Perusing the stalls of Berlin’s Markthalle Neun, passing artisanal butchers, cheesemongers, and hip organic grocers, it almost feels like I’m in Downtown L.A. But one tilt of the chin upward, and I’m quickly reminded of the market’s long-standing legacy by way of its old-world charm.
Markthalle Neun, constructed in 1891 in the present-day Kreuzberg district, was a thriving community marketplace until World War II when all commerce abruptly ceased. While the building remained intact throughout the conflict, the spirit of the market failed to be revived in subsequent years. Eventually falling prey to the economic and social struggles of the twentieth century, Markthalle Neun sullenly surrendered its doors to a host of discount and second-hand stores.
But new hope arose when the Berlin Wall fell in the late eighties. The neighborhood, already home to many working-class Germans and Turkish immigrants, quickly became an appealing new place for international, young artists, musicians and chefs. Rent was cheap, the arts were on the rise—and Kreuzberg was at the heart of it all.
Fast forward two decades, with gentrification in full swing, when hundreds of local residents gathered in opposition to the city’s sale of Markthalle Neun to German supermarket giant, Kaiser’s. With concern for the future of commerce in Kreuzberg, community members proposed the marketplace be sold to those with the best concept for the space, rather than for the highest price. City officials complied, and in 2011, Markthalle Neun—a marketplace for all—was reborn.
Remaining true to its vision, Markthalle Neun has become an integral part of Berlin’s modern slow food movement. In addition to hosting monthly workshops centered around topics like urban gardening, handmade pasta, and slow tofu making, the market employs a rotation of themed events. Enjoy a taste of nearly every continent on Street Food Thursdays, or check out their monthly breakfast market—I recommend the eggs benedict from Humble Pie. And, of course, there are always the daily market gems like Sironi, famous for their focaccias and Roman-style pizza, and Kumpel & Keule, known for their epic pastured pork burger.