In our 5 Shops series, we'’l point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world's best cities. From food markets to bookshops, vintage and homegrown design, we've found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.
Berlin’s shopping scene can be best described as a wunderkammer (or cabinet of curiosities). From flea markets to secondhand shops and independent designer boutiques, Germany’s capital is full of fabulous finds you won’t get anywhere else. In this truly cosmopolitan city, items and their sellers are always coming and going – living here for 10 years, I’ve learned to operate by the shopaholic’s dictum of “Buy now or gone forever.” Rarely have I regretted it.
What I love about shopping in Berlin is that boutiques are essential to the city’s residential fabric. They are kiez (neighborhood) fixtures, often found on the ground floors of apartment buildings, making window shopping a welcome part of everyday life here. As a local DJ, I’ve hijacked my fair share of groovy partywear from poor, unsuspecting mannequins – again, no regrets. My best advice for shopping in Berlin? Keep your eyes peeled and your suitcase a little light.
Best for souvenirs: Vielfach – Das Kreativkaufhaus
Vielfach, a “creative department store,” lives up to its name. Near Checkpoint Charlie, in Mitt’s historic sightseeing heart, it's a haven for those unique, handcrafted gifts and mementos showcasing local craftsmanship. At Vielfach’s showroom, artisans rent shelves to display eclectic products ranging from cosmetics to jewelry and purses. I send out-of-towners here because of the vast, vibrant selection of keepsakes epitomizing Berlin’s individualistic, deeply expressive creative scene.
Souvenirs here go above and beyond your average magnets and keychains, and include funky artistic renderings of Berlin’s TV Tower or tees with train and subway signs. Soaring living and atelier costs are profoundly impacting local artists; at Vielfach, such purchases can directly support them. Since “Made in Germany” is a spoken and unspoken promise of high-quality craftsmanship, you can rest assured that these souvenirs have been handmade to last a lifetime.
Best for vintage: Mauerpark Flea Market
Sure, Berlin is chock-full of secondhand clothing shops, but locals know carton diving is king at the Mauerpark Sunday flea market. It’s highly popular among tourists for its eclectic atmosphere of buskers, food trucks and graffiti artists – yet the shopping here isn’t great for anything except for clothes, and solid deals can still be found in the clothing section (no BS!). Locals will band together and rent tables for only the day, meaning sellers change significantly every Sunday.
Selling here is especially popular with vacating ex-pats, so expect DIY personalized items and far-away brands, too. Since Berlin is all about standing out, characterful staples like leather jackets upcycled with sequins and vintage bags abound. The best part? Sellers are highly motivated to negotiate attractive prices and cover their rental costs. So don’t expect to leave empty-handed.
Best for local design: UY Studio
In Neukölln’s trendy Reuterkiez district, where hipster culture abounds, UY Studio is genuinely one-of-a-kind. Established in 2013, the brand specializes in genderless, sleek streetwear that gained fame via Instagram and cult followings on techno-club floors, before it opened the bricks-and-mortar showroom we see today.
UY’s clothing is made for style, comfort and durability, aiding all-night dancing, long queues and unpredictable weather. Think flowing silhouettes, oversized everything and oh-so-much black. Many visiting friends have done their last-minute rave shopping here (dress codes can be strict in Berlin clubs) for breathable mesh, built-to-last leather harnesses and (my favorite) phone holders, a staple of my club gear. The best part is all production takes place in an adjoining workshop, so on-the-spot alterations always ensure the right fit.
Best for books: Shakespeare and Sons
Books, bagels and good cappuccino: carefree days are ideally started with brekkie in Friedrichshain at Shakespeare & Sons. The English-language bookstore is a sensory delight, thanks to steady streams of customers, the enticing aroma of freshly baked goods from the oven, and colorful walls and displays (including a travel section well stocked with Lonely Planet guides!).
The space is run by a husband-wife duo from Czechia and New York, respectively. Drawing inspiration from the bookshop tradition of Paris’ Shakespeare and Company (where the husband had previously worked), the pair have brought forth a similar essence here. The wife oversees the café (Fine Bagels), doling out the city’s best bagels with homemade cream cheeses and delicious pastries like Jewish babka. Wander into the back, where the secondhand book shelves hold a collection of well-loved books at bargain prices.
Best for food: Winterfeldtmarkt
I recently moved to Schöneberg from hipster-popular Neukölln and can only rave about the food scene here: diverse cuisines at fair prices, without cooler-than-thou pretension. Nowhere showcases this better than the food market at Winterfeldtplatz. The Winterfeldtmarkt, every Wednesday and Saturday, is centuries-old yet still in its prime – and, unlike many other Berlin markets, mainly caters to locals and not tourists. From diverse stalls and trucks, producers and artisans sell everything you need for dinner: fresh-farm veggies, unique cheeses, bread and pastries, and more.
Feasting at the square’s standing tables is terrific for people-watching, but a more relaxing plan is throwing together a picnic – usually containers of seasonal fruit, Turkish meze like olives and salad, or maybe hot grub off the grill – and hopping over to one of Schöneberg’s many nearby grassy knolls. The spacious, colonnade-lined Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, seven minutes away on foot, is a dear favorite.