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Shopping in Western Berlin: the KaDeWe and Ku'Damm

KaDeWe & Ku'Damm: an introduction to shopping in western Berlin - by Tourist is a Dirty Word

Denise and I were on the sixth floor eyeing the largest collection of gourmet food items in Europe, inside the largest department store in Europe, the KaDeWe, in Berlin, a city of 3 million people when I spied someone that looked familiar at one of the dozens of deli counters?!

Berlin is a small town of 3 million people.

There’s only one person I know who lives in Berlin, Mrs. B., who is a lifelong guest of the hotel where I work. Mrs B. is one of those people you just recognize: dramatic, loud and lots of fun. I walked up to that counter and stood right behind her as she informed the deli employee how to slice the meat better. Unmistakably, it was her, and I started talking to the employee over Mrs. B., who then turned around ready to give me a piece of her mind for interrupting her. The look of disbelief and surprise on Mrs. B’s face is still one of my favorite Berlin memories.

It was our very first trip to Berlin and I wanted to show my American wife that Germans also like to build and appreciate oversized shopping centers. KaDeWe, short for Kaufhaus des Westens, meaning Department Store of the West, based on its location near the centre of the former West Berlin. The KaDeWe opened in 1907 with only about a third of its current selling space, changing hands several times over the years, bombed down during WWII and re-opened in 1950. You will find almost all of the high-end brands together in the KaDeWe along with the largest deli food department in Europe.

You can find pretty much any food item here, starting in the fish corner with mahi-mahi from the Indian Ocean over to bison entrecote from Canada and dragon fruit imported from Thailand. Let’s not forget to be spoilt for choice with over 1,300 cheese varieties. While shopping there can be quite expensive, it is definitely worth a visit when you are in Berlin. I highly recommend going to the café on the top floor, which also has a beautiful view of the city from its position near the Ku’Damm.

Ku’Damm is an abbreviation for Kurfuerstendamm, which means prince-elector’s corduroy road, and is the name of a two-mile long avenue in the center of Berlin. The Ku’Damm led to the hunting lodge of Grunewald and castle Charlottenburg, and back in the 16th century was only to be traveled on by the royal family. Starting in 1880s, the avenue was extended to be 53 meters /174 feet wide. Ku’Damm has since transformed into an upscale shopping district with a large diversity of fashion and consumer good stores as well as condos, hotels, and car dealerships.

From a retail standpoint, the Kurfuerstendamm is divided into three sections:

• Mass-market-oriented retail | lower Kurfuerstendamm, Gedächtniskirche to Meinekestrasse | Here you will find stores like H&M, Apple, Urban Outfitters and Tommy Hilfiger.
• Upmarket-oriented retail | central Kurfuerstendamm, Meinekestrasse to Bleibtreustrasse| Here you will find stores like Lacoste, Karl Lagerfeld, Bogner and Picard.
• Luxury pitch | upper Kurfuerstendamm, Bleibtreustrasse to Olivaer Platz | Here you will find stores like Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Maurice Lacroix.

In between these large brand name stores you will find lots of small, unique stores and it is worth exploring a bit. We spent several hours during our Berlin trip going up and down the Ku’Damm, and then getting lost due to the horseshoe numbering system on the houses. This numbering system starts from one end, with the buildings on the right side of the street numbered sequentially from the near end to the far end of the street. The next number was then assigned to the last building on the left side of the street, the following numbers sequentially doubling back along the left side of the street. It ended up that the building with the highest number would be the first on the left side, facing the building with the lowest number across the street. Click for an example.

Even though we got lost in the numbers, we still had a great time and so will you. Make sure you plan some time for (window) shopping in Berlin and visit the KaDeWe and the Ku’Damm - you might even run into someone you know there…

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler