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Where to live in Hamburg

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Ultimate Guide to Hamburg's Neighborhoods

Bryony

Oct 21 • 8 minute read

Considering moving to Germany? If so, Hamburg should definitely be on your potential-new-home list. Why? Well for starters, this bustling city attracts visitors year-round, no doubt for the striking blend of modern city and historic town.

Nestled in northern Germany by the Elbe River, Hamburg is filled with canals and green spaces, making it an ideal spot if you enjoy being outdoors (even if it’s just for a drink in one of the dozens of beer gardens dotted across the city). A growing number of expats seeking internships, making career choices or studying at the university are calling Hamburg home and settling into one of the city’s many diverse neighborhoods.

This Hamburg Neighborhood Guide includes all of the things that you’ll need to know to make an informed decision about how and where to set up base in Hamburg. From registration to transportation, you’ll feel like a local in no time!

Getting Started

Before you begin meeting new people on Facebook groups and deciding on your favorite nightclub, there are a few practical things that you should get in order, many of which are much easier to plan from home. When you need to gather documents, keep in mind that it’s far less stressful to find or replace those that are missing from your own country, rather than as an expat in an unfamiliar place.

Registration

Once you secure your accommodation in Hamburg and have your new address, you must go to the Registration Office, which is more locally referred to as the Bürgeramt. This entire process is absolutely mandatory if you:

  • Will reside in Germany for three or more months
  • Will study or work in Germany
  • Will open a bank account

Within two weeks of arriving in Hamburg, the first step is to make an appointment for your registration. To receive your confirmation, take the following documents to your appointments:

  • A signed and completed registration form
  • Your official appointment number (if you booked online)
  • A valid passport
  • Your original birth certificate
  • Your confirmation of accommodation

To avoid delays, it’s a great idea to have everything translated into German. Additionally, if you’re attending a German university, the government will give you €50 which could help you cover translation costs. All you’ll need to do is fill out the form from your university and bring it with you to your appointment.

Additionally, you’ll be registered for a Tax Identification Number, also known as a TIN. It will be sent to the address that was provided upon the registration of your new German address.

Visas and Permits

Everyone has different reasons for visiting Hamburg. So, depending on your individual circumstances and the length of your stay, you may also need additional visas or permits.

Students

Two different types of student visa are available:

  • Full student visa
  • Student applicant visa

Valid for up to six months, the student applicant visa is the best option if you are still finalizing some of the details for your university registration. Once you have written confirmation from your academic institution, then you may receive a full student visa by converting your student applicant visa.

However, keep in mind that you can’t convert a tourist visa into a full student visa! The only visa you can convert into a full student visa is a student application visa. Or, you may fill out an application for a full student visa, as long as you have written confirmation of your university acceptance.

To apply for a German student visa application, you’ll need to produce the following documents:

  • A signed and completed application form
  • Proof of valid health insurance
  • Financial support confirmation
  • Certificate of German language proficiency (or proof that you are enrolled to receive it)
  • University Entrance Qualification
  • Confirmation of acceptance and enrollment to your selected university

Workers

Depending on the length of work and the type of assignment that you will take on, the visa requirements could vary. Therefore, it’s typically best to gain the relevant information from the Hamburg foreign office. Just be sure to always plan ahead, as receiving your visa can sometimes take a little time.

Be prepared to submit the following documents:

  • Signed and completed application form
  • Valid passport
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Proof of clean criminal record
  • Proof of German language proficiency
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of a job offer

Public Transportation

Your move to Hamburg will be that much simpler once you thoroughly understand the public transportation network at your disposal. When you begin looking at neighborhoods, it can also help you understand how long your commute will be, and if you can save a little money by living outside the city center.

Even though Hamburg boasts over 1.8 million residents, it’s still fairly easy to get around without feeling jammed, especially with a transportation system sporting buses, ferries and trains. The service on time and (if you get a travel card) inexpensive, which will certainly help with your budgeting. If you’re enrolled

When you’re in close proximity, the city center is also very walkable, or you can hire a bicycle with the popular StadtRAD scheme.

Universities, Startups and Coworking

Hamburg is a mind-blowing city to explore, filled with plenty of attractions, museums, dining and much more. Maybe you want to live right in the middle of the action, and have the budget set aside for it. Or, perhaps it makes more sense for you to stay closer to one of Hamburg’s world-renowned universities or business centers!

Universities

Chances are that you’re moving to complement your education with a semester or two studying abroad in Germany. A few good institutions to consider in Hamburg include:

  • University of Hamburg
  • The Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg)
  • Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH Hamburg)
  • Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA)

Some student associations that you’ll want to look into are:

  • AIESEC Hamburg
  • IAESTE Hamburg
  • ESN Hamburg

Startups and Employment

Europe is becoming increasingly known for its trendy, successful startups and major industry opportunities. This makes it an excellent place to get some real-life work experience, or to begin climbing the corporate ladder.

