Often cited as Europe’s coolest city, Berlin is an exciting place to explore. Planet Vintage Girl believes that one of the best ways to learn about the cultural history of a city is through an examination of its cast offs and what objects it labels as junk or second hand. Berliners fully embrace the utility and beauty of secondhand, recycling and upcycling. Residents are known to put their unwanted, but still useful, belongings out on the sidewalk for others to freely pick up if they want them. There are galleries that exist just for upcycling initiatives and the city is littered with unique co-operative craft workshops that blur the line between charity shop and art studio. It should come as no surprise that Berlin’s flea markets (known as trödelmarkts or flohmarks) are as diverse and exciting as the city’s population of artists, immigrants, expats, students, filmmakers, and residents of long standing. As the city continues to reinvent itself, Berlin fleas have also undergone change. Many of the venerable old markets, such as Palas TrödelMark in Kreutzberg, no longer exist. They are the victims of rising land costs and the redevelopment of previously abandoned or cheap land. Berlin’s accelerating gentrification is the new reality for a city that had prided itself on its grittiness. However, the city still remains one of the top destinations for the flea market aficionado.
A special treat is that many of the markets continue throughout the autumn and winter months, although they may be smaller in size than their summer versions. Ordinary residents, as well as seasoned dealers, brave the cold weather and sell their possessions throughout the (sometimes brutal) cold of December, January and February. A few, such as the night market (Nachtkonsum or Nachtflohmärkte) and the market at Mortizplatz are seasonal but no matter what time of year you visit Berlin you’ll find some weekend fleas in operation. It is also the case that special flea markets pop up for certain holidays, such as the Tag der Deutschen Einheit in October, organized by www.oldthing.de, or around Christmas. The two exceptions are mid November with Sunday Silent Day observations: the National Day of Mourning (Volkstrauertag) and All Saint’s Day (Totensonntag) when flohmarkets are closed.
There are plenty of flea markets to choose from with different vibes and focus; here is a list of some that Planet Vintage Girl can recommend.
U-Bahn: Rathaus Schöneberg
In a word: Rummage
Good prices, with locals and professional traders flogging bric-a-brac. Relaxed atmosphere. Be ready to dig through boxes of house clearance mishmash. Also held on Sunday.
In a word: Traditional
Most well known of the flea markets, this market focuses on traditional antiques, deco and higher end mid century modern items. High quality matches the high prices. Very touristy and more expensive then some of the other markets. Nice range of antiques and vintage. Professional dealers are in the majority. Also held on Sunday. http://www.berlinertroedelmarkt.com/home.html
In a word: Tat
In front of the NazarethKirch in Wedding this market reflects its working class roots with plenty to offer at affordable prices. Mix of locals and house clearance dealers. Convenient banks nearby.
In a word: Artsy
Held at the Preubenpark, this flea market is slightly cheaper than Arkonaplatz. Mostly dealers sell art, antiques and vintage clothes. Seems to be popular with Russian sellers and buyers.
In a word: Antiques
Consistently good market run by the oldthings.de group. Nice range of antiques and vintage. Experienced dealers rather than individuals or families, so stock reflects this in both prices and quality. www.oldthing.de
U-Bahn WarschauerStr or M10 Tram
In a word: Skatepunk
Hidden away among the graffiti tagged walls of a former GDR railway warehouse, this flea market is near the river and not too far from the Boxhagenerplatz (although RAW begins earlier in the morning). Mix of locals and house clearance dealers. Urban vibe with skatehalle-berlin, which hosts many international skateboard events, and the RAW bar in the same facility.
U-Bahn BernauerStr or EberswalderStr or M10 tram
In a word: Crowded
The Granddaddie of all Berlin fleas, this market is held along the former route of the Berlin Wall, now a long, narrow park. (Mauer means wall in German). Sprawling, this market is made up of semi permanent sheds for long-term dealers in the center and short rows of tented tables for residents and locals. Additionally there is a very long row of tented tables that runs the full length of the market for entrepreneurial artisans and micro businesses to hawk their creations. A good range of stock, but very little high-end pieces. Famous for its afternoon Karaoke. Gets very, very busy so earlier is better unless you like the crush of the crowds. http://www.flohmarktimmauerpark.de/
U-bahn EberswalderStr or BernauerStr or M1 tram.
In a word: Trendy
A personal favorite because of the range of stock and high quality mid century modern pieces (with very high prices to match). No bargains here, but a great atmosphere and lovely city square. The Zionskirche nearby played a role in the 1989 Peaceful Revolution. The market is next to a pretty park and playground which is great for bored kids and tired partners. Close enough to pair with Mauerpark.
U-Bahn Frankfurter Tor or SamariterStr or M10 tram.
In a word: Quirky
A later starting time and very charming flea market will appeal to those who like a lazy Sunday. Refuel at one of the many trendy restaurants serving up breakfast. A pleasant city square with an emphasis on post war items including GDR artifacts. Mix of local residents and regular dealers.
S-Bahn Treptower Park
In a word: Junky
On the Kreuzberg side of the river this indoor market is only open on weekends. Need bike parts? Used electrical gear? Taps for your 1980s sink? Huge variety of second hand items in this old tram depot, but nothing of high quality. A rabbit warren of surprises, this is a great place to while away a rainy weekend afternoon.
Germany is pretty kid centric, so why would the flea market scene be any different? Berlin boasts many kinderflohmärkt where children set up pitches and sell their items to other children. Children have reduced pitch fees and usually set up on a blanket or small table. Awesome! A regular one occurs near the playground at Boxhagenerplatz.
Markets during the week
Need a fix during the week? There are many trödelmarkts (furniture markets) or wohnungsauflösungen (house clearance) shops around the city, although continuing gentrification means these are harder to find. Some trödelmarkts are packed with mountains of stuff and you can’t walk around or see anything other than the top layer of debris. Other shops are better organized, such as Haus-Service on SanderStr. In contrast, Trödel Oase on RichardStr, Neukölln has sheds full of junk (out doors under tarps – a classic sign of a good hunting ground!) An excellent charity shop with a range of clothes, smalls and furniture is Motz-der-Laden on Friedichstrabe near Checkpoint Charlie. Dollhouse mad? Check out the Aschenputtel’s which stocks vintage dollhouses in Prenslauerberg; a tiny trödelmarkt is housed in the back room. On Tuesdays and Fridays, why not Pic n Mix? Attend the Turkish Market on Maybachufer and then wander the nearby streets for various house clearance shops and vintage boutiques - http://www.tuerkenmarkt.de/
Cash is king, no credit cards accepted. Bank machines may not be close to the fleas so prepare beforehand. Many ATMs in Berlin are hosted by credit unions, and may not take US or UK cards unless the card is associated with the Maestro system. Regular banks, like Deutsche Bank, are few and far between.
Toilets: Some fleas have portaloos, like Rathaus Schöneberg. Some of the larger train stations have toilet facilities. Look for McClean and Sanare toliets (costing 50c).
Munchies: All fleas have drinks for sale, some have food too. Mauerpark, Bozhangerplatz, Arkonaplatz and Ostbahnhof have plenty of food stalls or nearby restaurants
Transport: Some U-Bahn/S-Bahn stations are better equipped than others when it comes to elevators and escalators, so be prepared when you are carrying that sofa purchase!
Some house clearance dealers will arrange delivery for a small fee. Intrepid Berliners strap objects onto their bikes to get them home.