Boxhagener Platz Fleamarket

Carlijn Potma takes a stroll around Friedrichshain’s Boxhagener Platz…

When mentioning the words “fleamarket,” “Berlin” and “Sunday,” most people instantly think about the weekly happenings down at the Mauerpark or nearby Arkonaplatz. But these are not Berlin’s only places for bargain hunters; nor are they the only places with a pleasant Sunday-style atmosphere.

Friedrichshain, the Eastern borough formerly known for its rugged atmosphere, squats and buzzy bars and clubs, also has a pleasant place to spend your Sunday afternoon: Boxhagener Platz, or “Boxi,” as the locals call it.

True, the fleamarket is not as extensive and fashion-minded as the one at Mauerpark, but there’s a surprisingly versatile selection of stalls: antique dealers selling curiosities, young creatives offering artwork, unique tee-shirts or jewellery, locals selling second hand clothes…

Karuna Cafe Pavillon. Image by Paul Sullivan

Books, old records and vinyl are in abundance and you can even find a broad selection of retro cassettes at some stands. Real bargains are not so easy to find, but a bit of gentle and good-natured haggling can definitely help. A smattering of coffee and snack stands provide basic sustenance, and there’s also a small café run by the Karuna Verein, whose staff are often young offenders fullfilling their community work. It can be pretty crowded on a sunny day, but the atmosphere is very friendly.

The market stalls are set out along the streets that surround the actual Boxhagener Platz, which also features a children’s playground, paddling pool and a small park with plenty of benches to relax on. Being one of the most gentrified parts of a district that has traditionally prided itself on fighting gentrification, the square attracts an interesting and broad mix of people: families, students, punks, buskers and hipsters all congregate here to drink coffee or beer, lounge in the grass or shop.

A hundred years ago the square was fulfilling a similar function as it does today: a central recreation area, meeting place, playground and marketplace. Its name refers to the former hamlet of Boxhagen, a manor farm that was located just north of the present-day square. In 1903, the area was renewed and two years later a weekly farmers market was set up to provide food for the local community; that market still takes place here every Saturday.

The view onto Boxi from Cafe Macondo. Image by Paul Sullivan.

After the Second World War, large parts of Friedrichshain were destroyed and rebuilt, but the Eastern area of the district, including Boxhagener Platz, was spared the Plattenbau makeover. After the fall of the Berlin Wall squatters were a decisive influence in the area. Many collective housing projects remain today, especially in nearby Rigaer Str., though by now many have been controversially evicted or remain under threat.

The streets spiraling out from the square—in particular Grünberger Straße, Krossener Straße, Gärtnerstraße and Gabriel-Max-Straße—host a wealth of cafés, boutiques, bars and restaurants. The nearby Russian café Datscha serves an excellent brunch during the weekend, though it’s so popular that finding an unoccupied table won’t be easy. Café Macondo, a delightfully low-ley ‘leseplatz’ (reading café) located on Gärtnerstrasse, serves a Latin American brunch on Saturday and Sunday.

For a taste of older Berlin, check out the nearby Knorrpromenade, located southwest of Boxhagener Platz. The houses here were built in 1911-1913 to attract wealthier residents to the working-class neighbourhood. Today it’s the last bourgeois housing complex in the area, featuring a jumble of architectural styles, crumbled entrance gates on the southern side and an abundance of pretty foliage bursting from gardens and balconies in summer.

The legendary Intimes Kino. Image by Paul Sullivan

Another oddity worth a mention is the square’s nineteenth-century public restroom. The historic cast-iron toilet house, located next to Café Pavillon, is one of only thirty of these structures left in Berlin. It was burned down in 1992, but restored a couple of years later and has now been refurbished in local “grunge” style by graffiti, stickers and party posters.

Also nearby is the historic Intimes, a charming indie cinema on the corner of Boxhagener- and Niederbarnim Strasse. It was founded around 1915 and still screens great movies for reasonable prices.

Boxhagener Platz
10245 Berlin-Friedrichshain
Farmer’s market: Sat, 8-15:30
Fleamarket: Sun, 10-18

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