The 9 Best Places To Live In Germany As An Expat

Discover the best cities and towns to live in Germany for expats.

Germany is quite a big and diverse country and when it comes to where in Germany should you choose to live, there are plenty of options. 

In this guide, you will find the list of the best places to live in Germany, the locations worthy of your consideration whether you are looking for a bustling city with career opportunities, a vibrant urban environment or a quiet and peaceful retirement spot.

Most expats in Germany live in big cities, the most popular choices being Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Hamburg.

1. Berlin

Before we get into the details, let’s first take a look at what makes Berlin such an attractive place for expats from all over the globe.

Best places to live in Germany - Berlin
Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas’ Quarter) in Old Berlin

The German capital is one of the fastest-growing cities in all of Europe and is now home to nearly 3.5 million people, making it the most populated German city. 

Needless to say, it also has a very high quality of life and a world-class, multicultural feel to it that’s hard to find anywhere else in the country.

One of the biggest reasons for this is the sheer number of expats that have been moving here. Berlin is one of the most popular destinations on the planet for expats and for good reasons. ​

In 2014, Berlin saw an increase of expats moving here by 8% to reach a total of almost 52,000 international migrants. 

This trend shows no sign of slowing down, either.

The city also has the highest number of English-speaking residents in all of Germany, which is a big plus for anyone looking to make new friends or business contacts.

The number of English speakers has grown 20% since 2010, making it one of the most important reasons for people moving here or staying here.

It is also worth mentioning that a majority of the population holds a non-German passport, making it easier for newcomers to adapt to the culturally diverse setting.

Berlin has the highest number of international schools per capita in Germany, making it the ideal city for expat families.

Apart from that, there are a lot of museums, galleries, and other cultural centres that you can enjoy. There is excellent nightlife in this city, and you will never get bored. This city has a lot to offer.

2. Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is often overlooked by expats in Germany.

It’s not the first choice of location for English-speaking expats, but it’s still the fourth biggest city in Germany with a population of more than 600,000. So if you are after a proper urban living with a high quality of life, you should definitely consider Düsseldorf

Best places to live in Germany - Düsseldorf
Konigsallee or King’s Avenue, Düsseldorf’s most prominent feature, is one of the world’s grandest luxurious boulevards

Düsseldorf has a lot to offer expats in terms of culture, entertainment and quality of life. The city is internationally oriented and has one of the highest quality of living in the world. 

Düsseldorf has no real rival when it comes to shopping. The city centre offers you a great combination of fashion boutiques and small local stores. You can find almost everything you are looking for.

The city is a centre for media, business and trade and there are more than 300 international companies located there. 

Düsseldorf is known as the fashion capital of Germany with leading brands in the clothing industry, including Hugo Boss, Escada and Lacoste.

Düsseldorf is also a great place for food lovers. The city is well known for its restaurants and cafes. The local cuisine is very different from Bavarian food and is often described as German with a French twist.

The city has a lot to offer in terms of culture, entertainment and sport. 

You can attend concerts and shows in three different theatres, two opera houses and two concert halls.

Düsseldorf is quite a green city with over half of the area covered by forests and parks. There are also over 50 sports clubs, offering a wide range of activities from badminton to golf. 

It’s close to Köln which is a cool city, Bonn which is very pleasant and the Ruhr which at the very least has options, even if if it is largely industrial. It’s also got a decent airport, road/rail connections to all of Germany, and easy access to Belgium and the Netherlands.

The cost of living is lower than in other major cities in Germany and it is a good place to live for expats overall, despite being the underdog for some.

3. Frankfurt 

Frankfurt is quite a popular place for expats. It’s a great city for people who are looking for a place that is a bit more traditional.

Best places to live in Germany - Frankfurt
The Römerberg, Frankfurt’s old central square, is especially lovely as a backdrop for the Christmas market in December.

Frankfurt is a quintessential German city, offering a relaxed lifestyle and a high quality of life. There are a lot of English speakers here, and there are a lot of cultural centres as well.

No other city has managed to retain its aura of wealth and power as much as Frankfurt. It is one of the wealthiest cities in Germany and home to the country’s biggest stock exchange. The city is also famous for its skyline. 

Frankfurt is not only the financial capital of Germany. It’s also famous for its green areas and parks, such as the Palmengarten.

Frankfurt is small but well-organised. Bockenheim, Bornheim and Sachsenhausen for entertainment and dining out, downtown for shopping, the Europaviertel for business the Taunus mountains – for walks. 

The city is relatively small and it can be a blessing as you are always within a short bike ride from everything including great nature walks. 

4. Hamburg 

Hamburg is a port city; it has access to the North Sea via the Elbe River. It also has several lakes within its city limits, making it an idyllic place to live. 

Best places to live in Germany - Hamburg
The beach, Strand Oevelgoenne, on the River Elbe in Oevelgoenne district of Hamburg city.

With close proximity to the sea, Hamburg has the climate of a maritime city. So if you are one of those expats who appreciate an oceanic climate and mild winters, Hamburg may be the place for you.

The fact that it is the largest city in Germany means that it has an excellent infrastructure and has services that may be lacking in other German cities. 

What’s more, most expats living in Hamburg are close to a beach, making trips to the coast a breeze. 

As a port, the city of Hamburg has a large international presence and consequently one of the largest immigrant populations in Germany with over 50% of residents having foreign roots.

As a result, the city is a melting pot of cultures with people from a variety of countries. You will find that most of them are friendly and willing to strike up a conversation with a fellow expat.

