The second most often asked question by tourists (right after “how do I get into Berghain”) is usually “what souvenirs should I buy in Berlin?” I know this for a fact because this is the most popular article on the blog. If you were looking for ideas on what to buy in Berlin, you’ve found the right spot.
I tried to think about things that are part of the “Berlin” feeling, not necessarily made in Berlin or from Berlin, but somehow completely locked and associated with this city.
LAST UPDATED November 2016 – also works as list for Christmas presents or birthday presents from Berlin.
An individual gourmet box from KaDeWe
Foodies among Berliners already know: there’s nothing you can’t find on the 5th floor of KaDeWe, the gourmet floor. Delicatessen, rare products, and basic ingredients are part of this fragmented, confusing and somehow elusive high class supermarket. There will be things you’ve never heard of or seen, and as close as you’ll get to a satisfactory supermarket experience in Berlin.
I like to get my friends who don’t live in Berlin a little box of exquisite groceries from KaDeWe, not only because of their novelty, but also because the KaDeWe is a monument of Berlins history and worth telling about to friends & family.
Roasted coffee beans from Five Elephant
Five Elephant is a great little coffee place in a far off corner of Reichenberger Straße, located between Görlitzer Park and Landwehrkanal. While the café seems to be just like any other contemporary & chic coffee place in Kreuzberg and Mitte, Five Elephants is special because – much like their Mitte counterpart The Barn – they roast their own beans. Buying a pack of these beans to bring back for your own pleasure at home, or for friends who love coffee, will certainly remind you of the vivid and crazy coffee culture that Berlins cool districts have developed over the past years. A special coffee roast is a very inoffensive and generic thing to buy in Berlin, costs around 10-15 Euro and is easy to transport. A perfect gift for parents and lovers of coffee.
Alternatively, of course, you can buy equally great beans from The Barn.
The CeeCee book about Berlins greatest things
Coffee table books are not my thing, but I’ll make an exception for CeeCee’s 2nd edition. CeeCee is a weekly newsletter with recommendations for Berlin. From events to little shops, a carefully curated selection of stuff make this newsletter a very special gem among the typical Berlin “tourist guides”. The CeeCee book is more than just a summary of all recommendations, though: it also sheds lights on the people behind Berlin, the people who are right now shaping and transforming this city. I’m definitely also recommending this book here because FINDINGBERLIN is also mentioned, for which I’m very grateful and humbled. This book is for everyone who loves the sleek, good looking and ever changing side of Berlin, and who likes to remember Berlin as it is today.
Geza Schön’s Molecule 01 perfume
“Molecule 01” haunted me for years in Berlin clubs before I finally knew what it was. Usually in Berghain, a tall, black dressed, gloomy person with a weird haircut would pass me by – and I’d try not to faint from the intensity of their scent. If vampires had a perfume, it would be Molekül.
But let me be honest here: Berlin doesn’t need yet another person to wear it, especially not in dark Techno clubs. You, on the other hand, will be a revolutionary in your hometown. Schön’s other perfumes, namely “Kinski” or the Biehl collection, are also worth checking out if you’re looking for more something different.
You can get his most popular editions and works at KaDeWe.
The Berlin Companion by KREUZBERGD
There’s dull and dry Berlin history, and there’s notmsparkers quips and witty stories about Berlin’s wild and vivid past. If you’d like to own a collection of historical facts about Berlin that are actually interesting and also sort of trivial pursuit style, you should definitely grab a copy of the Berlin Companion. The following questions will be answered in no time:
- Who counts as real Berliner?
- What happened to the suspension railway over Brunnenstraße… or the tram tunnel beneath Unter den Linden?
- How did a part of the Berlin Wall find its way to an island in the South Pacific?
- Where can you ride your skateboard on parts of the old East German parliament building?
It’s a great book for parents who want to know more about your Erasmus year, or for yourself to catch up on some lesser known history of your Wahlheimat.
Sunflower seeds and mixed nuts from Kreuzberg
Souvenirs should not be items grabbed from the duty free shop at the airport. When people ask me what they should buy in Berlin, they want to bring something home that can tell a story. Here’s one for you:
Kreuzberg and Neukölln, the arguably hippest districts of Berlin, would be nothing today without their extensive cultural diversity. You can see the traces of the vibrant Middle Eastern cultures and the strong Turkish diaspora through the empty sunflower shells on Oranienstraße and Sonnenallee. Especially in summer, you’ll see hundreds of people on the streets, popping seeds, smoking their shishas and enjoying the evening vibes of a metropole that is not just white and boring.
