If you're a traveler who's recently arrived in Berlin (or maybe even a Nomad!), there's a few things to know with regards to grocery shopping. There's nothing worse than getting to Berlin after a 12 hour long plane ride on a Sunday to find out that none of the stores are open, you can't find a single open restaurant, and that you'll just have to sit around and be hungry until things open up again in the wee hours of the morning on the next day. So, here are a few things Jones and I figured out while living in Berlin:
1. Everything is closed on Sundays
I repeat, this is not a drill. Everything closes on Sundays. Everything from your local, friendly grocer to the larger supermarket chains, as well as most shops, is closed on Sundays. Definitely try to stock up and make sure that you have something in your pantry to tide you through Sunday. It turns out that the stores are required to be closed by law (you can read more about the business closure law here).
However, there is a loophole in this law that will allow you to acquire groceries in the event that you forget about the Sunday rule (as we did a number of times!). Grocery stores that are in train stations are allowed to stay open on Sundays. There are exactly 8 of these throughout the city of Berlin. What this means, effectively, is that what can feel like the entire city of Berlin will descend on these 8 stores, creating masses of shoppers, long checkout queues, and a frenzied buying experience. We recommend steering clear of these shops if you can, but if not, here's the list of the shops that have a special license to operate on Sundays, courtesy of nuBerlin Sunday Shopping:
- Edeka at Friedrichstraße U- and S-Bahn station
- Kaiser’s at Central Station / Hauptbahnhof
- Ullrich at U- und S-Bahn station Zoo / Zoologischer Garten
- Edeka at Train and S-Bahn and U-Bahn station Lichtenberg
- Edeka at Train and S-Bahn station Südkreuz
- Rewe and Penny at Train and S-Bahn station Ostbahnhof
- Denn’s Biomarkt at Train and S-Bahn and U-Bahn station Gesundbrunnen
- Denn’s Biomarkt at Bernauer Strasse 50 / near Mauerpark
2. Bio Stores Have Excellent Produce and Organic Food
Jones and I are avid cooks, and try to cook as much as possible from scratch using fresh, local ingredients. Image our surprise when we walked down to the local Lidl and found that there were very few fresh vegetables, and the ones that were for sale looked like they had seen better days.
Fortunately, there's a type of grocery stores that is increasingly becoming popular in Berlin: the Bio store! Numerous brands are now launching these organic/natural stores: it sometimes feels like a new one pops up in Berlin every other week! Top-notch produce is available in these stores, together with excellent selections of organic cereals, cookies, grains, and just about anything else you could think of. The stores are on the smaller side, offering a less hectic shopping experience than many of the larger chains. Some popular Bio store brands include Alnatura, Bio Company, and Viv Biofrischemarkt. You can read more about how one of the leading brands supports local farming, prioritizes animal welfare, and is in general trying to support sustainable food practices here.
3. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bags, or Pick Out Your Bags Early On
Germany is all about recycling, reducing our impact on the environment, and re-using resources wherever possible. In line with this line of thinking (and in keeping with much of Europe), Berlin discourages disposable bag use at the grocery store. Try to bring your own reusable bag -- we have a handy collapsible one that has traveled with us to 3 continents so far.
If you are caught without your reusable bag on you, stores will sell you a bag for a fee. However, make sure that you grab a bag before you try to pay at the checkout counter. There's usually a spot for disposable bags under the start conveyor belt that takes your groceries to be rung up, as opposed to at the end in the bagging area. If you do forget to grab a bag, their location makes it tricky to grab one as you are paying. You'll earn yourself some judgemental glances from tired commuters trying to do their shopping after work as you excuse yourself and squeeze between them and the checkout conveyor belt to grab your disposable bags.
4. Karstadt is Awesome
Karstadt is a large department store that sells all sorts of things, but in this case, we're going to chat about their grocery department. If there's anything that is vaguely far-fetched, if it can be found in Berlin, you can probably find it in Karstadt. They have dozens of types of dairy (including lots of kefir varieties!), a huge cheese selection, enough sausage types that you could try a new sausage each day for months, a robust tea selection, etc. We're particularly fond of the one at Hermannplatz, which you can actually access from inside of the subway station. A couple of words of warning, though: certain items can be more expensive than their equivalent at your local store. Also, do try to avoid visiting this location at around rush hour, though, because it does get extremely crowded.