Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city after Berlin and has a population of about 1.8million inhabitants. The city lies on the River Elbe which gives it a picturesque location. Hamburg is the third largest port in Europe and despite many tragedies befalling the city; it has recovered to become wealthier than ever. The city is a commercial and industrial hub and is home to many domestic and multinational companies. In fact, Hamburg is the site for the country’s oldest stock exchange and the world’s oldest merchant bank, Berenberg Bank. The city is also a top tourist and cultural destination.
Is Hamburg a good place to live? Hamburg was ranked the 18th most livable city in the world in 2016 by Mercer Quality of Living Survey. The quality of life is great and the high cost of living supports it. Hamburg is extremely well connected and ideally lies near on River Elbe. The city is a good place to live.
Hamburg and freedom have been synonymous since the city’s inception. An expat moving to Hamburg will bear truth to that. The port city is known as ‘the country’s gateway to the world’ because of its location and is very well connected. If you are a lakeside lover moving to Germany, then Hamburg should be your city. Hamburg is also developing into a startup hub which has invited many locals and expats alike. The city has received credit for being one of the happiest cities in the country by Deutsche Post’s annual ‘Happiness Atlas.’ That should be reason enough for moving to Hamburg.
Is Hamburg a good place to live?
Hamburg is a very livable city and is truly a world metropolis with residents from all over the world. Hamburg is big enough to offer all you need but small enough that is affordable. The port city lies next to the water which is bound to make places close to the lakes more expensive. Just like any other city, there are disparities regarding security, cleanliness, housing standards and natural beauty. Based on the above factors, good neighbourhoods in Hamburg include Eppendorf, Winterhude, Barmbek Süd, Hamburg-Nord, Sternchanze and Blankenes. Neighbourhoods in Hamburg that can be considered bad include Billstedt, Harburg, Wilhelmsburg and Tonndorf.
Anyone living in Germany is assured of low crime rates compared to the rest of the world. Hamburg has a relatively high crime rate compared to other major German cities like Munich and Berlin. The city has a safety index of about 52% and there has been a 60% increase in crime over the past 5 years. It can be said that Hamburg has a moderate level of crime. Only 45% of Hamburg residents say they feel safe walking alone at night. The most prevalent forms of crime in the city include vandalism, theft, drug-related crime and assault respectively.
The education system in Hamburg is run by the Ministry of Schools and Vocational Training. As of 2016, there were 221 primary schools and 188 secondary schools in Hamburg. The city also has 32 public libraries. Concerning higher education, there are 19 universities in Hamburg educating over 100,000 students. The universities are a blend of public and private schools including a number of religious and special-purpose institutions. The University of Hamburg is the largest university in the city. Other noteworthy universities include the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, the Hamburg University of Technology, the University of Music and Theatre and Bucerius Law School. Hamburg is home to the International School of Hamburg, one of the oldest international schools in the country.
Hamburg is a well-connected city. The city has 2496 bridges which is more than any other city in Europe. The bridges connected the northern and southern parts of the city. The city is also connected to four major motorways which car users utilize to travel in and out of the city. There are single-deck, two-axle, three-axle and four-axle diesel buses offering road transport in Hamburg. Hamburg Airport is the oldest airport in the country that is currently operational. Other airports in the city include Lübeck Airport and Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport. The 33 mass transit rail lines make up the backbone of Hamburg’s public transportation system. There are four major train stations: Hauptbahnhof, Dammtor, Altona and Harburg. Hamburg also has eight ferry lines operating along the River Elbe.
Hamburg’s social life is varied and exciting. The city is home to many sports teams where you will find many residents agglomerating to cheer on their teams. Hamburg has amazing parks for picnics, sports and other fun activities. The city also has theatres and museum for the more cultured crowd.
Is Hamburg a good place to work?
Hamburg’s economy is made up of many sectors. The most important single economic unit in the city is the Port of Hamburg. Millions of tons of goods pass in and out of the port every year. The port handles humongous ocean going vessels despite being 110km up the River Elbe. The port is cause for a large number of consulates in the city. There is also a lot of industrial production in Hamburg. The city produces steel, aluminium and copper. Airbus also has an assembly plant in the city which produces aerospace equipment. Hamburg is a thriving commercial centre hosting many banks and a stock exchange.
The media industry is also crucial to Hamburg’s economy employing over 70,000 Hamburg residents. The city is home to commercial television and radio stations. The publishing industry also has a significant degree of prominence in Hamburg. The city is home to large German publishing companies including Bauer Media Group and Axel Springer AG. Plenty of national German newspapers are also published in Hamburg including Financial Times Deutschland and Hamburger Abendblatt.
