Berliners share some passions – a love of bargain hunting, being outdoors and recycling – and the city's multitude of markets, with a hive of activity in every neighbourood, fulfil all three. Not only are they the pefect way to dip into the unique asthetic of cutesy-crafty, vintage-chic, but above all they are where to hang out for a feel of the city's culture, past and present.
Like fun, open-air museums, flea markets are where things can be picked up, sniffed and shaken; household bric-a-brac on tabletops serves as a portal to the past, from the DDR back to the Weimar Republic, World War II and Berlin’s industrial expansion in the 19th century. Food markets are also popular, and besides the fancy farmers’ markets many of the weekly food markets are mainstays for household shopping. Of course, from November the city is alive with its famous and charming Christmas markets, with twinkling lights and radiating smells of gingerbread and Glüwein, but listed here are tips for all-year-round affairs.
Flohmarkt am Mauerpark
Brace yourself for tabletops stretching all the way up one track through the Mauerpark, and back down the other. This is the king of flea markets in Berlin, where you’ll find anything from second-hand bicycles to cardboard boxes overflowing with crockery, household furniture and smart vintage shoe stalls. Follow the smell of steaming sauerkraut to the food court, where benches provide respite for weary (or hungry) hunters. Refuelled, stick around till the afternoon for the weekly public karaoke session, which booms out from the park’s amphitheatre.
Flohmarkt am Mauerpark, Bernauer Straße 63-64, 10435 Berlin (0176 2925 0021, www.mauerparkmarkt.de). U8 Bernauer Straße. Open 7am-5pm Sun.
Flohmarkt am Boxhagener Platz
This Sunday fixture is set up on the pavements circumnavigating Boxhagener Platz: a promenade around the square takes in the full range of kitchenware, door handles, lamps, clocks, second hand books, jumpers and dodgy bike locks. It’s usually very busy, and stalls are manned by gruff old hands; expect to haggle for the best prices.
Boxhagener Platz, 10245 Berlin (0178 476 2242, www.boxhagenerplatz.de). S-bahn, U1 Warschauer Straße or U5 SamariterStraße. Open 10am-6pm Sun.
Head beyond East Berlin’s zoo and you’ll find one of the city's biggest flea markets, with around 500 stalls spreading across a car park (and taking shelter in the Biesdorf-Center garage when the weather's inhospitable). The set-up is more amateur than other flea markets, but none the poorer for it, with wares often coming straight out of Berliners’ homes, in proper car-boot sale style – this makes it an insight into the lives of locals and an atmospheric experience. And, yes, it’s convenient for parking.
Biesdorf-Center, Weißenhöher Str. 108, 12683 Berlin (www.troedelfreunde.de). U5 Elsterwerdaer Platz. Open 9am-3pm Sun.
A recent addition to Berlin’s flea markets, Nowkoelln Flowmarkt brings a bit of the ‘now’ to the arena. Placing an emphasis on well-presented, select items of vintage clothing and home goods, it aims to attract a trendy crowd. It runs alongside the Landwehrkanal, with a view over the water on one side and seating areas and top notch food stalls (bruschetta, brownies and rhubarb juice were available when we visited) on the other.
Nowkoelln Flowmarkt, Maybachufer, 10967 Berlin (www.nowkoelln.de). U8 Schönleinstraße. Open 10am-6pm third Sun each month.
Small but sweet, Trödelmarkt Arkonaplatz is the place to go for all manner of GDR nostalgia. Stalls specialise in kitsch from the 1950s through to the 1980s – lamps, crockery, record players and radios. Arrive early, as the stalls are, like most markets, better stocked at opening time. However, unlike other markets, don’t expect to haggle: although a little on the high side, the prices here are pretty much fixed.
Trödelmarkt Arkonaplatz, Arkonaplatz 1, 12101 Berlin (030 786 9764, www.troedelmarkt-arkonaplatz.de). U8 Bernauer Straße, M1/M12 Zionskirchplatz. Open 10am-4pm Sun.
Spilling out around Friedrichshagen S-bahn station, this market may seem a trek from the city, but it’s easy enough to get to, and a destination for antique finds and relics of the DDR. With most of the stallholders coming from the neighbourhood, the market has a local, friendly feel, and being close to Müggelsee, the setting is one of pleasant greenery, courtsey of the surrounding park, the massive Landschaftsschutzgebiet Mittelheide.
Trödelmarkt Friedrichshagen, Dahlwitzer Landstraße / Schöneicher Straße, 12587 Berlin (030 2900 2010, www.oldthing.de). S-bahn Friedrichshagen. Open 8am-6pm Sun.
Treptower Art Cente
Open all weekend, this indoor market is situated next to the beautiful Planterwald forest, making it a choice stop on a summer’s day out. With 4,000 metres of vintage-rummaging to be done though, the Treptower Art Centre is also a reliable winter option. You’ll find an abundance of records and home décor, from the kitsch to the classy, with lots of dust and brassiness in between.
Treptower Art Center, Eichenstraße 4, 12435 Berlin (030 5369 6312, www.berlin-basar.de). S Treptower Park. Open 7am-6pm Sat, Sun.
As the name would suggest, the Türkischer Markt is designed to meet the needs of the local Turkish community – selling Turkish foods (crispy gözleme oozing with feta, olives, cheeses, mounds of dried fruits), plus random essentials (gloves and slippers, fabric by the metre, pants and shoelaces), but it is increasingly becoming a magnet for Neukölln’s burgeoning young crowd. It runs along the south side of the Landwehrkanal from Kottbusser Damm all year round, come rain or snow.
Türkischer Markt, Maybachufer, 12047 Berlin (www.tuerkenmarkt.de). U8 Schönleinstraße. Open 11.30am-6.30pm Tue, Fri.
Berliners flock to this Saturday market to paw over the spread of German products. Flowers, clothes, pet supplies and toys are sold here, but many of the regulars come to do their weekly food shop for meats, wholegrain breads, cheeses and vegetables. Overlooked by the many cafés on and around the square, it's also a sociable place for a coffee and a spot of people-watching.
Winterfeldt Markt, Winterfeldtplatz, 10718 Berlin. U1, U2, U3, U4 Nollendorfplatz. Open 8am-1pm Wed; 8am-3.30pm Sat.
Farmers’ Market at Wittenbergplatz
Every Thursday, in the KaDeWe neighbourhood, the Farmers’ Market – one of the city’s oldest and most venerable markets – provides respite from one of Berlin’s main shopping thoroughfares. Established in 1911, this market is a feat of endurance as well as a rich source of local produce from farms in the Brandenberg region, including cheese, dried meats, bread and fresh pasta.
Farmers’ Market at Wittenbergplatz, Tauentzienstr 7, 10789 Berlin. U1, U2 Wittenbergplatz. Open 10am-7pm Thur.
Markt am Kollwitzplatz
This wonderful open-air organic market attracts a considerable crowd on Saturdays. It’s expensive, but boasts some high-grade produce, with local ingredients and proud stallholders willing to give advice on recipes. In winter the market exudes a tantalising fog of ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon from the punch and waffle stalls, but it’s at its liveliest in summer, under the canopy of Kollwitzplatz’s beloved trees.
Markt am Kollwitzplatz, Kollwitzplatz, 10435 Berlin. U2 Senefelderplatz. Open 12noon-7pm Thur; 9am-4pm Sat.
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