The multicultural magic of Melbourne’s markets

December 05, 2017
Anne Von Osterhausen

Mix together a Brasilian tour guide working at a nut shop, Greek ladies selling Australian Cranberries, Melburnians who can talk about eggs as if they are the best-kept secret ever, and dim sim that people travel for from across the state, and you’ve got your perfect playground for a Multicultural Markets of Melbourne Tour, packed with unique stories from locals and flavours from around the world.

Some stores in South Melbourne Market have been owned and run by families for generations, who brought their secret recipes with them from afar. Others are funky and innovative start-ups by Melburnians, with a focus on sustainability and supporting local farmers.

travellers taking a photo on a tram

Ride like a local and take the tram to the market | Photo by Anne Von Osterhausen

The South Melbourne Market can be your one-stop shop and you can simply buy everything you could imagine from pet-care to jewellery, to the latest Ugg boots, to a piece of your favourite German chocolate. It mirrors the city’s personality of being a melting pot of cultures — opposite corners of the globe cohabiting under one roof, offering amazing products and serving delicious foods and coffees. They are traditional, innovative, entrepreneurial and forever foodies — all at the same time.

Maybe that’s why this place is so popular with locals and always busy, especially during lunchtime, when people pour from nearby offices to relax in one of the little eateries. Families do their weekly shop in the abundant veggie stalls that offer just about everything you can imagine, and others come to buy delicacies from their native countries. Not many tourists to be seen, though; they don’t usually make their way to this part of Melbourne. Yet within walking distance to the CBD, the market is a real hidden gem for travellers wanting to mix with the locals.

travellers and tour guide in a shop talking to the owner

For the best market experience, stop to chat with the business owners | Photo by Hanh Nguyen

There is Rita from Greece who runs a massive nut and grain store with passion and patience. She gives our guide a big hug and instantly makes us feel welcome. Her Mediterranean flair is contagious, and we walk away with bags of cranberries, roasted almonds and chocolate-coated peanuts.

There is an Italian antipasti shop that the family has probably owned since the market opened its gates around 200 years ago. And it boasts an entire cheese room — make sure you don’t miss it!

The seafood selection is breathtaking (literally), and we got to sample some pretty unique tasting sea urchins. That was a first for many of us, except the Japanese woman in our group who felt like a little girl in a candy shop!

Leo’s tea shop is one of the more recent additions to the market, and he captivated us with his green tea and matcha brewing presentations — while his business partner was off travelling the globe in search of the most flavoursome leaves.

Irina has passed on the keys to her Polish deli to her granddaughter. She has not lived in Poland, but knows all the different and delicious sausages just as well.

And of course, no one can go past this market without tasting the famous dim sim.

travellers cheersing with beers on a patio

The perfect ending: pints on a patio | Photo by Hanh Nguyen

But my personal favourite was Michael and his Barns, Fields & Co. He sells eggs, milk and butter, and I have never before in my life been this fascinated by these seemingly ordinary products. I could have listened to him and tasted his milks for hours.

The market really has it all, and Daniel, our guide, gave us the right insights into a snippet of Melbourne history and modern daily life. Bellies full of yummy food and heads full of wonderful stories, there was of course only one way this tour could possibly end: with a pint in hand, sitting in the sun, observing the hustle and bustle of market life from the pub across the road.

Multicultural Markets of Melbourne

Go behind the scenes, taste the food, meet the vendors and discover the local culture of Melbourne. Book a tour today!