Berlin is a great place to shop, and we’re definitely not talking malls and chains. The city’s appetite for the individual manifests in small neighbourhood boutiques and buzzing markets that are a pleasure to explore. Shopping here is as much about visual stimulus as it is about actually spending your cash, no matter whether you’re ultrafrugal or a power-shopper.
Where to Shop
Berlin’s main shopping boulevard is Kurfürstendamm (Ku’damm) in the City West and Charlottenburg, which is largely the purview of mainstream retailers (from H&M to Prada). Its extension, Tauentzienstrasse, is anchored by KaDeWe, continental Europe’s largest department store. Standouts among the city’s dozens of other shopping centres are the concept mall Bikini Berlin and the vast LP12 Mall of Berlin at Leipziger Platz.
Getting the most out of shopping in Berlin, though, means venturing off the high street and into the Kieze (neighbourhoods). This is where you’ll discover a cosmopolitan cocktail of indie boutiques stirred by the city’s zest for life, envelope-pushing energy and entrepreneurial spirit.
Michael Michalsky may be Berlin’s best-known fashion export, but hot on his heels are plenty of other fashion-forward local designers such as C.Neeon, Anna von Griesheim, Firma Berlin, Esther Perbandt, C’est Tout, Claudia Skoda, Kostas Murkudis, Kaviar Gauche, Potipoti and Leyla Piedayesh. In typical Berlin style, they walk the line between originality and contemporary trends in a way that more mainstream labels do not.
Names on the watch list include Hien Le, Sadak, Julian Zigerli, Marina Hoermanseder and Jen Gilpin. Trend-pushers also include Umasan’s vegan fashion, schmidttakahashi’s take on upcycling, and high-end sustainable fashion by Christine Mayer. When it comes to accessories, look for eyewear by ic! Berlin and Mykita, bags by Liebeskind and Tausche, shoes by Trippen, and hats by Fiona Bennett and Rike Feurstein.
Flea markets are like urban archaeology: you’ll need plenty of patience and luck when sifting through other people’s cast-offs, but oh, the thrill, when you finally unearth a piece of treasure! Berlin’s numerous hunting grounds set up on weekends (usually Sunday) year-round – rain or shine – and are also the purview of fledgling local fashion designers and jewellery makers. The most famous market is the weekly Flohmarkt am Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, which is easily combined with a visit to nearby Trödelmarkt Arkonaplatz.
Need to Know
- Malls, department stores and supermarkets open from 9.30am to 8pm or 9pm; some supermarkets are open 24 hours.
- Boutiques and other smaller shops have flexible hours, usually from 11am to 7pm weekdays, and to 4pm or 5pm Saturday.
Taxes & Refunds
If your permanent residence is outside the EU, you may be able to partially claim back the 19% value-added tax (VAT, Mehrwertsteuer) you have paid on goods purchased in stores displaying the ‘Tax-Free for Tourists’ sign.
For women’s clothing sizes, a German size 36 equals a size 6 in the US and a size 10 in the UK, then increases in increments of two, making size 38 a US 8 and UK 12, and so on.
Stores are closed on Sunday, except for some bakeries, flower shops, souvenir shops, and supermarkets in major train stations, including Hauptbahnhof, Friedrichstrasse and Ostbahnhof. Shops may also open from 1pm to 8pm on two December Sundays before Christmas and on a further six Sundays throughout the year, the latter being determined by local government.