Eiergasse: Berlin’s shortest street

17. June 2024

There are many anecdotes in and around the Nikolaiviertel. One of them is how the city’s shortest street got its name. It’s still called Eiergasse to this day, is one of our most loved photo motifs and connects Nikolaikirchplatz with Mühlendamm over a distance of just 16 meters.

Finding our groceries in the appropriate section of the supermarket seems to be a no-brainer and so we navigate easily from the vegetable section to the dairy products. But things were not always so tidy. Our ancestors not only had to laboriously find their way through the maze of traders and market stalls, but also had to contend with sometimes catastrophic sanitary conditions. Berlin was of course no exception and many marketplaces along the Spree were extremely foul-smelling.

It is known with certainty that trade was already taking place at the northern end of the Mühlendamm in the early 13th century, as the site was conveniently located at the first fortified crossing of the River Spree between Berlin and Cölln. At the end of the 13th century, the “Neuer Markt” at Marienkirche was added to supply the population of the growing city. This soon became the busier of the two marketplaces.

The New Market was built around 1292 with more space, but it is said that in the middle of the 17th century, the Old Market on Mühlendamm became so crowded that the ox’s head was lying on the butter and the fish waste was swimming in the milk, which was just… not right. In 1650, the Prussian Elector Friedrich Wilhelm therefore ordered the goods on offer to be separated and from then on, dairy products were sold at Molkenmarkt and eggs in the Eiergasse – or Egg Alley.

A different and less distasteful account says that there simply wasn’t enough room on the Molkenmarkt for the growing number of traders and that all the egg traders therefore had to move to the small alley across the street.

There are also alternative explanations for the origin of the name Molkenmarkt, apart from the sale of dairy products from the Mühlenhof dairy located there. Another theory is that “Molkenmarkt” is derived from “Mollen”, the Low German word for “mills”. Also quite plausible for a “market located on the Mühlen(Mills)damm”.

However exactly things came about: we invite you to take a truly short walk through Berlin’s shortest street on your way through the Nikolai Quarter.