The tourism industry in Hamburg is the city’s most vital one. It employs over 175,000 people full time and brings in over €9B in revenue every year. In 2017 alone close to 7 million tourists passed through the city. Most tourists are domestic but there are also scores of European and American tourists visiting Hamburg annually.
Hamburg’s five largest employers are Airbus Operations GmbH with 12,700 employees, Asklepios Kliniken GmbH with 12,000 employees, Deutsche Lufthansa AG with 9750 employees, Otto GmbH & Co. KG with 8500 employees, and Deutsche Bahn AG with 8450 employees.
Hamburg has a high employment rate with 88% of the working-age residents employed in jobs. However, the unemployment rate stood at 6.1% as of 2018. The unemployment rate is low and is in fact at the lowest it has been for 20 years. The bad news is that it is still higher than the national average unemployment rate of 3%. Employees in Hamburg make an average annual salary of €49,332 as compared to the annual average salary of €37,000. Popular job titles in the city are software developer, mechanical engineer, software engineer and project manager.
Is Hamburg a good place to buy a house?
This is not a country of home ownership but of renters. Not many Hamburg residents are disturbed by monthly mortgage and home insurance payments. However, with interest rates at record lows, it is not difficult to find mortgages being financed at 1% in Hamburg. The prices of houses have been on the rise for the past few years in the country boosted by rising income levels and increasing demand. The real estate market is not volatile but there are good deals to be found. Real estate prices are typically higher around the city centre and along the lake. It will be easier though to get an apartment in areas experiencing growth where new buildings are getting built every day.
The condition of the property and its location are the two most crucial factors when deciding to purchase a property. Getting the financing that suits you best is also paramount. It would be prudent to discuss with banks and other mortgage lenders the terms of your contract in detail. There are many resources to assist you to purchase property and you should pay your due diligence before buying a property in Hamburg. Since the location of your property is such a crucial factor it is important to know the best and worst areas as it pertains to living in Hamburg. Good neighbourhoods in Hamburg include Eppendorf, Winterhude, Barmbek Süd, Hamburg-Nord, Sternchanze and Blankenes. Neighbourhoods in Hamburg that can be considered bad include Billstedt, Harburg, Wilhelmsburg and Tonndorf.
The average monthly rent for an unfurnished one bedroom apartment in Hamburg is €565. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment is €810 a month. The average rent for a three bedroom apartment is €1220 a month. The average monthly rent for a four bedroom apartment is €1570 and the average rent for a five bedroom apartment is €1950.
The average buying price of a one bedroom apartment in Hamburg is €137,500. The average price of an apartment with double bedrooms is €159,600. The average price of an apartment with triple bedrooms is €197,800. The average price of a four bedroom apartment is €240,100. The average price of an apartment with five bedrooms is €289,500.
Is Hamburg a good place to invest in property?
The country has a stable economy and real estate market. However, the real estate market in the country has experienced a significant boom in the past decade making it a prime location for real estate investment. The city has seen massive real estate construction in the recent past which shows no signs of slowing down. The country’s easy access to cheap capital makes real estate investment a worthy prospect.
A lot of capital has been flowing into Hamburg’s property market and a tour to the city proves it. The largest of the real estate developments in the city is the HafenCity development. The ambitious undertaking is estimated to expand Hamburg’s city centre by 40%. The 155-acre development is the single largest reason why Hamburg is currently one of the best places to invest in real estate all over Europe.
Real estate investors can expect to earn higher returns in the rental property market but with record low-interest rates, mortgages are on the uptake in Hamburg. There are about 92 apartments for every 100 households in Hamburg which means that demand for housing units is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. In spite of such exciting prospects, it is always a good idea for investors to acquire insurance for their investments.
Is Hamburg a good place to raise a family?
Hamburg is a great city with the feel of a small city. You will find all the necessary necessities to raise a family in Hamburg. For starters, there are over 400 primary and secondary schools to choose from in Berlin all offering high-quality education. There are also 19 universities varying in depth and scope in the city. Your children are assured of general and specialized education at all levels.
Moreover, the city is home to numerous sporting and extracurricular facilities. Your children will be able to develop innate abilities in sports like football, rugby, rowing, basketball and winter sports among plenty others. Other interests like art and theatre also have institutions in the city where your kids can develop as artists and creative professionals. Great parks offer large green spaces where their social skills can be enhanced and kids can have fun.
Hamburg is only a moderately safe city and you are going to have to keep an eye on your children or ensure they have the necessary protection. It is normal to worry about crime but depending on where you live, it would be prudent to think about protective measures for your family’s safety.
Living in Hamburg is also quite expensive. The cost of living is quite high. On the contrary, if you can afford it, the city offers one of the highest standards of living in Europe. A high standard of living may mean that you raise a small family but it may also mean that your family has to live more frugally. All in all, Hamburg is a good place to raise a family.
