Best Cities in Germany for Foreigners (Besides Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg or Munich)
Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 05:26 pm
Germany might be a small country, but it offers tons of possibilities for people with various backgrounds, preference, budget, family situation or lifestyle. Here are some of the best cities in Germany for foreigners, looking to live in Germany long or short term.
Most foreigners come to Germany hoping to live in its largest and most popular cities; the Big Four – Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich.
They already fit a lot of criteria for most immigrants moving to Germany – diversity, safety, job opportunities and a vibrant lifestyle. However, they are also insanely expensive, particularly for students, young adults and singles. The housing crisis and rising rents and general cost of living in Germany in 2022 are also huge concerns for a lot of foreigners and natives alike.
This is why, in this article, I have intentionally avoided the Big Four: Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich.
Germany has a lot of cities that are full of exciting events, beautiful nature, and a vibrant multicultural community, plus an affordable cost of living with good public transport. For this article, I have researched the most sought-after compact, but vibrant cities that are suitable for visible foreigners, the LGBTQ+ community, students, young adults, nature lovers, remote workers etc.
The following are the best cities to live in Germany if you don’t like bigger cities and the capital.
Most Diverse Cities in Germany
As progressive as Germany is, there are still a few areas that are not welcoming for visible minorities. Sadly, subtle racism and microaggression are still pretty commonly faced by non-Caucasian foreigners in Germany. Casual racism aka Alltagsrassismus is a widely discussed issue in German public discourse.
It is safe to say that the big four are arguably the most diverse cities in Germany. However, if you are looking for some alternatives, here are some of the best cities in Germany for non-white immigrants as reported on Reddit.
Duesseldorf has a strong international community known for its fashion industry and art scene. It is located in NRW, which is already one of the most diverse places in Germany with lots of historic migration into the area. According to various surveys in Germany, the xenophobia rate in NRW is relatively low in comparison to Eastern Germany or Bavaria.
Düsseldorf is home to the largest Japanese community in Germany. Students make up almost exactly 10% of the total population in the city.
Duesseldorf lies close to the Ruhr Valley and is home to lots of industries with international companies, especially in quantum computing and independent computer gaming. Other larger cities such as Cologne and Essen are not too far away.
Duesseldorf, Cologne and the entire Ruhr Valley have a very active nightlife in comparison to the other areas and it is very easy to travel around these cities on the weekend.
Cost of Living in Düsseldorf
The total cost of living in Düsseldorf for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1468.18 USD.
Darmstadt is a compact, but very modern city with easy access to rural and urban areas.
It is very close to Frankfurt – one of the most diverse cities in Germany! Darmstadt and Frankfurt have the highest share of African residents in regard to the population. You can easily take a train from Darmstadt and reach Frankfurt within 20 mins. Mainz, another lovely wine region of Germany is only about 30 mins train ride away from Darmstadt.
You will never feel far from the “big city life” when living in Darmstadt.
Even though its total population is only 159.631, Darmstadt has an international and multicultural feel to it due to the historical presence of the US Armed Forces. As a newbie in Germany, you could always have an “expat bubble” to fall back on.
Darmstadt is also known for its chemical industries. There are medium-sized mechanical manufacturers, too along with a lot of tech companies. TU Darmstadt has an excellent reputation for several STEM programs.
Cost of living in Darmstadt
The total cost of living in Darmstadt for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1360.9 USD.
As the former capital of Germany and the current UN headquarters, as well as one of the stronger humanitarian universities and international schools, Bonn has a history of being international and welcoming to foreigners.
A huge bonus of Bonn is that there are a lot of big and interesting cities very close to each other. With a population of 327,258, you may not get the big-city vibe at Bonn but larger, vibrant cities are just around the corner. It’s easier to find a job, not get bored and it’s easier to travel as a tourist.
From Bonn, you can travel to Cologne or Dusseldorf in just one hour. Netherland and Belgium and Luxumbourg are practically a couple of hours of car ride from Bonn.
