Advertisement

Christmas For Members

Which shops are open in Germany over the Christmas holidays - and when?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Which shops are open in Germany over the Christmas holidays - and when?
Closed doors at a branch of Edeka in Langlingen, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Stocking up on food and drink is an essential part of Christmas, but navigating limited opening hours, crowded shops and empty shelves can be a hassle. Here's how to enjoy a relatively stress-free shopping experience in Germany this festive weekend.

Advertisement

This year Christmas Eve falls on the weekend - meaning most employees are sadly robbed of at least one of their annual public holidays. 

It also means that working out when to shop might be a little more confusing than normal, especially if you need to pick up a few last-minute groceries before Christmas. 

Here are a few tips for keeping your festive cheer while getting out to the supermarket this week. 

READ ALSO: Widespread pre-holiday traffic chaos expected on German roads

When will German supermarkets be open?

The opening hours of local businesses are generally regulated by the federal states, so they can vary slight depending on the region.

But as a general rule, shops will be open as normal both on Friday, December 22nd and on Saturday, December 23rd.

Advertisement

December 24th - or Christmas Eve - is technically not a national holiday either, but it does fall on a Sunday this year, so most shops will be closed.

However, thanks to a special legal exception that allows supermarkets and other food vendors to open their doors on the Sunday before Christmas, you may still have a chance to do some last-minute shopping. 

In Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Saxony and Saarland, for example, many supermarkets should be open between 6am and 4pm on Sunday. 

Christmas shopping in Magdeburg

Christmas shoppers walk around a mall in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, in the run-up to Christmas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ronny Hartmann

That said, it's best to check online beforehand since some shops may decide to close after all. Kaufland has already announced that it will shut on December 24th to allow employees to spend more time with their families after an intensive week in the run-up to Christmas. 

So far, Aldi Süd, Lidl, Penny and Rewe have all said they will do the same. 

As a general rule, if you do want to grab a few things on Sunday, it's a good idea to get it done in the morning. That's because most shops will be closing their doors between 12pm and 4pm to give employees time to get home and start prepping their festive dinner.

READ ALSO: The food and drink you need for a German Christmas feast

Advertisement

On Christmas Day itself (Monday 25th) and Boxing Day (Tuesday 26th), you should expect most shops and supermarkets to be closed. Both of these days are public holidays, so they fall under the same regulations as Sundays. 

For really last-minute shopping, some supermarkets at major train stations will be open later on Sunday and even on Monday and Tuesday - but it's best to check beforehand to avoid a wasted trip. 

Petrol stations can open any day of the year - though they don't have to - so popping down to your local Aral could be a solution in a pinch. 

An Aral petrol station with a 'Rewe To Go' sign in Düsseldorf.

An Aral petrol station with a 'Rewe To Go' sign in Düsseldorf. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

From the 27th to the 30th, you can expect shops to operate with normal opening hours.

However, since New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday this year, opening times will vary from state to state. 

READ ALSO: When are Germany's state and national public holidays in 2023?

When is the best time to shop?

To avoid the worst of the queues, the key thing to remember is: the earlier the better.

Ideally, try and get out as early as possible - either at the crack of dawn or during office hours - since most people will be trying to get their shopping done after work.

If you can only go shopping on Friday or Saturday, take advantage of the early morning hours between 7 am and 8:30 am. This will give you the best chance of finding the things you need - especially in the fresh fruit and veg aisle.

Shopping in a German supermarket

A woman walks past refrigerated products in a German supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Forum Moderne Landwirtschaft e.V. | Axel Schmidt

From 9 a.m. on, you can expect the supermarkets to start getting busier, with the majority of people shopping in the afternoon and early evening. By the evening - and especially shortly before closing time - perishable goods like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers are likely to be hard to find. 

Saturday and Sunday morning are likely to be chaotic, but if you have to shop over the weekend, it once again pays to go as early as possible. 

Advertisement

What shops have the longest wait times?

It goes without saying that almost all the major supermarkets - including Aldi, Lidl, Rewe, Edeka and Kaufland - are likely to have long queues at the checkouts in the run-up to Christmas. 

High rates of illness have also hit staffing levels in many shops, though retailers generally try to make sure their stores are well-manned by asking staff not to take holidays on these days. 

At jewellers, department stores, luxury boutiques and delicatessens, you may also see long lines in front of the stores as they only grant access to a limit number of people at a time.

We recommend dressing warmly as you may end up standing in the cold for a while. 

READ ALSO: The vocabulary you need for the perfect Christmas in Germany

Advertisement

What's the best way to avoid last-minute stress?

First, plan out your shopping list carefully and make a note of it to ensure you don't end up forgetting something you may need at Christmas. There are a huge range of apps that can help with this, including list-making apps like HNGRY that allow you to make a digital inventory of what you already have at home. 

Second, check the opening times at your local supermarkets to make sure you don't end up turning up to an empty store. You can often find these on a notice outside your local branch or by checking online on the shop's website.

A word of warning: Google Maps can often be the quickest way to check opening times, but they don't always have the most up-to-date information - especially when it comes to German public holidays. That means it's best to rely on official information on company websites instead if you can. 

Christmas shopping in Berlin

People carry shopping bags through the streets of Berlin before Christmas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Third, seek out supermarkets that have automated self-checkouts where possible. These aren't so new to Germany but are still treated like something of a novelty, meaning you can often skip the queue simply by opting to scan the items yourself. 

Just be aware that some of these machines are card-only and some also require verification by a member of staff if you're buying alcohol. Tip: At Netto self-checkouts, age verification is usually carried automatically by popping a German credit, debit or EC card in the card reader.

That could save you some time if you're picking up a last minute bottle of fizz before Christmas.

Advertisement

Finally, if you're only picking up a few things, consider walking, cycling or taking public transport to the shops. The stress of Christmas shopping often starts in the car park, so it's best to avoid this entirely if you can. And make sure you leave plenty of time for your shop as you may also need to hunt down some items at other supermarkets or shops nearby. 

Remember also to bring along an umbrella, as rainy weather is forecast for the coming days.

READ ALSO: Could Germany still see a white Christmas this year?

What else should I think about?

In many cases, it may be too late to order your festive goose, lamb, duck or veal in time for Christmas Day - though some regional butchers do accept orders throughout the 22nd.

Fish and wine shops are also incredibly busy this time of year, so get there as early as possible if you want something special. In other cases, you may have to rely on local supermarkets or international shops with fish and meat counters instead.

Advertisement

When it comes to fresh food - especially popular trimmings for Christmas dinners - be sure to pick these up on Friday morning at the latest. There's usually a run on these types of items just before a public holiday and supermarkets may opt to order a little less than usual so stock doesn't get wasted over the weekend. 

If you really do get caught short, though, a handful of shops may be open on Monday and Tuesday. These include local off-licenses (or 'Spätis' if you're in Berlin), kiosks and petrol stations. 

More

Comments

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also