Saunders 1865 | Moving to Hamburg

Moving to Hamburg

Are you moving to Hamburg? Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg is one of the country’s 16 states of federation, rated 16th for quality of life and 9th for infrastructure.  This vast metropolis, with large green spaces, canals and rivers, has more bridges than London, Amsterdam and Venice put together.  Old World Europe is not to be found in this modern city as between the medieval centre being levelled by fire in 1842 and the second World War decimating the rest, the centre is a mix of office buildings and big-brand shops.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Hamburg 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 Hamburg on the Map

The eighth largest city in Europe, Hamburg is situated in the north of the country, a two-hour drive to the Danish border and 180m miles north-west of Berlin.  One of Hamburg’s local areas, Altona, was once under Danish rule and was a bustling city in its own right until 1937 when it became part of Hamburg.

Located at the head of the River Elbe estuary where it meets the Alster, the city is famous for its harbour, the Port of Hamburg, which covers 38.6 square miles between the Süderelbe and the Norder rivers.  Hamburg is Germany’s busiest and most important port.  In the city centre are two lakes, Inner and Outer Alster.  The Reeperbahn is an entertainment mecca.

The HVV comprises 32 transport companies, operating an extensive system of rapid transit, regional transportation, ferry and bus routes throughout Hamburg and surrounding areas.  HVV tickets are available via the app, online, vending machines, and from the bus driver, and allow discounts for many entertainment venues.

In and around Greater Hamburg, the MetroBus, underground, and suburban railways operate from 5 am to 11 pm at 5 to 10 minute intervals during the week.  Weekend nights beginning on Friday evenings, both types of trains operate at 20-minute intervals, with express, night and regional buses completing the offering.  Good to know is that after 7 pm on weeknights, Sundays and public holidays you may alight between stops on many bus routes, to get you home safely.

Hamburg Airport opened in 1911, making it the oldest airport worldwide still operating.  After taking stock at the end of 2016, increasing passenger numbers, an optimised service palette and a good commercial result ensured that it remains both an economic factor and employer for Hamburg and its metropole.

The Areas

The seven districts, subdivided into 104 different quarters, offer plenty of green areas, shops, schools, amenities and lakes.


Built along the river Elbe, the area includes the harbour, major shopping streets, fine restaurants, the historic buildings of Altstadt, St Pauli amusement district, and the latest quarter addition, Hafenburg City. This is located between the warehouse district and the river, half a mile from the Rathaus. This area is increasing the size of the city centre by 40% and is a mix of residential, business, leisure and tourism.

Securing rental accommodation in the city centre is difficult and expensive. The landlords require reference documentation, which may still not guarantee the successful renting of an apartment.


This popular residential area, featuring lovely old architecture, consists mainly of restored factories and costly villas that line the river edge. Blankenese is the most prestigious neighbourhood in Hamburg, with impressive mansions and smaller homes in a village-like atmosphere along the Elbe. And not forgetting Sternschanze, the picturesque hotspot for trendy bars and eateries, and Ottensen, a popular shopping and restaurant area.


This mix of trendy and upmarket is quieter than the centre and adjoins Mitte in the north, but is still close to the action. Very popular with university students, the campus is perched on the western banks of the Alster lake. The Hagenbeck’s Zoo and the Alster Park appeals to young families, while the students frequent the many cafes and pubs on Osterstrasse and Grindelallee. Harvestehude and Rotherbaum are characterised by art nouveau quarters, close to Lake Alster.


This traditional working class area is north of Lake Alster and has a couple of more wealthy enclaves. Two of the largest green spaces in the city, Stadtpark and Ohlsdorf cemetery, proximity to the airport, large modern apartment complexes, along with bars, restaurants and shops, make this a popular residential area. Winterhude, which lays on the lake, is home to some of the most magnificent mansions.


One of the most popular residential areas, red-brick townhouses built in rows blend into the village-like north-eastern park of the city and is much more affordable than the areas west of Alster lake. In the northern parks, many single-family homes are the norm, with large apartment complexes in the centre, all built after the war.


Located in the south of the city, with a castle in its centre, this region was once independent of Hamburg. This more rural area has the least population density but is the largest of the city boroughs. The old city is located on the river Bille, a tributary of the Elbe, which appeals to walkers and cyclists alike. The closer you get to the Elbe and the Bergedorf harbour, the more industrial it gets. Traditional homes abut modern and older apartments.