Bonn is open without being as impersonal as Berlin or as absurdly expensive as Hamburg or Munich.
Cost of living in Bonn
The total cost of living in Bonn for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1529.36 USD.
Frankfurt is truly multi-kulti without pretending to be. It has the highest share of foreigners (inhabitants with foreign passports) in regard to the local population. About 51 per cent of the population in Frankfurt is of non-German heritage!
I am often in Frankfurt since my spouse comes from the region. Let me tell you, as a multilingual person, it is such a joy walking around in the city centre and hearing a potpourri of languages. Frankfurt is one of the most diverse cities in Germany with a multitude of ethnicities living here.
Eintracht Frankfurt, a major local football club is practically the biggest poster child for promoting diversity in Germany and actively campaigns against racism and anti-Semitism.
The only drawback is that Frankfurt is very expensive with a high cost of living, but on the other hand, the jobs here are very well paid too. If you can afford to live here, I would highly recommend Frankfurt.
Cost of living in Frankfurt
The total cost of living in Frankfurt for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1493.38 USD
Best cities for LGBTQ+ community in Germany
Most of Germany is very safe for the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, Berlin and Cologne are the gay capitals of the country, but even the smaller cities in Germany are very safe for same-sex couples or single gay people.
There have been notable gay leaders in the German political landscape. Guido Westerwelle, (ex vice-chancellor and foreign minister) and Jens Spahn (former health minister) were very popular and openly gay. It is also very normalised in smaller cities. For example, Weingarten, a small town with 25.000 citizens in BadenWürttemberg had a gay mayor for many years. Bodenmais, lot smaller town in Bavaria with only 3300 citizens, also had a gay mayor.
As you can see, LGBTQ+ is a widely accepted part of German culture and society. Plenty of cities in Germany do not have the same reputation as Berlin, Cologne or Hamburg simply because they have a small population, ergo a smaller LGBTQ+ population (maybe because everyone moved to bigger cities!). That is not to say that you will have a hard time there, only that there is a smaller presence of gay scenes or events.
So here are some of the most underrated gay-friendly cities in Germany.
Bremen, a north German city, is incredibly welcoming toward the LGBTQ+ community.
The Christopher Street Day (CSD) Bremen in 1979 was, in fact, the first-ever CSD in Germany and one of the first of its kind in Germany. One of the city squares is even named for the gay rights pioneer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. The gay scene in Bremen might be small but is immensely friendly with gay bars, clubs, and saunas catering to gay customers. Bremen is indeed a very gay-friendly city in Germany.
Bremen is also very close to the North Sea and maritime culture has a strong presence there. It is an engineering and tech hub, particularly for the emerging wind energy field.
Cost of Living in Bremen
The total cost of living in Bremen for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1343.98 USD.
Stuttgart has been reported as an open, welcoming city by African American expats on Reddit. The south German city had a large US military presence in Stuttgart post world war. It is a larger city with students, and young adults, as well as a high immigrant population. Plus it is also a very gay-friendly city in Germany.
Stuttgart is home to a vibrant LGBTQ+ community.
Since 1979, Stuttgart Pride, the cultural festival for Christopher Street Day, has been championing the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexual and queer people in Stuttgart and around the region. They periodically update their website with the latest events in the city.
If you have a well-paid job and you can afford the cost of living in Stuttgart. it is definitely worth your time.
Cost of living in Stuttgart
The total cost of living in Stuttgart for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1424.86 USD.
Don’t worry! This isn’t rural Bavaria. 😉 Nuremberg is the 14th largest city in Germany and the second largest in Bavaria. Nuremberg is located in Franconia (in Bavaria, but NOT Bavaria 😉 )
Nuremberg is a very gay-friendly city in Germany.
CSD Nürnberg e.V. was founded to give CSD in Nuremberg a home in the city. This is a formal organisation that consists of a chairperson, the board of directors and its members.
