Let’s go thrifting in five cities! These are the best second-hand stores, vintage shops and flea markets in Europe — some of these destinations may never have crossed your mind
As we all strive to be the best, most ethically-conscious and expressive versions of ourselves (without breaking the bank), second-hand and vintage shopping is very much in in 2023. If the feeble and relatively dull selection of second-hand shops in your own city is leaving you, like me, fashionably frustrated, you might have considered taking a thrifting vacation. Here’s some inspiration for you: five of the best cities in Europe for second-hand shops, flea markets, and vintage stores. Book that flight, kit yourself out with unique, once-loved clothes and other wonderful tat, and thank me later.
Germany’s very cool capital is all about liberalism and creativity, a place where sustainability and style have long been at the core of the way of life. Upcycling and passing on one’s possessions is second nature to the average Berliner, so it’s unsurprising that it’s known as the place to be in Europe for vintage and thrift stores. (And for art, world cuisines, techno music, and sex parties. All the essentials of self-indulgence, basically.)
The streets of Berlin are brimming with unique and affordable items of clothing, and people flock from all over to rummage through them. These flea markets and swap events are pretty much everywhere — notably in Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, and Neukölln; you won’t have to look very hard to find them. But which are the very best, most famous shops?
The best second-hand shops in Berlin
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- HUMANA is a chain of thrift stores with 22 shops in Berlin alone, including the largest second-hand shop in Europe: the Friedrichshain branch at Frankfurter Tor — a five-floor multicolored madhouse.
- Veist Kleidergeschichten (translation: “Veist Clothing Stories”) is a designer and vintage shop where each item comes, endearingly, with its own abridged backstory attached.
- PICKNWEIGHT is another German-founded franchise (though now there’s also a store in London’s fashionable Covent Garden) where you’ll find seriously hip stuff, priced by the kilogram.
- Allet Schick specializes in authentic clothes, accessories and homeware from the 1950s right up until the 90s.
- Sommerladen is where you’ll find the biggest discounts on luxury labels.
- Trash Schick, established some 30 years ago, is well-known for its incredible selection of vintage pieces and its ethical stance on textile-sourcing.
- Koku Secondhand Store is a must-visit for once-loved shoes, particularly if you’re partial to a Dr. Marten boot.
- Loretta offers cute gear and a friendly shopping experience, whatever your budget.
The Basque Country isn’t the most-visited part of Spain, and this is perhaps a shame. Its gorgeous mountainous and coastal landscapes, unique culture, and great local food and drink make it an insightful and relaxing place for a vacation. And the community’s largest city, Bilbao, with its cool museums, transformed design, progressive attitudes and general artiness, is also a hub for second-hand shopping. So, now you know — Bilbao is certainly worth your time, especially if you love flea markets.
The best flea markets and second-hand shops in Bilbao
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- Rastro Dos de Mayo is a monthly (first Saturday) flea market that takes place in the heart of Bilbao La Vieja, the most multicultural, hip-and-happening neighborhood in the city.
- Rastro de Bilbao, a buzzing market full of clothes, accessories, antiques, books, vinyl, and other unique and impulse purchase-worthy stuff, takes place every Sunday morning on Plaza Nueva.
- Vintage Bilbao is an online second-hand clothes store that holds markets every weekend.
- Koopera is a chain of cheap and ethical second-hand clothes shops. There are eight in the Bilbao area, more than in any other city in Spain.
- Union Recycling, tucked away on one of the narrow, bohemian streets in the city center, specializes in vintage clothing items from the 60s and 70s, as well as accessories and handmade trinkets.
- Flamingos Vintage Kilo is an inviting, pastel-painted thrift store that sells clothes by the kilogram.
From the traditional hangouts to the trendy bars and cafés, in both of which you’ll find the friendliest and most down-to-earth people, this is one European capital that everyone should visit at least once. It’s also full of students (over 100,000 of them!) — one of the most prominent demographics driving thrift culture not just here, but in much of the Western world. You can get cheap flights to Dublin all year round, so pack your bags — making sure to leave some room, of course — and brace yourself for a weekend of hunting for one-of-a-kind treasures.
The best flea markets and second-hand shops in Dublin
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- We Love Markets holds regular flea markets in support of independent designers and businesses that sell clothes, jewelry, books, soaps, and more.
- Nine Crows Thrift Shop on Mary Street is an unmissable establishment Street with its bold-lettered, pop-art sign. Its interior is clad in wood-chip and adorned with pot plants, gold-framed mirrors and neon signs. It’s almost enough to distract you entirely from the rails and rails of cheap, incredibly quirky second-hand clothes. Almost.
- Nine Crows Vintage — run by the same people as the Nine Crows Thrift Shop, but this is where they keep their “most special”, “90s and 2000s” bits.
- Tola Vintage has four branches in Dublin, one of which is for designer items, and one of them sells clothes by the kilogram.
- Find lots of literal hidden gems at Rhinestones, a vintage jewelry shop specializing in antique stones and costume jewelry. Okay, you won’t find any bargains here, but this stuff is just too beautiful not to go and see.
- Lucy’s Lounge sells wacky vintage clothing and accessories. It’s a bit of a Dublin icon, having been open for 40 years, and being easily recognizable by its gloriously pink exterior.
- Dublin Vintage Factory is another colorful spot, and it’s all about 80s shirts and “Y2K dresses”.
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- Oxfam Ireland is a charity shop; its proceeds go towards alleviating hunger and poverty around the world. You’ll find quite a few branches in the center of Dublin, selling second-hand clothes, shoes, accessories, books, CDs and trinkets, all at reasonable prices.
- Dublin Vintage Shop has a retro feel to it, selling a wide variety of nostalgic relics as well as items of clothing.
Scandinavia has long been thought of as a generally trendy corner of the world, one reason for this being that the nations spearhead endeavors toward environmental sustainability. Copenhagen, much like Berlin, is a city very proud of its commitment to protecting the planet. And much like Berlin, the population is pretty fashion-conscious — it’s a place where one’s clothes and furniture are an important part of self-expression. Hence, Copenhagen is booming with second-hand shopping opportunities… much like Berlin.
Why would you come to Copenhagen instead of Berlin? I mean, do both, I’d say. But Copenhagen is smaller, quainter, cozier, with its own little charms: unique architecture, Viking and royal history, a harbor. And you can fly to Copenhagen Airport for cheap from lots of cities across Europe.
The best flea markets and second-hand shops in Copenhagen
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- Københavnstrup Loppemarked happens on Sundays from mid-April to mid-October, in a relaxed green space in the Emdrup neighborhood. With a particular local-community vibe, it’s known as “the friendliest flea market in Copenhagen”.
- Byens Lopper is a vintage flea market in Østerbro with the bonus gimmicks of tarot card- and palm-reading.
- Veras Market under Buen, another Sunday market, is bursting with cool vintage clothing items and other trinkets. On any other day of the week, you can visit their second-hand shop at Studiestræde 27.
- Wasteland offers original and redesigned vintage clothes. Its USP is that it stocks pieces from North America.
- Carmen Copenhagen is one of the city’s oldest vintage stores, located in the trendy, vibrant area of Larsbjørnssstræde among lots of other shops housing old treasures.
- Fremtiden, run by volunteers in collaboration with the Danish Red Cross, prides itself on an ethos of sustainability and creativity.
- Prag, with its two stores in the city, has a reputation for particularly out-there, unique items of second-hand clothing.
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Vienna has, historically, been romanticized for its class — its sophisticated artistic and musical heritage, more specifically. Nowadays, while the high-brow stuff is somewhat less obvious, creativity prevails in the hearts and minds of the Viennese. The result is another cool, forward-thinking, extremely liveable European capital, which is abundant with flea markets and second-hand shops. Let’s look at some of the very best ones.
The best flea markets and second-hand shops in Vienna
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- Frühflohmarkt am Naschmarkt — Vienna’s most famous Saturday flea market — is where you’ll find lots of clothes, CDs and vinyl, ostentatious jewelry, and random relics. Tip: haggling is commonplace, and if you go just before it ends at around 2 pm, vendors are much more willing to drop their prices.
- METAMarkt Flohmarkt is held every weekend in an old factory in the 22nd District, offering jewelry, antiques, and vinyl.
- Bootik 54 is a hip second-hand shop selling clothes and accessories from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
- HUMANA’s Austrian counterpart specializes in affordable vintage clothing.
- Burggasse 24 Vintage Shop is very hipster-chic, with a café full of plants and mismatched furniture.
- Poly Klamott is a cool second-hand shop housing a diverse range of vintage gear, including an impressive collection of sunglasses.
- Kost-nix Laden, perhaps the most unique place mentioned in this entire article, is less a second-hand shop; more an anti-capitalist “storage room” project. People simply come and go to give and take what they want or no longer have use for — quite the epitome of budget second-hand shopping.
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