Best cities in Germany to live: a city comparison (2022)

Marle

Updated on Jan 05 • 10 minute read

With its top-notch universities and attractive career prospects, living in Germany stands out among expats and international students. But before diving into a culture true to the motto “work hard, play hard”, you’ll have to make a decision on where to live in Germany.

Wondering what are the best cities in Germany to live in?

Here are the 5 best places to live in in Germany:

  1. Berlin
  2. Hamburg
  3. Munich
  4. Frankfurt
  5. Stuttgart

Truth be told, there is no universal consensus on the best place to live in Germany. The choice is pretty much an individual one, for instance, there are different factors that certainly weigh more heavily for one expat and less for an international student.

We’ll walk you through their:

  • career opportunities (Which city in Germany has more job opportunities?)
  • university prospects (Which city offers the best study options?)
  • quality of life (Which is the safest city in Germany?)
  • costs of living (Where is the cheapest place to live in Germany?)
  • and internationality (Where are international hubs?)

to help you make a decision that matches your personal needs and expectations.

1. Berlin

A city full of contrasts: you’ll discover historical buildings next to modern architecture; a laid-back mentality that meets a fast-paced atmosphere; flourishing cultures from all over the world that clash with the Berliner Schnauze.

The capital of Germany is constantly reinventing itself and rather wonderfully, you’ll see this mirrored by the people living in Berlin.

Career opportunities

Berlin is undeniably the startup hub of Germany that triggers entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into businesses. It’s high living standard for relatively low costs evoked a vast startup ecosystem with umpteen opportunities to network.

And Berlin masters both: startups and large corporations. That’s also why so many major companies are based in Berlin, including Zalando, hellofresh, Pfizer, SAP or Flixbus. So, you'll never find yourself lacking opportunities, whether you're looking for a new job or an internship.

Expats that are seeking jobs in startups, science or technology will find plenty of opportunities in Berlin.

University prospects

The academic institutions are famous for their wide variety of English-taught programs: Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Technische Universität Berlin (Technical University of Berlin) are globally recognized for their quality of higher education. And Berlin is also known for its art universities that shape the creative minds of the future.

Among internationals, Berlin is the top city for foreign students in Germany. With other internationals around you, Berlin will make you feel at home in a blink of an eye!

Quality of Life

At first glance, Berlin might give off the impression of a grey, concrete jungle.

But once you arrive in the city, you’ll realize how green it is with its parks, rivers and lakes covering one third of Berlin.

While the exclusive boutiques and baroque façades in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf creates a feel à la Champs-Élysées for you, Berlin Pankow boasts green areas, a relaxed character and magnificent streetscapes.

Of course, Berlin is known for its wild nightlife, with clubs that stay open throughout the week and parties that never end. But those looking for a more relaxed lifestyle will find other benefits of this metropolis. You'll find a variety of coworking spaces, libraries, museums, and English-friendly cinemas.

As is unsurprising for most capital cities, Berlin is classified as the most dangerous city in Germany, with 13 746 criminal offences registered by the police per 100 000 inhabitants in 2019. Keep in mind though: Germany is in general one of the safest countries in the world. Hence, Berlin remains a safe city in an international context.

Cost of Living

Berlin is one of the cheapest capitals in Western Europe. When you’re going out for food with friends, you will most likely spend no more than € 10 for your meal.

Did you know that overall, the cost of living in Berlin is 32.31% lower than in New York?

Average rental prices in Berlin (2021):

  • Private room: € 552
  • Studio: € 1200
  • Apartment: € 1393

Internationality

If you’re less enthusiastic about learning a new language such as German, Berlin will be a great match for you. It's the city with the lowest linguistic barrier against English in Germany, so you’ll be speaking a familiar language in your day-to-day life. One thing is for sure: in your expat life in Berlin you won't miss out on the latest movies, news or cultural events!

All things considered, Berlin really earned its spot as the best place to live in Germany as an expat.

2. Munich

Home to Lederhosen, Oktoberfest and beer en masse, living in Munich will get you closest to an experience straight out of the books of German stereotypes.

Career opportunities

Munich offers attractive career opportunities for expats in financial services or consumer electronics and the automotive industry.

The Bavarian capital is the base for major global corporations including BMW Group, Allianz AG, Microsoft Deutschland GmbH, Airbus Group or Siemens.

University prospects

As a global comparison, Munich presents one of the top-ranked student cities in the world.

Technical University of Munich, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and the Munich University of Applied Sciences are some of the top-rated universities that offer a wide range of English-taught programs.

Good to know: Tuition fees in Germany are very low (~ €300/ semester) all across the country. On top of that, with a bit of research, you’ll find many scholarship opportunities!

