February’s Adventure, Exploring the Great Indoors

It’s still cold in Hamburg. Not only cold but windy and rainy.  What does that mean?  Well, it’s the perfect time to explore the great indoors! Luckily one of my favorite activities is an indoor sport – shopping.

The most notable high-end shopping is down by Neuer Wall which alas, requires you to bundle up and hussle from store-to-store.  If you absolutely MUST stop by Cartier, Tiffany’s and Abercrombie & Fitch you will have to endure the elements.  As this is decidedly not fun in the gusty winds and endless rain of February I usually get my higher end shopping (or window shopping) done at Alsterhaus.   Here you can peruse the latest designer trends and then head up for a snack at the lovely buffet style café on the top floor.  If you’re lucky you can grab a window seat and enjoy the view while sipping on a latte and updating your wardrobe wish list.

Of course, there are several other department stores on Mönckebergstraße which all offer similar one-stop shopping including Kardstadt and the Galeria Kaufhof .  If you’re feeling hungry for home, the Galeria also offers a nice selection of hard to find Anglo foods in their basement area including containers of Duncan Hines frosting and cake mix.

Although I enjoy a good department store as much as the next shopper, one must never forget the convenience (and warmth) of the mall experience.  The most prominent mall in Hamburg is also downton, Europa Passage.  (I’ve heard that the quark stand in the basement is worth a trip.)  Since I live closer, I tend to find myself in Hamburger Meile a bit more often which boasts many of the same stores as the Europa Passage with less of the pretense.  When visiting friends in Altona we may stop by the Mercado, where we usually wind up grabbing a bite at one of the lovely little food stalls on the first floor – it’s much nicer than your typical mall food court experience.  Usually packed at lunch time these tiny restaurants stalls offer a cozy place to have a quick coffee (or chardonnay) and rest your feet between stores.

Occasionally the malls will be open on a Sunday, when the municipality offers citizens a chance to trade in their day of resting for a day of shopping.  (I’m not sure exactly how these Shopping Sundays are decided but the malls themselves usually advertise well in advance…so keep your eyes open.)

If you are missing a more American shopping experience with endless aisles of merchandise and the fear of losing your loved ones forever, Hamburg has its fair share of big-box type furniture stores.  Poised just outside of the city (accessible by car or bus) one can find not one, but two Ikeas.  Possibly just as big as Ikea, if not bigger, is Höffner.  The one time I made it out to the Höffner the sheer size of the parking lot was enough to send my poor husband running. He, rightfully so, thought it would take hours to get me out if we dared to go in.

When the goal of your shopping experience is to get out of the house for a spell but stay out of the wind, many of these places are good destinations for an afternoon or day-long expedition.  Still, it shouldn’t be forgotten that shopping is truly a neighborhood sport.  There are no end to the quaint boutiques and shops that are scattered across the city like stones in a riverbed.  But in my humble opinion strolling down the sidewalk and hunting for local treasures is best left for sunny days and warmer weather.