The locals describe Berlin as ‘poor but sexy’, which isn’t entirely an incorrect description. From the urban, punk-ish graffitied streets of Friedrichshain in Berlin’s East to the rapidly gentrifying, hipster neighborhood of Neukölln, Berlin is vibrant, young and full of surprises. With the city’s tumultuous and troubled past, the historical sites left behind leave much to learn from; the cosmopolitan food reveals the heavy Turkish and Vietnamese influence; and the world-famous nightlife transports you to a different decade and challenges your beliefs on typical clubbing.
For vintage aficionados and bargain-hunters, Berlin has some of the best vintage stores and selections in Europe. You will never be able to replicate the originality and all-round coolness inherent in most young Berliner’s style (I personally will never be able to wear that much black and pull it off!), but you can try by scouring some of the city’s many vintage and thrift stores–most of them affordable, well-organized and always full of great stock.
We experienced it all starting with our stay at Hotel Q in the polished, wealthy neighborhood of Charlottenburg, and then immersing into the younger, grungy surroundings of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg at the Michelberger. Hotel Q offered an award-winning boutique stay with its efficient design (the bed and the shower are in the same rom with no partition) as a sleek red and white figure in an upscale neighborhood. The Michelberger is a creative, independent affordable hotel complete with its own restaurant, coconut water line and bikes you can rent out to explore the city.
Day One: Mitte + Alexanderplatz
Alexanderstraße 7, 10178
Open 10am-8pm every day, closed on Sundays
Oranienburger Str. 87
Open 10am-8pm every day, closed on Sundays
The ubiquitous charity clothing thrift stores scattered around Europe are under the umbrella of Humana People to People: “a network of 31 organizations engaged in international solidarity, cooperation and development.” With over ten locations in Berlin alone, all are good spots for an environment-and-wallet-friendly shopping spree, but the two locations that we found best for great vintage finds were in Alexanderplatz (Alexanderstraße 7) and Mitte (Oranienburger Str. 87).
Alexanderplatz’ location has a completely separate curated vintage section at the very back, organized by decade and style for all your heavy 60s coats, cowboy boots and 90s sportswear needs.
Weinbergsweg 4, 10119
Open 12pm-12am every day
An adorable techni-colored dream sitting right on the Weinbergsweg restaurant strip, Nihombashi is a treasure both in design and food. We dare you to not take a photo while you eat here–even the bathroom is a design-centric, adorable experience. Proving itself to be not just a one trick pony, the Japanese restaurant’s sushi offerings are even better than their Instagram-friendly chairs and wallpaper. A surprisingly delicious corn and miso butter appetizer was a unanimous crowd favorite.
Originally opened by Roberta Oehmigen and now managed by her son, Tilman Oehmigen, Tukadu is a wonderland for handmade, bespoke earrings.
Alte Schönhauser Str. 46, 10119
Open 12pm-11pm Monday-Thursday, Open 12pm-12am Friday-Sunday
This busy lunch spot provides a great break spot in between perusing all the high-street stores nearby. Go for the delicious clear pho and stay for the vast menu of sweet smoothie options. The pho is as simple as it gets–Monsieur Vuong eschews condiments in favor of a clear, strong, umami-rich broth that begs to be slurped down.
Torstraße 102, 10119
Open 3pm-12am Monday Thursday, Open 1pm-2am Friday and Saturday, Open 3p-12am Sunday
You’re on holiday. Any hour is beer o’clock, especially when it’s at Mikkeller. The Berlin outpost of the popular Danish craft beer company, Mikkeller is a quiet spot to unwind and enjoy 24 beers on tap. For beer newbies, the bartenders will provide samplers and act as beer shepherds to guide you to the perfect choice for you.
Day Two: Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain and beyond
Warschauer Str. 29, 10243
Open 1-7pm every day, closed on Sundays
Described as ‘Berlin’s cheapest vintage store,’ the little store on the busy street of Warschauer Strasse is filled to the brim with vintage gems, sorted by style. The stock comes from a private French wholesaler that sells by the tonne, and the pieces come straight from the shipping container to the rack–no steaming and no cleaning, which means no mark up. Come here for vintage Levis in every color and size imaginable, fun slogan sweatshirts from the 80s and 90s, Adidas and Reebok windbreakers, and down jackets.
