Quality and precision – the watchwords of German produce – mean most visitors to the country will already be familiar with many of the smaller items it exports besides beer. Familiar names may include Adidas, Birkenstock, Boss, Nivea, Mont Blanc, Villeroy & Boch or Meissen. Prices for these brands are not significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Europe, although the choice is wider. Most cities have a local alternative quarter with a quota of independent boutiques and vintage outlets for local hipsters. Those same quarters in Berlin and to a lesser extent Hamburg also support superb record shops – a good place to browse for cutting-edge electronica.

And then, of course, there is the wonderland of German crafts. Wooden toys are excellent – ubiquitously beautifully crafted with superb attention to detail, and often a regional flavour. Christmas markets are excellent opportunities to pick these up. If you must buy one, cuckoo clocks, made in southern Germany since the eighteenth century, can be bought in shops throughout the Black Forest.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

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