Germans have no qualms about buying the previously-owned which I find… refreshing. At first, I have to admit, it was a bit shocking. Where I come from buying new is the ONLY way to go. Unless you specify you’re into vintage, admitting that you bought second-hand brings to mind enormous depots with rows of boxes filled to the brim with cheap American clothes.
What I found in Germany was different and surprising: a vibrant pre-loved market, where there’s no stigma attached to adding Flohmarkt browsing to your list of favorite weekend activities. I am now a true convert: not only have I stocked my dinner service with a wide variety of Bavarian ceramic pieces but I also look forward to our Krippe’s Flohmarkt to stock up on Regenhose, Matschhose and Gummistiefel.
So, if you’re still on the fence, here are five things you need to know about Flohmärkte in Munich:
- There’s a Flohmarkt season. Keep an eye out for Flohmärkte in spring or autumn, when you’re expected to stock up for the coming seasons. Muenchen.de has an entire section dedicated to the larger markets, while information about smaller ones can be often found on posters plastered to traffic lights and school gates. So when should you start your search? Even though some churches or Kitas have their annual sale a little bit earlier or later, the unofficial season kicks off in April with the big Rotes Kreuz garage sale (in Theresienwiese, where the Oktoberfest takes place). Surprisingly, summer is a bad season for Flohmärkte. Everyone runs to Italy or the mountains and you won’t find anything happening until September comes around. An exception to the rule is the Olympiapark Flohmarkt, which is open all year long.
- Be prepared to haggle…or not. This is a grey area that depends on your level of comfort and the sellers you meet. There is no written rule. Some people expect you to haggle while others find it off-putting. You might choose to stick to your own code: maybe haggle only if you’re buying in bulk or if you think the price is not fair. I find prices are generally reasonable but there have been moments when I thought they were outrageous (I’m looking at you, €50 dial-up telephone from the 1960s). In general, I tend not to haggle with kids or smiling people but, also, if I think the price is too high I just don’t buy. There’s so much to choose from anyway!
- Know your markets. There are several kinds of markets, each catering to a different type of treasure hunter. The Kita or school markets that I mentioned earlier focus on baby and children’s things: from toys and books to clothes and sporting equipment. You can also find the special Mädelsflohmärkte (for young women), the Midnight Bazar (at night and more alternative) or — my absolute favorite — the Hofflohmärkte, which take place in a different neighborhood each weekend. Private citizens set up tables in their backyards or courtyards, which offers a great opportunity to peek inside city buildings.
- Be prepared. Depending on what kind of Flohmarkt you’re going to, it’s better to be aware of some unspoken rules. If it’s indoors and starts at a certain hour, remember Germans are — well — Germans and will try to be there as early as possible to snatch the best things. Never forget to have cash on hand (and by cash, I mean small coins). It will be hard to find a seller willing to change a 50 euro bill! If you’re going to an outdoor Hofflohmarkt, be prepared for the weather. If it’s sunny, you might need sunscreen, a hat and water. If it’s rainy, it is still doable (actually it might be even nicer if it’s less crowded) but you’ll need a rain jacket and a waterproof bag to put all your new, used things in.
- Stick to what you need. Flohmärkte are fun but can also mean coming back home with a 2×2 Celine Dion signed poster that you have no room for. Make a quick list of what you’re willing to buy: you might not like used clothes or feel the need to read the pile of books next to your bed before buying more. For example, we never buy anything broken or that needs repairing. There’s no way we’ll ever get around to fixing it! However let the markets surprise you. Maybe your child loves the Paw Patrol short sleeved shirt you tried to unsuccessfully hide from him or maybe your husband will come home with a guitar he won’t ever play. It’s OK! Buying second-hand is a way to indulge in things you might never sanction otherwise.
I enjoy Flohmärkte for two reasons. First, Hofflohmärkte give us a chance to explore different neighborhoods within the city. We always have lunch somewhere special and try an exciting hidden bakery or a funky cafe before going home. BK (i.e. before kids) we might have checked out the trendy spots in the area, while nowadays it gives an us excuse to explore the city’s playgrounds and parks.
Secondly, we take these days out as an opportunity to give our children some sense of how buying and selling works. Each one of them gets an allowance to spend for the day (3 euro, for example) and if it all goes on Mickey Mouse magazines, well… then there’s no waffle at the next stand. Tough love, kiddo. When you grow up, you can use your own money to buy all the useless crap you want. Now let me think where I can put this funky, turquoise, pom pom lamp….
Editor’s note — Next Sunday, June 25th, LMBB has its very own Flohmarkt at the Machwerk (Schulstrasse 1, 80634) from 10am to 2pm. This will be an opportunity to hang out, chat and meet while browsing the stands of our members for hidden treasures. LMBB merchandise will also be available for the first time on the premises and there’ll be FREE cake and balloons. See you there!
Maria Diaz is a multimedia project manager turned unwilling cook and cheerleader for two tiny, demanding humans. Her previous experience left her woefully unprepared to deal with complaints about the wrong-colored bowl. Originally from Costa Rica, she’s been in Munich for 4 years after a 5-year stint in Italy, where she developed a strong aversion to overcooked pasta. As the editorial manager of LMBB, she enjoys working on Excel sheets no one reads and writing about her passions.
Photo credit: Yolanda Ng is a cross creative who is a professional fashion designer, stylist, street style blogger for VON ZWEI and a photographer at Corner Store Photography. She is also the Creative and Marketing Director for LMBB.