Berlin’s Most Upmarket Fleamarket
Berlin is a city awash with fleamarkets; every neighbourhood or Kiez seems to have at least one. Most take place at the weekend, but some are also on during the week. Whether you’re looking for dusty heirlooms, cheap fur coats, boxes of chipped crockery, beautiful antique vases, a pair of battered converse trainers or a retro camera, there is a Berlin fleamarket to suit you. From the über-trendy Mauerpark fleamarket complete with open-air karaoke and hoardes of young, international tourists, to the more modest and bourgeois affair on Arkonaplatz.
This week, I decided to pay a visit to Berlin’s oldest and perhaps most upmarket fleamarket on the Straße des 17. Juni, a medium-sized market with two rows of stalls stretching from the Berlin-Tiergarten S-Bahn station to the magnificent Charlottenburg Gate.
The fleamarket is about a ten-minute cycle ride from the Hotel Concorde, down the Joachimstaler Straße and directly through the Tiergarten Park. It is open Saturdays and Sundays all year round, from 10am to 5pm; get there early if you want first pick and few crowds, get there just before close to improve your haggling odds.
On the day I visited, the bad weather had obviously put most people off; the location is exposed to the elements, open on all sides bar one to blustery winds and rain, so it is perhaps wise to visit when clear skies are forecast. Against the cold, however, the market has plenty of warming refreshments (though if it’s fancy latte macchiatos and focaccia bread you’re after, you may have to go hungry).
As I mentioned, the focus at this fleamarket is on quality, rather than quantity. If you want to rummage through heaps of clothes for one and two euros, you are advised to try the ones at Mauerpark or Moritzplatz. The clothes and jewellery I spotted here were mainly vintage; leather or velvet jackets, fur coats, Doc Martins, leather satchels, typewriters, wind-up watches, hip flasks… The ornaments and household items mainly antique; delicate crockery, fine silver cutlery, retro telephones, ornamental letter-openers, musical instruments… I have also never seen so many porcelain bears and Karl marx busts as I did here!
But before you go rushing off to see it all for yourself, dear reader, heed my warning: unless you are extremely thick-skinned, do not take a camera with you! My requests, in the politest of German, to photograph the odd item was met, nine times out of ten, with “No, go away!” or “bloody tourist!” or “Look, it’s the paparazzi!” Simply walking around with a camera in view about my person earned me snide comments. It was deeply traumatic, and I may never recover. Okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind that they don’t take too kindly to holiday snaps. I did get chatting to a couple of friendly stall holders, too, one of whom told me some fantastic stories about life in the GDR and his brief visit to the West during the ’80s – his visa was actually for ten days, but he felt so overwhelmed with emotions after just two that he returned to the East early. It’s a great way to learn German culture and history – through the objects and the stories of the people selling them.