The ultimate guide to the cost of living in Cologne


Updated on Jan 27 • 5 minute read

There's one essential question that expats and students should ask themselves before moving to this multi-million metropolis with its truly unique attitude to life: What are the expected costs of living in Cologne?

Getting an idea of the costs of living is the cornerstone of any good planning for your relocation to Cologne, and it’s key to preventing any costly surprises. So is Cologne an expensive city to live in? How does the cost of living in Cologne compare to the average salary or to the living expenses in cities like Berlin?

We've broken down the cost of living in Cologne, Germany, to give you a bite-sized overview.

Is Cologne a good place to live?

Cologne has some quirks and characteristics that you won't find in any other major city in Germany. Let's be honest, compared to Hamburg and Munich, the Rhineland city doesn't flaunt the most picturesque cityscape. That said, moving to Cologne makes you realise that Cologne is more than just a city, it's above all a sentiment: one that is full of joie de vivre and tolerance!

The people of Cologne fully embrace their flaws; that's why they're tolerant of others. Köllefornia on the Rhine attracts expats and international students perhaps not because of its beauty or cost of living, but because of its sentiment. Ready to jump on the Kölsche vibe?

Is Cologne expensive to live in?

Cologne isn't the most expensive to live in, but it's certainly not a bargain either. A glance at the cost of living in Germany's 10 largest cities shows that Cologne ranks in the middle of the list.

On average,

you need around €2,140 per month to live in Cologne.

To get a feel for whether Cologne is expensive to live in, it's worth taking a look at the most expensive city in Germany-Munich, where the cost of living is around €2,846 per month. Comparing Cologne to the cheapest city in Germany-Leipzig, where you only need around €1,415 to get by. All in all: pretty average.

Cost of living in Cologne (2023): an overview

So, how expensive is it to live in Cologne now? The cost of living in Cologne is around €2,140 per month.

We take you through the breakdown of the various areas of the cost of living in Cologne:

Milk (1l)€1.09
Fresh bread€1.96
Rice (1kg)€2.02
Eggs (pack of 12)€2.66
Cheese (1kg)€11.37
Potatoes (1kg)€1.75
Tomatoes (1kg)€1.47
Wine (mid-range)€5.00
Local beer (0.5l) (Kölsch)€0.56
Leisure timePrice
Dinner at a restaurant€30
Cocktail in a bar€8.00
A McDonald's menu€9.00
Cappuccino (normal)€2.81
Water (0.33l)€1.89
Coca-Cola (0.33l)€2.37
Gym membership (monthly)€43
Cinema ticket€12.00
Theatre ticket€64

Single ticket2.10€
Monthly ticket (regular price)€84.40
Taxi basic fare€2.10

Students can get a student ticket and travel for free.

Room (shared accommodation)€829

With such rental prices, you'll want to make optimal use of each square metre. If you want to save on storage space, you should consider using providers such as Lager.Taxi that offer convenient and affordable storage services.

Is Cologne cheaper than Berlin?

The cost of living in Cologne is lower than in Berlin.

The average monthly salary in Cologne is around €2,385. That’s 20.6% less than the average salary in Berlin, which is around €3,000.

Expats in Cologne spend around 12.7% less on food, rent and leisure activities than in Berlin, and around the same amount on transport (e.g. gas, public transport).

Here's the good news: students don't have to pay tuition fees in Cologne and can use public transport for free with their student ticket!

Set in perspective: How much is the cost of living in Cologne compared to the salary?

Do you wonder whether the cost of living in Cologne of €2,140 is high or not? The question of how expensive or cheap a city is for its inhabitants ultimately comes down to the average salary in the area. In comparison to other German metropolitan areas, Cologne puts itself pretty much in the average range.

In Cologne,

the yearly average base salary is €51,323

or around €4,276 per month. In other words: you’ll be able to cope with the costs of living!

Cologne is a favourite among students despite the relatively high cost of living

Köllefornia is on par with the true California: Expats and students from all over the world are eager to gain their experience abroad in the Rhineland - despite the relatively high cost of living in Cologne.

For students in Germany, and therefore also Cologne, there are no university fees to pay. This perk in itself is what makes Germany much more attractive for universities than the UK, simply because it means much lower costs fall on students. On top of that, it's possible for students on a visa to apply for a residence permit for up to 18 months after graduating from university taking the pressure off you to start a career in Germany.

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