Berlin is the capital city of Germany and its largest city by population and size. The city has a population of 3.75 million people and is located on the banks of River Spree. Berlin is a city renowned as a hub of industry, science, media and culture. Berlin has and continues to experience significant change since the Second World War and communism’s fall. It has plenty of world class educational, sports, transportation and health facilities. The city is also a popular tourist destination with many attractions. Any expat moving to Germany would be wise to consider moving to Berlin.
Is Berlin a good place to live? Berlin is a city with everything you need. The economy is very stable with many employment opportunities. Berlin is also quite safe despite its size and inequality. Granted, the cost of living is high but it affords Berlin high living standards. The real estate market is stable and affordable so the answer is yes.
Living in Berlin will at the very least be exciting. It is one of the most vibrant and diverse city on the planet both in activity and population. The city’s tumultuous past simply adds to its aura and character. I could use all the right adjectives to describe Berlin but only in a visit to the great city would you appreciate its unique and edgy atmosphere. The city just has it all; the nightlife, incredible parks, great schools, efficient transport system and most of all its diversity. The capital demands great consideration if you are moving to Germany.
Is Berlin a good place to live?
Because of the Berlin Wall construction that divided the city in two, Berlin has massive inequality. Great steps have been taken in the past 25 years to close that divide. Many residential areas have recently arisen as a result of this massive unification process. Berlin is a very livable city but its neighbourhoods can still be judged based on architecture, cleanliness, safety and ambience. Based on the above factors, the good neighbourhoods in Berlin are Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Mitte, Zehlendorf. Adenauerplatz and Bellevue. Bad neighbourhoods include Neukölln, Marzahn, Wedding, Görlitzer Park and Moabit.
Cost of living in Berlin is very low – make sure to read our article here: Cost of living in Berlin for Expats and Students – Full Guide.
As of 2018, the crime rate was the lowest it had ever been in the country’s entire history. Despite a low level of crime, residents’ fear was at all time high and Berlin is no different. The city is not as safe as other large cities like Munich and has experienced a relatively high increase in crime in the past several years. Berlin has a safety index of about 60% which is evidenced by the fact that only about 57% of Berlin residents say they feel safe walking alone at night. The most prevalent crimes in Berlin were property crimes like vandalism & theft and drug-related crimes.
In Berlin, children go through a 6 year primary school program and afterwards go to either a comprehensive or a college preparatory school. The city has a huge collection of schools totalling about 880 schools. Moreover, Berlin has some of the best institutions of higher education and research in the world with 40 Nobel Prize winners being associated with universities in Berlin. The city is home to four public research universities and over 30 private, professional and technical colleges most of them with foreign students. The three largest universities are Humboldt University of Berlin, Free University of Berlin and the Technical University of Berlin. Noteworthy research institutions include the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the Fraunhofer Society, the Leibniz Association, the Helmholtz Association, and the Max Planck Society.
Berlin’s transport system is extensive and complex offering excellent mobility in, through and out of the city. 5422 km of roads transverse Berlin but the city has the lowest number of cars per person. Most people travelling by road prefer to use taxicabs or intercity buses. There are also long-distance train lines connecting the country’s capital to other domestic cities and several European destinations. They all pass through the Berlin Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) which is the largest grade-separated railway station in Europe. Berlin is also part of the country’s high seed inner-city express trains. The city has two commercial airports: Tegel and Schönefeld. Berlin has received credit for its extraordinary bicycle lane system.
Berlin social life is quite vibrant. There are numerous cultural hotspots in the city such as theatres and museums. There are also parks and sports facilities where the more active of the residents can meet. Berlin is an entertainment hub with nightlife, unlike any other European city.
Is Berlin a good place to work?
Berlin has relatively high rates of poverty and unemployment when compared to other major German cities. In fact, the unemployment rate in Berlin is 9% while the average German unemployment rate is 5.3%. However, the city is still at the forefront of job creation. There are still employment opportunities for expats and locals alike though they may be quite difficult to find. Considering the population density of Berlin, there is competition for every type of job.
Berlin’s economy is varied and consists of many important sectors including media, entertainment, transportation, energy, construction & real estate, tourism, retail and engineering. The dominant sector of Berlin’s economy is the service sector with 84% of all business in Berlin involved in the sector. Another important part of Berlin’s economy is research and development. Many of the major science and technology companies in Berlin has innovation labs in the city.
It is no surprise that many domestic and international companies have their headquarters in Berlin. Berlin is a great city in which to access capital and develop a business. Employers range widely in size and include both private and public entities. The 10 largest employers in Berlin include the City-State of Berlin, Deutsche Bahn, Charité, Vivantes, the Federal Government, BVG, Siemens, Deutsche Telecom, Investitionsbank Berlin and Landesbank Berlin.
