Night Tales: Munich

July 2023
Words by BSTN Chronicles

BSTN invite us on a night out to explore their kiosk culture

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they’re just open late.

While they are known by various names in different regions of the country (from ‘Späti’ to ‘Bude’ or ‘Trafik’), a kiosk is an essential element of nightlife culture in many German (-speaking) cities since it provides some of the essential items of nightlife culture – at the most relevant time of day night.

The word ‘Ladenöffnungszeitengesetz’ will tell you two things about Germans: Number one, they will probably win in Scrabble. And secondly, their lawmakers care irritatingly accurately about how long businesses – like supermarkets – are allowed to be open.

Luckily, there is German five-letter word for hero.

From a cold beverage, enjoyed on the walk from one bar to another, to a new lighter to replace the one you dropped on the crowded dance floor of the club you just left, the kiosk has got your back when traditional shops are closed.

America might run on Dunkin’ – or so the Boston-based coffee roaster claims – but on a warm summer night, Germany may very well run on these small, bodega-like stores, providing everything from cold drinks for those out on the town to replenishment for the home BBQ going into extra innings – all while circumventing the Ladenöffnungszeitengesetz.

However, the prevalence of these Swiss army knives of German nightlife varies significantly from city to city.

In particularly rural areas, a kiosk can even be at the epicenter of late-night options, narrowly edging out the local gas station for the number two spot behind an antiquated pub on main street, fueling party-goers on their way to next larger city.

But even in the metropolises, not all kiosk cultures are created equal. In cities like Berlin (or Cologne), the sheer density of Spätis can lead to entire nights being spent grabbing a new drink every few blocks, running into friends – old and new alike – at different kiosks all over town and watching the sun come up near your favorite corner store or by the Spree (or Rhein) river without ever having set foot into a bar or club that night.

By contrast, the Bavarian capital of Munich, known for its even stricter rules on shopping hours, only has a handful of kiosks, automatically turning the select few into high-value destinations for late-night travelers. Locals skillfully navigate their routes between bars and clubs accordingly while tourists often struggle – or end up at the one spot near the Isar river that’s listed in all Lonely Planet travel guides.

But then again, not all night caps are created equal either.