Whether you’re living in Munich or Münster, find out where to buy your everyday essentials with our guide to household shopping in Germany.
As an expat, you’ll soon find out just how challenging it can be to know where you can get hold of certain goods in your new home. If you’re looking for food and drink, our expert guide to German supermarkets can help. But what about all those other everyday essentials?
Away from the brand names you recognize, you may not know the best place to stock up on garden furniture, or sports equipment, or even the latest must-have cosmetics. To help you understand household shopping in Germany, this guide includes information on the following:
- Introduction to shopping in Germany
- Department stores
- Clothes and accessories
- Sports and leisure
- DIY, home, and garden
- Books, stationery, and entertainment
- Electrical goods and gadgets
- Health and beauty
- Children’s clothes and toys
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Introduction to shopping in Germany
Shopping might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about life in Germany. But while it may lack the retail reputation of some European neighbors, Germany is actually a shopper’s dream. For a start, the cost of goods in Germany won’t break the bank. In addition, you’ll soon find that you’re never too far from a large town or city with a decent shopping selection. Here, you’ll find all the shops you’ll need, alongside plenty of bars and cafes should you need refreshments. Outside of this, even the smaller towns still stock all the basics, although this does vary between regions and areas.
Like most other European countries, you’ll find a mixture of city center shopping and out-of-town big-box outlets throughout Germany. As well as supermarkets, you’ll find most larger-format hardware and furniture stores on the edge of town. Most locals will drive to these stores, although public transport links are usually convenient. In the city and town centers, you’ll find the typical market street (Marktstrassen), where the main shopping opportunities can be found.
Generally speaking, Germany remains conservative when it comes to store opening times. If you’re arriving from the United States, you might be surprised to discover that you can’t shop whenever you want. In fact, when shopping in Germany, you’ll often find stores closing at around 20:00 even in large towns and cities, so don’t expect many late-night retail therapy sessions. Shops are also typically closed on Sundays, including most supermarkets. Plan your week accordingly to ensure you aren’t left without any must-have essentials.
While they may lack the opulence of their French and British contemporaries, Germany still packs plenty into their department stores. You’ll find a wide range of goods, from high-end fashion to all the cosmetics counters you could ever need. Some also sell homeware ranges, including cookware, crockery, and much more. In Germany, many also have a restaurant or café should you want to take a rest after all that shopping. Traditionally, these stores are found in prominent city center locations. However, you’ll also find some in out-of-town shopping areas.
If you’re based in Berlin, you’ll soon come across the massive KaWeDe department store on Wittenburgplatz. Short for Kaufhaus des Westens, the six-story store is a destination in its own right. Other must-see department stores in Berlin include the French export Galeries Lafayette and the popular Peek & Cloppenburg, which focuses on fashion at its outlets in the capital. Further south, dedicated followers of fashion won’t want to miss Munich’s Oberpollinger or Lodenfrey.
The major cities in Germany also have branches of the popular department stores Galeria. Previously known as two separate stores (Galeria Kaufhof and Galeria Karstadt) before they merged, the chain has department stores throughout the country. Other department stores in Germany include Primark, which sells low-cost fashion and some homewares. You’ll also come across the occasional independent department stores across Germany, so watch out for some unexpected local shopping experiences.
Clothes and accessories
Wherever you’re shopping in Germany, you’ll likely find your nearest clothing and shoe stores around the main market street in the local shopping area. In the larger towns and cities, these will include plenty of well-known global fashion retailers, such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, and many more. As well as these brands, you also have your choice of department store alongside many more regional clothing retailers. These include New Yorker, C&A, Reserved, Deichmann, and Takko. Alongside Primark, other discount clothing retailers include Kik, which can be found throughout the country.
The clothing options vary significantly between towns and cities in Germany, although even in most small cities you’ll find more than enough choice. If you’re looking for upmarket designer wear, many of the larger cities have areas where you’ll find these stores, including Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, and more. For more affordable fashion, many large supermarkets in Germany stock a decent range of clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Sports and leisure
If you like getting out and about, you’ll enjoy life in Germany. From the quaint beachside resorts on the northern coast to the rugged mountains in the south, there’s something for every outdoor interest. While football may be the national sport, there are plenty of other options out there in Germany, from skiing and snowboarding in the Alps to cycling, tennis, and more. Even if you don’t plan anything more adventurous than a visit to your local gym, you’ll still need the right clothing for exercising.
Thankfully, there are plenty of sporting goods stores across Germany to help you get out active. Many are independent, but chains include Decathlon, Mammut, and Intersport. These stores stock a wide selection of leisurewear, sports equipment, and footwear and are found in both central areas and out-of-town locations. If you’re a keen cyclist, you’ll be pleased to know you’re well-covered in Germany. While the country might not have the famous cycling heritage of neighbors France, Germans still enjoying traveling on two wheels. Whether you’re heading off cross-country or simply commuting to the office, you’ll find plenty of independent bike shops to help you prepare everything you need. Search online for your nearest store.