Furthermore, in cooperation with Fliederlich e.V. and the Alliance against Homophobia and Transphobia, it regularly campaigns for the rights of the queer community in the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region, Bavaria and Germany.
There are also a few gay bars and clubs and other LGBT organisations and events in Nuremberg.
Nuremberg centre only is 20 km away from Erlangen centre. Fürth is another nearby city with alternate sub-cultures. Fürth-Erlangen-Nuremberg are practically one big merged city well connected by multiple train lines. All three cities have a considerable young population with universities and many students, which means it’s gay-friendly!
Public transport within the city is amazing, mainly due to its subway system. Nuremberg also has an international airport with direct flights to several major European cities.
Cost of Living in Nuremberg
The total cost of living in Nuremberg for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1433.94 USD.
Best Cities in Germany for Students
Germany is home to some of the best universities in Europe. Education is also state-funded, which means students even international students can study for free in Germany (a moderate semester fee is charged at every university). However, the cost of living is still covered privately by the students. This means major big cities such as Munich, Hamburg or Berlin can be very costly for several students.
Here are some of the most affordable, and best cities in Germany for students.
Aachen is in the top ten of the biggest student cities in Germany according to studis-online.de. It is believed that every sixth person in Aachen is a student!
It is truly a student town with lots of multiculturalism there. The city, while small, offers a lot of fun, inexpensive opportunities for young adults.
Aachen is also a very bike-friendly city. Expect to bike a lot when there. You also want to get a second-hand bike since bike theft is quite a common crime there!
However, the best thing about travelling in Aachen is the student ticket. With this student ticket, you can visit tons of cities in NRW – fast and free. There are direct train connections from Aachen to cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, etc. It is located closer to Cologne (takes around 45-50 minutes by train from Aachen Hauptbahnhof to Köln Hauptbahnhof). Since it is a border town, you can travel to cities like Vaals, or Maastricht in the Netherlands for free with your student pass.
Cost of living in Aachen
The total cost of living in Aachen for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1268.91 USD.
If you are really looking to live student life in a big city in Germany, then Dresden might be a good choice. Dresden offers the best “bang-per-buck” for students on a budget who also want to experience big-city benefits.
Dresden’s biggest problem, however, is its reputation. The actual life in Dresden is not so bad. The first thing that comes to people’s minds seems to be Nazis, (and the 28% for the AfD in Saxony surely doesn’t help!). That said, it’s a diverse university town, with left-leaning youth culture. There are plenty of non-white foreigners who have reported Dresden as a nice fun city to live in.
There is a very lively alternative culture, concentrated in the New Town area. There are many festivals, with some like Elbhangfest and Bunte Republik Neustadt. You can also find a very lot of high culture, like the famous opera house, Baroque buildings, and art galleries. If you are into live music, fine arts, or anything high-culture, then Dresden is a very big hotspot.
Dresden is very green with lots of parks, a beautiful river area (Elbwiesen), a beautiful old town (Altstadt), and nice restaurant districts. The Sächsische Schweiz national park is also very close and a really nice place for hiking.
Dresden is probably the last bastion of sanity in Germany’s crazy housing market. A few Redditors have reported that it was much easier to find an apartment within 30% of their income.
Overall, it’s a relatively cheap city for young adults in Germany with really good public transport.
Cost of Living in Dresden
The total cost of living in Dresden for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1333 USD.
Münster is a beautiful student city in Germany. There’s a broad variety of cultural activities, sports, and places to go out – it’s lively and dynamic. The city centre is very beautiful in terms of architecture.
It’s also called the bicycle capital of Germany with an average of two bikes per resident. Everyone bikes everywhere in Münster. In terms of overall quality of life, it doesn’t get much better in Germany.
It is a great city to live in Germany for young adults especially.
