Markthalle Neun is the heart of Berlin’s food scene – a beautiful market hall built at the end of the 19th Century which today is catching the German capital up with other culinary hotspots across the globe. As is often the case with Berlin’s buildings, the Markthalle has a rich heritage and an interesting history.
Back In 1847, the capital endured the so-called Potato Revolution. A failed harvest had caused food prices to soar, and Berliners were forced to pay four times the price for their staple food. People were starving, and at one of the city's weekly markets the potato hit the fan. The impoverished and hungry Berliners overturned stands, cut up potato sacks and stole food. A three-day riot ensued in which angry protesters ransacked bakeries and butchers across the city. When the military finally got the situation under control it became clear something had to be done – the old supply structures were clearly not sufficient for such a rapidly growing city.
Food up until this point was sold by hawkers who would walk door-to-door selling their wares, or at weekly markets where the farmers would often just sell their food straight off the floor. Raw meat covered in flies, dripping blood and juices onto fruit and vegetables does not a healthy city make.
Thus in 1881 the Magistrate, with the support of Dr Rudolf Virchow, decided to build 14 market halls around the city, where hygiene could be controlled and supplies brought in from further afield thanks to the development of a new train system – the Berlin Stadtbahn.
When complete Markthalle IX, the 9th of the 14 halls, housed 300 stands selling meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as a selection of colonial spices. Enough space was left in between stalls so that vendors could access their booth with their carts – a measure introduced to prevent clashes between sellers. The structure also included apartments above for the hall’s permanent employees – servants and management staff.
Over the years many of the market halls were closed down due to underuse. Several more were then destroyed in bombing raids during the Second World War. Markthalle IX miraculously survived the war – its windows painted black to avoid being targeted during raids – but only just. It was hit by a bomb in February of 1945, and damaged. Today it is one of three remaining pre-war Markthalle left in the city.
The post-war period brought with it new threats. The rise of supermarkets threatened to render the surviving market halls obsolete. Ironically, Markthalle IX was saved by the grocery juggernauts. Two supermarkets moved into the structure in the 1970s, meaning rents for the market vendors were drastically reduced, essentially keeping the market alive when it had been threatened by closure.
The hall was then renovated in 1991, and in 2010 was sold for 1.5 million euro to the initiative Markthalle Neun, who set itself the goal of creating a space which allowed people to eat and shop differently; respecting people, animals and the environment, eating seasonally and regionally, and harnessing relationships with their local community. A tasty feel good project.
Street Food Thursday at Markthalle Neun was the true pioneer of street food scene here in Berlin. The indoor market has been rocking Thursdays now since 2013. From 5pm until 10pm you will find a rotating selection of vendors offering up culinary treats from around the world. Think pulled-pork sandwiches, tapioca dumplings, kimchi and gourmet pies. Obscurities are also a prominent feature, so if you’re a foodie with a sense of adventure, this is your place.
The weekly food market is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for the regular food vendors. Every month or so the Markthalle also hosts special events: a Bloody Mary fuelled Breakfast Market, and the gout-goading Cheese Market are two recurring favourites. Then there’s the Naschen Markt, or ‘Nibble Market’, put on right before Christmas and populated with dessert and patisserie vendors – perfect for those with a sweet tooth.