The average salary an employee in Berlin makes every year is €46,248 which is low compared to some cities in the country but still higher than the national average of €37,000. The most common job titles in the city are software developer and programmer, electronics engineer, healthcare worker and nurse, IT analyst, economist, business administrator, account manager and production assistant.
Is Berlin a good place to buy a house?
Berlin’s property market is not only stable but also very affordable. The market has been booming in the recent past and shows no signs of slowing down. One reason for this is that more startup is being launched in Berlin meaning there is more money flowing into the city with jobs and incomes increasing. However, most Germans are still renters and do not buy the house they live in. Buying property by the mortgage has seen a substantial degree of increment in the past decade. Home insurance is a must for every Berlin homeowner.
Compared to other capitals like New York, Paris and London, property prices in Berlin are relatively cheap. Many expats would prefer to move to Berlin for this reason. The price of a property is highly dependent on its location and will be typically high in affluent neighbourhoods and lower in the more impoverished ones. The good neighbourhoods in Berlin are Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg, Mitte, Zehlendorf, Adenauerplatz and Bellevue while the bad neighbourhoods include Neukölln, Marzahn, Wedding, Görlitzer Park and Moabit.
The average monthly rent for an unfurnished one bedroom apartment in Berlin is €500. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment is €770 a month. The average rent for a three bedroom apartment is €1150 a month. The average monthly rent for a four bedroom apartment is €1400 and the average rent for a five bedroom apartment is €1890.
The average buying price of a one bedroom apartment in Berlin is €125,000. The average price of an apartment with two bedrooms is €150,900. The average price of an apartment with triple bedrooms is €187,500. The average price of a four bedroom apartment is €225,000. The average price of an apartment with five bedrooms is €285,000.
Is Berlin a good place to invest in property?
Berlin is slowly becoming a hotbed for real estate investment. Until the late 1980s, Berlin’s property market would have been aptly characterized as stunted. On the contrary, other major German cities like Munich and Hamburg were enjoying exceedingly high property prices and real estate investors were reaping extraordinary returns. However, since then unemployment in the capital has hit record lows with average salaries being the highest they have been. It has led to average property prices in Berlin increasing by 115% since 2004 according to JLL.
Another reason why Berlin is a good place to invest in property is access to credit. For the longest time, residents of Berlin were renters but recent developments have seen interest rates in the country, and Europe, drop to almost zero. The drop in interest rates has enabled many residents of the German capital to acquire cheap mortgages. With increasingly high salaries and cheaper mortgages, purchasing property is a prudent decision.
Moreover, Berlin is experiencing significant population growth as a result of massive immigration by refugees and European Union citizens looking for work. People have arrived in Berlin in droves which have substantially increased the demand for housing in the city. Berlin’s population growth has also been aided by the emerging tech industry in the city. The city cannot build housing units fast enough and investment by private entities is being highly encouraged. With no signs of slowing down, the population growth will continue and the demand for housing with it which should assure investors of excellent returns on capital for the foreseeable future.
Is Berlin a good place to raise a family?
Berlin is a fantastic place in which to raise a family. First and foremost it is cheap. For the capital of a European powerhouse, the cost of living in Berlin is surprisingly affordable. It will cost an expat around €1610 every month to live in Berlin. It will cost an average family of four about €3500 every month to cater for expenses in Berlin. A low cost of living ensures that you can raise a larger family in Berlin than in other cities. It also means that residents can enjoy a much better standard of living in the city than they would in another city of Berlin’s stature with the same income.
The German capital is a hive of activity. You will lack nothing you need to raise a family. There are almost 880 schools in the city that you can choose from all of which will offer your children a world-class education. Your children can go from kindergarten to their PhD without having to leave Berlin. Any interest your kids will choose to develop can be found in the city at the highest level including sports, music and art among others. The only obstacle to raising a family in Berlin is the level of security which is moderate hence you will have to keep a close eye on your family.
Is Berlin a good place to retire?
Berlin is an ideal living place for young, skilled workers. The city is constantly undergoing change and being revamped which tends to bother most retirees. Ideal retirement locations are typically sleepy towns with sparse population and a relaxed atmosphere. Berlin is vibrant and energetic. New industries are emerging every day as old ones die. The city will continue to change and retired Berlin workers will have to look for other retirement options.
One aspect of Berlin that may make it attractive to retirees is the affordable cost of living. Real estate prices are especially attractive for a big city. Any retiree who is not bothered by the huge working and student population among other factors can find a very good deal and decide to move to the city. However, there are cheaper places you can opt for if you decide on living in Germany. Though they will be smaller but will be more ideal retirement locations than Berlin.