Hawerkamp is an old industrial complex with several techno/electro clubs. The old town area around Jüdefelder and Kreuz Straße is full of student pubs with shitty cocktails, which gets extremely crowded on Wednesdays. If you are looking for something non-studenty, The Harbour area or Hansa Viertel is full of typical chain bars, as well as some alternative nightlife venues.
The Aasee is nice to visit on a decently warm and sunny (but don’t ever swim in it as it has notoriously dangerous undercurrents!).
The housing situation is the only thing that has become a little difficult in recent years because Münster is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. If you are willing to live in a shared flat (WG) you should be fine.
Cost of Living in Münster
The total cost of living in Münster for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1331.14 USD.
Best Cities in Germany for Young Adults
Once you graduate, you will eventually look for a job or at the very least move to an area with plenty of job opportunities. Being a young adult should not be just about work though. It should also be full of fun and new experiences.
So here are some of the best cities in Germany for young adults.
These cities not only promise lots of work opportunities but also possibilities to go out, socialise, experience German culture and offer easy connectivity to other nearby regions.
Most people who like Berlin also like Leipzig. It’s a bit smaller, but has a very similar vibe! It is very hyped nowadays and a lot of Berliners are moving here as they are fed up with Berlin.
Leipzig, however, is nowhere near as packed and eventful as Berlin. It’s a very calm city especially in the summer when all students are on holiday.
The compact city has a great tram and S-Bahn network and is very bike friendly.
This city has beautiful nature with lots of parks, a river where you can go canoeing, vibrant pubs and clubs, several cafes and co-working spaces to work from and is extremely bike friendly.
Overall you might have a hard time making friends but if you join the co-working space in the centre, meetups and language exchanges you should be good.
Average Cost of Living in Leipzig
The total cost of living in Leipzig for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1282.09 USD.
Erlangen is a small city in Franconia (it is in Bavaria, but it is not Bavaria! 😉 ). It is a city of students, doctors and engineers. Erlangen is home to Siemens. It is known as the “Medical Valley” of Germany with high demand for engineers in medical technologies.
It is also very close to Herzogenaurach which is home to three industry giants – Schaeffler, Puma and Addidas. Schaeffler alone makes up one of the largest employers in this region. A huge range of job opportunities in this concentrated region makes it one of the best cities in Germany for young adults (or anyone really!)
It is also very close to Nuremberg and Fürth, which are both mid-sized but vibrant cities with a number of cafes, multicuisine restaurants and several cultural events throughout the year. There are several LGBTQ+ organisations that host events for their community in the region. E-werk.de organises a pride event, “Rosa Freitag” once a month.
Erlangen might appear a bit dull and more expensive to live in than Nürnberg however it offers a number of work opportunities in and around the area (with fairly high netto salaries!) along with great connectivity to other cities in Franconia.
Cost of Living in Erlangen
The total cost of living in Erlangen for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1347.6 USD.
Mannheim is one of the larger German cities with 300k. Yes, it’s not Berlin, Munich or Hamburg, but it is a huge city by German standards with plenty to offer – affordable rents, a decent club and bar culture, some very good (and some very bad) restaurants, and historical sightseeing interests.
Depending on your social circle, a lot of partying might be house parties and then shift outside to the riverside of Rhine or Neckar.
Together with Ludwigshafen on the opposite side of the river, Mannheim forms an important industrial centre making it a great city for young adults in Germany.
The two cities were major targets for WW2 bombers and came close to being obliterated. The cities were rebuilt as quickly as possible, but the resulting architecture is functional, rather than beautiful. Mannheim does still retain some historic buildings.
As a university town, Mannheim has a range of things for young adults to do. It’s just not the kind of place you would go to for a pleasant break and weekend sightseeing. If you want to shake things up you can always take a tram to Heidelberg which is more tourist-centred, and literally just next door.
Cost of Living in Mannheim
The total cost of living in Mannheim for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1487.66 USD.