As for your souvenir: grab a freshly roasted pack of sunflower seeds or mixed nuts from Smyrna on Oranienstraße, or an equivalent on Sonnenallee. Take it back home and tell your friends the history of Berlin that is usually left out of the usual tourist guides.
The eye-catching merchandise of Volksbühne theater
In Berlin, many streets are lined up with both graffiti and posters that advertise upcoming events in the city. Their design is usually a good indicator of the Berlin zeitgeist. There’s a whole Tumblr dedicated to those Berlin posters.
But there’s one particular advertiser that always seems to stand out: Volksbühne. This theater of the former GDR in Mitte has a strong left-wing stance and a very intense Corporate Identity. Plays are usually advertised through quotes printed on the posters and stickers. You don’t have to see a play at Volksbühne to appreciate the design. You can buy the posters at the theater, or grab some matchstick boxes from the lobby. Read more about the Volksbühne branding and logo here.
The latest issue of 032c magazine
While we’re already at the topic of art: the “Best Magazine in the World” (as of 2007) – 032c magazine – was born & raised in Berlin. Every concept store from here to Charlottenburg sells copies of it. It’s known for its red cover and, more importantly, for the in-depth articles on everything Art, Culture, Urbanology, Fashion, Literature and Architecture. o32 has become an incredibly important institution for the design and art world of Berlin. Every issue is a work of art in itself, and a testament to the contemporary Berlin that is not shabby chic anymore, but highly professional and intensely committed to creative work.
Grabbing the latest issue can be combined with a trip to a book store like Do You Read Me?, where other treasures in print might await.
Pictures from the Berlin photo booths
They are now abundant all around the world, I assume (I’ve seen them in other places in Germany and Europe): the legendary Berlin photo booths.
They print black and white picture stripes and used to be the ultimate cool Berlin thing to do. Those pictures with your Berlin friends, hook-ups and random encounters will be your most romantic way to reminisce about the wild nights you had here. I use my photo booth strips as book strips. Although that’s nothing something you can buy in Berlin, it’s the memory of an experience that will be with you forever.
A techno record from a club or record store
Of course, Berlin is always associated with techno. If you want to remember your wild night out at Berghain or any other club, remember it through vinyl! I don’t have an LP player, but I still sometimes buy the vinyl of a track that I heard and loved somewhere to support the artist.
Homemade granola from Katie’s Blue Cat
Whether it’s Flowmarkt in Neukölln or the regular market on the Maybachufer – if you are somewhere around the canal in Kreuzberg, your trip will inevitably end up at Katie’s Blue Cat. It’s arguably become one of the most annoying places in Berlin, because it’s always packed with people. But that’s so for a reason: Katie’s simply makes the best cakes and homemade granola in Berlin.
They also now pack their stuff up in gift boxes and sell it for your convenience at home. Homemade jams, granolas and a variety of gift sets can be bought from their online store and of course, from the shop on Friedelstraße.
A ‘Refugees Welcome’ hoodie from Cortex
In the past 3 years, the plight and politics of refugees from the Middle East and Africa have quite circled the news in Berlin and Germany. Tourists usually don’t think about these things when they visit an exciting destination, but it should! Most of what makes Berlin great is founded on ethnic diversity, multiculturalism, a mix of nations and a general openness and tolerance to people of all kinds.
So when Germany was faced with the question of whether we should let refugees from Syria and other countries into our lives, our homes, we all pulled it together and worked to make it happen. It wasn’t easy, but we managed and we are still managing. Berlin was especially catastrophic. And it only worked because of all the volunteers who took it upon themselves to wait at LaGeSo with the refugees to register; for months, in the bitter cold, they handed out coffee and tea, gave shelter and support. Slowly, more and more people wore their work on their chest, shouting out WHAT they were freezing for, why it was all worth it. Their motto became “Refugees Welcome“, and it seeped through our nation, ever so slowly. I think it’s a very nice nod to what happened in Berlin in the past two years to wear a hoodie like that.
You can buy one at Core Tex on Oranienstraße or online.
Berliner Winter keeps you warm when it’s cold
Germans and Berliners in particular love their cloudy apple juice. When they feel especially lightheaded, they will opt for a thinner “Apfelschorle” – that’s the apple juice with carbonated water, for the extra sparkling kick. But in winter, the Apfelschorle doesn’t make the cut against the Glühwein on the Christmas Markets (and what is life for a German if it’s not drinking Glühwein at a Christmas Market?!), which is why Berliner Winter was invented.
Berliner Winter has managed to become ubiquitous in only a few years. This mix of cloudy apple juice, vodka and winter spices will definitely keep you warm when it’s cold outside. It’s a great drink to buy in Berlin and to bring back home – from the taste of the spirit to the design of the bottle.