Hamburg is also a very green city, especially where expats reside. While most of the city is flat, there are still parks and green spaces all over the city. The city organizes several annual events to celebrate the local green culture.

While the options above are great if you enjoy the bustle of city living, it’s understandable if you’d prefer to live in a small, quieter town. Luckily, Germany has plenty of these suitable for expats in retirement.

5. Bingen

Formally Bingen am Rhein, it’s a relatively small town on the banks of the Rhine. Bingen has a great history dating back to pre-Roman times. For history buffs, it’s also the birthplace of Hildegard von Bingen (obviously).

Best places to live in Germany - Bingen
View of Bingen am Rhein from Rudesheim vineyards in the Rhine Valley

You’ll find plenty of interesting cultural sites coupled with the incredible landscape of the Rhine Valley.

Bingen is ideal for expats wanting a more outdoor-focused lifestyle, as you’ll have plenty of places to walk and lots of sights to see.

Frankfurt is the closest major city (around an hour’s drive away), although you also have Wiesbaden nearby. While Bingen has all the infrastructure you might need for daily life, you’ll find anything you don’t have in one of the nearby cities.

Its population is around 25,000, and although there isn’t a defined expat population in the area, plenty of its residents speak English. But, learning a bit of German won’t go amiss!

6. Rottweil

Rottweil is a town near the Black Forest in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, southwest Germany. You’ll find plenty of cake, good beer, ham, and, of course, Rottweilers (the dogs, that is).

Best places to live in Germany - Rottweil
Located just outside the Black Forest, Rottweil with its walled old town set high above the valley provides its resident with the most magnificent walks, great cycling paths and horse riding activities.

Rottweil is the oldest town in the state and has changed very little in the last 500 years.

It embraces this tradition with its cobbled streets, towering houses and quaint shop fronts. Rottweil is an almost idyllic walking town, so make sure you have comfortable shoes.

It hosts an annual carnival called Fasnet around the beginning of January. Revellers dress up and wear clay masks before parading around the streets. Even after multiple visits to Fasnet, you won’t get bored of its diverse performances.

Located between the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps, Rottweil is ideally placed for an outdoor lifestyle. Both areas are known for their natural beauty, and having them on your doorstep gives you plenty of opportunities for interesting walks and short holidays.

7. Heidelberg

Heidelberg is another town in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The state appears twice on this list because it’s one of the country’s warmer regions and boasts stunning scenery.

Best places to live in Germany - Heidelberg
A spectacular sunset in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is located on the banks of the Neckar River, which provides a stable temperature and opportunities for boating activities in the summer.

It is a university town; almost a quarter of its population is students. While this might come with some downsides, it does mean modern and efficient infrastructure, even by German standards.

Heidelberg is a UNESCO City of Literature, which is one of many of its cultural accolades. It’s home to the annual Vampire Ball along with its own version of Rottweil’s Fasnet.

You’ll also find a classical music festival and an Easter egg market, which is another must-see event in Germany.

You’ll find it easy to get around town thanks to its public transport system. Heidelberg is also home to one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, so it’s another one that requires good walking shoes!

8. Binz

Despite its potentially unfortunate name in English, Binz is a highly sought-after seaside town in northern Germany. It’s one of the country’s main resort towns, offering white sand, seaside walks, and incredible architecture.

Best places to live in Germany - Binz
Binz, a Baltic Sea resort on the island of Rügen.

As you can imagine, it’s a popular choice for German holidaymakers. While it might be busy in the summer months, residents know all the best haunts to avoid the biggest tourist crowds. Spend the off-season exploring so you can find your beach of choice for when the main strip gets busy.

Binz made its name in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, which is reflected in its architecture. The Granitz Hunting Lodge and resort hotels provide incredible backdrops and never get old, even when you live around them.

Numerous cities near Binz will cover your infrastructure and transport needs. Comparatively speaking, it’s a fairly isolated town, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

9. Meersburg

Meersburg is a town in southern Germany located on the banks of Lake Constance. It’s home to two castles, including the Old Castle, unsurprisingly one of the oldest castles in the country.

Best places to live in Germany - Meersburg
Meersburg and the Lake Constance.

The town has great connections to the surrounding area. There’s a ferry across the lake, and the B31 motorway runs from the French border to the Austrian border. In short, you’re connected to almost anywhere you could want to go.

Meersburg has all the medieval architecture you could want along with numerous cultural sights and activities.

Walking on the banks of the lake is a must, as is a visit to the thermal spa that has a seamless indoor/outdoor pool. Better yet, Meersburg is a major wine-producing region and hosts an annual festival.

In short, Meersburg would be a good choice for expats wanting to travel. While it’s not the only place in Germany with excellent road connections, it combines this with stunning scenery, cultural activities, and clear local heritage.

Meersburg stands out as a key retirement destination, even among Germany’s impressive offerings.

Final thoughts on living in Germany

Germany has bustling networks of expats in its major cities, whether they have moved there for work or retirement. If you’re keen to live in Germany around others in a similar situation to you, these would be your best bet for top destinations.

But, going off the beaten track opens the country up into a world of culture, tradition, and beauty. While you might not be surrounded by expats in the same way, you’ll be far more in touch with the “real” Germany.

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Samantha Segat
Samantha Segat is a professional writer and an expat who has lived in Germany for two decades. She has travelled all over Germany as well as Switzerland and Austria having visited and lived in Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover, Vienna, Bern and other places.
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