Despite being the largest and one of the wealthiest nations in the EU, Germany is a relatively affordable place to live with lower costs than some of its neighbours to the west and north, although it’s still very expensive when looked at from an overall European perspective. It also stands out as a country that is not dominated by one city or region and there are a host of great options for anyone considering moving there. In this post, we’ll look at some of the best and cheapest cities to live in Germany by considering which offer the greatest balance between a high quality of life and affordable living.
At the bottom, you’ll also find a full cost of living comparison for 20 cities in Germany. This data was last updated in May 2023 and takes into account recent increases in the cost of living in Germany and across Europe.
Table of Contents
- 5 Options for Cities to Live in Germany
- Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in Germany?
5 Options for Cities to Live in Germany
For a major European capital, Berlin is still pretty good value but it’s true that the cost of living there has increased rapidly in recent years. It now comfortably ranks as one of the most expensive German cities which wasn’t always the case, but is still certainly one of the best places to live in Europe for those looking for great options when it comes to daytime entertainment and nights out.
The city has completely reinvented itself following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, although the divides between west and east are still evident in parts. These days it is a vibrant city, full of districts with their own special quirks and places of interest. Whether you’re looking for a quiet cafe or a loud warehouse club, Berlin has it all. It is comfortably the most popular destination for young people coming to Germany to live.
With around 4.5 million living in its metropolitan area, choosing where in Berlin to live is important as it is a very large city, but with an excellent transport network and such a diverse mix of neighbourhoods, you stand a good chance of finding the perfect location to suit your lifestyle.
Living Cost Index – 1850 Euros/month
Germany’s largest metropolitan area is the Rhine-Ruhr region in the west of the country and it’s home to a cluster of cities including Dortmund, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen and Bonn. You will hear a wide range of opinions as to which is the best city to visit or live in but Cologne and Dusseldorf are perhaps the standout options.
Cologne is the larger city and boasts more in the way of history but we’ve opted to include Düsseldorf which has emerged as one of the most liveable cities in Germany in recent years. It has a nice blend of old and new and is the location of a number of famous events on the German cultural calendar including the enormous Kirmes fun fair. For many locals this is one of the highlights of summer in Germany and the city also hosts a colourful carnival in the spring.
Its riverside location adds to its charms and with Germany’s 3rd busiest airport, Düsseldorf is also a great location for anyone looking for plentiful and affordable connections to other parts of Europe.
Living Cost Index – 1700 Euros/month
If you’re somebody who prefers smaller towns, then you’d be wise to consider Aachen, which frequently ranks among the best places to live in Germany. Indeed, InterNations ranked Aachen as the top German city for expats in 2019.
Its popularity in part comes thanks to its cheap living costs with many people able to sustain a decent quality of life on a budget of around 1400 Euros a month, something which is very difficult to do in the largest cities in the country. Many of the foreigners who come here are IT professionals with a large demand for jobs in that sector.
Aachen’s large student population helps ensure the city does have its fun side too and it boasts a special character in the winter months when the spires of its old churches and cathedral are covered in snow and its residents flock to the Aachener Christmas Market.
Living Cost Index – 1400 Euros/month
In terms of the larger cities, Leipzig is one of the cheapest options. Its location in what used to be East Germany is a big reason for that and overall the city endured a difficult 20th Century, suffering extensive damage during the 2nd World War before subsequently spending several decades behind the Iron Curtain.
Those factors contribute to its status as one of the poorest major urban areas in Germany but for those looking to save a couple of hundred Euros each month, you may be wise to consider it. Leipzig feels like a city that is very much on the move and is also a good location for those seeking a lively cultural scene with many museums, galleries and music venues.
Leipzig has undergone widespread regeneration across the first two decades of the 21st Century with the construction of a new transport network and it has evolved into an up and coming economic centre with a bright future according to many recent studies. It has even recently been described as the most liveable city in Germany, something that would have been absolutely unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago.
Living Cost Index – 1400 Euros/month
Finally an option for those who prefer something much quieter and more scenic than the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis. With a population of only around 100,000 and surrounded by a green, hilly landscape, Jena feels much more relaxed than most of the other cities mentioned in this post.
Like Leipzig, it also fell within the old German Democratic Republic (East Germany), but in more recent years, it has developed into a thriving town with a reputation as a major research centre with an enlarged university.
While it may not boast anything like the nightlife and entertainment options of a city like Berlin or Hamburg, Jena is well located for anyone who likes to get out into the countryside with excellent hiking options in the nearby countryside while the Ore and Harz mountain ranges are within easy reach.
Living Cost Index – 1350 Euros/month
Germany Living Cost Calculation Explained
For the cost of living data featured above and in the table below, we’ve used numbeo’s cost calculator (which is based on real data from people living in Germany) as a guide. It should be a useful means of comparing the different cities, however exact living costs will clearly vary considerably from person to person.
The estimated monthly figures are intended to show a possible amount that might cover the cost of rented accommodation and typical living costs (groceries, transport evenings out etc). They may be suitable for anyone living in a flat-share and in some cases, it may also just about cover costs for a single person looking to rent their own place if you watch what you spend on other things. That being said, if you are renting alone, you may need to live well away from the city centre.
It’s also worth noting that none of these budgets for living in Germany take into account the cost of health or travel insurance. These costs will vary considerably according to your individual circumstances and may depend on whether or not you are an EU citizen. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much travel medical insurance may cost.
Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in Germany?
|Cost of Living Index (Monthly in Euros)
This table above consists of the 14 largest cities in Germany (those with a population of 500,000 or more) in addition to six other smaller ones which have been selected because they rank well in quality of life rankings or are generally quite popular with digital nomads or foreigners moving to Germany to live. The smaller cities featured are Aachen, Augsburg, Magdeburg, Bonn, Heidelberg and Jena.
Unlike some other European countries, there are not quite the same extreme differences between wealthier and poorer regions but somewhere like Munich does still stand out as being significantly more expensive to live in. However if you are intending to find a job, you should factor in the higher wages you will most likely receive in one of the larger, more expensive cities.
Students, remote workers and digital nomads may be wise to consider cities at the lower end of the list although you have to ask yourself whether it is really worth saving an extra two or three hundred Euros or so a month to be in one of the cheapest places to live in Germany such as Aachen or Magdeburg where there is significantly less going on.
Compared to other countries in the region, you can perhaps find slightly better value here than in France where all of the best cities to live cost 1500+ Euros per month according to the same metrics. The cheapest cities to live in Italy are quite a bit cheaper than typical towns in Germany though and you’ll save a lot of money by hopping over the Eastern borders into Poland or Czechia.
This post on the best and cheapest cities to live in Germany was last updated in May 2023.