For more than 200 years, well-heeled residents of Hamburg have viewed Jungfernstieg as a runway. Beginning in the 19th century, wealthy families would parade their daughters along the elegant boulevard so they could show off their latest gowns and become acquainted with fellow members of high society. In German ‘Jungfer’ means ‘maiden’; it was the street where girls came to shop for a husband.
Today Jungfernstieg, which runs beside the beautiful Binnenalster lake, still attracts legions of people. But now they come in search of this season’s must-have dresses, the latest beauty innovations and culinary delicacies from around the world. And the jewel in Jungfernstieg’s crown is Alsterhaus, the grande dame of Hamburg’s department stores.
A glittering emporium
Opened in 1912, the iconic building, with its large windows and distinctive green roof, survived the 20th century with aplomb, welcoming its share of dignitaries along the way. Despite ageing remarkably well, Alsterhaus underwent a multi-million-euro refurbishment and renovation beginning in 2003. The result is a glittering shopping emporium that mixes the best of German tradition with today’s most prized international brands.
At Alsterhaus, shopping is done on a grand scale. The cosmetics area and perfumery alone spans 1,500 square metres on the ground floor. Large lamps shaped like orbs illuminate rows of the world’s leading fragrances and beauty products from Tom Ford, Valentino and Laura Mercier. The maze can be dizzying, so Alsterhaus gives guests a chance to recharge at its in-house spa and beauty lounge. A lift located inside the perfumery takes shoppers to the fourth floor where they can choose from a wide-range of manicures, pedicures and facials. Beauticians work with Monteil, the exclusive Parisian beauty line heralded for its solution-oriented products. Those keen to master nail art should consider purchasing a manicure set from Niegeloh, one of Germany’s leading nail specialists. Its sets, which include clippers and scissors, come in stunning leather or python-skin cases.
Alsterhaus also offers a complimentary personal shopping service. In-house consultants on the fifth floor can discuss your fashion needs while you sip coffee or Champagne, and drink in the views of the lake. Staff members will bring you a selection of items, which you can then model in your own VIP dressing room for friends and family.
Those who choose to browse through the store on their own will find a plethora of top-flight brands. Paule Ka, the French ready-to-wear label, channels Parisian chic with its crisply tailored shirt dresses and brightly coloured, vintage-inspired prints. For a more minimalist look, head to Helmut Lang. Sharply cut jackets, black-and-white trouser suits and black wool coats with pony hair sleeves are the essence of contemporary chic.
Naturally you’ll want to accessorise. The ground floor of Alsterhaus is a treasure trove of leather goods, bags and hats. The Kate Spade Pilgrim Hill Quinn bag pays tribute to New York’s Central Park with its soft felt exterior and sweet pea-coat buttons. Michael Kors gives the carry-all charisma with his bold range; whether crafted from gold sequined satin or cherry red quilted leather, the selection is expansive and utterly delectable.
Alsterhaus caters to the style conscious, but also to foodies and wine connoisseurs. Dubbed ‘Feinschmecker-Boulevard’ (or ‘gourmet boulevard’), the fourth floor boasts offerings from Caviar House & Prunier, olive maestro Fernando Pensato and gourmet tea company Mariage Frères. Oschätzchen, a family-run food shop, trades rare spices, Italian handmade pasta, candied rose petals, handmade bonbons and exquisite truffles, among other speciality items.
Regardless of where you eat, don’t miss the sleek Veuve Clicquot Champagne bar. The adjacent boutique sells bottles, stylish ice jackets, coolers and flutes. Waiters in the lounge and bar pour Veuve Clicquot’s full selection of fizzes, from Yellow Label to the spectacular La Grande Dame. After a day of indulgent shopping, it’s the perfect way to toast Hamburg’s most iconic department store.