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Unlike other European capitals, Berlin offers more for stylish Cheapos than second-hand and vintage clothing stores (of which there are plenty). You can easily get that “so-chic-without-trying” Berlin look for less than the cost of lunch by prowling a smattering of cheap and chic boutiques that appeal with low prices and hip styles.
Stick to studenty/artsy neighborhoods—the Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg border, Kreuzberg, and Friedrichshain—and you’ll be sure to score a dud or two that will make you look oh-so-European for oh-so-few Euros. We think that Mitte/Prenzlauer border and Kreuzberg are the best hunting grounds.
Young and hip: The Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg Border
Most of the boutiques lines up on Kastanienallee, Oderberger Strasse, Eberswalder Strasse, and Schönhauser Allee, are inexpensive repositories of stylish his and her fashions. We’re partial to the bright and colorful Kwikshop (Kastanienallee 44), which specializes in locally-crafted clothing, notebooks, and fun, reasonably-priced gifties. Continue up the street to find Skunk Funk (Kastanienallee 19), a young and fun boutique well-stocked with great little getups.
Turn left onto Oderberger Strasse to find more clothing shops and a smattering of second-hand and vintage spots. Paul’s Boutique (Oderberger Str. 47) hawks used designer sneakers; VEB Orange (Oderberger Str. 29) specializes in East German throwbacks.
If you’re after designs by local Berliners and you’re in the area on Sunday (when most other shops are closed), the Mauer Park Flöhmarkt (U-bahn: Eberswalder Str., Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.), which lives in the scruffy park at the eastern end of Oderberger Strasse, is the place. A hybrid flea market-craft/design fair, the dusty, cramped, and excellent flea market boasts dozens of booths hawking duds and jewelry by young Berlin designers hoping to make it big.
Edgy and Worldly: Kreuzberg
Head southwest to Kreuzberg, where you’ll find another batch of inexpensive yet style-conscious shops. Shops here tend to be of the edgy (think leather and studs) or worldly (as in hemp, and vegan) variety—but there is a wide range of styles thrown into the mix.
From the Gorlitzer Bahnhof U-bahn stop, stroll down Oranien Strasse to find looks like appeal to the hoods cosmopolitan, punk-ish crowd. Depot 2 (Oranien Str. 9) draws fashion-forward types. The organic duds are noteworthy.
On the other side of district, the Bergmannkiez (the area around Bergmann Strasse; U-bahn: Geneisenau Str.) is just a touch more upscale. But the secondhand shop Colours Kleidermarkt (Bergmann Str. 192)—where you can buy a kilo of clothes for less than €15; on Tuesday, between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. it’s only €10—is worth the journey. (So is a divine döner from Mustafas Gemüse Kebab on Mehringdamm, near the entrance to the U-bahn).
If you’re into bargain shopping and you’ll be in Berlin for a while, consider a stop at Designer Outlet Berlin (Alter Spandauer Weg 1; RE 2 & Bus 662). A half-hour ride from the city center, this new mall offers German brands for less.
Closer to the Center, there are three T.K. Maxx (check the website for locations) outposts—owned by the same people behind T.J Maxx and Marshall’s. They are among the first discount shops of their kind in Germany—so expect a crowd of bargain hunters.