Deck the malls

by Marius Busch
Contibuting writer

If you’re someone who loves to shop till you drop, and you are on the prowl for some prime shopping, it’s time to discover the European malls. You heard me: malls.

While Germans typically enjoy downtown shopping centers, there are some malls in this area reminiscent of the ones you love from back home in the states – the kind of good old fashioned, “get all your holiday shopping done at one location” kind of malls.

So, put on your best walking shoes and prepare to be a defensive holiday mall shopper as we present to you a few tips and mall details to help you venture out and find your new favorite mall-rat hang out.

And remember, general opening hours for malls are between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., and they are not typically open on Sunday.

The Saarpark Center in Neunkirchen
Fairly close to Kaiserslautern, this mall features about 120 stores and 2,400 parking slots – sounds like a lot, but you still may have to do the parking lot dance, so get there early and be prepared to pay an hourly parking fee between 50 euro cents and €1.20. During the Christmas season, the festive decoration and entertaining Christmas events will put you and your family in a jolly ol’ Christmas spirit. Keep two special shopping dates in mind: Dec. 2, the mall is open between 1 p.m and 6 p.m. and Dec. 15, you can shop till you drop; the mall is open until midnight.

The Rhein-Neckar Zentrum in Viernheim
Located near Mannheim, this mall is well worth the 45 minute drive from Kaiserslautern. With 3,800 free parking spots and a sunny and bright, newly renovated appearance with a light-colored floor and sky-windows, you’ll immediately feel like home.

Get some stress-free shopping time or secretly pick up your little one’s much desired holiday gift. If your kids are older than three years, you can leave them with five certified childcare professionals for €1 per hour. Oh, and while you are here, don’t miss out on a good all-American Java fix – yes, this mall has a Starbuck’s Coffee shop.

The Rathaus-Center in Ludwigshafen
In the heart of Ludwigs-hafen, about 40 miles from Kaiserslautern, you can explore the variety of 75 stores under the roof of the Rathaus-Center.

Although not quite as large as some other malls, here you can experience the Christmas season in a fairytale themed, decorated ambience with stage events and an in-house Christmas market. It makes shopping at this mall a unique family trip.

The Designer Outlet Zweibrücken
Just like the outlet malls you know from the states, the DOZ, as it is called by the locals, offers selected designer clothes at reduced prices. If you are looking for a great brand name bargains, this is the place to be, but be prepared to really dig. Some of the clothes have slight flaws or may be last year’s fashions.

Among such great names as Esprit, Mango, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike and more than 70 more designer brands, you’ll find everything from sporty to elegant, classic to extravagant, understated to flamboyant.

Take a short break at one of the tasty coffee shops, enjoy a delicious snack and get your caffeine kick to keep moving. Parking is free but be aware that the DOZ closes at 7p.m. Monday to Saturday.