Whenever I travel to new cities, I tend to seek out certain constants. The landmarks cities are known for aren’t necessarily my sightseeing priorities. As a traveler who daydreams about living almost everywhere I go, I prefer sussing out the local vibe. I look for the coziest cafes, for cheap and delicious lunch spots and the best places to buy used books. I look for parks and local hikes, for scenic running routes and sunset views. And, wherever I go, I always make a point to check out local markets.
In Melbourne, there’s always a market going. In the summer and on weekends especially, there are almost too many to choose from. I’ve still got plenty on my must-see list for my next visit to Melbourne, but four months in the city gave me enough time to fall in love with a few. These are five of my favorites, the kind of markets I imagine being a regular at in my Melbourne fantasy life. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll stick around longer. A girl can dream.
1. Camberwell Sunday Market
Camberwell Sunday Market is known for having some of Melbourne’s very best secondhand shopping. The morning that I made the trek from St. Kilda (it took nearly an hour by tram) was cold, cloudy and rainy. When I stopped at a store to ask where exactly the market was, the attendant on the floor told me that most of the regular stallholders hadn’t shown up because of the weather. For a moment, I was crushed.
Still, I was there. I was determined to check out the market, and as it turned out, it was more than worth the travel time. I was blown away. Camberwell has, no doubt, the best secondhand clothing selection I’ve seen anywhere in Melbourne. If this was a slow day, I can only imagine the potential of the market when it’s completely on. I managed to keep myself to buying only two shirts for the sake of my backpack, but it wasn’t easy. The crop tops I bought have become two of my favorite go-to pieces, and they only cost me two dollars apiece. Two dollars! I paid with pocket change, literally.
Even better than cheap clothing at a market? Delicious, cheap food! Camberwell had several food trucks to choose from, including one with coffee and hot, straight-outta-the-fryer jelly donuts for $1.10 each. I’ve never been a donut person, but a cold morning it seemed like the right choice. It was — I even had to go back for a second! Yes, had to. They were donuts to remember.
When & Where:The Camberwell Sunday Market runs every Sunday in the Station Street Car Park in Camberwell from 7am to 12:30pm. The better the weather, the more selection you’re guaranteed. (This is probably a safe bet for most of Melbourne’s outdoor markets.)
2. Fed Square Book Market
I’d read about the Fed Square Book Market before arriving in Melbourne. I’d planned to go nearly every weekend I lived in the city, but somehow between work and other plans, I never managed to get there until nearly the end of my stay. It’s probably for the best: if I’d gone any earlier, I’d have had far too many books to get rid of before leaving Melbourne.
The market boasts more than enough selection for any bibliophile. A lot of the vendors specialize in certain genres, from Russian literature to philosophy and art to children’s books. Of course, there are plenty of contemporary fiction and classic literature selections if you’re just in the market for a good read on the road. I wasn’t supposed to buy any books (hey, it was an ambitious goal!), but after a great talk about Australian literature with one of the vendors, I walked away with both Nicholas Shakespeare’s In Tasmania and Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life. I haven’t started either yet, but I know they’re worth the weight in my backpack. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t avoid packing a book or two (or three!)…
When & Where:The Fed Square Book Market takes place in the Atrium at Federation Square and runs almost every Saturday of the year from 11am to 5pm. Just be sure to double-check before you plan on going during holiday weekends.
3. Queen Victoria Night Market
During the day, the Queen Victoria Market is mostly too crowded, touristy and full of souvenirs for my taste. The Night Market, which runs seasonally during the summer and winter, is another thing entirely.
The Night Market draws big crowds and features amazing local artisans and designers. Even if you’re not in the mood for shopping, it’s the kind of market to plan a night out around. There are heaps of food vendors to choose from, and while the lines are long, the food comes fast. I had a ridiculously good fried softshell crab burger. Plus, there’s beer, wine and live music. What more could you want from a market, really?
If you do go during the day, the shops around M Shed seemed the most enticing — all local designers and foodie-worthy stalls. Queen Victoria Market is also home to the best smoothie I ever had in Melbourne. Seriously — it’s worth a day trip to Queen Victoria for Market Juice alone.
When & Where:The Queen Victoria Night Market runs on Wednesday nights during special winter and summer seasons. You can check dates for upcoming seasons at their website here
4. The Rose St. Artists’ Market
While Camberwell specializes in trash to treasure, The Rose St. Artists’ Market is all about celebrating local creatives. The goods up for sale are similar to those at the Queen Victoria Night Market, but Rose St. offers a more laidback afternoon vibe. It’s also in one of my very favorite Melbourne neighborhoods: Fitzroy.
If you’re after gifts for friends and family back home (or for yourself!), Rose St. is the market I’d recommend. Between jewelry and clothes by local designers, household items like pillows and ceramics, art, photography and vintage finds, you’d be hard-pressed not to find something. The market’s on the smaller side, but the selection is impressive. Walking around made me wish I had an apartment to decorate in Melbourne.
I didn’t see too much as far as beverages and snacks go, but no worries — Grace Cafe has you covered. It’s almost right outside the market’s entrance and features great coffee (including, fellow Americans, bottomless drip coffee!!), local and free range ingredients and really, really great sticky date pudding. It’s definitely a good way to end a visit to Rose St. Market before hitting up some Brunswick St. happy hours while you’re in the neighborhood.
When & Where:The Rose St. Artists’ Market runs every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm at 60 Rose St. You can take the 96 tram from Bourke or 11 from Collins.
5. CERES Organic Market & Grocery
This market’s a little different from the others I’ve included on this list. It’s not a big weekly event; rather, it’s a pretty special ongoing little market. I’ve written about how excited I was to discover CERES before, and you can bet that if I were a Brunswick resident I’d be shopping at this little market all the time.
The produce for sale is all local and organic, and all the profits from the market and little grocery store support CERES’ non-profit work focused on environmental sustainability and education. There’s also a book exchange and regular special events including live music and a trash to treasure exchange. I haven’t made it to CERES for any of its special events yet, but you know it’s on my list. I really loved the little treats on offer at the store — I picked up some crazy delicious coconut and date bites, plus a shampoo stick that’s lasted through a good bit of travel so far.
When & Where:The CERES Organic Market and Grocery is open everyday, from 9am to 5pm Monday-Friday and 9am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday. Take the 96 Brunswick tram route to the end of the line and CERES is just a short walk away.