The heart and soul of a German town lies in its city center: The downtown pedestrian zone, a car-free shopping street lined on both sides with shops and department stores.
Probably the liveliest place on a Saturday in Germany, a stroll down a shopping street means much more than merely buying things: Dotted with cafes, ice cream parlors, and restaurants, churches, theatres, and old town squares, German shopping streets are a great taste of German life.
Here is an overview of the most popular and liveliest shopping streets in Germany.
1. Cologne's Shopping Street: The Schildergasse
The pedestrian zone in the city center of Cologne, called Schildergasse, is the busiest shopping street in Europe; with nearly 13,000 people passing through every hour, it even makes London's Oxford Street take second place.
The Schildergasse offers international department stores and modern architecture, but the street has a long history; it dates back to ancient Roman times and was open for business in the Middle Ages.
Try a pastry at Café Riese, family-run for over 100 years, and stop in to one of the many perfumeries to buy a fine bottle of "Eau de Cologne". Make sure to stroll down the adjacent pedestrian street Hohe Straße, which leads you to the landmark of the city, the impressive Cathedral of Cologne.
2. Munich's Shopping Streets: Kaufinger - and Sendlingerstraße
Shopaholics get their fix in Munich's city center; start your shopping spree at Marienplatz, in the heart of Munich's Old Town.
For foodies, the large open-air market Viktualienmarkt is a must-see (and must-taste). On the adjacent Kaufingerstraße, you can buy clothes, books, jewelry, and shoes, all the way till you reach the medieval city gate Karlstor.
Sendlinger Straße also starts at Marienplatz and is home to many family-run retailing and specialty shops. The street is a great place to hunt for arts and crafts, or a Dirndl (a traditional Bavarian costume), and to try some Bavarian treats after a long shopping day.
3. Frankfurt's Shopping Street: Zeil
The premier place to shop in Frankfurt is the shopping street Zeil, especially the area between Konstablerwache and Hauptwache.
Also called "The Fifth Avenue" of Germany, this shopping street offers everything from chic boutiques, to international department chains for the discerning shopper.
Don't miss the Zeil Galerie, a 10 floor shopping center, which is famous for its spiral shaped interior and a viewing platform that offers the best views of Frankfurt.
On the adjacent Goethestraße, you can drop some serious cash (or do some wishful window shopping) at world class jewelers (Cartier, Tiffany), international designers (Armani, Versace), or gourmet restaurants.
4. Düsseldorf's Shopping Street: Königsallee
Düsseldorf is home to the most elegant shopping boulevard in Germany, the Königsallee (King’s Avenue), or “Kö”, as the locals like to call it.
Stretching along the banks of the river in the heart of Düsseldorf, the promenade is not only lined with hundred-year old chestnut trees, but also with some of the most luxurious boutiques, high-end designer stores, and shopping malls in the country. Great place for window shopping and people watching!
5. Hamburg's Shopping Street: "Mö"
Hamburg's most popular shopping street is the Mönckebergstraße.
The "Mö", as the people of Hamburg call their pedestrian zone, runs from the central train station to the richly decorated City Hall of Hamburg.
The shopping boulevard is lined with historical merchant's villas, which are now home to a wide variety of popular department stores; expect no less than Europe's largest sports store (Karstadt), and the world's biggest electronics store (Saturn).
An architectural gem is the historical Levantehaus, a traditional brick stone house-turned-shopping centre, now home to high class specialty shops, international restaurants, and the exclusive hotel Park Hyatt.
6. Berlin's Shopping Street: Ku'damm
The Kurfürstendamm, or simply Ku'damm, is Berlin's most popular shopping street. The 2 mile long boulevard is packed with international shops (Zara, H&M, Mango, Esprit), hotels, restaurants, and movie theatres, which still advertise their program with hand painted film posters.
Browse the Kadewe, the biggest department store in Continental Europe, where you get everything from designer labels, to jewelry, and cosmetics; don't miss the legendary gourmet department, located on the top floor.
Make sure to promenade through the quiet side streets of the Ku'damm, such as Fasanenstraße, where you find beautiful townhouses, cozy cafés, art galleries, and antique stores.