Hamburg has established itself over the centuries as one of Europe’s most interesting shopping destinations. All the top international brands can be found here, from Jil Sander and Prada to Louis Vuitton. But it is not just the big names that have put Hamburg on the map; much of the city’s charm lies in the independent boutiques and market stalls scattered across the city.
Spirit of independence
Purveyors of everything from fashion and accessories to handicrafts and local delicacies, Hamburg’s independents offer an appealing alternative to the major conglomerates and chains that surround them. Specialists in their trades, and often using age-old manufacturing techniques, these stores help perpetuate Hamburg’s long history as a mercantile city.
Such tradition is evident at boutiques such as Brahmfeld & Gutruf. Located on Neuer Wall, one of the city’s premier shopping streets, the store dates back to 1743 and is considered Germany’s oldest surviving jeweller. Its designs range from classic diamond rings to unusual gemstone bracelets, made using techniques passed down through the generations. Similarly, long-established milliner Hutatelier Beermann opened in Hamburg in 1856 and remains family-run to this day. This delightfully eccentric store offers an exhaustive selection of hats for men and women, as well as having a bespoke service to enable customers to match their headgear to a particular outfit.
The same independent-spiritedness can be found in Hamburg’s emerging designers. Young talent is thriving in the city, with many new designers hailing from the city’s own AMD Akademie Mode und Design (academy of fashion and design). Spectrum, a label established by award-winning graduate Birgit Brockbals, can be found at a handful of concept stores in Hamburg, offering inimitable womenswear that is both directional and sustainable. For a more classic aesthetic try Anna Fuchs, a designer with her own boutique on Karolinenstrasse. Her elegant day dresses come in a variety of cuts and colours, making them ideal staples for every woman’s wardrobe.
Vintage seekers will not be disappointed either. The city’s second-hand stores are lauded as some of the best in Europe, providing carefully sourced, quality garments from bygone eras. Rudolf Beaufays is one such treasure, tucked away behind the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten and filled to the rafters with impeccable vintage menswear, from leather aviator jackets and designer suits to tweed shooting coats and authentic Scottish kilts.
Designs for life
But it’s not just the fashion boutiques that fly the flag for bold, independent design. Those searching for elegant homeware will find beautifully crafted pieces at Weitz, another of Neuer Wall’s more historic stores. Founded in 1904 by Friedrich Weitz, this diminutive boutique is renowned for its impressive selection of flawless, fine porcelain from the most illustrious makers. For more contemporary homeware, visit the Human Empire store in Hamburg’s trendy Schanzenviertel district. Established by one of the area’s most ground-breaking design agencies, the boutique sells posters and accessories created by up-and-coming illustrators and artists, as well as a selection of books covering the latest in art and design.
A tour of Hamburg’s specialist stores would not be complete without those of the culinary variety. Mutterland, which specialises in rare German delicacies, is a must-visit for any gourmet. Whether it is the store’s organic mustards or luxury pralines, the skilled staff at Mutterland can explain exactly where each product comes from, as well as the German tradition on which it is based. Beer lovers will find a similar level of passion and expertise at Ratsherrn. Founded by three local beer enthusiasts, the company specialises in craft beers made using specialist brewing techniques that date back to the 12th century, when beer was one of the city’s most significant exports.
Hamburg’s markets provide one of the most authentic reminders of its humble merchant beginnings. The city’s legendary fish market has been going since 1703 and today has hundreds of stalls selling everything from seafood, meat and exotic fruits to homeware and souvenir trinkets. The Christmas market is also worth a visit during the winter months, where you can shop for German handicrafts and decorations while enjoying the picturesque backdrop of the city’s town hall.
A trip to Hamburg offers a huge diversity of brands old and new, and it is down to these smaller independent traders that shopping there remains authentic, personal and thriving, helping the city retain its reputation as one of the most historical shopping experiences in the world.