If you are visiting Germany from the United States, you may not expect some of the differences in the business hours of local shops. In general, shops will not be open as late as you may be used to and you should not plan to shop for groceries (Lebensmittel) on a Sunday. In fact, shopping hours in Germany are among the most restrictive in Europe.
Note: The following opening hours (Öffnungszeiten) apply in general, but can vary from shop to shop; as in America, stores in smaller towns close earlier than a shopping mall in major cities like Munich or Berlin.
What to Expect When Grocery Shopping
Shopping in Germany is usually quite modern. While there are still markets held on old town squares, most people do their shopping at major grocery chains. There are many different stores to pick from:
- The Discounters: Most people shop at both the discount and major chains such as Lidl, Netto, and Aldi. While discounters have inconsistent inventory that is not displayed as prettily, it usually offers better deals.
- Major Chains: These options include stores such as Kaisers, Edeka, Real, Rewe, and Kaufland
- Bio is a great source for organic groceries
- Markets: In addition to the weekly and daily markets that are held in town squares, there are Turkish, Asian, and African markets in some areas of town that are a great source for produce and specialty items
- Online and Specialty Shops: If you need something specific, it may be best to order it.
Opening Hours for Shops, Bakeries, and Banks
German Department Stores:
Mo-Sat 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
German Supermarkets and Shops:
Mon-Fri 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Sat 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. (smaller supermarkets close between 6 and 8 p.m.)
Shops in smaller towns might shut down for a 1-hour lunch break (usually between noon and 1 p.m.).
Mon - Sat 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Sun 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Mon - Fri 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.; cash machines are available 24/7
Shopping on Sundays
In general, German shops are closed on Sundays. Exceptions are bakeries, shops at gas stations (open 24/7), or grocery stores in train stations. In bigger cities like Berlin, look out for little shops called Spätkauf or Späti. Opening hours vary, but they are usually open at least until 11:00 during the week (many much later) and on Sundays.
Another exception is Verkaufsoffener Sonntag (shopping Sundays). This is when larger grocery stores have special opening hours on specific Sundays. These frequently fall before Christmas and in the days leading up to holidays.
All shops, supermarkets, and banks are closed on German public holidays such as Easter and Christmas. They are even closed in the days surrounding the holiday, making shopping for basic necessities between Christmas and New Years (Silvester) a special challenge. It is, however, a great excuse to eat out during this festive time as many restaurants remain open, recognizing the potential for profit.
Museums and other attractions have special opening hours, and trains and buses run on a limited schedule. Check websites before departing and make sure to plan ahead.