Germany draws in all sorts with the promise of thumping electro bars in Berlin, wild mountains doused in pine trees and snow in Bavaria, schnitzel taverns in the Black Forest, and beer-sloshing bars in Munich. But where are the best places to live in Germany with family?
Well…that’s precisely what we’re here to find out. This guide will hop from north to south, Baltic to Bavaria, all on the hunt for the places that we think are the top choices for folks looking to totally relocate for a new life in the home of lederhosen and oompah.
We’ve ended up with a selection of just five of the best places to live in Germany with family. They’ve been handpicked for both their cultural wealth and their history, but also with an eye on their livability ratings and how they score when it comes to air quality, crime, and the rest. Let’s begin…
Recently ranked in the top 10 most livable cities on the planet by The Economist, Frankfurt certainly has a lot going for it. It’s the highest ranking of any major German city on that list, noted for its fantastic provision of healthcare, its political stability, cultural wealth, and overarching urban infrastructure. On a more anecdotal level, it’s also a darn fun place to be…
Often compared to Manhattan and London because it’s considered the business and financial capital of Germany, Frankfurt sprouts a forest of gleaming skyscrapers from the western end of its Innenstadt area. They quickly give way to low-lying blocks of more historic buildings that hide bustling beer halls and wine bars, but also enthralling museums that tell the tale of towering figures like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The heart of the city is largely dominated by the banking and enterprise sector. That means families thinking about moving to this ever-bustling town should look more to the outskirts. They begin with Gallusviertel, a young professional mainstay from where you can still reach the downtown core with ease, and end in Bockenheim, a leafier part of the city that’s famed for its apple orchards.
The other thing that’s worth noting about Frankfurt is that it hosts the single largest airport in Europe. That’s not to be ignored if you’re thinking of living here, because it means you’ll have connections to destinations far and near right on your doorstep. Fancy a quick hop to London for the weekend? Easy. Or will it be a long-distance odyssey to hit tropical beaches? That can be done too.
We don’t hesitate one second to put the sprawling capital up close to the top of our list of the best places to live in Germany with family. Nope, Berlin ticks a great many boxes on the culture and arts front and is a real haven for history buffs to boot. It’s got more museums than you can shake an ancient Assyrian relic at on Museum Island, along with whole districts like Friedrichshain that are scrawled with famous street murals.
The other thing to note about Berlin is that the local government has been determined to keep things under control on the cost of living front. A law in 2020 – known as the Mietendeckel – sought to limit what private landlords could charge for rent. It’s since been overturned by the country’s supreme court, but goes to show that there’s a certain drive here to keep the heart of the capital open to families and newcomers.
Not all parts of Berlin are created equal. You’ll probably want to skip the hipster and party hubs of Mitte and Kreuzberg. Much better are the leafy districts of Marzahn-Hellersdorf and Tempelhof, along with the upcoming yuppie area of Prenzlauer Berg, where the streets are positively inundated with cool cafes, co-working spaces, and family eateries.
Berlin also has a pretty darn efficient transport system made up of the U-Bahn (underground) and the S-Bahn (overland rapid transit) that means it’s possible to live much further out but still enjoy all the draws of the downtown. That makes it possible for families to settle in the affordable districts of Potsdam, charming Hohen Neuendorf, and the forested reaches of lake-side Wandlitz to name just three.
There’s not a Bavarian out there who would say that Munich is a bad place to raise a family. Not a chance. The region’s capital, it’s steeped in medieval history, comes cluttered with vast parks, and even sits within striking distance of the German Alps. On top of all that, it was named the single best place to live on the planet by Monocle magazine back in 2018 and ranked at number three in Mercer’s Quality of Living league tables the very same year.
We can see why it’s got such a good rep and scores so highly. Air quality here is described as good as per WHO guidelines. The town is responsible for over 19% of the whole of Bavaria’s GDP. It boasts the lowest unemployment rate of any major German city. Plus, travel stat collator Numbeo lists Munich’s overall crime level as “very low.”
Adding to that is a vibrant cultural calendar. The highlight is almost certainly Oktoberfest, which strangely happens in late September. It’s one of the biggest open-air festivals in the world, offering a whirlwind of Bavarian cuisine and – of course – oodles of beer. The city is a joy to experience even when that’s not on, though, whether you’re wandering the romantic Altstadt or picnicking on the lawns of the English Garden.
Less than an hour’s ride by train or car to the south and it’s all about the mountains. The resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen paves the way to the hiking trails that weave and wind up the mighty Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. There are lakes there, too, like the glinting Eibsee, and ski resorts that cross the border into the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. Talk about outdoorsy family life!
Hamburg has been bustling with life since the boom days of the Hanseatic League in the 13th century. That alliance of trading states turned it into one of the biggest international merchant hubs on the planet, a title that it still claims today – it remains the third-largest industrial port in the whole of Europe. But it’s not just industry, industry, and industry…
Nope, Hamburg is a downright hip and happening spot. Straddling the meanders of the River Elbe, it’s currently in the throes of Europe’s largest inner-city regeneration project: The HafenCity. The aim there is to bring sustainable living and leisure to the old-school depots that were once used for storing spices and teas imported from the Far East and beyond. The result is a whole district of edgy start-outs, roastery coffee houses, cutting-edge eateries, and the like.
Of course, the infamous Reeperbahn and St Pauli areas of Hamburg are probably best avoided for families. Eulogized by the likes of Tom Waits, they are gritty nightlife quarters that have just as many dubious “gentlemen’s clubs” as above-board nightlife venues. Don’t despair, though – there are plenty of top places to search for your family home, like in trendy Schanzen and forest-filled Wellingsbuttel to the north.
The biggest draw when it’s time to do day trips from here for families would surely be the German coast. You get access to both the North Sea beaches and the sands of the Baltic from this port town. The first hit a zenith with the wide, wind-blasted strands of the Nationalpark Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer. The latter spread east into the wooded Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft National Park.
Cologne caps off our list of the best places to live in Germany with family by being an all-round star on the economic front. It’s one of the powerhouses of the country, touting a vibrant start-up scene that sees something like five new business ventures per month and one of the highest scores in trading freedom overall, a stat that measures how easy it is to do business in the city. That’s all bolstered by the presence of the prestigious University of Cologne (one of the oldest in the country) and the regular Cologne Trade Fair (an event that brings in oodles of investment year on year).
Then you have the more aesthetic things to think about. Cologne hardly disappoints there. The old center is skewered through by the brooding spires of the wonderful Kölner Dom, still one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Around that swirls a district of narrow streets and squares divided into separate areas known as Veedel – one for concept stores, one for bookshops, one for coffee joints.
Also don’t forget that Cologne sits plum at the northern end of the fabled Rhineland. We’d say that’s among the most romantic and charming parts of the whole of Germany; a region of sylvan hills and rolling valleys that comes capped off now and then by some fairy-tale castle that you can only reach by hiking trail or gondola.
The best places to live in Germany with family – our conclusion
Generally speaking, this corner of Europe scores pretty darn well when it comes to livability. There are now a couple of German cities ranked in the top 10 places to live and bring up a family according to major publications, and a whole load more that promise stacks for would-be expats with the kids in tow. This guide to the best places to live in Germany with family whittles them all down to just five picks, with a nod to the capital in Berlin, the mountain-shrouded city of Bavaria, and the bustling port of Hamburg along the way.