversial history.

In its earliest days, the market space was initially a cemetery used by early settlers before a portion of the land was dug up and then used for an unofficial hay and corn market. As Melbourne grew in population, there was a need for a council to manage the many markets that had popped up throughout the city. The first official market was the Western Market which stocked fresh fruit and vegetables in 1841, this market took up an entire city block and lasted for 90 years.

The Western Market, however, is not located in the same area as the market we know today. That market was known as the Lower Market and also sold fruits and vegetables in 1867. Over the next decade, this market grew in size, despite there being a cemetery below, the upper section of the market sits on a section that was used the least.

Fast forward to the 1970s, the Queen Victoria Market was thriving and a staple of the city. When there was talk of it becoming a trade centre and hotel by developers there was a public outcry at this idea. Instead, the market gained its heritage status meaning it will be protected for generations to come.

Nowadays, after a much-needed remodelling of the Meat Hall in the mid-1970s, the market has continued to be a hotspot for all ages. Whether this is from shoppers collecting their morning groceries, or the younger crowd enjoying the food trucks on a Wednesday night market, the sense of community lives on through all the hustle and bustle of the crowds.

Make the Most of it at Queen Victoria Market

While you might be perfectly satisfied just strolling around and gawking at the market stalls, you can always take things one step further to really make the most out of your visit to the Queen Victoria Market.

Check it Out on a Sunday or Wednesday Evening

Winter Night Market

On Sundays, the market comes to life in a colourful carnival atmosphere. Entertainers and performers keep the crowds busy, while live music adds to the laidback, cultural vibe of the market. It’s on these days where people watching with a cup of coffee is the most exciting activity.

Wednesday evenings are special at the market. Between November and February, a summer market takes place with additional food stalls, open-air bars, and dance performances to enjoy, while winter brings another market with hearty foods, warming drinks, and seasonal gifts.

Take a Guided Tour

On several days of the week you can take a Hunt & Gather Food Tour around the market, where you can take in the vibrant bustle of the market while learning more about the food and its history. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for tasters, and you’ll get to know the stories that imbue this cultural hotspot.

For the food lover, why not take the Ultimate Foodie Tour which will see you wandering around the market with a knowledgeable guide who will take you to the very best shops in the Meat Hall, the Deli Hall and the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. Try fresh seafood, creamy cheese, antipasto, fruits and finish off with the iconic hot jam donuts that have become a staple in their own right at the market.

What stalls you should visit

Without a doubt, one of the most popular and longest running stalls in the market is the American Donut Kitchen. This food truck, which has been around since the 1950s and run by the same families, is a good enough reason alone to visit the market. Their hot jam donuts are made fresh and sell out every day, especially in the cooler months!

For all you cheese lovers out there, head to Bill’s Farm for the very best of both local and imported cheeses. But that’s not all you’ll find here, Bill, a qualified cheese grader is a connoisseur in all thing’s gourmet. This means that you can also pick up delicious antipasto and meats as well. A one-stop-shop for the foodies.

If you’re feeling peckish during your trip to the Queen Victoria Market, head on over to The Borek Eatery, an authentic Turkish establishment that has been going strong for over 20 years. It sells traditional borek, gozlemes and other pastries, a cult favourite amongst locals!

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