Most German cities have a very high standard of living. In fact, in Mercer’s annual quality of living survey (2019), 3 of Germany’s cities (Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt) ranked in the global top 10. This means that Germany’s cities are a great place to live, but their popularity also means it is not always easy to find a place to rent or buy. If you want to find a place to rent in Germany, start looking in advance to make sure you find your ideal new home.
So, what cities are the best places for expats to settle down?
Out of all of Germany’s cities, Munich has the highest quality of living and it’s not really a surprise as to why: the vibrant, multicultural city is full of art, history and culture, fun recreational activities, loads of green open spaces, beer gardens and tons of good job opportunities thanks to the many global companies based there, including Siemens, BMW and Allianz.
Despite being Germany’s 3rd largest city, the capital of Bavaria has a real community feel. Locals are friendly and welcoming, and with 37.7% of the population being foreign, you won’t feel like an outsider as an expat.
Unfortunately, all this comes at a price: Munich is the most expensive city in Germany. Rent is high and finding an affordable place to live can be hard, but the apartment/house hunt is sure to be worth it - there aren’t many cities where you can float through the city by river (no boat needed), go surfing and take a day trip to the Alps!
The capital city of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region, Düsseldorf, is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city that spans both sides of Germany’s famous Rhine.
Home to numerous banks, multinational headquarters, world leading media companies and a desire to attract talent from all over the world, there are lots of attractive job prospects making it a great place for expats to build and progress in their careers. Many of the international companies are keen to hire English speakers so you’re limited/non-existent German knowledge shouldn’t be a problem.
With excellent international schools, affordable housing and a high standard of living, it is also a great place for expat families. As mayor Thomas Geisel states, ‘it’s a comfortable, friendly, tolerant...city with a certain ease about it’.
Frankfurt is the banking/financial capital of Germany, so is the place to be if you want to work in finance. It also has a very strong international vibe: with around 180 different nationalities represented, you won’t have any trouble finding someone who shares your culture and/or language when you feel a little homesick. With so many different cultures all in one place, the city also has a huge variety of cuisines to taste and enjoy.
Another great thing about Frankfurt? It is right in the middle of Germany and Europe. You can easily hop on a train and explore Germany, and even reach cities like Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels in a couple of hours. Home to Germany’s largest commercial airport, the world is your oyster when it comes to potential travel destinations.
Nicknamed ‘Mainhattan’ thanks to its towering skyline, Frankfurt has a high cost of living, but the standard is excellent. The high demand for affordable housing means good deals are snapped up fast, so it’s wise to start looking for a place quite far in advance.
Outside the world top 10 for quality of living but a great place to call home nonetheless, Berlin is Germany’s largest city and also boasts the country’s largest expat community. Full to the brim with history and culture, summer temperatures in the early 30s (℃), loads of clean lakes for a refreshing dip, cycle-friendly roads, miles of green spaces, a great nightlife scene and bars on every street, it's perfect for students, young professionals, expat families and retirees.
As Germany’s capital city, there is no shortage of job opportunities. With huge organisations, like Zalando and SAP, there are a lot of job options for internationals, especially in the science and tech industries. Berlin also has a big start-up scene.
Plus it’s cheap - as far as capital cities go anyway! Not only will your rent be less than in many other Western European cities, you will also get more space for your money, so you don’t need to live an hour outside the city to have an affordable, decent family-sized apartment. As Berlin is so big, it is made up of lots of different neighbourhoods: areas such as Kreuzberg are very family-friendly, whereas neighbourhoods such as Prenzlauer Berg are better suited for students. Make sure you bear this in mind when apartment hunting.
Apart from these top 4, cities such as Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne are also great places for expats. If you aren’t quite sure where you want to settle down and want to consider all your options, try searching for rental options across Germany and see what you find.