A piece of the Berlin Wall, a cheap Drindl, some lederhosen, an Ampelmann t-shirt – there’s no shortage of souvenirs that you can bring back from Germany. But, are they really the best things to buy in Germany and, if they’re not, what is?
Germany is known for it’s high quality production of goods, and German shoppers themselves are known for favouring quality over cheap prices – what’s known in German as Preis-Qualität-Verhältnis.
Preis-Qualität-Verhältnis (or PQV) is the ratio of price to quality. In short: Germans would rather pay for more good quality, although the price still has to be right.
With this in mind, it makes sense to pick up good-quality products in Germany rather than whatever you find at a souvenir store. In this article, we look at some of the best things to buy in Germany – either for yourself or as a gift to someone else.
Although not as well-known as Switzerland or Belgium for its chocolate, Germany is home to some of the best chocolate in the world. In Europe, Germany is both one of the largest producers and consumers of chocolate. Needless to say, these guys know their stuff.
If you’re travelling to Germany, you should definitely make the effort to pick some up. It’s also the perfect gift to bring home from Germany: much better than a dubious piece of the Berlin wall.
Ritter Sport is definitely worth stocking up on. There are Ritter Sport factories in Berlin and Waldenbuch near Stuttgart. Visiting these will give you a chance to buy all of the different Ritter Sport flavours, and you can even make your own.
As well as Ritter Sport, other German chocolate brands that you can easily get your hands on include Milka (typically milk chocolate and nougat products similar to Cadbury), Kinderschokolade (milk chocolate again), Lindt (very sweet chocolate), and Rausch (premium milk and dark chocolate).
A German Cookbook
Germany cuisine may not have the best reputation in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad. When it comes to soul-warming winter food that sticks to your bones, few cuisines can compete with German cookery.
You’ll find German cookbooks for sale throughout Germany, in tourist shops and in big bookstores like Thalia, Hugendubel, as well as in small independent bookstores. If you’re visiting Berlin, however, it’s worth visiting Bibliotheca Culinaria – a unique bookstore that specialises entirely in new and second hand cookbooks from around the world.
Alternatively, if you’re worried about your luggage allowance, you could pick one up from Amazon when you get home.
Gummy bears are probably the most German candy that you can find. The gummy bear (or Gummibär) was invented in Bonn by a Hans Riegel, Sr. who, soon after discovering how popular his invention was, quickly went on to found Haribo.
You’ll find gummy bears, and especially Haribo, in just about every German shop and supermarket. As well as Haribo gummy bears, you can also pick up some of their other popular sweets which include worms, cola bottles, wine gums, teeth, and mice.
Germany, along with Japan, is known for the production of high-quality knives and are a favorite amongst chefs and caterers. These are often difficult to get outside of Germany so, if you’re a fan of cooking (or in need of a gift for someone that is), consider picking up a set for yourself.
What’s the difference between German and Japanese knives? German knives are traditionally more robust than Japanese knives, making them more practical for robust tasks like chopping through bones. Japanese knives are traditionally finer, and more suited to precise work. Ultimately though, a pair of either Japanese or German knives will be a big bonus to your kitchen.
Three German brands to look out for are Henckels, Wusthof, and Messermeister, all of which are based in Solingen in North Rhine-Westphalia. If you’re serious about buying German-made knives or cutlery, though, it may be worth taking the time to visit the factories in Solingen.
Otherwise, you’ll find these brands for sale at department stores like Kaufhof and Karstadt. There’s also a Zwilling Henckels shop on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin.
A Cuckoo Clock
The cuckoo clock, which comes from Germany’s Black Forest region, is another great gift that you can pick up while in Germany. You’ll find cuckoo clocks of varying degrees of quality for sale throughout Germany, but for the most authentic and best quality you’ll have to take a trip to the Schwarzwald.
The easiest way to recognise an authentic cuckoo clock is by the Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Association certificate. This label certifies the manufacturer as a genuine producer of traditional cuckoo clocks that adheres to the strict practices that all official producers have to adhere to. You can find a list of certified shops and manufactures on the association’s website.
Like many of the items in this article, beer steins are something that can either be authentic or incredibly tacky. Ensuring you get the former and not the latter is easier said than done: most authentic beer stein producers don’t have their own brick and mortar stores.
Flea markets can be a good place to find beer steins, although be careful: just because something is at a flea market that doesn’t mean it’s an antique, and often the reason something is at a flea market is because it’s just junk that’s cluttering up the house.
That said, good quality beer steins can be found at flea markets and at retailers across Germany. Traditional stein makers to look out for include King-Werk (who make the popular TheWalt 1893) and Zöller & Born. Finding companies like these can be difficult, however. Herrmann Geschenke in Munich stocks Bavarian beer steins (including some by Zöller & Born), but often it’s easier to shop online. For those in the US, SteinCenter.com stock both Zöller & Born and King-Werk steins.
Birkenstocks are probably one of the best-known German brands outside of Germany. The comfortable shoe manufacturer is based in the town of Neustadt, around 30 km from Bonn, although you’ll find them at any shoe retailer in Germany.
You’ll find a Birkenstock shop on Neue Schönhauser Straße in Mitte in Berlin or, if you’re looking for bargains, there are Birkenstock outlets in Bad Honnef and Schmallenberg.
Haus Shoes (Slippers)
As well as shoes for outdoor wear, Germans are keen wearers (and manufactures) of slippers. While slippers can be bought anywhere, quality tends to be much better in Germany where there’s a strong obsession with getting a good pair of Hausschuhe.
You can pick up a good pair of slippers at any German shoe store. Alternatively, german-slippers.com ships German-made slippers all over the world.
What’s the best purchase that you made in Germany? Let us know about your German shopping experiences by leaving a comment below.