So, you’re thinking about moving to Cologne? You’ve come to the right place! Situated in the North Rhine, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany. Filled with over a million residents, this city offers a historic ambiance with a fast-paced lifestyle, making it a perfect choice for incoming internationals who want to experience the popular German culture.
In Cologne, you’ll find the rippling Rhine River running right through the city, along with its world-renowned cathedral. It is also a favorite amongst students on exchange in Germany, as the University of Cologne is one of the continent’s oldest and most respected institutions of higher learning. If you’re interested in a ladder-climbing internship in Germany, Cologne also offers a growing number of opportunities. However, if you’ve decided that you’re ready to begin your professional career, you’ll find yourself in great company here as well!
Of course, young expats also prefer an area that will offer an exciting nightlife scene, plus plenty of attractions, green spaces, dining, shopping and more. Fortunately, Cologne blends the historic feel of a European city with these modern conveniences, making it an enticing, attractive choice for living abroad.
Finding affordable, ideal housing can make all of the difference when you relocate, and luckily, Cologne offers a myriad of diverse choices, boasting some of the best neighborhoods in all of Germany.
You’ll find our Cologne Neighborhood Guide bursting with all of the information you’ll need to make a well-informed decision about where you will spend your upcoming time as an expat. You’ll learn more about Cologne as a city, some practical information about registration, public transportation, career-building opportunities and the most suitable neighborhoods for young internationals. Enjoy!
Now that you have decided you'll move to Cologne, you can begin to explore its wonderfully diverse areas. Whether you’re looking for something in the center of things or would like a quieter home base, you’ll be sure to find it in this welcoming city!
Also commonly known as the Ring, this vibrant area is the city center, making up the heart of Cologne. It is filled with opportunities for shopping, dining, entertainment, nightlife and contains the majority of Cologne’s tourist attractions. It is also well-known for its Belgain Quarter, where you can find shops and stalls offering all sorts of wares, from furniture to secondhand books.
Of course, this is not going to be an area for budget accommodation. But if you’re set on being in the middle of the action and the nightlife, and want to be able to walk to a lot of places, then it might be worth paying higher rent for.
Situated just west from Innenstadt, this neighborhood is a bit quieter, offering several green spaces and interesting shopping. It is also home to the University of Cologne’s campus, making it pretty popular with students. Residents can still walk to the Ring, but even though there aren’t as many options, Lindenthal also has its own nightlife if you want to party closer to home.
And if you’re looking for a more affordable option for housing, Lindenthal is typically considered quite a bit cheaper than the city center.
With both tram and U-Bahn stations, Nippes easily connects to the Ring or to Cologne’s university areas. Locals and visitors alike visit the Turkish groceries, and spend time at quirky cafés, bars and parks.
Rent can vary by area, but the more budget-friendly pricing is usually found in the northern section of the neighborhood.
Located to the northwest of the Ring, this is one of the most popular residential areas in all of the city. However it’s also where you’ll find shopping, dining and Cologne’s best club scene. The artistic crowd will also find cinemas and galleries to explore, along with film and art studios.
The accommodation prices can be high in the areas closest to the nightclubs, but there is also more affordable housing on the further side of the neighborhood.
Near the Rhine River, this area is popular with families and young professionals, offering access to beaches and plentiful green spaces. So in other words, you can definitely find a little peace and quiet here!
The pricing can vary, depending on the type of housing and its proximity to the river. You’ll want to explore the entire area to find more moderate housing or other more economical options.
These neighborhoods – all further out from the city center – offer more affordable accommodation, but are a lot more popular with locals than expats. Chorweiler boasts a large shopping mall next to the station, where you can take the "S-Bahn" to the city center in 15 minutes. Nearby Seeberg is a pretty area by the water; its ‘Fühlinger See’ is hugely popular in warmer seasons, and the Summer Jam Festival is held in this scenic neighborhood every year.
