October 3, 2023

Beyond Berlin: Culture and Fashion across Germany

by Paula Borkmann

When we talk about a country’s culture, there’s a tendency to only really talk about its capital city. Berlin, London, New York, Lisbon, Tokyo: brands and agencies alike are guilty of mistaking one city for a whole nation. In our Beyond series we want to look further afield, focusing on untapped regions, local hotspots, and trending areas. We want to know what young people think about their culture, wherever they’re based.

First up, Beyond Berlin. Looking at Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne, we investigate each of these city’s unique characters, cultural hotspots, and their relationships to fashion. 


Globally, Hamburg is famous as a port city, a trading hub within Europe. Locally, it’s known as a progressive city, welcoming people from all walks of life. Personally, it's where I was born, defined for me by its charm, pride and intensely dry humour. 

Whilst I’ve usually been passed between the houses of family and friends on my visits to Hamburg, in recent years, with the help of Marie (28) and Leila (27), I’ve seen the city in a new light. From the Sternschanze, to Hafencity and the city centre these three districts sum up the best of what Hamburg has to offer.

The Schanze is filled with character and creativity, home to the best bars, restaurants and vintage shops. Built on the Elbe, the main river that runs through Hamburg, Hafencity is famous for its modern architecture and scenic views of the river. Meanwhile, in Jungfernsteig, the city centre, you’ll find history as well as luxury shopping in Neuerwall. All these neighbourhoods are all entirely different and, for Marie, this is what makes the city so unique: “romantic and diverse, every district is different and expresses its own individual character”. 

The Hamburg street-style is equally distinct; simple and classic. For Stefanie, co-owner of Stegmann Mode,“I would describe the people from Hamburg as more of a classic fashionable type, but always extremely stylish”. Selling across both Hamburg and Munich she notes the North-South fashion divide in Germany. Where Hamburgers stick to the “somewhat reserved prints and tailoring” on offer at her shop, in the South people are much more inclined to wear “wild prints, tight dresses and snug fitting trousers”. 

Source: @stegmann_mode Instagram


The most 'stereotypically German’ of them all, Munich is typified by its Lederhosen, dirndl,  Beer steins, and mediaeval buildings. Tourists are drawn to the capital of Bavaria for Oktoberfest and online its become famous for the surfers on the Eisbach river. Citizens meanwhile recommend Munich for the high quality of life it offers. For Sophia (26) what makes the city so enticing is how the traditional and modern sit side by side; it’s “cosy, traditional, clean and green”. 

The rich history and tradition of Munich extends into the arts. Renowned for its literature, art, music, and especially opera, you’ll find the beating heart of the arts in the Schwabing district. Retaining  a strong bohemian character through its many artist cafe’s, Sophia tells us the best spots to hit are the Academy of Fine Arts and Cafe Clara. 

An extension of this refined art scene and a long history of garment craftsmanship, the fashion in Munich is thoughtful and tailored. Describing the difference between how people dress in Berlin versus Munich, Lena Sämann (Head of Fashion at Vogue.de) surmises “a Berliner wears branded clothing ironically - a person from Munich doesn’t.” (Munich Travel) Luxury fashion is a part of the city’s DNA; fashion press, luxury department stores, PR agencies and large fashion houses make up the core of the city.


I asked my mum her impression of Frankfurt and she said, quite frankly, “it's a banking city… the best thing about it is you can catch a flight to anywhere.” In my experience a lot of Germans would agree, but Larena (@11levels), a 24-year-old poet/strategist/activist, told us how much more there is to this “complex, eclectic, clashing, pioneering, sanitised” city. 

Frequently found in the bahnhofsviertel’s Afghani bakeries, along the green route in Niddapark, or in the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Larena paints a picture of a city with a good quality of life and a slowly budding underground. Whilst Larena admits that most venues and parties lack the welfare and line-up she had previously been used to in London, one collective stands out as providing all of this with full force, feat.ffm. (Instagram)

In terms of fashion, Larena tells us that “shopping is tough in Frankfurt, very mainstream… you have to dig through shops in Grüneburgweg and Altstadt for a find.”

And who inspires her style? “Streetwear brands in London and Marseilles, see CRTZ (Instagram) and 125mm (Instagram), compel the sides of me that have always dressed sporty and relaxed. But in Frankfurt, I actually love how elderly people dress, they’re great at layering and utility! I take notes from effortlessly cool grandparents I see on the street.” 

Source: @feat.ffm Instagram


A city filled with früh Kölsch beer halls and a healthy lashing of joie de vivre, Cologne is renowned for its vibrant Karneval and Southern charm. For me, the three key things to take away from this city are: the people’s unfaltering positive state of mind, the cosy and rustic pubs (for want of a better English word) and the Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

For Coralie (27) the highlights of the city can be found in: all the bars on Brussels Street, the Saturday market at City Forest, the charming streets in South City and the summer afternoons in Rathenauplatz. A city made for art lovers, Cologne is known for its wealth of  museums and galleries, with Wallraf-Richartz Museum and the Josef-Haubrich Hall of Art taking the top spots.  

Whilst Cologne is a popular shopping destination, to avoid the rinse and repeat high street shops head down into the trendy Belgian quarter. Here, the streets are stocked with the latest fashions from smaller designers. Unlike the frequent allusions to style ‘uniforms’ in places such as Hamburg and Munich, in Cologne people seem to care less about fitting in and more about self-expression. This makes sense in a city renowned for its annual fancy dress Karnival and a vibrant Queer scene that brings Pride to life every Summer. 

Source: Köln Brauhaus Früh