Hidden stores and secret shopping: Berlin's tucked away trading posts
Berlin's host of hidden gems extends to several of its stores - high-end fashion and design destinations that love nothing more than to conceal themselves from the curious gaze of the hoi-polloi.
For serious shoppers, there's no greater thrill than tracking down a semi-secret space, and these enigmatic emporiums deliver the goods with an unconventional retail experience.
No regular store will do for Berlin's innovative label Bless - instead, the stylish purveyor of fashion/design/art hybrids fills an entire apartment with its own, limited edition products.
From the clothes in the closet to the covetable furnishings, pretty much everything's for sale and customers are free to rummage at will.
Needless to say, it's an oddly intimate shopping experience, not least because the apartment really is inhabited, providing temporary digs to an ever-changing roster of live-in arty types who add their own style to the sizzlingly creative domestic mix.
New thematic collections are produced regularly and, to top it all, Bless products really are one of a kind. If you're on the hunt for knitted shoes, people-shaped bags, curtained sunglasses or other such (beautifully) offbeat items, this tucked-away trading post is a Berlin must.
Bless Apartment: Oderbergerstrasse 60,
back building in courtyard, 3rd floor,
Opening times: Wed-Sun, 4pm-8pm and by appointment.
Tel: +49 302 759 6566 email: shop (at) blessberlin.de
If it weren't for the dazzling white space it inhabits, the name would seem perfectly apt. Located in an obscure, mid-city industrial estate, Darklands boasts an enormous collection of high-end men's (and, a recent addition, women's) fashion, most of which just happens to be moodily dark in colour.
Fashion cognoscenti should note that the store's array of edgy, unusual labels includes coveted pieces by cult Austrian designer Carol Christian Poell; Darklands is one of few places worldwide granted the honour of actually stocking them.
Finding the store is part of the experience, but check the website for directions before setting out. Tracking down the showroom isn't exactly easy, and besides, Darklands has a habit of changing premises on a fairly regular basis - its current location may well not be its last.
Hidden up a flight of stairs at the back of a Kreuzberg courtyard, you'll (eventually) find the 400 square metres of retail lushness that is xXx Berlin.
From high-end clothing and accessories to a smattering of music and art, the store's loft-like apartment spaces provide a studiedly gorgeous showcase for carefully selected goodies.
Fashionistas will think they're in heaven - xXx was, after all, featured in Italian Vogue - while everyone else will just want to move into this showroom-slash-pad permanently.
Three bedrooms are apparently available for creative types in need of lodgings, but unfortunately, most of us probably aren't about to receive an invitation.
xXx Berlin: Skalitzer Strasse 33 - 3 OG, 10999 Berlin; enter courtyard, left sidewing, 'Aufgang C' to 3rd floor.
Opening times: Wed-Sat, 12pm-7pm, and by appointment.
Despite Apartment's location smack-bang in the middle of tourist-magnet Mitte, it's a pretty good bet that few Berlin visitors ever drop by for a casual browse.
Simply because at street level there's rarely anything to see, with the apparently abandoned store resembling a glaringly unoccupied rising-rents casualty.
To access the retail area itself you'll need to descend the spiral staircase in the corner of the ground floor. Once underground, you'll find a range of designer labels and upmarket accessories displayed in a moodily-lit, atmospheric space.
Apartment: Memhardstraße 8, 10178 Berlin
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 12pm-7pm, and by appointment
While Andreas Murkudis is probably the best-known of Berlin's high-end shopping destinations, it's still not exactly a doddle to locate.
Tucked away in an unexpected courtyard off Potsdamer Straße, the massive emporium rubs shoulders with the area's high-end art galleries, and manages to look very much like one itself.
No casually dishevelled ambience here: this minimalist white cube displays its wares as if they were predestined for pedestals, and most come with matching price tags.
For those who'd prefer a slightly scaled-down Andreas Murkudis experience, there's also a recently opened branch in the hyped west Berlin shopping centre, Bikini Berlin.
Andreas Murkudis: Potsdamer Straße 81E, 10785 Berlin
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 10am-8pm
Berlin's exclusive Grunewald district is brimming with beautiful properties, although few are finer than the stately Villa Harteneck, an early 20th-century neoclassical residence.
What's more, this historic gem also happens to double as Die Villa, a purveyor of exactly the kind of luxury décor that wouldn't look out of place in many of its neighbouring, multi-million Euro homes.
Result? A perfect opportunity to ogle the lovely period rooms in all their interior-designed glory, and perhaps pick up something for your own pad while you're at it.
A famed on-site florist adds to the traditional luxury, and the expansive gardens are open to the public even when the 'store' itself is closed.