Die Altstadt von Münster mit Blick auf die St. Lambertikirche, © Oliver Franke, Tourismus NRW e. V.

His­tor­ic and quaint places to shop in NRW

Strolling along pic­tur­esque half-timbered houses

There are many places in NRW to en­joy a shop­ping ex­per­i­ence in quaint his­tor­ic sur­round­ings.

Quaint winding streets in cities like Aachen, Münster and Bonn provide the backdrop for a shopping experience with a difference. These are places far removed from the familiar large department store chains. Stores here specialise in unusual and exquisitely-made items, from high-end fashion to the epicurean delights which are best enjoyed in one of the many street cafés. In Münster, the medieval arcades of the patricians’ houses located between the townhouse tower, the town hall and St. Lamberti Church provide a charming backdrop for today’s international visitors (and not just when it’s raining). The buildings where the merchants of Münster lived and worked in the 15th century are now home to high-end boutiques, jewellers and antique stores. Trendier shops popular with students can be found in the Kiepenkerlviertel district in the old town. The choice on offer ranges from furniture and homewares to clothing.

Finely made items and fine foods await visitors in the historic surroundings of Aachen. Tea from exotic lands, wine from exclusive wine-growing areas and a salty variety of liquorice can be found here alongside fashion and jewellery stores. Not everything on sale is brand new, however. The border city of Aachen has embraced the Dutch trend of upcycling, which means that shoppers are likely to find creative reinterpretations of grandma’s old knitted jumper or last season’s summer dress.

Bonn’s old town transformed into a sea of pink every spring

Plenty of variety can also be found in the old town of Bonn, which is “just” 100 years old. Formerly the district of craftsmen and tradesmen, it is now filled with small independent shops, studios and bars. The best time to visit is spring, when the streets are transformed by a spectacular sea of pink cherry blossoms. 

In Bielefeld and Paderborn, there is also more of a focus on stylish one-off items rather than mass-produced goods. Small designer fashion shops, studios and delicatessens make for an interesting stroll through these cities’ historic old towns. A hip up-and-coming district with bars and pubs and what is reputed to be one of the best burger joints in the state can be found in the vicinity of Emil-Groß-Platz in Bielefeld. Further east, there is much to explore in the narrow streets of Höxter on the Weser. The colourfully painted half-timbered houses in the Weser Renaissance style are a testimony not just to the skills of the master builders of the time – fascinating stories can also be read on their facades. The Adam and Eve House, for example, depicts scenes from the pair’s fall from grace as well as other bible stories. Even more history beckons at the nearby Schloss Corvey, which became NRW’s fifth UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

Strolling by half-timbered houses

There are other places in NRW where visitors can take a leisurely stroll along quaint half-timbered streets. With a rather unprepossessing location between Essen and Wuppertal lies Hattingen, the main town in the Ennepe-Ruhr district. It does, however, have a pretty old town with excellent shopping opportunities. A stroll along the streets lined with half-timbered houses will reveal numerous small boutiques selling unique items.

Shopping in the old towns of Xanten, Kempen and Kevelaer

There are also great opportunities for old town shopping in the Lower Rhine. The carefully restored town centre of Moers with its nearby castle park, the new Klosterhof residential and commercial complex in Kempen and the centre of Xanten are all popular destinations for a spot of leisurely shopping. Then there is Kevelaer, where shopping is elevated to a higher level, so to speak. A stroll through the old town with its mix of traditional and modern buildings is like being on a pilgrimage. As well as familiar brand names, there are also any number of owner-run businesses and pretty boutiques. But it is the plethora of small shops piled high with rosary beads, figures of saints and angels, candles, and other Christian devotional objects that has to be seen to be believed.

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