Saunders 1865 | Moving to Berlin

Moving to Berlin

Are you moving to Berlin? Berlin, the capital of Germany and a state in its own right, is home to both the President and the Chancellor and is located in north-eastern part of the country.  It is the second most populous city in the country with a population of 3.5 million residents.  As part of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropole, with approximately 6 million people, the multi-cultural and diverse inhabitants come from more than 180 nations.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Berlin report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Berlin on the Map

Situated on the banks of the Havel and Spree rivers, one-third of the city is designated green areas, dotted with beautiful parks, gardens, forests, lakes and rivers.

With an extremely high quality of life, Berlin was rated within the top 20 best places to live in the world, but was higher in terms of infrastructure, mostly due to public transport, airport effectiveness and traffic congestion.  International and local transport connectivity is highly-rated and operates with typical German efficiency.

The excellent transport links include trains (S-Bahn), the metro (U-Bahn), buses and trams.  One Travelcard is valid for all these options, with unlimited travel within the A, B and C zones for the duration of the pass.  Both the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn operate from 4 am until 1 am during the week, and 24 hours at weekends.

Berlin boasts two international airports, both in close proximity to the city centre.  Schönefeld Airport is at 13.7 miles distance, which can be driven in around 30 minutes.    The main airport is Tegel, with its older buildings.  At only 5-miles from the centre, transit time is only 20 minutes. Trains, taxis, rental cars are all available at both airports.  A new airport, Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, is under construction but has been beleaguered by problems from the start.  Its opening has now been delayed to sometime in 2018.  Located just 11 miles south of the city, it is adjacent to Schönefeld airport.

The Areas

This dynamic city, with its rich history, had to reconnect its two halves after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  This has resulted in trendy, alternative areas abutting elegant, tree-line avenues.  The neighbourhoods all offer different accommodation options, so care should be taken, and advise should be definitely sought before deciding on where to live.

Competition for rental properties is stiff, and is a long, difficult process, with prices rising as more and more people vie for the available housing.


With its eclectic mix of nationalities and cultures, this international area is the heartbeat of Berlin, showcasing the reunification.  Incorporating Tiergarten and Wedding, this prestigious area features striking contemporary buildings and historical sites such as the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie.

Nightclubs and restaurants are in abundance, but finding parking or securing a reasonable rental apartment is more of a challenge.  Firstly, the costs in Berlin are broken down into rent, running costs and utilities, and this must be taken into account when viewing.  Secondly, gas and electricity contracts would need to be opened by the tenant, this is not done by the landlord.

The majority of rentals are unfurnished, but a select few may be leased fully furnished.  Mitte is where everyone wants to be, so costs are higher here than elsewhere.  But it is ideal for singles or young couples who want to the close to the action.  Popular areas are Rosenthaler Vorstadt, Spandauer Vorstadt, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Stadt, and the historic Nikolaiviertel.

Public transport is excellent throughout Berlin, and care should be taken to be nearby to a station to reach one of the 19 international schools.

The park in Tiergarten is to Berlin what Hyde Park is to London, although this area and nearby Wedding are not as popular as the rest of Mitte.


Originally a working-class area, this fashionable, upbeat neighbourhood attracts young expats looking for a bit of excitement and action.  Clubs and bars are on every corner, the rental costs are low and students favour the area for obvious reasons.

The liveliest locations are Boxhagener Straße and Simon- Dach Straße.  Kreuzberg, in particular, is multi-cultural and easy going.

The Berlin Wall used to run between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.  Remnants can be seen at the East Side Gallery, and residents of the area organise an annual water fight at the magnificent Oberbaumbrücke, which connects the two areas over the river Spree.


Prenzlauer is the area for families and thus has been nicknamed “Pregnant Hill”.  It is densely populated and swanky and may suit those with more refined tastes.  Foreign academics, artists, designers and actors reside here, adding a more contemporary feel.

The area has great clothing shops, clubs and pubs, theatres and restaurants and is one of the most modern districts in Berlin.


With its profusion of green spaces, the magnificent and exclusive Kurfrstendamm shopping boulevard, the Zoological Gardens and the Olympic Stadium of the Third Reich, rentals here are much higher, properties more prestigious and expats can rub shoulders with the rich and famous.

The area attracts the more conservative and affluent residents, with a good choice of schools and a certain quality of life valued by many families.

Although the neighbourhood is not known as being trendy, Savigny Platz falls within the area and boasts countless bars and restaurants, enticing the younger generation.

Wilmersdorf is located west of the city and appears to be gradually moving away from its wealthy, conservative and bourgeois reputation and appealing to more young people and younger families.


Further away from the capital, the tourist destination of Potsdam has a historic city centre and is the site of many palaces, including Sanssouci.  Typical suburbs surround the centre, plus there is a business area, including research facilities and a major film studio.  For expat families, the Berlin-Brandenberg International School is also here.