Is Hamburg a good place to retire?
I would be hard pressed to call Hamburg an ideal retirement location. Granted, the port city does lie in a stunningly eye-catching environment but that is not enough to retire in the country’s second largest city. Big city life is typically not desired by retirees.
One of the reasons why Hamburg is not a good retirement location is the high cost of living. Most pension schemes will not allow you to live as extravagantly as you lived while you were working. It would be wiser to take your hard earned retirement money and spend it somewhere cheaper to live than Hamburg.
Another reason I would not advise an expat to retire in Hamburg is the degree of insecurity. It is harder to protect you and your precious belongings as a retiree. You would be better off in a location with better security. There are many people passing through Hamburg including millions of tourists. Such numbers are sure to invite some unsavoury characters. Therefore, Hamburg is not a good place to retire.
Is Hamburg a good place to visit?
Hamburg has been an international port and free city since medieval times. The city-state has experienced a consistent flux of seafarers for a millennium to become Europe’s second largest harbour. There are many attractions in Hamburg including ancient landmarks and a parade of never-ending events. The lake, the river and its canals are a great feature of the city and one of the best ways to explore Hamburg. The city is in a constant state of change so no single visit to Hamburg is alike. The following are the 18 best places to visit in Hamburg:
The Speicherstadt was constructed when Hamburg joined the German Customs Zone in the late 19th century. The ‘City of Warehouses’ has a unique ambience and a walk through its canyons or a boat ride through its canals will give you a feel of that atmosphere. The Gothic’s structure has glazed decorations on its facades and its beauty is worthy of its designation as a World Heritage Site.
Hafencity is a recent development in Hamburg commissioned in 2008 and whose construction is set to continue for the next two decades. It is located on land reclaimed from River Elbe. The waterside quarter includes office spaces, shopping complexes and leisure facilities. The development perfectly incorporates the waterfront into its façade and is very creatively designed. Hafencity will provide many jobs and homes to Hamburg citizens and is definitely worth a visit.
Towering over the city, the Elbphilharmonie is the tallest building in Hamburg and rises over 100m into the air. The building was unveiled in 2017 and despite its gargantuan size can be aptly described as lightly ethereal. The structure consists of 1000 curved windows, a plaza, an observation deck and a café. The concert hall can hold 2000 people and has outstanding acoustics. Watching the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra play is heavenly and a pleasure to see.
4. Planten Un Blomen
Planten un Blomen is one of Europe’s best parks. It covers about 47 hectares of land and features lawns, gardens, ponds and greenhouses. A prominent part of the park is the Old Botanical garden that was built in 1821. The park’s five greenhouses are interconnected and contain plants from Mediterranean and desert climates. The park is especially beautiful during summer when the roses in the garden bloom and the musical fountain add more glitter to the scenery.
5. International Maritime Museum
The Museum is also known as the Kaispeicher B and spans 11 stories high. It is the most ancient warehouse in the Speicherstadt. It is pretty hard to miss the museum since there is a massive propeller outside. The museum was opened in 2008 and is Hamburg’s maritime museum. The museum’s collection of maritime memorabilia will make you long for the open sea. One item of interest in the museum is a canoe 3 millenniums old discovered in the city’s harbour.
6. Kunsthalle Hamburg
One of the country’s biggest and richest museums is located a short distance from Hamburg Central Station. You can spend an entire day in the museum and not finish seeing all the pieces. You will find pieces from old masters like Rembrandt, Canaletto, Rubens and Goya. The museum also has a section for contemporary and modern art with works from luminaries like Manet, Degas, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Kirchner and Warhol.
7. St. Paul
St. Paul is hard to miss. The square is adorned in neon and graffiti with the most fitting description being ‘rough around the edges.’ St. Paul has an experimental and defiant ambience. There are strip clubs, porn shops and an endless array of sex workers on the street. St. Paul is effectively Hamburg’s red light district. Fans of the Beatles will particularly have a good time here on a self-guided tour. No matter your taste in music, you will more fun than you will ever have on a night in St. Paul.
8. Miniatur Wunderland
Miniatur Wunderland is a miniature construction marvel that fills an entire warehouse in Speicherstadt. The ‘City of Warehouses’ foremost attraction began as a miniature railway travelling though places like Austria, but soon became a humongous structure with scale models of the USA, Italy and its home town, Hamburg. There is about 15km of miniature railway track in Miniatur Wunderland. The structure consists of thousands of automated pieces all controlled by a powerful computer. The attraction’s construction is not over and additions keep being made so visit today will be different from a visit years hence.
