Review: Queen Victoria Market Tour, Melbourne inner banner

Review: Queen Victoria Market Tour, Melbourne

Melbourne is renowned for its culinary culture and the perennial Queen Victoria Market has supplied the city with fresh produce for more than a century. Join a guided walking tour of the historic market halls and enjoy a cornucopia of taste sensations along the way.
Review: Queen Victoria Market Tour, Melbourne
Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour. Image: Louise Reynolds

Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Melbourne tours and experiences. You can book this tour here.

A first visit to the Victorian capital’s sprawling Queen Victoria Market can be quite overwhelming, especially on weekends when it’s packed with shoppers.

Knees and ankles are menaced by shopping jeeps and pram wheels, and with numerous halls stocked with a massive range of produce, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s why a tour is such a good option.

The official Queen Victoria Market Tour offers a guided introduction to the market itself, as well as its fascinating history. Today I’m joining a small group of visitors braving a crisp Melbourne winter morning to do the tour. Guests are kitted out with a shopping bag (yours to keep), and a bowl and fork to help keep things tidy during the ample tastings that are about to take place.


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First though, where are we and why should you come? Well, the 140-year-old Queen Victoria Market — known to locals simply as the ‘Vic Market’ — is a Melbourne institution and Victoria’s most visited attraction. It welcomes nearly 10 million people each year. With around 700 traders (some with stalls that have been in the same family for generations), the market is a microcosm of multicultural Melbourne and its thriving food scene. The market is located on the northern side of the city — within easy walking distance of the CBD.

Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour: Explore the historic halls on a guided walk.

We begin the tour by exploring the indoor halls, which opened in 1878. Gold had made Melbourne one of the richest cities on the planet, and the design of the new market incorporated plenty of architectural bling (including Italian Mannerist features) to let the rest of the world know just how wealthy we were.

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First up is the packed meat and fish hall, and I won’t lie — it doesn’t smell that great. It’s also noisy as stallholders shout out their special offers. The array of meats on offer is head spinning. Apart from the usual beef, lamb, pork and chicken, you’ll find fresh crocodile, wild rabbit, and a somewhat confronting array of offal. The upmarket Sardes Quality Meats supplies some of Melbourne’s fanciest restaurants with prime cuts costing upwards of $100 per kilo.

Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour. Image: Louise Reynolds

We get our first tasting in the fish hall — a freshly shucked Coffin Bay oyster from Seafood and Oyster Spot. I’m not a fan, so I pass. However, my fellow tour participants give their slimey hors d’oeuvres the tick of approval.

I make up for my lack of enthusiasm at our next stop. In a laneway at the back of the market our guide knocks on a red wooden door. Nigerian-born Kunle, proprietor of Tribal Tastes — the market’s only African deli — emerges to serve us a generous tasting of his black-eyed beans with red pepper and onion. The vegan-friendly dish is seriously yummy.

Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour. Image: Louise Reynolds

For me, the highlight of the tour is the Dairy Hall — the site of Melbourne’s original creameries. Today there’s a real mixture of produce on offer including smallgoods and cheeses, cakes, breads, roasted coffee and boutique wine.

Exploring the stalls in this hall is like being on a European tour; it reflects the great wave of immigration to the Victorian capital after World War II. Many Europeans made a new life in Melbourne and revolutionised the city’s food scene.

Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour. Image: Louise Reynolds

We start in Greece at the Hellenic Deli with an opportunity to sample their delicious dolmades. Next, we’re off to Germany via the Gewürzhaus herb and spice merchant’s stall. We polish off some Polish smallgoods, before rolling France and Italy into one at the Queen Vic Deli. Their brie cheese is so ripe and gooey it has to be literally scraped off the tasting board, while the Italian blue gorgonzola is full of flavour.

Queen Victoria Market Tour
Queen Victoria Market Tour. Image: Louise Reynolds

We leave the indoor halls behind to visit the bustling fruit and vegetable sheds. The sound of stallholders spruiking their wares, particularly as we get close to closing time, reverberates throughout the sheds. We taste some fresh strawberries before heading to our final stop — Geloso Gelateria. Their ice cream is made on the premises daily. It may be a little chilly for ice cream, but not for affogato! A double shot of espresso poured over handmade vanilla bean ice cream packs me with enough sugar and caffeine to get through the rest of the day with ease.

All in all, this Queen Victoria Market Tour is engaging, informative, and offers more than a few surprises. As a local I’ve been here countless times before, but there was plenty I didn’t know or had never noticed. You’ll walk away well fed, and with an understanding of why the market means so much to Melbourne.

The writer travelled as a guest of the Queen Victoria Market. You can book this tour here.

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Additional images: Bigstock

Louise Reynolds

About the writer

Louise Reynolds made up her mind at the age of about four that she would one day travel the world — and has so far visited around 30 countries across five continents and the Pacific. A hopeless Francophile, she has a particular love for France, its language, and pretty much all things French. Louise’s favourite way to see the world is on foot and her boots have taken her walking on famous trails in Europe, South America, and New Zealand. She also has a passion for her home state of Victoria and loves exploring its diverse regions.

 

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