Bergmannstraße 102, 10961 B
Open 11am-7pm everyday, closed on Sundays
A trip to Europe wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a kilo vintage store. These stores operate by colored tags that are matched with price tiers per kilo, which generally mean that lighter pieces like slips and blouses end up being a steal. Most of these stores will provide scales throughout that will help you calculate how much your piece is before you check out.
The flagship store called ‘Colours’ is located above a supermarket in an alleyway. Tricky to find, but once you find it, it’s as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret vintage mecca. Colours is one of the bigger vintage stores in Berlin, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed in here. Take a deep breath and sort through the endless racks upon racks of offerings–you could walk away with a pristine straw purse for 10 euros or a perfectly fitting gingham halter dress from the 70s for 8 euros. The Mitte counterpart is a smaller, more crowded location but is also well-worth the visit.
Sanderstraße 11, 12047
Open 1-7pm every day, closed on Sunday
Sing Blackbird marries vintage clothing and veganism with a store/restaurant/cafe hybrid. Upon walking in, you’re greeted both by a wall of vintage shoes in pristine condition with designer options like Chanel alongside nameless 70s retro suede boots. The cafe is the perfect spot to work from, and as you walk through the door on the right, there lies a highly curated selection of 70s to 90s vintage, including a small men’s section.
Repeater / Vintage Shop
Pannierstraße 45, 12047
Open 12-8pm every day, closed on Sunday
Although the store’s racks are closely packed together and mildly claustrophobic, Repeater delivers Berlin’s top picks of secondhand Converse, Vans, men’s jackets, print shirts and sweatshirts. Skewing urban and 90s, the colorful store has an impressively wide selection.
CODA Dessert Bar
Friedelstraße 47, 12047
Open 7pm-12am, Closed on Mondays and Sundays
This dessert-only experimental fine dining restaurant puts dessert front and center. With one six-course menu that changes regularly, CODA alters the way you think about the best and sweetest course, and seals the deal with some of the best cocktails in the city. Try the pandan cocktail to cap off a perfect day.
Cocolo Ramen X-Berg
Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39-40, 10999
Open 12-11pm on Monday and Thursday, Sunday, open 6-11pm
Stop by what is considered Berlin’s best ramen spot for great sake, cheap and ridiculously flavorful bowls of ramen. Ask to sit at the chef’s counter, where you can watch the ramen chefs whip up bowl after bowl with skill and ease.
Day Three: Day Parties & Market Scouring
Fleamarket at Mauerpark
Bernauer Str. 63-64, 13355
Open 9am-6pm on Sundays only
In a city big on open-air Sunday markets, the flea market at Mauerpark is the behemoth of them all. This market is sprawling and easy to get lost in, filled with vintage trinkets and secondhand stalls hosted by Berliners clearing out their closet, punctuated by the occasional local craft designer or souvenir stall. Go early to snatch up everything from 3 euro Nike high tops, vintage bomber jackets and near-new designer denim. Grab lunch at one of the many food vendors and head outside at 3 p.m. to the outdoor amphitheatre to watch karaoke amateurs battle it out at the bearpit.
Flohmarkt am Boxhagener Platz
Boxhagener Platz 1, 10245
Open 10am-6pm on Sundays only
A smaller, local flea market set around the rectangular perimeter of Boxhagener Platz, this one is located in the vibrant heart of a mostly student neighborhood. On any given summer or spring Sunday, the grassy square will be filled with people enjoying the weather and the market crowded with bargain-hunters, and everything from secondhand books, vintage homewares that you’ll wish you could pack in your check-in luggage and secondhand stalls.
Gabriel-Max.Str. 17 / Krossener Str. 11, 10245
Open 12pm-12am every day
A creative Vietnamese eatery opened by a local family is a gem amongst a few busy streets of plentiful food options. You can’t go wrong with any selection off the expansive menu, including sizzling hot plates of perfectly-cooked meat and fresh noodle salads.