Quality of Life

Munich is the safest city in Germany. In comparison to other cities with above 200 000 citizens, Munich has the lowest crime rate. In 2019, Mercer Quality of Life Survey awarded Munich with the 3rd highest quality of life across the world, and joint 2nd for infrastructure.

Get yourself ready for locally brewed beer, an ultimate blend of old and new architecture, and a weekend getaway to the Alps or Northern Italy!

Cost of Living

The economic growth and high quality of life is naturally reflected in the costs of living. Munich presents one of the most expensive cities in Germany.

To be precise, it’s the 49th most expensive city in Europe. Since the city is so popular among Germans and internationals, rent is also significantly higher than for other German cities.However, keep in mind that Munich generally has many well-paid foreign expats.

Big Apple benchmark time: Munich is 35% cheaper than New York!

Average rental prices in Munich (2021):

  • Private room: € 686
  • Studio: € 1031
  • Apartment: € 1523

Internationality

With 530 000 citizens with a foreign background, around 37.7% of the city’s population is international. And a closer look shows us that 16% of Munich’s total population are international students!

Where the clichés of Lederhosen and Weißwurst come true, Munich is the best place in Germany to live up to your expectations of the German experience.

3. Hamburg

What many people don't know is that the charming port city of Hamburg boasts over 2 000 bridges that cross the city’s rivers and canals – more than Venice and Amsterdam combined! The green city in the north offers a rich water culture and magical architectural gems.

Career opportunities

Hamburg’s bustling economy revolves around the media, entertainment or finance sector. Its vast commercial corporations offer exciting career and internship prospects for expats in marketing, communication and other commercial roles.

On top of that, the city is a dream come true for expats that work in logistics since Hamburg is home to the 3rd largest port in Europe.

University prospects

The universities in Hamburg celebrate an affirmative global reputation. Hamburg’s universities, such as Hamburg University of Technology and the Hamburg University of Applied Science, (or the latest addition HafenCity University) attract many international students.

Quality of Life

The northern city will captivate you with Lake Alster at its heart, bustling shopping district, unparalleled cultural events and seafood straight from the salty source. Hamburg's neighbourhoods are rich in beauty and beautifully rich. Its districts boast bustling urban areas with a historic flair such as Schanzenviertel in Hamburg-Altona. Don’t forget your umbrella though: it’s one of the rainiest cities in Germany.

Hamburg is generally safe compared to any other metropolitan city in Europe. You can safely walk alone during day and night or ask a stranger for directions.

Cost of Living

Hamburg has the highest density of millionaires and its vast corporations in the media, entertainment and commercial industry have established a strong economy. Therefore, the costs of living are higher than in other German cities: Hamburg is 9% more expensive than Berlin.

Next up on the New York comparison scale is Hamburg where the cost of living is 29.71% lower than in New York.

Average rental prices in Hamburg (2021):

  • Private room: € 519
  • Studio: € 766
  • Apartment: € 1100

Internationality

Knowing a few phrases in German will make living in Germany a bit easier. In Hamburg, you can expect people to speak a basic level of English and you’ll make it through your day to day life without speaking German.

With its independent cinemas and theatres and its news in English, you won't miss a beat to keep your finger on the pulse of the city as an expat in Hamburg.

Nevertheless, Germans have the tendency to be rather hesitant to speak English if they haven’t fully mastered the language. Try to memorize some basics in German – you’ll be sure to earn some bonus points! Even a cheerful “Dankeschön!” can break the intercultural ice.

4. Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main, also known as Mainhattan, takes you on a trip to New York City with its impressive skyscraper skyline and fast-paced business vibes. Literally though! The international airport in Frankfurt takes you from Mainhattan to Manhattan in only 8.5 hours.

Career opportunities

Once you step foot into the financial district of Frankfurt, the headquarters of the European Central Bank, German Federal Bank, Frankfurt Stock Exchange and Deutsche Bank await.

Frankfurt is the ultimate place to kickstart your career in finance, with its attractive prospects for employment and internships.

University prospects

International students that are keen to immerse themselves in the center of things and be surrounded by a hands-on learning atmosphere for finance and business, can choose from a wide range of English taught higher education institutions.

The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University is one of the oldest and top-ranked universities in Germany that offers great programs in social sciences. Frankfurt School of Finance and Management can serve as your direct gateway into the finance industry, while Max Planck Institutes are the best destinations for anyone interested in brain science.

Quality of Life

On-time travels in your day to day life and outstanding flight connections are commonplace. The Mercer Quality of Life Survey anointed Frankfurt as the city with the best infrastructure in the world. A true paradise for expats with a need for travel connectivity!

