One of the things that first stood out to me when I visited Cologne, and Germany in general, was the vibrancy of local business. I noticed independently owned shops around the city, and significantly less big box retailers than I was used to coming from the US.
Now that I live here, the abundance of small retail is one of my favorite things about life in Cologne. On nearly every one of my bike rides around the city, I discover a new shop to explore! From independent design shops to creative concept stores, Cologne has a thriving boutique culture ranging from approachable to high-end shops selling all sorts of interesting products.
Never has it been more important to support local business owners than now — the Corona-induced Great Pause has left small retail in deep financial distress. With the gradual reopening of Cologne after COVID-19, these boutiques are in need of clients and I want to feature some of my favorite shops, because I am proud to live in a city that has such a plethora of unique small businesses.
These are my favorite independent shops and boutiques in Cologne, Germany!
Straight from the streets of Stockholm and Oslo, Magasinpopulaire is THE boutique in Cologne for edgy Scandinavian fashion and lifestyle products. Think androgynous shapes, black leather boots and quirky sunglasses. The original location has only women’s products, while the second location, Magasin 2, has more menswear and shoes on offer. The crisp folded merchandising in both shops is attractive and ideal for easy browsing.
A stalwart of the Cologne’s independent shopping scene is definitely Boutique Belgique which was founded by famous fashion blogger Lena Terlutter. The hyper feminine and of-the-moment selection of women’s clothing at this shop is firmly established as one of the best places in Cologne to find carefully curated luxury labels. The staff is always very friendly and helpful when you visit. If you happen to be in town for one of their special events, don’t miss it!
The perfectly merchandised racks of on-trend women’s fashion labels at Keep Loving is one of many reasons why this Sudstadt boutique is regularly on Cologne’s best boutique lists. It has been well-loved by locals since its opening in 2016. Started by working actress Elmira, the approachable selection of clothing and lifestyle items at Keep Loving makes it suitable for almost any kind of woman or style. Their sister store Keep Loving Suite around the corner specializes only in shoes!
Showcasing designs from well-known and under-the-radar brands alike, Kauf Dich Glucklich is a concept store offering men’s and women’s fashion and accessories. Their hip Scandinavian aesthetic is present across the three stories of this sprawling Neumarkt shop. Designers are featured in mini capsule collections with descriptive signage and materials so you can get to know the identity of the various brands easily.
Ethical shoppers can rejoice at Fairfitters which predominantly features fair trade and sustainably produced clothing. But this isn’t your average global fair trade boutique with kantha blankets and Ghanian handwoven baskets. Fairfitters sources modern, trendy and stylish brands like Armed Angels, so when you walk in the shop, you might not even know it is a fair trade shop. It looks like any other clothing boutique — but with a good mission you can feel good about supporting!
When I started telling people that we were moving to Cologne, one of the most common replies that I got was “Like the perfume?”. Yes, exactly like the perfume. Koln Germany is the birthplace of what we know now as Eau de Cologne and you can find the world’s original cologne producer in the city’s altstadt at Farinas Fragrance Shop and Museum. Get a whiff of the grapefruit and bergamot infused fragrance that famous people like Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess Diana and Mark Twain have worn since 1708. Today, the Farina family descendants are in their eighth generation of perfume production and the original fragrance recipe lives on today. It is kept as a tightly held secret. Even the production facility’s location is a mystery!
Calling itself a concept plant shop, Herbarium is simply a delight to visit, which is why it is one of the best independent shops in Cologne. Their assortment of exotic plants is unmatched in Cologne (see cover photo for an idea of how many varieties they have), and I find myself coming home with a new plant on nearly every visit. Their robust assortment of quirky pots and planters is another highlight, ensuring you can walk out with a perfect new living accessory for your home.
If my soul could manifest itself into a store, I am pretty sure it would be Mill. A perfectly executed mixture of mid-century vintage furniture, unique houseplants and bohemian home decor, Mill dishes out a masterclass of home design inspiration. Their converted warehouse space near Volksgarten is my favorite shop in Cologne. The shop has pretty short hours, so check the times before visiting.
On a bustling stretch of Bonnerstrasse in Sudstadt, Frau Schmitt is a cheerful gift shop which makes the best shops in Cologne list because you can always find the ideal cute gift for kids and adults alike. Creative high design from sustainable materials is the true showcase here, so you can expect to find lots of upcycled and repurposed products in surprisingly functional applications.
Foodies looking for a unique shopping experience need look no further — Hennes Pfeffer Boutique is a must-visit shop in Cologne! Selling an exclusive line high-end pepper from Cambodia’s Kampot pepper plant, this is some of the most delicious and rich flavor pepper you’ve ever tried. Their knowledgeable staff can explain all the differences in flavor and uses while you browse to ensure that you make the most of this fancy pepper.
Scandinavian home design has taken the world by storm, and How We Live is one of the best showcases of Scandi minimalism in Cologne. The high-end price point of the furniture and large pieces make a lot of their items inaccessible, but there are plenty of cute accessories and blankets for thriftier shoppers. The showroom and shop is something to treasure — I visit every few months simply to look at the displays and products for inspiration.
For quirky items and artful home products, Schee is hands-down the best independent gift shop in Cologne. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is the floor-to-ceiling display of locally made screen prints and paper, ranging from beautiful typography to minimalist single line drawings. When we first moved to Cologne, I wanted to decorate my entire apartment in prints from Schee! You’ll also find some nice cook books (in German and English) and home bar accoutrements like locally made gin and glassware.
Be still my heart with Motel a Miio. Every time I step through the doors into this pale pink pottery shop, my heart skips a beat. With locations across Germany, Motel a Miio is a well-established pottery brand offering hand formed, hand glazed pottery from Portugal. The pastel palettes and iridescent glazes of their mugs, plates and vases make for breathtaking table arrangements. Each piece is slightly different, yet perfectly imperfect. I am obsessed with this place and wish I could afford for my whole kitchen to be decked out in their products.
A charming mix of home decor, kitchen accessories and house plants, Things We Like is a shop that will brighten your spirit just by being inside it. This is another boutique that is almost always on Cologne’s best shopping lists — and for good reason! The airy color palettes and tactile nature of the home products here lend to a sense of timelessness yet perfectly on-trend design. The small footprint shop is packed with lovely things to make your space more homey and functional.