What to know about Sunday shopping in Germany

Worldify - Woman walking down empty shopping street in Germany
Written by
Gabrielle Soria
Published on
April 29, 2023

What is one of the top complaints for expats in Germany? Sunday shopping in Germany. Or more specifically—the lack thereof.

In Germany, most businesses are closed on Sundays and on public holidays. Even supermarkets are closed, so people who move to Germany quickly learn to do their grocery shopping in advance. And heaven help you in the days before a long weekend in Germany. The scenes in the shops are near apocalyptic!

Fortunately, some grocery stores and pharmacies are open on Sundays. There are also special Sundays where stores are allowed to open.

Why are shops closed on Sunday in Germany?

There's actually a law in Germany, the "Ladenschlussgesetz" or Shop Closing Law, that governs shops opening. It's been a federal German law since 1956, and it bans retail stores of all kinds from opening their doors on Sundays and public holidays, along with some other restrictions.

Why? Well, some (e.g. the churches and certain trade unions) believe that Sunday should be used to relax. The trade union especially believes that keeping all shops closed on Sundays helps business for smaller, individually-run companies who potentially couldn't afford to pay wages for extra hands on the weekend. (How this helps them compete with online businesses, I couldn't say. 🤷‍♀️)

And workers have a lot of rights in Germany. Data from the Federal Statistical Office shows that almost every 5th employee works on a Sunday or public holiday each month. This is why and how the trade union has repeatedly complained - mostly successfully - against the shopping Sundays.

While individual states were given more freedom to make their own rules in 2006, Sunday shopping remains largely a no-go throughout the country. Even in Berlin, there are a maximum of 12 shopping Sundays a year.

What is open on Sundays in Germany?

On Sundays, most shops in Germany must close. There are however a few designated Sunday shopping days each year and very limited exceptions for certain shops.

Are shops ever open on Sundays in Germany?

Yes. Some shops will stay open on Sundays. There's a limited selection of grocery stores and drogeries that you can count on for Sunday shopping in Germany. Most of them are in transit hubs—train stations or airports. Flea markets and farmer's markets are also solutions of Sunday shopping in Germany. Both are a great opportunity to check out local fare and produce. Additionally, there are shopping Sundays (Verkaufsoffene Sonntage). These are set Sundays each year when shops have the option to open. Not all shops will do it, but many will, at least for a little while!

Shops that participate in shopping Sundays:

The following shops regularly participate in special shopping Sundays in Germany:

  • Most shopping malls
  • Furniture stores
  • Electronics stores
  • Some supermarkets

Tips for dealing with Sunday shopping in Germany

The lack of Sunday shopping in Germany is one of my biggest pet peeves with this country. But over the course of 7+ years living here, I've collected a few tips.

Keep a store of basics

Even in a small kitchen, a few packages of dried goods (pasta, tomato paste, canned veggies) will go a long way to put together a quick meal when you've forgotten to go shopping on Saturday

Embrace your city's Sunday shopping hacks

In Berlin, that means visiting the spätis. In Munich, check out the city's many local product vending machines.

Treat yourself to a night out

Even if shops are closed, most restaurants will be open. Grab a friend or your family and go check out a local spot.

Or treat yourself to a night in

Perhaps one of the few good things to come out of Covid is the number of restaurants offering delivery through Wolt or Lieferando. It's easy to order in and support local businesses—especially on those days when you can't get up the energy to get off the couch.

With all this in mind, you should be set for Sunday success. And remember, same rules apply for public holidays in Germany!   🔵

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