The Earth is suffering, and we all know that. Choosing to travel in a sustainable way and supporting eco-friendly hostels is already making a big difference. That being said, the fashion industry alone accounts for 5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions, and experts say that percentage is set to grow. Not to mention the ethical implications of underpaid workers and child labour. Being bombarded with all this information can be overwhelming, I know it was for me. I love fashion and creating new outfits, so I started looking into ways to do it in more sustainably. Given that most eco-friendly brands right now are quite expensive, and working with a backpacker’s budget, I turned to vintage and thrift shopping, something that I thought was limited to pretty ladies wearing red lipstick and a beehive. I started warily, but I still remember the feeling of finding that perfect vintage t-shirt for a bunch of euros, and before you know it, I was hooked. If you want to learn the best places for vintage shopping around the world, you’ve come to the right place.
The cool thing about buying second-hand is that you’re not putting anything new into our ecosystem. All those clothes were already loved and worn, and their only options were to end up in landfill…or in your closet! There’s also a hunting aspect to vintage shopping that I took a liking to. Finding the perfect fit is so much harder than selecting the right size on a website, and once you stumble upon a piece of clothing you like and that looks good on you, it feels like the stars have aligned. Truly a magical feeling! Thrifting became a hobby of mine, and as a traveller, I started implementing it in my trips, too. Every time I was in a new place, I would reserve at least half a day to raiding those foreign second-hand stores, on crazy itineraries that took me around the coolest neighbourhoods. I was often coming back home with unique vintage finds as souvenirs, and I started getting the same feeling I got when I travelled as a child pre-internet stores, when I was excited for all the different places I could shop at. I loved showing up at school with some funky pants and answering “I got them in Paris”” when asked where they were from. I know, a bit pretentious, but you’d be lying if you said you didn’t love it too!
Through vintage shopping while travelling, my closet started turning into a postcard box made of clothes accumulated from around the globe. Memories of that trip would be woven into the fibres of the garments and every piece started meaning so much more than clothing used to. How precious is it to see a world map of the places you’ve been every time you open your wardrobe? There are cities out there full of the coolest and quirkiest pieces, just waiting for you to ransack through their racks. As a backpacker, I’d urge you to take some time to explore the local vintage scene wherever you are. And if you don’t know where to start, take a look at our top ten best places for vintage shopping around the world. Go on – get thrifty!
1. Milan, Italy
Milan is the fashion capital of the world, with designer stores lining the sidewalks that the most stylish people you’ll ever see stomp their stiletto heels on. Think faux fur coats and huge sunglasses, plus that one quirky element to show the world you’re that high fashion. You’d think second-hand stores wouldn’t belong in a city so posh, but you’d be wrong. The Solari neighbourhood, south of the city, boasts quirky windows and neon signs showing off a more sustainable and fun side of this high fashion hub. My personal favourite is Humana Vintage, a true vintage store selling fifties dresses to cosy grandma sweaters, with prices that go as low as €5 and deals going on all the time. A few blocks from there you’ll find yourself in the street of vintage stores, with a bunch of thrift stores all a couple metres from each other. SNAP Milano is a cool concept store selling vintage pieces gathered from all around the world. If Japanese fashion appeals to you, definitely give it a try. Bivio has both a male and female store and specialises in designer pieces. So go rummaging – you could snag a pair of snazzy velvet green Versace Jeans pants for as low as €20! They’re also willing to buy your old clothes: a great way to refresh your backpack without running out of space!
Humana Vintage, Via Cappellari, 3, 20123 Milan MI
SNAP Milano, Via Gian Giacomo Mora, 11, 20123 Milan MI
Bivio Milano, Via Lambro, 12, 20129 Milan MI
Bivio Milano Donna, Via Gian Giacomo Mora, 4, 20100 Milan MI
2. London, UK
If you’ve heard anything about London, I’m sure you’ve heard about Brick Lane and its iconic vintage stores. London is one of the best places for vintage shopping and names like Rokit are legendary. The price tag can reflect the fame though, and although I recommend visiting the main stores if you’ve never been, I thought I’d include a couple of backpackers’ budget tips too.
Beyond Retro is one of my favourite places to shop in London and online, with cool reworked pieces and a perfect sustainable record that includes reusing shipping boxes and shipping by sea instead of air. Some of their stuff can be pricey, but you can also find affordable pieces that still have that cool edge to them.
The best way to spend money while buying second hand in London is by hitting charity shops. On top of helping the Earth, you’ll also give a hand to the different charities they support. Being donation-based, you’ll be better off heading to the western part of the city, where posh people live and donate their clothes. Oxfam in Notting Hill will hook you up with a cheetah mini skirt for as cheap as £3, and you’ll be helping an association that’s working to end poverty all around the world at the same time.
Wombats City Hostel London is located in Whitechapel and is only a short walk from the thrifty neighbourhood of Shoreditch and Brick Lane. Check out all the hostels in London to plan your vintage tour of the city!