Frankfurt is also home to many great networking events and conventions. You can attend the International Book Fair, the Frankfurt Trade Fair, and the many startup meetups organized in this buzzing city. So, you won't find yourself short of opportunities to mingle and expand your social circle.

Cost of Living

Expats will experience a relatively generous salary in Germany in the financial sector and a high degree of employment security. Due to its strong economy and high quality of life, the rent in Frankfurt is higher compared to other German cities.

In this episode of how crazy expensive New York is, Frankfurt is 27.21% cheaper than the Big Apple!

Average rental prices in Frankfurt (2021):

  • Private room: € 633
  • Studio: € 912
  • Apartment: € 1066

Internationality

Whenever you take a stroll through the streets of Frankfurt, you’ll hear many different languages around you. Because of its central location in Germany and Europe as well as its status as the finance capital of Germany, Frankfurt attracts many foreigners.

Its internationality and abundance of career opportunities make it one of the best cities in Germany to live as an expat!

5. Stuttgart

In the valley of mountains and vineyards, you’ll find an economically flourishing city: Stuttgart. Once you arrive in the city, the feeling of being in a fairytale will forever linger. With its boiler-like shaped valley, the capital of Baden-Württemberghas higher temperatures compared to the average in Germany. Get ready for your summer weekends in the mountains and vineyards!

Career opportunities

Stuttgart is home to a number of automobile companies such as Porsche and Daimler. It therefore comes as no surprise that around 20% of Stuttgart's citizens work in the automotive industry.

Moreover, Stuttgart is also home to many innovative startups that are always on the lookout for young professionals.

Expats with an engineering degree, developers, industrial engineers, or IT project managers will find a lot of attractive prospects in Stuttgart.

University prospects

You’ll find a high density of academic, research and science centres in Stuttgart. The upcoming talents for the automotive industry are trained on-site in Stuttgart’s universities, institutions famous for their engineering degrees.

University of Stuttgart is the largest university in the city, and also one of the most international ones. About 21% of all its students come from abroad.

If you're looking for a study in agricultural and food sciences, you might look into the oldest local university, University of Hohenheim.

Quality of Life

Stuttgart is the safest city in Germany with 8 535 recorded crimes per 100 000 citizens. In this regard, for expats with families, Stuttgart may be the best city to live in Germany.

The city is surrounded by valleys and vineyards, botanic gardens and castles.

If you love wine, you shouldn't miss the famous annual Weindorf Festival (wine village) held in the summer. And appreciators of art will enjoy the exhibitions at The State Gallery and The Kunstmuseum of Stuttgart.

You’ll easily create the ultimate work-life balance for yourself in this city.

Cost of Living

The automotive industry is the main contributor to Stuttgarts’ economic wealth and therefore, pushes Stuttgart towards the top of expensive cities in Germany. Big Apple benchmark time: The cost of living in Stuttgart is 30.33% lower than in New York.

Average rental prices in Stuttgart:

  • Private room: € 563
  • Studio: € 846
  • Apartment: € 1278

Internationality

Due to Stuttgart's strong economy, major international corporations are located in the city. As many expats relocate to Stuttgart with their families to work in one of the headquarters, the city offers an international school for kids from abroad.

Conclusion: Which German city is the best to live in?

So, we just talked about the best cities in Germany you could choose as your new home. Though here may not be a single answer, we hope this guide helps you weigh up the options and the right choice.

We walked you through the

  • career prospects,
  • university prospects,
  • costs of living,
  • quality of life, and
  • level of internationality

of five German cities popular among expats and international students.

Now the choice is in your hands! Reflect on the factors that matter most to you when moving abroad – and choose the city that best matches your needs!

So, what's the best city in Germany to live in for you?

1. Berlin: Young professionals might get more excited about the flourishing startup scene in Berlin to live out their entrepreneurial spirit.

2. Hamburg: 'Hamburg, meine Perle'. Spoiler: you'll fall in love with this richly beautiful (or beautifully rich?) city in no time at all; its contrasting historical charm blended into creative urban scenes won't disappoint you.

3. Munich: If you’re an expat with kids, you might want to choose the safest city in Germany with secure job prospects.

4. Frankfurt: Living the Wall Street dreams in Mainhatten? In Frankfurt, you’ll immerse yourself in an ambitious atmosphere of finance and business.

5. Stuttgart: If you strive for a career in Germany’s automotive industry, Stuttgart is the place to be.

With its strong economic system that offers high salaries and a healthy work-life balance, Germany boasts attractive prospects for expats and international students. Now it’s up to you to clarify your expectations and choose the best place for you to live in and experience life in Germany!

As soon as you found your dream destination, you can start planning your move to Germany and looking for a place you'll soon call home.

Please reach out to content@housingnayhwere.com if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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