Internationals seem to love startups and exciting internships, especially those firmly rooted in tech. Some of the most popular in Hamburg include:

  • Jimdo
  • Unilever
  • Deposit Solutions
  • Quantilope
  • Kreditech
  • WorkGenius
  • eBlocker

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces aren’t just hip places to hang out in, exchange business cards and drink coffee. In fact, they are the office of choice for entrepreneurs, freelancers, digital nomads and even students. Of course, you can meet like-minded individuals and make use of a strong Wi-Fi connection. Plus, the good news is that Hamburg has a growing number from which to choose, including:

  • Shhared
  • Mindspace
  • Betahaus
  • Beehive
  • WeWork
  • Rent24

Hamburg’s Neighborhoods

Hamburg offers seven unique districts for living, with each possessing its own individual charm, personality and unique residents. Hamburg is one of the most authentic German cities, so it’s the perfect place to find accommodation when you’re hoping to truly immerse yourself in the German culture. Regardless of exactly what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find a neighborhood to suit your needs in Hamburg.

Mitte

Right in the city center, you’ll find some of the reasons that tourists visit Hamburg, including trendy boutiques, popular restaurants, landmarks, museums and the Hamburg State Opera. If you’re ready to dance the night away, the area of St. Pauli is where you’ll want to meet with friends and go club hopping into the early hours.

However, due to its central location and proximity to attractions and nightlife, Mitte is typically expensive when it comes to rental prices. Yet, it is close to most of the campuses, so some people accept the higher costs as a trade-off for being able to travel to so many places on foot.

Altona

Situated northwest of the city center and Mitte, Altona is a thriving area known for its culture and shopping options. Also like Mitte, it sports a pulsing nightlife scene, with plenty of late-night eateries for post-dancing fuel. If you really enjoy the outdoors and spaces with a view, this exceptional area is also close to the Elbe River.

Altona can be a bit on the pricey side, considering it’s right in the center of the best restaurants and cultural hotspots. However, you can find housing in some areas that are priced a bit lower, but know that these flats won’t stay empty for long!

Schanzenviertel is an area that is right in the middle of Altona, and close to the train station. It’s a popular residential area for students, internationals and artists. Plus, you can always find second-hand stores, vintage clothing shops and low-key local pubs.

Eimsbüttel

Teeming with historical appeal, Eimsbüttel is a favorite residential area. If you have the shopping bug, the Osterstraße shopping street will not disappoint, which is also home to the annual Osterstraße Festival. You’ll also find diverse dining options, including numerous delicatessens that are great for a young international’s budget.

This may be the smallest of the neighborhoods of Hamburg, but it’s also the most densely populated, once again highlighting its popularity. This makes it a busy area with stylish buildings, some with lovely Art-Nouveau architectural details. But if you want to wind down with a gentle jog or try your hand at standup paddling, you could join the other young people heading to the relaxing Alster Lake and Eimsbüttel park.

You may still pay a premium for this magnetic neighborhood, but not quite as much as the city center. Plus, it boasts several public transportation connections as well as the site for the Hamburg School of Music and Theatre.

Hamburg Nord

Just north of the city center (as the name implies) Hamburg Nord is known as the place to go for a jog or to walk one of its many trails around the Alster Artificial Lake. It’s not too far from Mitte, but the prices are much more reasonable, especially for an expat’s budget.

There are large residential buildings in the southern portion of the area, while the most northern area is a little further from the city center with a less urban vibe. Plus, Hamburg Nord is close to Hamburg Airport, so your arrivals and departures will be conveniently close.

Wandsbek

Wandsbek is home to more residents than any other neighborhood in Hamburg, boasting single-family houses and oversized apartment buildings for over 420,000. This means it’s a great area for those wishing to share a larger space with a few friends, colleagues or other students. It’s close to the city center, but definitely calls for lower rent.

It also features sports stadiums and other forms of recreation, such as Outer Alster Lake, so it’s a favorite weekend spot for a lot of young people. You can also expect nature reserves, including Hamburg’s oldest – Wohldorfer Wald – dating from 1770.

Bergedorf

Now, Bergedorf, in contrast, is Hamburg’s lowest-densely populated area, even though it’s geographically large. In fact, it’s very tranquil, with numerous options for biking through the woods or walking along the Elbe River. However, to balance it out there’s a railway station, a large shopping district and Schloss Bergedorf, a historic castle and popular tourist attraction.

Since it’s a bit beyond the city center, you’ll learn that rent will be a little lower. Yet, there are a number of public transportation connections to get you where you want to go in mere minutes.

Harburg

Home to the Hamburg University of Technology, Harburg used to be its own city. Now it’s close to the Elbe River and is a favorite amongst students. It’s also home to Harburg’s historic city hall and the location of the annual Binnenhafen Festival.

Due to its location across the river, you’ll get a break from the high prices of the city center. Yet, it is well-connected by bus routes and S-Bahn stations.

So, which Hamburg neighborhood will you go for? After reading our guide, you may already want to start making your own moving abroad checklist, work out a real-world budget and begin looking to book a place in Hamburg. This will be one of the most adventurous times of your life. Hamburg awaits!

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