Update 20/10/2020: In line with current restrictions, Melburnians living within 25km of Queen Victoria Market can visit for essential shopping.
It's popular with locals as their go-to spot for fresh fruit, veggies, meat and an outstanding variety of dairy and smallgoods, but Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is also something of a must-visit for tourists. But for those looking to get the most out of their Queen Vic experience, we suggest keeping the following tips in mind. Especially number ten. Never forget number ten.
1. Always have cash.
While some venues are ditching cash in favour of card payments, the reality of a 140-year-old marketplace like Queen Vic means cash rules everything here (at least for now, anyway – it's 2020, after all, so many things are changing). You should know where the ATMs are (there are a couple on Queen Street between the sheds and the food hall, one next to shed A... but the least popular spot is usually the 7 Eleven on Elizabeth Street if you're coming from the city).
2. Have your cash ready when you get to the front the line.
Don’t be that guy, digging around in his wallet while several people are eagerly waiting behind you. Be ready.
3. Know you want when you get to the front of the line.
More than once I’ve witnessed someone wait in line for ten minutes only to get to the front of the line and ask, “Soooo, what’s good?” Come on! At least figure this out by seeing what everyone else is clambering to purchase ahead of you.
4. Be mindful of the market’s trading days.
Bore this into your memory, write it in the Notes section of your phone or get a tattoo on the back of your hand: Queen Vic Market is closed on Mondays and Wednesdays. Many a Melburnian has been tripped up by this, so you’re definitely not the first person to rock up at noon on a chilly Wednesday in the hopes of getting a bratwurst.
5. Buy your meat last.
If you’re doing a big shop, leave buying meat until last. That way you won’t have to carry a hunk of lamb around the cheese and bread stalls like a chump.
6. Always buy a borek.
You will regret it if you don’t.
7. Don’t gum up the borek line if you’re just waiting for a mate.
Leave space for those of us who are desperate for a borek, a gozleme, a delicious falafel wrap or one of the stall's coveted sweet pastries (get one, they’re great).
8. Always buy five doughnuts, one is never enough.
The hot jam doughnuts from the American Doughnut Kitchen van should be in a museum. They’ve got just the right amount of oily crunch, and they’re covered quite liberally with sugar. The best part? You can score a bag of five delicious, hot-from-the-fryer doughies for $6.
9. The queue at the jam doughnuts moves faster than you think.
We know what you’re thinking, that line looks ridiculously long and you definitely don’t have time to wait. Actually, the line will move faster than you think (it’s the reason why it’s one of the Melbourne food queues we reckon is actually worth the wait).
10. If you have a table at the Night Market and you see someone looking for a table, let them know that you’re leaving.
Everyone knows the trouble of searching for a spot to eat at the Night Market. It’s like the ultimate survival of the fittest, and on this occasion, any help from a successful table winner is much appreciated. (NB: We wrote this piece pre-pandemic so keep an eye out on whether the Night Market will be coming back soon, but at this stage, it's been postponed).
11. And don’t unnecessarily sit at your coveted table for longer than you need to.
There’s always someone with an armful of paella and raclette in desperate need of a table, so if you’re done eating, do the right thing and give up your table for them.
12. Divide and conquer the food at the Night Market.
If you truly want to get the most out of your Night Market experience, split up and cover more ground. That way you’ll be able to line up, order and receive your food about the same time as your friends.
13. Don’t haggle with market traders.
It’s not that kind of a market.
14. If you want the freshest stuff, go on a Tuesday.
After a busy weekend, the market is closed on Mondays. We’ve heard rumours that this is when stallholders go out and stock up on produce for the remainder of the week, so you can expect some of the freshest stuff on Tuesdays.
15. Don’t run over people with your trolley.
It’s hard to control those things, I know. Especially on the uneven bitumen under the sheds. But please be mindful of where you’re dragging your carts full of heavy veggies.
16. Expect there to be a lot of tourists in the meat and fish section.
This place is swarming with tourists (or it is during normal, non-pandemic years). Hell, we put high on the best things to do in Melbourne, so you can probably blame us. But be mindful that there will be people blocking your path to the fresh fish (on the day you’re having a huge dinner party, no less!), so just be wary and maybe give yourself a little extra time for the inevitable tourist dodging.
17. Keep an eye (and ear) out for a good offer
There are plenty of bargain offers around the market, so pay attention. There are several cheese offers to find (four cheeses for $10, for instance), and listen out for the fishmongers and fruit vendors yelling out some bargains. It pays to pay attention here, people.
18. Bring your reusable bags.
Queen Vic Market (like the rest of Victoria) went plastic bag free in 2019 so bring your reusable bags (and one more than you think you'll use, just in case).