Home to the Hamburg University of Technology, Harburg, formerly the Hanoveran city of Harburg-upon-Elbe, has an impressive castle on the top of a hill, built during the 12th century by former emperors of Germany, which is one of the oldest fortified castles in the country. With the look of town from the Middle Ages, the surrounding Altes fruit-growing region is popular with cyclists. Wilhelmsburg is a quarter within Harburg and is developing into a hip and trendy hotspot.

Commuting to the city is easy, with a railway station and an underground line.

Who Lives and Works in Hamburg?

The city has a population of over 1.7 million inhabitants, with 5.1 million in the metropolitan area. It is a major European port, along with being a global service, media, industrial and logistics hub. Headquarters located here include Blohm & Voss, Airbus, Beiersdorf, Unilever and Aurubix. NDR, the radio and TV broadcaster, Gruner & Jahr, Europe’s largest printing and publishing company, and Spiegel are also based here.

Hamburg is the seat of the country’s oldest stock exchange and the second oldest bank in the world, Berenberg Bank, and has been an important financial centre for centuries. It also factors in world politics and international law.

Airbus has its headquarters here, with its largest site employing around 12,500 people. Over 150 apprentices start their new careers in Hamburg annually.

The city is also a fast-growing tourist destination, both domestically and internationally.

The Best Bits

Hamburg is elegant and modern, a city with a cultural centre, best known for its theatres, operas, book and magazine publishers, film studios and radio and TV broadcasting centres. It is home to the Elbphilharonie Hamburg music venue, and Speicherstadt, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The crime rates are average for a large city meaning that it is safe to walk at night or to ask a passer-by for directions. The area around the main station is known to be a bit unsafe. Highlights of the city include:

• The Hamburg DOM. The largest fun fair in the northern part of the country is on for 30 days every spring, winter and summer at Heiligengeistfeld, next to St Pauli Stadium.
• There are over 50 museums in the city, including art, history and culture, and science and natural history. The Long Nights of Museums, when the organisations stay open way into the night, helps to promote the venues, offering reduced ticket prices. The skull of a 14th century pirate, Klaus Störtebeker, was stolen from the Hamburg museum in 2010. Klaus is well-known for rising, minus his head, after his execution and walking several paces. The skull has since been found and returned to the museum.
• With more than 30 theatres, plus music halls and cabarets, 4.2 million theatre visits in one calendar year were counted, spread between them all.
• Annual events include the Summer festival for all types of music, maritime events including historic sailing boats and gastronomic outlets, and the famous Christmas market.
• Hamburg Zoo, with beautiful, exotic gardens, has moated, open enclosures as opposed to cages. The zoo is a privately owned and has been run by the Hagenbeck family since 1907.
• Up-market shopping areas include Neuer Wall, Mönckebergstrasse, Grosse Bleichen, Schanzenviertel and Jungfernstieg.
• Football is a big sport in Hamburg, and their two teams, Hamburger SV, which competes in the Bundasliga, and passionate St Pauli generate huge support.

Bringing the Kids

German education is amongst the best in the world, so Hamburg is ideal for families and students.

  • Free education is offered in the German Integrated Schools and the normal state schools. The integrated schools are ideal for expat children, as they will be taught in both English and German.  State schools teach only in German.
  • Private schools are fee-paying, and also offer bilingual education.
  • International schools offer teaching in English, with German language lessons, and are quite costly.
  • Private and international schools may require the child to sit an entrance exam.
  • There are 19 universities and business schools in the city and surrounds.
Relocating to Hamburg

This modern and dynamic city with a mix of modern and older architecture, large green spaces and river frontage, give the area its character and an excellent quality of life.  The suburbs each have unique qualities to suit personal requirements, with different accommodation styles, ranging from large mansions to small apartments.  The thriving economy has strengths in finance, manufacturing, industry, tourism, politics and law, making it excellent for expats and their families.  That being said, there is a myriad of form-filling in order to apply for renting accommodation and for services in the home.  Electricity and gas are privatised, with a wide range of providers.  Typically, you pay a monthly rate, with overpayments being reimbursed.  Water is paid according to consumption and sewage.  Telecoms offer a minefield of options, confusing and time-consuming.  Using an expert relocation specialist will help with all this, along with finding the right accommodation, in the right area, close to the right school for your children.  Spousal assistance is also offered.


Family friendly
Good Schools
Green space
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Average Monthly Rent - Hamburg
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €839
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €619
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,817
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1,194
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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