Housing costs are generally lower for an average apartment, although some of the period and exclusive properties are extremely expensive.  Most of the single-family homes have gardens and parking, with older townhouses having limited access to parking.

Transport is not an issue, with easy access to the city via frequent buses or the U-Bhan.

Many events are held in Potsdam and there are plenty of recreational activates including cinemas and museums.  A large shopping mall and a host of smaller independent boutiques are close to the centre, catering for retail therapy, with the larger big-box stores, such as Foursquare, slightly further away.


Located on the outskirts of Berlin and close to Potsdam, Teltow is now a heritage site but previously served as the border between West Berlin and East Germany.  New, affordable housing developments are springing up to cater for the burgeoning workforce flocking to the capital city.  Terraced houses and high-rise apartments are the most common residences found here.

Parking can be an issue unless a designated space is provided with the apartment, and traffic congestion is a problem.

With good transport links to Berlin and Potsdam, Teltow is on the S-Bahn network, with trains taking about 30 minutes to the city centre, and buses around 45 – 60 minutes.

Recreation facilities are limited but there are parks and river walks.

There are a limited number of small shops, and a car would be handy to get to supermarkets and malls.

Who Lives and Works in Berlin?

The 3.5 million inhabitants of Berlin city, combined with total outlying metropolitan areas, equals 6 million people, making it the largest city in the country.

This city-state comes second to Hamburg when it comes to resident foreign nationals, and they are mainly from Poland and Turkey.

Unemployment is high here, since reunification.  At the beginning of 2016, the rate was 10,7%, against 6.7% as a national average.  It is 13th in terms of unemployment in Germany.

The main sources of employment include IT, real estate, wholesale and retail, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, banking, manufacturing, social work and residential care.  Growth has been shown in hospitality, manufacturing, scientific and technical services.

The ten largest employers are Deutsche Bahn AG, Charité, the Vivantes clinics, BVG and Siemens, Deutsche Post, Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Telekom, Gegenbauer and Kaizer’s.

The Best Bits

With affordable living costs, a high quality of living and decent salaries Berlin was voted the 15th best city in the world to live in. The report stated that it is a hub for jobs, with decent housing and is a good place to bring up children.

  • The UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, Museum Island, lies in the centre of the Spree river. Five world-famous museums can be found, notably the Neues, home to the bust of Nefertiti and the Pergamon, a major archaeological museum.
  • The wide variety of theatres appeals to both English and German speakers.
  • Berlin Zoo is the most species-rich in the world. It opened its doors in 1844, covers 35 hectares and is found in the Tiergarten.
  • There are 2,500 parks and gardens in Berlin, including those found at the numerous palaces in the city. Entrance to the parks is normally free.
  • A week’s worth of exquisite palaces and other historical sites will keep the history buffs amused for many weekends.
  • The Berlin nightlife is world-renowned. Clubs, pubs, restaurants and bars line the streets, and the party atmosphere is contagious.
  • It would appear that festivals and speciality markets are held for every occasion. The list includes the Spring, Jazz, Easter, Science, Music and Cultures festivals.
Bringing the Kids

Known as a good place to raise children, Berlin offers great schools, an abundance of parks and a variety of outdoor activities.

There are 19 international schools in Berlin, with some offering curriculum taught in both German and English.   There is a variety of curricula and many parents feel that this more prestigious type of schooling will be the least disruptive to their child’s education when they move to Germany.

However, bilingual schools are another good option.  They are much more affordable and  help to ease children into  life in Berlin with a focus on learning the German language.

Berlin is a fantastic new city for the older kids as well. The city’s growing reputation as a university destination is due in part to a high percentage of courses in English, especially at graduate level.  Berlin is also the most affordable student city worldwide, attributed to the low cost of living and free undergraduate (and selected postgraduate) tuition, even for international students.  And students will love the vibrant party atmosphere that Berlin is well-known for.

Quirks to Help you Settle In

In restaurants, a bottle of beer is cheaper than a bottle of water.

About 127 ton of sausage is consumed in Berlin every day!

It is estimated that one in every twentieth person in Berlin owns a dog.


Relocating to Berlin

All in all, Berlin is a great city for expats and there are plenty living here.  A big plus is that speaking the language is not necessary at first.

Like the rest of the country, Berlin has a thriving economy with strengths in IT, banking, finance and manufacturing.  A good mix for expats to work with.

Free tertiary education, a good general education system in all schools and plenty for the kids to do all add to the attraction.

Accommodation is relatively well-priced, but some difficulty may be experienced with securing the desired residence.  Your experienced relocation specialist will guide you through the entire process, along with helping choose the suburb closest to the school, registering your children into the education system, and generally helping you to settle in.


City Centre
Good Schools
Green space
Museums & Galleries
Average Monthly Rent - Berlin
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €801
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €579
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,566
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1,085
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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