Saunders 1865 | Moving to Cologne

Moving to Cologne

Are you moving to Cologne? Called Köln by the Germans, this is the fourth largest city in Germany and the largest in North-Rhine Westphalia.  It is one of the busiest key inland ports on the continent of Europe and is the economic, cultural and historical capital of Rhineland.  Famous for its cathedral and annual carnival and top-class education, an ageing population is welcoming skilled immigrants to bolster the workforce.  Cologne is one of the most important centres for science, trade and economy in central Europe.  It is also a pretty city, surrounded by mountains on two sides, middle-ages castles and vineyards along the Rhine.

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

Situated in western Germany, where the River Rhine enters the North German Plain, Cologne’s commercial influence grew from its position on the traffic artery of the river, where it intersected a land route between eastern and western Europe.  This part of the river is navigable by seagoing ships.  It is one of the most important Western European transport hubs, with excellent connections by air, sea or land.  It has five ports on the Rhine and is the second largest inland harbour in the country.

During the Middle Ages, Cologne was a renowned centre of learning and art, which is still evident today.  That is still the case today despite the Inner City, or Innenstadt, being almost completely destroyed in WWII.  To the east stretches the hills of Bergisches Land, whilst to the west is a chain of hills called the Ville.

The Inner City forms a semi-circle, originally surrounded by a defensive wall, with the flat side being the river.  This wall which contained the city was demolished during the 1800s and replaced by the Ringstrassen, a chain of ring roads.  The city has, over time, spread beyond the confines of these roads, but the Inner City is still the area’s focal point.  The transport links are excellent:

  • The KVB transport company carries around 800,000 people per day across 60 railway lines, 380 trams and 320 buses. Many of the train stations are linked to tram stops.  Most KVB buses and trams have ticket machines.  KölnCard carriers can ride the network which includes the RegionalExpress, U-Bahn and S-Bahn.
  • Ten autobahns, or motorways, merge into the ring road encircling the city.
  • The Rehinseilbahn aerial tramway crosses the Rhine River.
  • Cologne-Bonn airport is the second largest freight airport in the country, and the seventh largest passenger port, located 9.3 miles from the city. The Intercity Express is a high-speed train directly into the city.  There is a train station in Terminal One.  Terminal Two offers both the S-Bahn and a regional train, connecting to Cologne and Bonn, along with local buses.  All the car-hire companies are represented.
  • Traffic congestion is on the increase and has recently reached 130 hours per year travel time on the roads. Cycling is proving a popular way to get to work.  The Archbishop, Rainer Maria Woelki even cycles, when not wearing a cassock.
The Areas

Left Rhine Side, as the locals (or Kölner) call it, is home to the densely populated central, or downtown, area and many other residential areas. Right Rhine side is known as the Wrong Side, despite having scenic views of the city and lovely, vast green spaces.  The firms, Kalk and Deutz, are changing these perceptions, with a number of big companies moving here and good transport links.

Left city side includes popular areas such as Lindenthal, Bayenthal, Nippes, Rodenkirchen, Ehrenfeld and Zollstock.

Residents intending to stay for longer than three months are required to register their place of residence, producing both a valid passport and a signed confirmation from the landlord.  This can be done by your relocation specialist on your behalf.


Also known as the Ring, this is the city centre, and is priced accordingly.  The busy commercial area offers entertainment including restaurants, clubs and shops.  The Belgian Quarter, named for the streets with Belgian cities, is festive and vibrant.  During the summer months the Saint Michael church square undergoes a metamorphosis into a beer garden and meeting place.  Brussels Square is the centre of this highly coveted populous district, popular with young professionals and executives.


Close to the inner city, with both U-Bahn and train stations running into the central business district or away into the suburbs, Nippes is less expensive than the inner ring, but with less of the noisy nightlife.  Great shops, Turkish grocery stores and markets make the area convenient, along with beautiful parks.  The northern parts are the least expensive.


West of the Ring, but quieter, the shops are smaller, the area is quieter, and there are a number of green spaces.  The University of Cologne is located here, along with a vibrant student community.  It is a quick walk to the CBD, but it has a popular nightlife of its own.  Cafes and bars line the streets and it is more affordable than the city centre.


One of the most popular residential areas around the city, great restaurants and bars, nightclubs a-plenty, and live music venues attracts the young people.  It also has a thriving cultural scene with theatres and cinemas, and a large arty community.  The Live Music Hall hosts parties and concerts.  Köln-Ehrenfeld is the local train station, with 2-lines running every 20 minutes into the city.