DIY, home, and garden
Whether you’ve moved into a fixer-upper family home in Freiburg or a city center studio in Stuttgart that needs a little TLC, you’ll probably be keen to explore your nearest DIY and hardware stores (Baumarkt). And you’ll be in good company, too. Germans love a bit of DIY and the country is home to some of Europe’s biggest hardware chains. The one’s you’ll see most often are OBI, Bauhaus, and Hornbach. However, there are plenty of smaller chains and independent stores you’ll soon come across if you start searching online.
If you’re in the market for things to fill your home, you’ll probably want to find your nearest furniture store. Swedish retailer IKEA has stores located across the country, while other big-name furniture retailers include XXXL, Poco, and popular online retailer, Home24. DIY stores typically sell affordable kitchens and bathrooms, although for more niche offerings be sure to check the local stockists. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, head down to your nearest German garden center and stock up on greenery and furniture. Many are independent, although the largest national chain, Dehner, has outlets across the country. Most DIY stores will also have a garden section where you can fill up on the essentials.
Books, stationery, and entertainment
What better way to spend a cozy evening at home than with a good book? Thankfully, Germany has you covered, with plenty of bookstores across the country – and an increasing number stocking English titles. The largest bookstore chains across Germany are Hugendubel and Thalia, although be aware that these will largely stock German titles. Your best bet for English books is the independent stockists, which you’ll find dotted around the country’s larger cities. Popular outlets include Berlin’s Saint George’s English Bookstore and The Munich Readery in the Bavarian capital.
If you’re living or visiting Berlin, be sure to visit Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus, which is open until midnight most days. Here, you’ll find books, music, film and much more. Outside the capital, most larger supermarkets stock a basic range of entertainment (books, DVDs, CDs, etc.), however, you’ll find much more choice and selection at various independent stores throughout the country. Be sure to check online to find your nearest outlets. Supermarkets can also be a great place to pick up cheap stationery products. Your best bet for newspapers is your local kiosk, although you might not find international titles so be prepared to shop around.
Electrical goods and gadgets
Need some finishing touches for that brand new German home? Why not indulge in the latest tech products to give your place that cutting-edge feel? As you might expect in Germany, getting these products is fairly straightforward, whether you’re after the latest must-have games console or some smart gadgets for the home. For household electronics, head to Saturn, Conrad, or MediaMarkt. You may be able to pick up some smaller products at your local supermarket, while many department stores also stock some electronics.
If you’re looking for mobile phones and accessories, you’ll be able to find a decent selection in these electronic stores. However, many German mobile operators have their own stores in most towns and cities. Here you’ll be able to check out the latest models, stock up on any accessories you need, and get advice from the sales staff. However, be aware that you may have to use some German so you might want to brush up on your language skills ahead of time. For more information, read our complete guide to everything you need to know about German mobile phones.
Health and beauty
Whether you’re planning a day at the office, dinner with friends, or simply a quiet day at home with the family, it’s important to feel your best. Thankfully, there are plenty of options in Germany when it comes to boosting your health and wellbeing. Although US-style drugstores do exist in Germany, these do not actually sell medicine. For the vast majority of medication (even over-the-counter products like aspirin), you’ll need to visit a German pharmacy (Apotheke). These are fairly plentiful and easily recognizable by their bright green signs. Staff are knowledgeable, although you’ll probably need to dust off those German skills.
Most German supermarkets will stock a basic supply of health and beauty products alongside their groceries. However, many locals shop at one of Germany’s drugstores, with the biggest chains being DM, Rossmann, and Müller. Cosmetics can also be found at most major department stores, alongside dedicated stores like Douglas, The Body Shop, and Lush. If you’re looking for health food grocery stores, check out our complete guide to supermarkets in Germany for more information.
Children’s clothes and toys
Living with little ones in Germany? You’ll need to know where you can pick up kids’ clothes and the latest toys as quickly and easily as possible. Thankfully, there are plenty of places that sell affordable kids’ clothing, including many German supermarkets, fashion chains, and some dedicated stores. Many of these are independently-owned, so be sure to search online and trawl the parenting blogs and forums for more information on these hidden gems.
For toys, you’ll find a basic range of toys and games in some German supermarkets, while most department stores have a decently-stocked toy section. However, your best bet is to head to a dedicated toy store, such as Vedes, or one of the many independent toy stores you’ll find throughout Germany. For an unforgettable experience for the kids, why not check out the country’s most famous toy stores? From Berlin’s Onkel Philipp and the many LEGO stores, to the world-famous Steiff stores, for all your teddy bear needs.