Every year, crowds of shoppers flock to the German capital, attracted by its ability to combine the uncombinable. Ultra-modern skyscrapers and brilliantly renovated pre-war buildings house some of Europe's most spectacular shopping venues. While West Berlin proudly boasts some of the classiest traditional department stores, East Berlin is an intriguing labyrinth of second-hand shops and flea markets.
Berlin stopped importing fashion trends many years ago; instead, young local designers have taken up the task of generating the hottest fashion styles. Today, the city is a gallery of innovative ideas displayed in a number of independent boutiques and outlets. Vintage fashion and popular brands are widely available, as well.
- Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm) and Tauentzienstrasse are Berlin's Fifth Avenue, swarming with both tourists and locals. The area is home to all of the important designer-label and popular shops, along with Europa Center, the city's major shopping centre. Don't hesitate to stop by KaDeWe, the largest department store in the continental part of Europe.
- Uhlandstrasse and Bleibtreustrasse attract shoppers looking for avant-garde fashion. The upscale Uhland-Passage houses some of the most exclusive boutiques in the city. For more affordable brands, drop by Kempinski Plaza.
- Unter den Linden and Friedrichstrasse form the most elegant shopping area in East Berlin. Luxurious fashion houses have taken up the places previously occupied by tacky souvenir shops, revitalising the district to such an extent that it now challenges Ku'damm for the title of Berlin's premiere shopping mile.
- Hackescher Markt is a perfect destination for enthusiasts of non-mainstream fashion. Many of the young designers' curious establishments are to be found here.
- Alexanderplatz is a much less prestigious location, but the area's second-hand shops promise excellent bargains to those who venture inside.
Art & Antiques
A goldmine for art and antique collectors visiting the German capital lies in the heart of Scheuenviertel, the 'barn district.' Many buildings in this former Jewish quarter of Berlin survived World War II, and were recently turned into a myriad of little galleries and sophisticated studios. The grand shopping arcade is formed by the following streets:
- Auguststrasse, home to the most prestigious ones;
- Oranienburger Strasse;
- Grosse Hamburger Strasse;
- Rosenthaler Strasse;
Antiques enthusiasts should drop by the flea market at Strasse des 17 Juni, open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon until the late afternoon.
The fact that the German capital is inhabited by a multiligual society is reflected by the offering of numerous bookshops scattered all over the city. You'll be surprised to discover publications in the most exotic of languages on the shelves of many a tiny shop.
- Charlottenburg is home to several interesting establishments, such as Berlin's only Jewish bookshop, Literatur Handlung, along with Bote & Bock, which specialises in music. The city's major gay bookshop, Prinz Eisenherz, can also be found in this area.
- Kreuzberg is the place to look for little bookshops that buy, sell and exchange used and new books.
Did you know... ?
1. Friedrichstrasse is home to a branch of Galeries Lafayette, the French department store.
2. The federal state of Berlin can decide about the opening hours of the shop on its own.
3. Up to 50,000 shoppers visit KaDeWe each day.
4. The Europa Center shopping mall is nearly 125 metres high.
5. The fashion showroom of Berlinomat has a total floorspace of over 300m2.
6. Karl Marx Alle beer shops offer more than 300 types of brews.
7. The traditional Christmas market in Berlin is held at Gendarmenmarkt.
8. The first of the Hertie Department Stores was opened in 1882.
9. The full name of KaDeWe is Kaufhaus des Westens.
10. A souvenir passport stamp at Checkpoint Charlie costs EUR 1.
1. Shops are generally open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Only selected Sundays during the year are shopping days.
2. Those accustomed to buying their groceries in large supermarkets might find Berlin to be something of a challenge. There are no hypermarkets in the city centre.
3. Berlin is believed to be cheaper than other large German cities.
4. Generally, East Berlin is much cheaper than West Berlin.
5. Berlin is known for its many excellent ‘guerilla’ shops, which are top fashion boutiques operating secretly and closing before their location becomes common knowledge.
6. Part of the 16% VAT is refunded to non-EU visitors whose shopping expenses exceed EUR 30.
7. Keep in mind that many of the military GDR souvenirs sold on the street are fakes.
8. Ceramics Studio offers free guided tours to anyone interested in the manufacture of ceramics.
9. KulturKaufhaus Dussmann is Berlin's best source for music and books.
10. The outdoor market of Winterfeldtplatz is the place to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables.
Shop Review: Berliner Zinnfiguren
Established in 1934, this shop has since served as a paradise for collectors of military memorabilia from all over the world. Customers are welcome to browse through the immense collection of books on military history, as well as over 10,000 small hand-painted figurines of soldiers from various imperial armies. History buffs will be delighted to see models of soldiers from various eras, from the ancient Greek and Roman warriors to the soldiers of the Prussian army. Sets of 12 figurines are priced at EUR 90 up to as much as EUR 2,000 for special collections.
Address: Knesebeckstrasse 88
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
This traditional German Christmas treat was first produced by monks in the 13th Century. Since then, it has spread worldwide and become an indispensable part of every Christmas market.
A Berlin Bear
Fluffy teddy bears have come to symbolise the German capital. Offered in multiple varieties at souvenir stalls on every street corner, they're a universal gift idea.
When it comes to military objects, Berlin has always been known as a goldmine amongst connoisseurs. Old army medals can be bought for as little as EUR2.
The German version of this sugar-and-almond delight is particularly delicious. Stuff your suitcase with marzipan in various shapes and flavours, sold at Berlin's traditional markets and confectionery shops.
Some of Berlin's alternative fashion shops offer unique T-shirts with both retro and modern designs. Browse through them to discover one of the most unique souvenirs you've ever brought home.