If you want to find your way around the Teuton shopping scene, here’s an important clue for your mental map: Munich aspires to be Los Angeles, but Berliners actually want to be New Yorkers. In Munich you’ll find that whole Beverly Hills blonde curly thing and people for whom “understatement” is a four-letter word. In comparison to the Bavarians, Berliners think of themselves as more sophisticated, more hip, more zeitgeisty. As a result, shopping in Berlin is not about big international designer names — although you’ll find them along the Kurfürstendamm in the West — but about small boutiques ranging from the quirky to the seriously urban.
Best shop in town is The Corner on Gendarmenmarkt near Friedrichstrasse. It’s a bit like Colette in Paris, i.e. a mix of super chic, high-end fashion labels as well as books, magazines, Cds, vintage furniture and art. Think Fred Segal without all the girly T-shirt gear that makes you look like a colorblind teenager in rehab. The Corner’s über-styled staff are extremely helpful and only look like fashionistas.
For local designers, try Justmariot. The owner and designer Mari Otberg trained with Vivienne Westwood and as a result her creations have that Westwoodian tailored look with a slightly frilly but naughty Victorian feel to it.
Another Berlin label, Sai So, is unique in the sense that it uses antique kimono silk. Not only great for classic skirts and dresses, but also scarves, evening bags, belts, bracelets and even kimono-inspired wallpaper. It’s all very Cate Blanchett and Variety readers will get a 10% discount during the Berlinale.
Berlin is a young casual city with lots of cyclists and students, so the ultimate Berlin souvenir is the courier bag. Tausche, a shop in Prenzlauer Berg in the East, offers tearproof courier bags with exchangeable flaps. Each bag comes with two zip-on flaps. Some of the flaps have designs such as a map of Berlin’s public transport system. Others are more subtle and made out of felt (think Joseph Beuys on a bicycle) or corduroy. Another shop, which sells brightly coloured hold-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink bags is Milk Berlin.
Tausche and many other small boutiques, bars and cafés are located around the Helmholtzplatz in Prenzlauer Berg in the East. Nearby you’ll also find Fishbelly, a lingerie shop, that produces sleek and slinky underwear. Fishbelly also offers a 24-hour bespoke service — perfect for Valentine’s Day! They can’t cater for obscure underwear fetishes, but they’re happy to modify their existing design according to your specifications, ready to be picked up the next day.
If you’re looking for something more substantial for your Valentine than a bit of lace and chiffon, why not try jewellery? As we all know, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but substantial pieces of gold and platinum as offered by the Schmucklabor aren’t bad either. Schmucklabor sells ultra modern designs with a hint of 60s psychedelia, handmade in their own workshop.
Valentine or not, to get serotonin levels soaring there are two chocalicous chocolate shops:
In’t Veld sells 100 different kinds of chocolate from all over the world as well as pralines, dessert wine, chocolate sauces and spreads. Whatever chocoholic issues, problems or desires you might have, the staff will sort you out.
Founded in 1863, Fassbender & Rausch (just around the corner from The Corner) don’t just sell exquisite chocolates, they’ve also opened the first and only chocolate restaurant in Europe. Here you get chocolate with everything and if you’ve ever wondered whether there’s an antidote to Teutonic weltschmerz, try their mousse au chocolat.
Alternatively, get your sugar rush at the Bonbon Macherei, which sells hard-boiled sweets in old-fashioned flavours such as “Bosnian Plum” or “Fire Raspberry.” The sweets are hand made using old machines that look like something out of a David Cronenberg pic.
Possibly the world’s smallest perfume factory can be found in West Berlin. At Harry Lehmann‘s perfumery scents are sold by weight and still measured on apothecary scales. Founded in 1926, the shop sells around 50 ready-made scent compositions – some of them still from the 30s and 40s – but you can also have your own especially mixed for you and dispensed into the flacon of your choice. If you don’t like the shop’s own flacons, you can also bring your own bottle.
Germany is one of the best place in the world to buy children’s toys and furniture. Graflich Munster’sche Manufaktur (www.gmm-berlin.com) sells wonderful Punch & Judy stages, tiny chairs and tables, wallpaper and blackboards in the shape of animals. The best store to find their products is Humpert & Suden. For toys the area of Prenzlauer Berg between Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz is best because there so many young families live there. Some of excellent toy shops there are Die kleine Gesellschaft, Die Kinderstube and Ratzekatz. Also try Die Puppenstube in the nearby Nikolai borough.
Bonbon Macherei, Oranienburger Str. 32, 10119 Berlin-Mitte, Tel. 030/ 44 05 52 43
The Corner, Franzoesische Str. 40, 10117 Berlin, Tel. 030/206 70 940
Fassbender & Rausch, Am Gendarmenmarkt, 10117 Berlin, Tel. 030/204 58443
Fishbelly, Sophienstr. 7, 10178 Berlin, Tel. 030/ 28045180
Harry Lehmann, Kantstraße 106, 10627 Berlin, Tel. 030/324 35 82
Humpert & Suden, Potsdamer Platz 4, 10785 Berlin, Tel. 030/ 26 55 71 71
In’t Veld Schokolade, Dunckerstr. 10, 10437 Berlin, Tel. 030/48 62 34 23
Justmariot, Gipsstrasse 9, 10119 Berlin-Mitte Tel. 030/ 466 604 514 www.justmariot.com
Die Kinderstube, Rykestr. 41, 10405 Berlin, Tel. 030/ 4435 204
Die kleine Gesellschaft, Rykestraße 41, 10405 Berlin, Tel. 030/567 34 850
Milk Berlin, Almstadtsr.5, 10119 Berlin-Mitte, 030 – 212 30 996 www.milkberlin.com
Die Puppenstube, Propststrasse 4, 10178 Berlin, Tel: 030/2423 967
Sai So, Torstrasse 140, 10119 Berlin-Mitte, Tel. 030/ 347 453 0 www.sai-so.com
Schmucklabor, Heckmann Hoefe, Oranienburgerstr. 32, 10117 Berlin-Mitte, Tel. 030/ 28 38 46 83
Ratzekatz Spielzeugland, Raumerstraße 7, 10437 Berlin
Tausche Tasche, Raumer Str. 8, 10437 Berlin, Tel. 030/ 403 01770