Huge department store. Tauentzienstrasse 21-24, D-10789 Berlin.
Telefax: +49-30-2121-2620. „
We visited Berlin in December and, whilst it was very pretty to see the snow everywhere and the Christmas markets all lit up beautifully, it was also very cold. On one of the days we decided to take refuge in KaDeWe, a huge department store which is so big that only London's Harrods store is bigger in Europe. With almost half a million items to buy, it really is the shopaholic's dream.
The store is actually called Kaufhaus De Westerns (Department Store of the West) and is presumably shortened to make it easier to say and easier to fit on the sign above the door. It is located near the centre of the former West Berlin on the major shopping street Tauentzienstrasse, right at the end. You can't miss is because it is in a huge building that takes up a whole block and there are always hundreds of people swarming in and out of its doors.
It has seven floors in total and follows the general layout of most other department stores of its kind with beauty products on the ground floor. As soon as you walk in the door the smell hits you as you are affronted by a million and one counters with all (and I mean all) of the major brands represented. There are beautifully made up women offering all manner of pamper products as well as plenty of sample perfumes to try. Also on the ground floor is the 'Luxury Boulevard', which is not to be missed as it is home to the big hitters like Cartier, Louis Vitton and Gucci. If you are anything like me, you'll just be window shopping here, but you are just as welcome all the same. Rather than looking down their noses at you (as is all too often the case) the shop attendants greet you with a smile and treat you as they would any other paying customer, which I loved.
The next floor is devoted to men's designer wear. As my husband is not one for shopping, we skipped this one and headed straight up to floors three and four which are devoted to womens wear. The third floor is all about the designers whilst the fourth floor is where you'll find more affordable and mainstream stuff, as well as kid's clothes and lingerie. The two floors are both well laid out by designer so it is easy to find what you are looking for. One of the great things about KaDeWe is that is covers over 60,000 square metres, so even when it is packed, you don't feel like you are be crowded as you wander around the floors - there is plenty of room for everyone.
The fifth floor is devoted to interior design and is fabulous to wander round. There are whole rooms laid out, so it is a wonderful place to go if you are looking for inspiration. The stuff they sell is quite high end, although there is a lot of lower priced stuff like kitchen wear and the like if you really feel the urge to spend.
The sixth and seventh floors were my absolute favourites though and, even though my feet were killing me by this point, I'm glad I made the effort. The sixth floor is what they call 'seasonal' and when I went it was full of all things Christmassy. There were decorations, trees, toys, trinkets, ornaments and advent calendars everywhere. For someone who loves Christmas like I do, it was like I was in heaven! You can't fail to get in the spirit with such a display; it really isn't to be missed.
The seventh floor plays home to their food halls and they really are something to behold. Quite strangely KaDeWe proudly boasts that they have two football fields worth of food on display! There is everything you could possibly imagine and then some. Around the edges are the delicatessen stalls offering everything from fish to cheese and a lot in between. It is a real eye opener seeing some of the things they have - a lot of which I'd never seen or heard of before. The counters are all incredibly busy and are interspersed with places to sit and eat the things they sell. In the middle of all this are various displays of packaged food, from fine hand made chocolates to fresh coffee and exotic teas. Whatever it is you are looking for, you are bound to find it here as well as lots of things you weren't looking for!
So if you are in Berlin, you should absolutely visit KaDeWe, it is a wonderful place to spend you money or window shop if you don't have any. Be warned though, you'll be sharing the floor with between forty and fifty thousand people each day!
For your information:
10am - 8pm Monday to Thursday
10am - 9pm Friday
9.30am - 8pm Saturday
It is closed Sundays except for special times (i.e. the run up to Christmas)
There is free underground parking at the store.
Earlier on this year I was pretty exhausted. Studying Monday to Friday, working about 20 hours a week, doing voluntary work in the evenings and maintaining a typical student social life was catching up with me. I wanted a break. At the same time, I knew I had exams after Easter and needed to do some revision. It was for these reasons that one Thursday just before Easter saw us boarding a nice little British Airways plane at Manchester and setting off for a short break in Berlin – where I could recover, improve my German in preparation for my forthcoming exams and, most importantly, shop. KaDeWe is the frequently used shortened name for the Kaufhaus Des Westens and is situated, hardly surprisingly in the west of Berlin. This place is huge and their motto, albeit unofficial, is “if we don’t sell it, it probably doesn’t exist”. Other department stores do exist in Berlin, for example the French import Galleries Lafayette, but none are as large or impressive as KaDeWe. In fact, KaDeWe is the second largest shop in Europe, being beaten only by Harrods. It was built at the turn of the last century but has had to be extended several times since then to house their ever increasing stock. The + s * * * * * * They sell everything you would expect from such a large store – the latest fashions, brand spanking new electrical devices, new CD, video and DVD releases and enough toys to satisfy even the most bratty child. They have the largest food hall in this part of the world, with among other things, 100 varieties of tea, 2400 different wines and live fish and seafood in a “chose it and we’ll kill it for you while you wait” sort of way. Just like at Vienna’s Naschmarkt really, but a bit higher class. There are several restaurants and cafes within the store, with a rooftop winter garden to top it off. As well as standard goods, they also sell souvenirs, foreign imports (notabl
y Top Shop clothes) and typically German things. For example, they have a huge stationary department. That’s right, half a floor dedicated to paper and nothing else. Depending on the season they have suitable temporary displays and stands – when we were there the 3rd floor had been transformed in preparation of Easter, with hundreds of ornate eggs for Easter trees (I bought 10 or so) and chocolate creations (I think I bought 3 but they seemed to disappear so quickly it was hard to tell). The – s * * * * * * At times the store itself can be a bit overwhelming, and it can be hard to find what you’re after, especially if you’re in a bit of a rush. Being spread over 7 or 8 floors means you spend a lot of time traipsing up escalators or waiting for the lift (which never, ever, arrived when I was there). Of all the departments I visited I was least impressed with the books. I love books (read the reading op) but it was such a badly organised place that I couldn’t find anything apart from Harry Potter (incidentally in English) – not quite the German novel I was after. The staff were ok but nothing wonderful. Maybe I’m just picky, but since I started working in customer services I’ve become more and more dissatisfied with the service I get. There were plenty of staff and plenty of tills but half these didn’t seem to be open as the sales assistants were all working in pairs – one ringing through the purchase and the other wrapping it. Most employees seemed only to speak German to my delight – there’s something hilarious about watching Americans in such situations – although I imagine in the tax refund part they might have spoken other languages. Being an EU citizen and therefore not eligable for it however, I didn’t venture in. More Info * * * * * * * * Nearest U-bahn is Wittenbergplatz (lines U
1 and U2). For more information and detailed directions, have a look at the official website – www.kadewe.de - and click on the English link at the bottom of the page, or head for www.kadewe.com and go straight to the English pages, bypassing the stupid time consuming animation thingy as you go. On the site you can take a virtual tour of the store, look up opening times and check out the events that’ll be on when you’re there – they regularly host fashion shows, book readings and signings etc. Worth a visit, and I will go back next time I’m in Berlin, but I’d avoid weekends if you can help it. And if you’re looking for a laugh, find some mono-lingual Americans and follow them around. Works every time :-)