Porz is an area further out still, to the south-east, but is still connected by good transport links (the “S-Bahn” station is called Trimbornstrasse). The area has a village-y feel and is popular with families, but also has a lot of options if you want to sample international food.
Now, before you begin looking for your dream accommodation, you’ll need to first take care of a few practical things. It’s best to know as much as you can before you leave home, so that you can more easily gather any required documents. Additionally, it makes it a lot easier to get new copies of any lost or missing documentation.
Before you begin looking for flatmates or meeting new people who will also be moving to Cologne, you’ll need to understand the requirements for registration in Germany. As soon as you have your new address, it’s mandatory that you register it with the Registration Office, also known that the Bürgeramt. This is mandatory if you will be:
You will need to make an appointment within two weeks of arriving. To receive your registration confirmation, be sure to bring the following documents with you:
It also never hurts to be sure to have all of your documents translated into German, so as to avoid any delays. Plus, if you are attending a university, the German government will provide you with €50. Fill out the form that you can find online for your specific university, and bring it with you as well.
If you will be working in Germany, you will also be registered for a Tax Identification Number, commonly known as a TIN. It will be mailed to your current address as provided when registering your German address.
Depending on the length of your stay and other details of your individual circumstances, you may also need additional visas or permits.
There are two unique types of student visas:
If you are still finalizing the details of your university acceptance, then you can apply for a student applicant visa, which is valid for up to six months. Once you have confirmed your university acceptance, you may then apply to convert your student applicant visa into a full student visa.
Just remember that you cannot convert a tourist visa into a full student visa. You’ll need to have a student application visa to do this, or you can directly apply for a full student visa if you already have your university acceptance confirmation. For the German student visa application, you will need the following documents:
The requirements for your visa may vary, depending on the type and length of work that you plan to undertake. The Cologne foreign office will have the relevant information you need. Just be sure to plan ahead, as attaining a visa can take some time.
In general, you will be required to submit:
In Cologne, you’ll see plenty of residents riding bikes. Chances are that you will even see people in business attire cycling to and from the office. If you’re interested in a bike, you can easily purchase one from a secondhand shop, or you can check online forums. When you’re ready to return home, you can easily sell it back to another incoming international. If not, bike rental is big in Cologne, with e-scooters also being readily available.
Whenever you are considering a move abroad, it’s very important to be sure that you understand the public transportation system, and how you will get around in the city. Due to parking constraints and actually getting your vehicle from Point A to Point B, very few expats bring their cars when they relocate. However, if you hail from a non-European country and do plan on driving once you move, you will need to switch your driving license.
The great part of living in Cologne specifically is that the public transportation system is affordable, simple to use and runs frequently all over the city and beyond. It’s unlikely that you’ll need to drive, as you’ll have your pick of buses, trams and a light railway system!
Regardless of why you have moved to Cologne, you can find friendly neighborhoods that are close to a university, your place of employment or a trendy coworking space. Here are a few of the most well-known institutions and companies, so that you can easily recognize them when searching through the neighborhoods of the region.
If you are coming to Cologne to spend a few semesters at one of its award-winning universities, you’ll have many options from which to choose:
Europe is definitely a hotbed for innovative startups and other long-term businesses and corporations, which makes Cologne an ideal spot for young entrepreneurs hoping to kickstart their careers.
Some companies in Cologne that are popular with young internationals include:
Coworking spaces in Cologne are much more than trendy spots to sit and sip coffee while you Google a few things on your laptop. This is where you’ll find a host of freelancers, digital nomads, entrepreneurs and students – all networking together and enjoying an unwavering Wi-Fi connection. Plus, Cologne has several spaces to check out, including:
Now that you’ve read our comprehensive Cologne Neighborhood Guide, you’ll be better equipped to begin your new life there! Just follow your moving abroad checklist, be sure to set a budget that you will be able to stick to and start browsing through the accommodation listings on a trusted housing platform. Don't forget to check out our comprehensive guide on moving abroad here.
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