As Spring gave way to summer in Melbourne, there was more and more to explore every day as new craft, food and festive markets began to explode onto the scene. Melbourne is known for its permanent markets too, however, and below is a short round-up of the fairs that we particularly enjoyed…
Rose Street Artist’s Market, 60 Rose Street (off Brunswick Street), Fitzroy
The market on Rose Street blossoms with life every weekend, packed tightly with stalls bearing the creations of many of North Melbourne’s local artists – mostly small, quirky items to adorn either yourself or the walls and shelves at home.
Our favourite stalls included a t-shirt seller called Mr. Bucket (who likes a little bit of social commentary with his puns), some notebooks made out of old vinyls, jewellery made from beautiful vintage fabrics and a writing set adorned with hand-made stamps.
The food is also artfully prepared at the market’s Kanteen café and the coffee and chocolate laced Portuguese custard tarts make for the perfect stall-browsing break.
CERES Food Market, 8 Lee Street, East Brunswick
The CERES community gardens, a short tram ride out of town, is definitely worth taking a day to visit. Built on an old refuse site, it is a remarkable example of what can be achieved by environmentally sensitive redevelopment projects. For over 20 years it has moulded itself into a community project and education space for proving and sharing knowledge of how to live in harmony with your environment. The park contains, among other things: an impressive installation of solar panels; a fully-functioning eco-house (where you can learn about every aspect of sustainable building and home improvements); a world village (complete with a ger, tipis and mud huts); allotments and crop land; a plant nursery and a fantastic education centre. Importantly, it’s a place which actively encourages the local community to get involved and share in what it has created.
The popular food market (on Wed & Sat 9am-1pm) bursts with an impressive range of local and organic produce (think purple and yellow carrots, potatoes of every size and apricots straight from the market’s trees). People also bring along excess fruit from their gardens and give it away free to shoppers (plums were the fruit of the moment when we visited). There is also an on-site organic grocery store which is open every day and stocks a very comprehensive range of products, covering everything from granola and grains to ecological and refillable washing detergents. Its neighbouring café is also worth a visit, particularly on market day when local bands take to the shady wood-chip stage to entertain the shoppers. Amongst the market stalls is a Turkish bakery which serves great tasting flatbreads at reasonable prices; some eco/fair trade clothing and jewellery stalls and some general bring-and-buy items laid out on picnic rugs. One of the other Ceres highlights is the comprehensive plant nursery where you can find pretty much every seedling and product needed to start your own version of the ‘Good Life’. For a modest fee you can even rent your own chicken (complete with coop) for a few weeks to see if your life would be more fulfilled with a couple of hens and whether the fantasy of fresh eggs for breakfast is really worth cleaning out the coop.
Abbotsford Convent: Summer Night’s Market, 1 St. Heliers Street, Abbotsford
Taking place on Friday evenings throughout summer (kicking off from early December), Abbotsford Convent’s summer night market offers an eclectic mix of food and craft stalls alongside the usual convent drinking holes (Handsome Steve’s, the Convent Bakery etc.) On hazy summer evenings it’s the perfect place to welcome the weekend in, enjoying food and drink from one of the hawker stalls while chilling out to live music on the lawns. At dusk on some nights, there is a special show of the natural kind to behold as hundreds of fruit bats fly overhead from the riverbank towards the fading light on the horizon – a breathtaking spectacle.
Located in the northern part of the suburbs, very close to the CBD, is the infamous Queen Victoria market – the largest in Melbourne if not the whole of Victoria. Operating for over 100 years in a charmingly old-fashioned market complex, the Queen Vic market serves as a main port of call for wholesale fish, fruit and veg sellers as well as housing stalls with all manner of arty trinkets and electrical goods. Look out for the fantastic organic section, a specialist ale shop, a wagon with spices galore and also the bakery section, if only for a sniff of that freshly baked bread aroma. We came on a very hot spring day in an attempt to hone our haggling skills for the next leg of the journey. Although, your best bet for securing the lowest prices is to go near the end of the day as they don’t seem to like haggling much.
On summer evenings from mid-November to February, the ever popular night market comes to town, which sees the outside trading space transform itself into a hawker-style food bazaar. As the evenings get warmer and Christmas holidays loom on the horizon, the mood becomes somewhat celebratory and with such an impressive range of craft and international food stalls, there is always something to smile about. The queues may be lengthy but are usually worth the wait and the choice is immense – you can find anything from a kangaroo, crocodile or emu burger to the ever-popular ‘curled potato on a stick’, best washed down with a cup of chilled sangria. Outside, people cram onto the picnic benches sharing their food or crowd around the gig area where local Melbourne bands take to the stage. After satisfying your appetite, the next warehouse along holds everything you need to detox, including an open-plan massage area. We went in December so many of the craft stalls were Christmas-themed and very busy with shoppers seeking out original gifts (and this being craft central, there were certainly a lot of those on offer). As the warm summer nights set in, there is no better place to while away a Wednesday evening than in the festival atmosphere of the Suzuki Night Market.