Hannover is a medium-sized city, not full of tourists, but with an international flair. It is the home of Hochdeutsch.
The city is compact (about 20 km in diameter), and you can reach everywhere by bike. Public transport is extremely efficient because it is designed for big industry fairs (CeBit). You can get around well without a car better than in most other cities in Germany. English speakers are always in demand, in hotels, services, and hospitality thanks to its large event industry.
It is generally very pleasant to live in Hannover. Rents are fairly cheap. It even has the biggest forest within a European city, lots of lakes as well as parks. For socialising there’s decent nightlife, an interesting arts and culture scene, pretty liberal culture.
For travelling around, Hannover has good train connections to every German City. North sea or the Harz Mountains are easy to reach for a weekend trip.
Cost of Living in Hannover
The total cost of living in Hannover for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1377.85 USD.
Best Cities for Nature Lovers in Germany
Würzburg is the capital of Upper Franconia (you must never forget that the locals here are Franconian and not Bavarian!). It is conveniently located between Nürnberg and Frankfurt am Main (about an hour in either direction).
Würzburg is home to around 130k inhabitants with the highest percentage of 18- to 30-year-olds of all German cities. There is a big university and several students, making it a classic “Studentenstadt”. This definitely shapes the vibe of the city.
It’s an old city with a young population. At the same time, you still get all the advantages of an old town with medieval churches, castles, theatres etc.
The city is in a wine-growing area and there are plenty of picturesque little towns and villages nearby. As is the case in Franconia, it also has many local breweries. A beautiful castle on a hill watches over the city and the historic “Residenz” (little Versailles). Many small villages in the surrounding area still look as they did in the Middle Ages between the vineyard panorama.
Würzburg offers a lively pub and club scene and cultural events throughout the year. The river “Main” flows directly through the city. The locals often spend summer evenings relaxing with a beer or wine on the riverside.
Average Cost of Living in Würzburg
The total cost of living in Würzburg for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1316.13 USD.
Tübingen is a great little city in the south. If you like skiing, hiking or anything related to nature and mountains it’s the place to go. You can reach a lot of destinations for short trips such as the Alps, Alsace, Black Forest, and Stuttgart.
It has a beautiful old city centre which survived ww2 unscathed. It offers a nice surrounding landscape and just an all-around high standard of living.
It is also a lovely small student town with around 30,000 students living here.
Cost of Living in Tübingen
The total cost of living in Tübingen for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1500.47 USD.
If you are a water baby then Kiel might be a great choice. It sits right next to the Baltic Sea, a prime holiday spot in Germany. Every summer Germans flock to its endless sandy beaches.
Some of the sunniest spots in Germany are along the Baltic Sea. The proximity to the sea also makes the winters a bit milder than further south towards Berlin and Dresden. Waddensea National Park is not too far from the region.
Around 250.000 citizens live in Kiel. Thanks to the university it is also a very student-friendly city. Kiel has a really vibrant atmosphere and nightlife. The Kieler Woche is a summer festival that takes place at the end of June.
The city is also getting more bike-friendly every year. It is only one hour from Hamburg by train.
Cost of Living in Kiel
The total cost of living in Kiel for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1386.04 USD.
Locals believe that Heidelberg is the most beautiful city in Germany! I think they might be right. Heidelberg is truly one of the best cities in Germany for nature lovers.
The Odenwald is right around the city which is a heavily forested mountainous region in Germany. It is great for biking, hiking or biking with motorcycles.
Heidelberg is surrounded by major cities all around: Mannheim, Karlsruhe, and Frankfurt are only an hour’s drive. You are right next to France and four hours from Amsterdam. The public transport is good within the city.
The salaries in the region are very good and there are many Americans here because Heidelberg and Mannheim hosted US Army here for decades.
Cost of Living in Heidelberg
The total cost of living in Heidelberg for two people with average consumption for one month will be 1558.21 USD.
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Eine interaktive Karte von Preis.de