Rokit, 101 Brick Ln, London E1 6SE, UK
Beyond Retro Soho, 58-59 Great Marlborough St, Soho, London W1F 7JY, UK
Oxfam, 144 Notting Hill Gate, Notting Hill, London W11 3QG, UK
3. Dublin, Ireland
In many cities, all the best vintage stores are crammed together. In Dublin it’s no different, as all the best places for vintage shopping are right behind the popular Temple Town, famous for its bright red bar and a couple of other pubs. If you manage to avoid the calling of a fresh pint of Guinness, go up Fawness Street and get ready to immerse yourself in the marvel of Irish vintage shopping.
You can’t miss Lucy’s Lounge because of its bright pink façade – it’s hella chic inside and out!.. Climb down the stairs and find yourself in the wonder of sweaters and vintage jeans. What’s interesting about this one is the impressive collection of vintage lingerie and lacy corsets, handy if you’re looking to get lucky in the leprechauns’ land.
Something I love about shopping in Dublin is their vintage reworked stores, which take pre-loved pieces and turn them into an Urban Outfitters worthy number. Fresh has a super clean feel thanks to its all-white interiors and perfectly organised selection. If you’re on the hunt for a pair of white vintage Levi’s, this is the place to go. Nine Crows, which is right next door, is one of my favourite second-hand stores in the whole world, boasting a cool-girl vibe, vintage berets and cropped flannels to fulfil all your country girl dreams.
Just like Dublin’s shopping scene, the hostels in Dublin are pretty slick. Generator Dublin has an on-site bar, a games room and plenty of fun events like karaoke and drinking games. It’s somewhere to channel your inner hipster!
Lucy’s Lounge, 11 Fownes Street Upper, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
Fresh Limited, 1 Crown Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
Nine Crows, 22 Temple Lane South, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
4. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm was one of the first places I thrifted in and it should be considered one of the best cities for vintage shopping. The thrifting culture is big in Scandinavia, just like how everything’s cool and sustainable (they’re just the best, ugh). You’ll just have to venture to the hipster neighbourhood of Södermalm to find vintage stores aplenty. My beloved British Beyond Retro has a Swedish store too, but if you’re visiting you should absolutely check out Humana Second Hand. Although they have a similar name, this company is not affiliated with the Italian franchise, but you’ll find their stores all over Scandinavia and Germany. Their selection is perfectly curated and ranges from leather jackets to cool sweatshirts. What I love about it is that it feels like a regular store and misses that ‘old clothes’ vibe that can scare off newbies. It’s just like Urban Outfitters, but with a much more fun (and cheap!) selection.
Beyond Retro, Brännkyrkagatan 82, 118 23 Stockholm, Sweden
HUMANA Second Hand, Timmermansgatan 23, 118 55 Stockholm, Sweden
5. Vancouver, Canada
Being Canada is the capital of everything that’s hip and sustainable, it makes sense that Vancouver would be the number one spot to check out for vintage shops when heading North. Right in Yaletown, the coolest part of the city in my opinion, you’ll find a couple of spots nestled in between a café and a cool brunch place that are worth a visit. House of Vintage is an aesthetic fanatic’s dream, with racks and racks of perfectly organised clothes going from flannels (it’s Canada, duh) to skirts and accessories. They also have a household section if you’re looking for a used toaster or something like that.
If you’re after the classic North American thrift store experience, head to the Value Villages all across the city. These don’t really offer a curated selection of pieces, but more an overwhelming amount of clothes that you have to look through until you find that hidden gem. Who would’ve guessed you’d go hunting in Canada? Bargain hunting that is!
House of Vintage, 1008 Robson St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1A7, Canada
Value Village, 6415 Victoria Dr, Vancouver, BC V5P 3X5, Canada
6. Portland, USA
Could the hipster capital of the world not be included on this list? Portland, Oregon, is known all over the world for its craft breweries and quirky coffee shops, but its vintage shopping scene is a gamechanger. You can’t miss Buffalo Exchange, right in front of the famous Powell’s City of Books, probably the most popular thrift store in PDX. The store is big, so it’s likely to feel a bit overwhelming, but if you take your time, you’ll be able to find a range of interesting pieces, some even with the tag still on! The big downside is its central location, that makes it quite busy on a day-to-day basis.
To live the authentic Portland lifestyle, dedicate a whole day to vintage shopping. Head to House of Vintage, a collective of different dealers selling clothes, accessories and bags in a huge warehouse in the Sunnyside area, so iconic it’s where some of the Portlandia outfits are from. Top it off with some food from local food trucks and a pretentious handcrafted coffee and you’ll be living like a local.
With Portland’s hostels, it’s kitchy vibes all around. HI Portland Hawthorne is a charming eco-friendly hostel that offers free light breakfast, bicycle hire and fun activities. Get to know this wonderfully wacky city and book your stay now!
Buffalo Exchange, 1036 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, USA
House of Vintage, 3315 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214, USA
7. New York, USA
Vintage stores tend to reflect a city’s vibe, so the more a place is cool, edgy and fashionable, the more you’ll find gems hidden between the thrift stores’ racks. That’s why the Big Apple is one of the best places for vintage shopping, offering a variety of stores as big as its number of different personalities. Depending on where you thrift, you’ll find different ranges and prices: Ina, Tokio 7 and Micheal’s on the Upper East Side are full of designer gems and fashion interns trying to look the part on a budget. If you move towards Brooklyn, you’re deep in hipster territory, with Quality Meding helping you to rock the mechanic-chic look with dungarees and distressed workwear. Thriftwares is full of silk dresses and woven bags to effortlessly channel that chic Parisian vibe.