Is Berlin a good place to visit? 20 Top Places To Visit In Berlin
The country’s capital has a unique atmosphere and despite its torrid past, it remains a city worth a visit. Berlin has photo friendly sights and attractions that will keep you occupied for the entire duration of your visit regardless of how long it is. The city’s marvels will grab a hold of your heart and not let go. However, it is almost impossible to visit all of Berlin’s glorious attractions. The following is a list of 20 places you have to visit if you are ever in Berlin:
1. Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is the city’s most conspicuous landmark. Completed in the late 18th century, the ceremonial monument has withstood the Second World War and the fall of the Berlin wall. The structure consists of 12 Doric columns, 5 passageways and a Quadriga (a chariot pulled by four horses) on top of it. Standing at the Brandenburg Gate is an emotionally charged experience where you understand what the landmark means to the country and its people.
The country’s parliamentary building is a landmark that summarizes all of Berlin’s drama during the 1900s. The Neo-Baresque structure was erected in 1894 and previously housed the Imperial Diet. The Reichtag was restored after it was extensively ravaged by the famous 1933 fire to become the symbol for a unified country. The structure includes a glass dome at the top from which you can clearly see the debating chamber and all the while witness Berlin’s amazing landscape.
The Tiergarten offers a peaceful intermission in between seeing all the scenes and sights of Berlin. The city park extends from the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichtag and contains a thick belt of colourful trees. The Tiergarten used to be a hunting ground for royals but was repurposed as a park in the 1930s. You also have to visit the residence of the German President which is in the Tiergarten. The highlights of the Tiergarten tour include the Bismarck memorial, the Luiseninsel and the rose garden.
4. Victory Column (Siegessäule)
The victory column was erected in 1894 as a monument to the country’s defeat over Denmark in the Danish-Prussian war. The monument is quite picturesque and is located where all the roads in the Tiergarten converge. After subsequent victories over foes like Austria and France in the late 19th century, a 35 ton, 8 meter sculpture was erected on top of the column. Interestingly, the column was once situated at the Reichstag but was relocated at the beginning of the 2nd World War as part of Hitler’s far-sighted plan to make Berlin the ‘World Capital.’ The column contains a spiral stairway, which at a fee you calk walk up and take in a stunning view of Tiergarten Park.
5. Museum Island
Museum Island is located on the Spree River and is a collection of five world-class museums namely: the Pergamon Museum, Neues Museum, the Altes Museum, Bode-Museum and Alte National Galerie. The Ales Museum was completed in 1830 and is the oldest one among them while the Pergamon was completed a century later and is the most recent one. The museums were originally constructed to showcase the variety and depth of the Prussian royal art collection and other testaments to the country’s 19th-century victories. Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and could make up an entire museum tour.
The Gemäldegalerie is one of the finest art museums on the globe. It houses paintings by some of Europe’s greatest artists including Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Rubens, Rembrandt, Hans Holbein, Raphael and Vermeer. There are over 1250 pieces by the above masters. They are so many and so varied you could lose track of time just admiring their beauty. The museum’s collection of art was gathered by the Prussian government beginning from 1815.
7. Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer is a 70m expanse of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved as a monument to the infamous boundary. Very memorable scenes from the Berlin Wall happened right here on this spot. The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer features a watchtower and the famous Todesstreifen (Death Strip) where so many people lost their lives trying to cross the wall beginning from the 1960s up until the wall’s collapse. The five story watch tower will give you an insightful perspective into the divide. There is also a visitor centre where the wall’s history is chronicled in exemplary detail.
8. Holocaust Memorial
There a few scenes in the world quite like the outlandish memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial consists of 2711 concrete blocks of differentiated height set in a grid pattern which gives the memorial a somewhat wavy appearance. The memorial is set on what was ‘the death strip of the Berlin wall’ which deepens the memorial’s significance. There is also an underground gallery which consists of a latticework of themed rooms stocked with letters, biographies and personal effects of the victims. A memorial is a solemn place where you can reflect on the absurdity of this particular period and the lesson to be learnt from it.
9. Unter den Linden
The Unter den Linden is an avenue as old as the city itself. It is Berlin’s oldest boulevard and runs from Museum Island to the Brandenburg Gate. The boulevard gets its name it’s lime trees which were planted as early at the mid 17th century. The route’s historic landmarks were severely damaged during the war and have undergone massive restoration processes.
The Gendarmenmarkt is a Baroqe-style square characterized by its opulence. At the Northern and Southern parts of the plaza, there are French and German churches facing each other and are the prominent attractions of the square. In addition to the churches, the square also contains a statue of famous writer Friedrich Schiller. The square is particularly inviting in December when the Christmas market is erected and fairy dust is sprinkled all over the square. The square also hosts classic open-air concerts during summer.