9. Harbour Boat Tour
A boat trip is the best way to see Hamburg harbour and the city’s waterside districts. The trips can also include boarding one of the HADAG operated ferries and taking a round trip or two. The trips are surprisingly cheap and on them, you can witness other Hamburg attractions like HafenCity and the Elbphilharmonie.
The Jungfernstieg is a waterfront avenue located in the commercial heart of Berlin. There are shops and department stores along the walk including the renowned Alsterhaus. The avenue used to be where wealthy Hanseaten families used to parade their daughters for eligible bachelors and is the source of the boulevard’s name. At the Jungfernsteig you can enjoy the stunning sunset and incredible waterjets during summer at a terrace near the Binnenlaster.
The tunnel was officially opened in 1921 and was the first tunnel of its kind during those days. The tunnel extends for 426 meters and is located 24 meters below River Elbe. It includes two parallel tunnels, one for cars and the other tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians. During its heyday, the tunnel changed Hamburg’s worker’s lives by enabling them to commute easily. The tunnel is pretty hard to miss especially because the northern entrance is a large clear green dome. The best way to enjoy the tunnel is to take a brisk walk across it.
One of Hamburg’s signature artificial lakes is the Außenalster and has most of the bridges that make Hamburg’s bridge collection more substantial than London, Venice and Amsterdam put together. The shores of the lake form one large park and are separated by bridges with the Kennedy Bridge separating both lakes Außenalster and Binnenlaster. Many early morning runners run by the Außenalster then congregate for coffee along with the scores of kiosks and shops situated along the leafy banks of the lake. If the weather allows it, you can hire a rowboat or a canoe at Osterbekkanal and navigate the lake through Hamburg’s wealthiest sections.
13. St. Michaels Church
The church has experienced major upheavals including a lightning strike in 1790 that completely destroyed it and a fire that ravaged it in 1906. However, the church was completely remade in 1912 and though it sustained some damage during World War II, it has maintained its shape since. The church was designed during the 1600s and is the most renowned Baroque church. The church is easy to locate since its 132 meter dark cupola can be seen from anywhere in Hamburg. The church consists of an observation deck 106 meters into the sky with a breathtaking view of the harbour and a 17th century crypt holding the remains of 2,425 people including world-famous composer Bach.
It is almost tradition for drunken revellers to stagger from the Reeperbahn to the fish market on the harbour on Sunday morning and continue the party. The fish market is operational from March to November and is opened every day at 0500 hrs. There are live bands and DJ’s performing in the market at dawn. You will find both nocturnal partygoers and early morning working people purchasing fish, fruits and flowers in the market. You don’t even have to be drunk to enjoy the Fischmarkt as the fish sellers are pretty entertaining themselves.
15. Hamburg Rathaus
Hamburg’s town hall was built as a testament to the success and optimism of a united Germany in the late 1800s. The hall is a stunning site for anyone seeing it for the first time. The Neo-Renaissance structure is 133 meters wide and includes a central tower that stands 112 meters tall. There is an hour-long tour of the Hamburg Rathaus that costs a tiny fee but the short term exhibitions can be seen for free. The signature feature of the Hamburg Town Hall is the courtyard which has a fountain embellished with a statue of the goddess Hygieia. The hall has a total of 647 rooms crafted in Historicist design and interestingly one room was not discovered until 1971.
16. Tierpark Hagenbeck
The zoo covers 24 hectares of Planten un Blomen’s 47 hectares and is a perfect destination for animal lovers. The park was established by Carl Hagenbeck and his son who developed a new zoo exhibition style. You will find about 510 species of animals in the zoo including penguins, giraffes, porcupines, orangutans and alpacas. The zoo also includes an aquarium that is home to half the zoo’s species and consists of spiders and sharks among other species. The species are kept in separate tanks depending on whether they are fresh-water or salt-water creatures.
At first, Sternschanze will seem edgy because of its graffiti-covered walls and unorthodox characters. However, if you can overcome your reservations, you will see the neighbourhood is an amalgamation of very interesting features and people. If there are riots in Hamburg, they will probably start here but some of the most epic parties in the city also happen at Sternschanze. Sternschanze is a somewhat independent part of the city and offers a glimpse into a unique side of Hamburg.
18. Dialogue in the dark
Dialogue in the dark was the pioneer in a network of attractions that make you experience life like a blind person. You are blindfolded and led by a blind or visually impaired guide and you have to use your other senses to navigate. It is one of those experiences that will undoubtedly change your perspective on life. The museum is located in the Speicherstadt and its attraction lies in a role reversal as you will feel the vulnerability a blind person experiences for a change. The museum’s creator Andreas Heinecke developed the idea for the museum after gaining knowledge that his family had died in the Holocaust. He wanted the museum’s visitors to develop empathy for others.
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.