Browsing rusty cutlery and questionable war memorabilia at flea markets is an essential part of life in Berlin. The coronavirus put that on hold but – along with bars, restaurants and museums – the Flohmärkte across the city have reopened post-lockdown. Social distancing measures and compulsory mask-wearing technically apply but are rarely enforced (or observed) – but hey, at least you’re outdoors while hunting for vintage posters and records or an outlandish lamp for your living room.
Mauerpark, Berlin’s biggest and best-known market, remains closed, as organisers can’t guarantee protective measures for the time being. But even better options await, some of which we visited last Sunday. So grab your mask, head outside and find a deal.
Here are nine markets to visit this weekend.
Arkonaplatz: Retro vintage in a boho setting
Arkonaplatz 1, Prenzlauer Berg
Every flea market has plenty of junk, but at Arkonaplatz, not far from Mauerpark, you’ll find a higher concentration of quality – and a little more upscale – stuff. Think retro furniture, 1960s upholstered chairs, clocks and lamps, stylish deco ceramics and collectors’ deco pieces. Then there’s vinyl, china and a large selection of vintage sunglasses and retro frames. There’s even fancy jewellery (and if you’re lucky you might score something like a golden Art Deco brooch for just €10).
The food stops at bratwurst and fries, to be washed down with a soft drink or coffee. Lying less than a kilometre away from the behemoth that is Mauerpark, Arkonaplatz oozes Prenzlauer Berg chic. The square dates back to 1853 and the market to 1912, giving the space a historic allure. There are at least 60 stands split between two sides of the square, mostly run by full-time vintage merchants. Be warned: if the last few weekends are anything to go by, keeping the 1.5m distance is impossible.
Ostbahnhof: DDR collectibles for bargain hunters
Erich-Steinfurth-Straße 1, Friedrichshain
Looking for DDR paraphernalia and Eastern Bloc collectibles? This 20-year-old market is run by seasoned operators who have exactly what you need. Anything new is strictly forbidden, and indeed we couldn’t spot anything non-vintage on Sunday. The avenues are widened and the older, quieter crowd tends to be small enough to make sticking to the 1.5m rule possible, unlike at most other markets. Last Sunday, there were 110 stalls in action, but usually there are even more operating under Ostbahnhof’s imposing shadow.
Fancy a DDR porcelain plate emblazoned with a Soviet star for €25? Or a Lenin bust for €35? You’ll find it here. That said, it’s not all Commu-mania. There are also antiques like candlesticks, ceramics and paintings (we spotted a romantic woodland scene for €60, down from €145), as well as mounds of stamps, coins, books and aged photo albums. You can even buy a gigantic mystery bag for €100, without knowing what’s inside. The lineup of traders fluctuates every week, so don’t be put off by a past disappointment. But beware, early-morning collectors scour this hunting ground for the most valuable items. None of the stalls sell food, but nearby snack spots such as the battered OstGrill food truck selling fries and wurst match the grey, Eastern mood.
HansaMarkt: The authentic Ossi experience
Hansastraße 188, Weisensee
Feeling adventurous and ready for the ultimate Ossi experience? Head to the Fressnapf pet store carpark on the far northeast neighbourhood of Weißensee, where ex-Soviet Berliners, Poles and real DDR natives are parting with an incommensurable amount of disparate objects and housewares, clothes, accessories, electronics, you name it – always for low prices. It’s run almost entirely by private sellers, so while you may have to sift through a bit more junk than elsewhere, you’re likely to unearth a genuine bargain, like two pairs of refined lady leather gloves for €5, a perfectly working DDR-era radio for €25, a wood-framed 1920s illustration of colonial French uniforms for €5, or even a beautiful Bergmann racing bike for €275.
Here, you can feast on proper proletarian grub – pea soup and bockwurst or take away smoked fish supplied by a resident Russian, all while listening to semi-live Schlager. There’s also coffee, beer, great buns and Spritzkuchen from a bakery stall and Eastern-style soft-serve ice cream.
The beauty of HansaMarkt is that it has it all: dirt-cheap items, real gems, and that refreshing no-nonsense atmosphere of the un-gentrified East. Snobs and trendsters, abstain!
Nowkoelln Flowmarkt: Trendsters by the canal
Maybachufer 36, Neukölln
1st and 3rd Sun of the month, 10-5
Neukölln hipsters rejoice – Nowkoelln Flowmarkt is back! This idyllic market on Maybachufer has plenty of affordable yet quality second-hand clothes, sold by cool local trendies to other cool local trendies. Strolling alongside the Landwehrkanal, you’ll find yourself walking under grand ornate houses while passing by swans gathered on the water below.
You’ll also see art, records and handicrafts, often at a price point lower than you might expect. You won’t find many antiques or larger items, but how about an 8mm Sony camera for just €20? For lunch, grab some vegan gyros and sit by the water, dreaming of living in one of the flats above. If you’re worried about social distancing on the narrow Maybachufer, there’s a system in place to keep crowds moving, so it doesn’t get too cramped, and many shoppers here actually wear their masks.