11.Topography of Terror
If nothing else, you have to visit this location for its inviting name. The Topography of Terror can be found on the Niederkirchnerstrasse, and is the former operating site of the Gestapo and the SS. The location of the headquarters two most infamous institutions was bombed during the war and was subsequently torn down and abandoned leaving the Topography of Terror. The site also includes an open-air exhibition revealing what life was like in Berlin during the Third Reich. It is a far-reaching message to subsequent generations about the effects of human cruelty.
The Fernsehturm is one of the foremost landmarks in Berlin. The television tower was erected in the 1960s as a monument to communist power in East Berlin. Standing at 200m tall, the Fernsehturm is the highest building open to the public and the second tallest structure in Europe. With good planning, you can take a 40-second ride to the viewing platform where you can get a stunningly beautiful view of the city and you can use a telescope to see even the most miniature details of Berlin. Moreover, you can book and get to enjoy a meal at a revolving restaurant atop the tower.
13. Jewish Museum Berlin
Jewish history and Berlin are inextricably linked. The museum was opened in 2001 and pays homage to this weighty issue. The museum consists of zigzagging corridors that lead to vast, 20m high voids that very accurately capture the deeply scarred Jewish history and gives you a sense of the far-reaching consequences of the Holocaust. It is an impressive layout of Jewish history since medieval times and is a testament to the emancipation of the Jews during the 18th and 19th centuries. You can access the Garden of Exile and the Holocaust Tower through an alternative path from the museum.
14. Berlin Cathedral
The Berlin Cathedral is the city’s most significant Protestant church and has an exuberant Historic style consisting of a lot of golden profusions, numerous mosaics carved from onyx and marble in addition to magnificent sculptures. The church was completed in 1904 but underwent massive restoration between the 1970s and the 1990s as a result of extensive damage sustained during the war. The Museum Island Temple should be visited for its importance, beauty and history.
Alexanderplatz is the country’s largest square. The former parade ground is not only a bustling transport hub but is also one of the most thrilling parts of the city. Since becoming Berlin’s main shopping district in the early 1900s, it has transformed into a very dynamic area. Alexanderplatz was totally destroyed in World War II and was successfully restored in the 1960s thanks to a massive GDR project. From a former gathering site to an entertainment hotspot, a visit to Alexanderplatz will surely be unforgettable.
16. Treptower Park
The park is located in the southeastern part of Berlin next to the Spree River. The park extends for about 4 kilometres alongside the river and is especially stunning during summer. There are plenty of activities to do on the park including taking a boat cruise on the Spree. Treptower Park spans over 84 hectares and includes lush lawns, groves of trees and a rose garden all landscaped in the signature British style. The park also consists of a humongous cemetery and memorial erected for the 80,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Battle of Berlin.
17. Olympic Stadium
Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is unrivalled as a sporting site for the amount of history-altering events that have occurred on its grounds. The stadium was originally built to host the 1936 Olympics and was used by the Nazis as a tool for propaganda in the lead up to the Second World War. Designer Werner Arch made a technical masterpiece which became the site where Jesse Owens becomes the first man to win four gold medals in a single Olympic competition. The stadium hosts a tour but it would be better to visit the stadium for a German National team match or a Hertha BSC home game for a thrilling, emotionally charged atmosphere to truly appreciate the hallowed grounds.
18. Berlin Philharmonie Concert Hall
The concert hall is sacred ground for classical music fans, most of who view a visit to the hall as a lifetime achievement. The Berlin Philharmonicker is consistently ranked as one of the best opera symphonies on the planet. The concert hall is located in the heart and soul of the city and is one of Berlin’s most valued cultural venues. You can attend an upcoming event at the hall but tickets are hard to come by. If you cannot get tickets, there is usually a free chamber music concert happening every Tuesday at 1 p.m.
19. Deutsches Technikmuseum
The German Technology Museum represents a journey through the history of transport and industry. If you are a fan of science and technology, the museum will feel like paradise. In addition to interesting information, the museum has live demonstrations of how things were made for example paper production. The museum is very interactive and children can visit the Science Center where they can perform experiments that are not only fun but will further deepen their understanding of scientific concepts like electricity and magnetism.
20. Kaufhaus des Westens
The Kaufhaus des Westens is Germany’s most prominent shopping destination and the second largest department store in Europe. You can burn through money shopping in the massive 8 storey department store where each floor houses a different section. The first three stories are all about high-end fashion. The Luxury Boulevard on the ground floor could give New York’s 5th avenue a run for its money. There is a vast “Delicatessen” food hall located on the sixth floor where you can eat any speciality food you can think of including pastries and confectionary. The Kaufhaus des Westens also includes a winter garden and a 1000-seater self-service restaurant.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.