Considering upping sticks and heading to the economic powerhouse of Western Europe? Want to live under the gaze of the Bavarian Alps or the wooded hills of the Black Forest? Pining for schnitzels and white beers for dinner? If money’s an issue, be sure to read on for our selection of the cheapest places to live in Germany…
It focuses in on five destinations that we think trump the whole lot when it comes to the cost of living. Naturally, there’s no big metropolis a la Berlin or Munich because they tend to be the more expensive places overall. There’s also no room for the banking center of Frankfurt or the sought-after highland villages and ski towns of the south.
What there is room for is a whole range of enthralling mid-sized cities. Some are buzzing student centers with lively nightlife and historic downtown cores. Others are eastern towns that have been totally rebuilt following the ravages of the 20th century. Let’s get stuck in…
The mid-sized city of Aachen is regularly rated among the more affordable towns in the home of bratwurst and Berliner sausage. Located smack dab on the Belgian and Dutch border, it’s far in the west of the country and has noticeable influences from the Low Countries. The population is a modest 250,000 or so. There’s a UNESCO-tagged center that dates back to the age of the Frankish Empire. Oh, and the history ranges more than 2,000 years overall to the time of the Romans. There’s a lot going for it!
The average estimation for outgoings in Aachen is something around the $1,100 per month mark, or just shy of $2,900 for a full family of four. That translates to about 40% less expensive than New York City. Remember that you’ll probably spend less if you decide to bag an apartment in the student part of town, which spreads northwest of the Centre Charlemagne, the historic core of the city.
Also remember that you get a lot of bang for your expat buck here in terms of travel. A short hop to the west and you’ll be over the Belgian border in the Nature Parc High Venn, a sprawling wetland habitat with boardwalk hikes. Go north for a spell and you can explore the lovely Meuse River valley and the EU political hub of Maastricht.
We’d say that Leipzig is among the most affordable of the largest cities in Germany to live in. This one is home to over half a million people, making it the most populous town in the whole of the region of Saxony. But it doesn’t have the price tag that’s usually associated with bigger urban hubs and economic centers…
Nope, most estimations put the cost of living in Leipzig at just over the $1,400 per month mark. That’s actually close to Europe’s average monthly cost of living, which is welcome news because Germany usually demands a bit more moolah than, say, Romania or Bulgaria. The total is based on a rent spend of roughly $500-600 per month, and then add-on budgets for food, entertainment, transport, and other necessities.
Thing is, the secret of Leipzig’s cheap side is now well and truly out. Since the failure of Berlin’s strict rent controls back in 2015, cohorts of young creatives, writers, and nomadic workers have been flocking to this town in search of sub-$1,000 accommodation bills. Many have stuck around, and, while that’s started to push up the cost of life in Leipzig, for now the town remains its affordable old self only with an artsy edge to boot.
The hipster quarters are now well defined. Check out the boutiques and bars of Plagwitz, where mixology cocktails come ten to the penny and there are avant-garde art galleries wedged into old industrial factories. Then there’s happening Südvorstadt, the student area, with its rollicking pubs and weekend rave bars.
Dresden is another of the major cities of the east that we think deserves a place on this list of the cheapest places to live in Germany. At the shortest point, the town sits a mere 12 miles shy of the Czech border (which is to the south) and only 47 miles shy of the Polish border (which is directly east). The upshot? Many of the prices here are influenced and set by life in the Slavic states of Central Europe, and not by the pricier countries out west.
That translates into cost-of-living estimates that sit around the $1,500 per month mark, or near $3,100 for a full family of four. Stats offered by Expatistan and other price-collator blogs show that you’ll spend around $590 on a moderately sized apartment rental of 45 meters squared, and under $200 per month on all your utility bills. The cost of eating out and entertainment should be less than what it is in nearby Leipzig, too (see above).
Infamously flattened by Allied bombing raids in 1949, Dresden has re-emerged as a kingpin of German culture and art in the decades following the fall of the Berlin wall. Ambitious building projects in the post-war period ensured that the downtown still has grand and striking architecture – just check out the Frauenkirche and the opera house. And there’s life, too, thanks to the bumping beer halls of the Altstadt and the all-new coffeehouse bars of the hip Innere Neustadt area.
From single cities to a whole region, we go from Dresden to Saxony-Anhalt in this guide to the cheapest places to live in Germany. We can do that because this large cut-out that spans the central-eastern part of the nation between Berlin and Hamburg has some of the lowest property and land prices in the whole country. It’s not the cheapest. That honor goes to plain old Saxony, but we’ve already touched on two towns there. So, here goes…
Stats reveal that it’s possible to buy already-built houses here for under $1,600 per square meter. That’s cheap by just about anyone’s standards for property within the European Union, but also slashes the national average – which sat at about $3,000 per square meter at the end of 2021 – by almost half.
Saxony-Anhalt has plenty going for it besides low property costs, too. Okay, so the biggest town it can muster is the historical and church-topped city of Magdeburg. That’s not winning any prizes for the most energetic metropolis this side of London any time soon, though it does have gorgeous Gothic architecture and one of Europe’s most handsome cathedrals. Then there’s the backcountry. That’s where you’re likely to find most of the property steals. It’s bucolic stuff – think rolling hills and hemlock woods, wetlands and the winding riparian habitats along the lovely Elbe River.
Bremen could be the place for you if you’re keen to settle closer to the coast of Germany. The North Sea beckons only an hour away from here, and the idyllic sand spits of the Wadden Islands are only a little further. Vacations up there should also be easier to save for if you make Bremen your home, since there’s plenty to be said about how cheap things can be in this one-time powerhouse of the Hanseatic League.
As a rough estimation, you can expect to spend something like $900 per month here. That doesn’t include rent or mortgage prices, which are likely to be in the region of $400-700 per month if you’re happy residing in the quieter suburbs, but closer to $800 per month if you’d prefer to be in the thick of the downtown action. Either way, all that places Bremen on the cheaper side of the scale when it comes to major German cities.
And it really is a major German city. Known across the country for its liberal and multicultural inhabitants, Bremen is a cutting-edge town with oodles of job opportunities in booming corporations like Airbus and Mercedes Benz (both of which have big bases here). That’s balanced out by a rich mercantile history that’s still on show between the grand guild houses of the Bremen Market Square and the handsome Schnoor neighborhood.
The cheapest places to live in Germany – our conclusion
This guide is a good starting point for any would-be expats looking for some of the cheapest places to live in Germany. It dodges the big cities and the major business hubs to focus on a few more regional towns that are better known for their affordable side and low rents and property prices. As such, there’s no room for Berlin, where failed rent controls have sent costs spiraling in recent years. But there is room for Aachen, an international student town in the west, and Leipzig, the new hipster city of Saxony, plus plenty more.
What’s the cheapest part of Germany to live in?
Generally speaking, the east of Germany is the cheapest part of the country to live in. That’s largely because it’s not as developed, has fewer major cities, and is more rural overall. East Germany was also a part of the Soviet Union for much of the 20th century, a fact that meant it wasn’t as industrialized or integrated into Western economic models as quickly as the rest of the country following the Second World War.
How much does it cost to live in Berlin?
Despite efforts from the city council to control rental rates across Berlin in the early 2010s, the stats show that the cost of living in the German capital has increased about 20% year on year since 2014. That means you’ll need an estimated $1,700-2,100 per month to get by in the big city, which is quite a bit over the European average.