Straße des 17. Juni: Antiques near the Tiergarten
Straße des 17. Juni, Charlottenburg
Sat and Sun, 10-5
Some would debate whether Charlottenburg’s Der Original Berliner Trödelmarkt is even a flea market. Many of the sellers are professionals, and you’ll even see the odd souvenir stall next to attractively arranged upmarket antiques. It’s the largest market on this list, with over 150 stands last Sunday, languorously spread out between the TU buildings off Ernst-Reuter-Platz and the Landwehrkana’s Einsteinufer. There are collectables like coins, postcards, dark brown medicine bottles, rusty door handles, and a load of antique industrial and farming tools – all very decorative, if you’re going for that sort of style. If delicate porcelain figurines are your thing, keep your eyes open for quality vintage specimen (like a miniature pair of Afghan Hounds costing €20, which you could resell for hundreds online)!
Or perhaps you’ll snatch a stern portrait of Paul von Hindenburg, or an early 20th century factory lamp, which could be yours for €60. Though there’s not much available for the lowest budgets, that’s not to say it’s way more expensive than other markets. There’s just no junk for a euro here, so wait for Mauerpark to reopen if that’s what you’re after. This is far from hipster central and typically brimming with pensioners and tourists, but with the latter gone it might be the right time to head over. You won’t go hungry if you’re desperate, but the food options are minimal.
Fehrbelliner Platz: Vintage charm in city’s west
Fehrbelliner Platz 8, Wilmersdorf
Sat and Sun, 10-4
The Kunst & Trödelmarkt at Fehrbelliner Platz, with specially widened aisles to keep your meandering relaxed, is an urban gem. Vintage Wilmersdorf flair is the mood, and the items are a cut above even Arkonaplatz, the most comparable market. Here, a fabulous Turkish rug, cared for over decades, is yours for €60. Cinephiles should look out for the DVD stand, where they’ll find classic and rare films for a few euros (and if you don’t find what you seek, tell the owner, who’ll do their best to have it for you next week).
Flea markets reflect their neighbourhoods, especially smaller ones like Fehrbelliner Platz, and the wealthy Wilmersdorfers seem to be quite ordentlich Berliners: jewellery in that section, books over there. On Sundays, there’s also an ‘Art Mile’, with artists selling their own creations, from paintings to ceramics, jewellery and furniture. The go-to lunch spot here is the Parkcafé with its large beer garden-style outdoor area.
Bode Museum: A nice detour for your stroll through Mitte
Am Kupfergraben 1, Mitte
Sat and Sun, 10-5
If you’re heading to a reopened exhibition on Museum Island this weekend, be sure to hit this flea market on the Bode Museum’s doorstep. Though it’s now branched out into different domains, it was once known for its supply of old and rare books, and still calls itself an antiques and book market rather than a flea market. You’ll now find jewellery, porcelain and plenty of pretty cups. Last weekend, for example, for just €5 you could score a porcelain espresso cup patterned with the coat of arms of…. Neukölln! Alternatively, you could pick up a Soviet propaganda poster, again for only €5.
Given the very limited food options, however – the main attraction is a currywurst stand – and quite a few brand-new products, this market is best recommended as a detour en route to somewhere else.
Boxhagener Platz: Funky furniture old and new
Boxhagener Platz 1, Friedrichshain
In 2019 B.C. (Before Corona) this Friedrichshain market was one of the calmer ones, but the post-lockdown rush makes it feel pretty hectic. There aren’t many regulations regarding social distancing or, for that matter, regulations on what can be sold. Like the anti-Corona lockdown apparel sold by one pair of entrepreneurs, many items aren’t second-hand. Last weekend there were some cool-looking tables, chairs, sofas and carpets, plus a trader who repurposes old cellar lights into stylish hanging lamps, sold for €60. There’s plenty of kitchenware, jewellery and vinyl, but nothing in particular dominates.
This weekend, expect battered laptops, phones and football stickers. There’s little food inside, but restaurants line the four streets directly encircling Boxi. Burgeramt is the popular choice, but vegan ice cream and Vietnamese street food are among strong competition.
RAW: The young and cool clear out their closets
Revaler Straße 99, Friedrichshain
Down in Warschauer Straße’s RAW-Gelände, a maze of concert spaces, pop-up food stalls and clothes shops, RAW market is the prime destination for cheap and stylish second-hand clothes. Come if you want to leave lockdown with a revamped personality and the outfits to back it up. Think streetwear sold by young people emptying their wardrobes to raise money for their next style revolution (while sipping Sauvignon blanc). By trailing in their wake, you’ll still look better than you do now – or just embarrass yourself. You can even buy second-hand lingerie.
RAW usually gets pretty crowded, so it’s definitely not the place for avoiding plagues of any variety. There’s an international range of food, including Colombian, Russian, Mexican and Turkish.