New York is known as the city that never sleeps, but you’ll at least need a rest after all that vintage shopping! You don’t have to spend big bucks to live like an Upper East Sider. Freehand New York just seeps style and is calling your name!
INA, 110 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
Tokio 7, 83 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003, USA
Micheal’s, 1125 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10028, USA
Quality Mending, 705 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA
Thriftwares, 70 N 7th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA
8. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is a crazy city, and so is its vintage shopping scene! The best places for vintage shopping are in Shimokitazawa, a neighbourhood close to Shibuya metro station. If anything, it’s definitely where most of them are! I’m talking hundreds of different shops. Seriously, it’s overwhelming. If you add to that all the temporary pop-up shops, there’s no way you’ll be able to hit them all… but that’s ok because it gives you a reason to come back!
Obviously with so many, there’s a thrift shop here for every style and every budget. Personally, I prefer the ones that stay under 20€, but I’m willing to make an exception for places like Grapefruit Moon because it’s just too cute and deserves a visit if you’re ever in Tokyo. To stick to a backpackers’ budget, head to New York Joes Exchange, where you can bring your old clothes and get new ones in return! Or, I mean, someone else’s old clothes. If you don’t want to spend your whole time in Tokyo looking for thrift finds (understandably!), check out Shimokita Garage, a vintage market where you’ll find different sellers all in one place. Score!
While wandering through the neighbourhood of Shibuya, make The Millennials Shibuya your base. This ultra-sleek hostel has reclining pod beds and a futuristic bar.
Grapefruit Moon, 〒154-0000 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Kitazawa, 2 Chome−2−11 １F, Japan
New York Joe Exchange, 1 Chome-20-4 Jinnan, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0041, Japan
Shimokita Garage, 2 Chome-25-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
9. Paris, France
The dreamy capital of France is especially known for true vintage shopping and less thrift finds. So, think beautifully curated boutiques and slightly more expensive prices. At around 30€ for a pair of pants though, I don’t think it’s too bad in a city that’s home to designer labels like Saint Laurent and Chanel.
Most of the more affordable vintage stores in Paris are located in the Marais district, like Coiffeur Vintage, a cute wooden door that opens to floral prints and organised chaos, or Vintage by Ramin, pretty hard to miss because of its hot pink awning. You’ll also spot quite a few Kilo Shops around Paris that, as the name suggests sell clothes by weight, usually €40 per kilo. Some of their locations are themed – for example, Kilo Shop Kawaii specialises in Japanese fashion.
The cool thing about vintage shopping in Paris is that the Parisian style is timeless, so second-hand items will look just as good as brand new ones. Fill your baskets with pastel coloured cardigans, midi dresses and perfectly fitting jeans, and get ready to embody the effortless chicness of a French girl!
So why not head to the world’s capital of fashion and stay in one of Paris’s hostels? Stay in the artsy district of Belleville at Les Piaules, where you’ll be welcomed with funky interiors, lush dorms and an on-site bar!
Coiffeur Vintage, 32 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
Vintage by Ramin, 64 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, France
Kilo Shop Kawaii, 65 Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, France
10. Los Angeles, USA
LA is beaches, Hollywood stars and wannabe influencers, but it’s a score for vintage shopping too! Maybe it’s because everything is so spaced out and many thrift stores can thrive, or maybe it’s because in a city so big it only makes sense that someone would end up getting rid of something nice at one point or another.
Los Angeles second-hand shopping is all about quantity, with the massive Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles Thrift Store being a prime example – it’s the biggest thrift store in LA! You can get lost in this store for hours, finding gems like vintage Ralph Lauren blazers for $8 hidden behind a pile of Forever 21 faded tops.
You don’t have to buy into the hype of a popular attraction though: a simple visit to the many Goodwills around the city will do! Given the huge selection they carry, you’re bound to find something cute and interesting in any of them. It’s science!
Don’t forget to walk down Hollywood boulevard after all the shopping is done. LA’s hostels give a relaxed and summery vibe making it the ideal chill out space. Walk of Fame Hollywood Hostel is ON Hollywood Blvd. So, I guess I’ll see you in the movies…
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Los Angeles Thrift Store, 210 N Ave 21, Los Angeles, CA 90031, USA
Each of these cities has so much more to offer, not to mention all the vintage stores hidden in the other parts of the world! I hope that next time you find yourself in a new place, you’ll decide to check out the best places for vintage shopping too, and maybe come home with a little wearable souvenir. And if you happen to find something really cool, please let us know in the comments below!
About the author:
Hello! I’m Linda, born in Rome under the Aquarius constellation. Hobbies include drawing on coffee cups , playing with glitter and pretending to be a witch . Favourite place on earth: Budapest, Hungary Favourite hostel: Clink261 – London, UK. Catch me on the ‘gram @lindasaidmeow!