3.7 miles south-west of Cologne, Hurth shares borders with the city at the north-east slope of Kottenforst-Ville nature reserve, and is made up of 13 former independent villages.  This has resulted in commercial areas dotted over a large area, along with lakes and forest belts.  Its bus network, with six lines, covers most of the city.  The Formula One racing driver Ralf Schumacher was born here.


Many expats choose to live in Bonn and commute to Cologne for work, which takes around 20 minutes.  Two main attractions are the Bonn International School and a much cheaper cost of city living.  A variety of museums, from art to history, with the opera featuring a variety of events every year, entertains and educates the students and culture seekers.  Hikers will love the Siebengebirge, a range of hills overlooking the Rhine.

Young professionals are flocking to Bonn from the communication and IT industries.

Who Lives and Works in Cologne

With a population estimated at nearly 1,060,582, of which 784,765 were born in Germany, the Cologne, Bonn, Leverkusen metropolitan area is home to approximately 2,818,000 people.

Since the Middle Ages, Cologne has been a banking centre and has one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world.  The metropolitan area has a per capita GDP which stands as the seventh largest in the country.  Manufacturing car engines and parts led to the headquarters of Ford’s European operations being located here, including assembly plants for the Ford Fiesta and Ford Fusion.  Other car manufacturers including Toyota, Volvo, Renault and Mazda have their German headquarters here.  Eau de Cologne has been manufactured in the city since 1709.  At the centre of Germany’s media and communication sector, more than a third of the country’s TV programmes are produced locally, employing over 55,000 people, and along with the radio stations, this spills over into numerous advertising agencies, music labels and publishers.

The city’s strength is in an extraordinary infrastructure and highly specialised logistics service providers.  It provides industry with high capacity terminals for the transhipment of products moved by air, water and land.  Deutsche Post World Net and its subsidiary DHL have headquarters in the region, along with TNT and UPS and other logistics service providers.  Degussa, Bayer and Ford either use the goods handling service providers or run their own logistics departments based in Cologne.  48 chemical companies make Cologne a leading and important pharmaceutical region, employing in excess of 23,000 staff.

Foreign trade is on the increase, with the export quota running at 48%.

The Best Bits

Violent crime is unusual, but as with any tourist city in Europe, pickpockets are everywhere.  Cologne is the 5th most expensive cities to live in Germany, on a par with Berlin.  Salaries are good and the city offers a high standard of living.

  • Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded by the Romans in 38BC. Some churches claim the relics of Saint Ursula and the Three Wise Men.
  • Beginning on 11 November at 11.11am, the carnival season ends on Ash Wednesday. However, the really crazy days begin on Shrove Thursday, before Rosenmontag, or Carnival Monday.  Street parties in the public squares and in the pubs are the order of the day.  Bars and pubs’ closing times are suspended during this festive time.
  • The famous parade starts at the Severninstor in the south of the city, and its first come, first served. Kids are at the front along the route, but the rest of the population mingles behind them.  Pushing to get a better view is frowned upon.  Sweets and flowers are tossed from the carnival floats to the spectators.  Give-aways are equal to an unbelievable 140 tons of sweets, 220,000 boxes of chocolates, 300,000 bunches of flowers, 700,000 bars of chocolates and thousands of cuddly toys and other gifts.
  • Ranking amongst the best in the world, the 36 museums include the Roman-Germanic Museum and the House of Fragrances 4711.
  • Over 100 art galleries will keep art lovers occupied for months.
  • Kölner Oper (Cologne Opera House), Kölner Schauspielhaus and the Hänneschen-Theater are the three municipal theatres, along with Kinderoper (children’s opera). There are dozens of independent theatres, the most famous of which is the Volkstheater Millowitsch, a family-run theatre dating back to the mid-19th  It specialises in comedies but was originally a puppet theatre.
  • Cologne Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This most famous attraction in the city draws in over six million visitors per annum and is 157 metres high.  It houses the shrine of the Three Wise Men.
  • Art Cologne is the world’s oldest art fair.
  • In the shadow of the Cathedral, the Ludwig Museum houses an internationally-acclaimed collection of contemporary and modern art.
  • Shopping streets, arcades and restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine cater to the foodies and shop-a-holics.
  • The local brew, the Kölsch is served continually in the original Brauhaus by the Köbes (waiters), lasting until you place a drinks coaster over your glass.
  • The Hohenzollern Bridge displays thousands of colourful padlocks placed there by couples as a symbol of their love.
Bringing the Kids

With typical German efficiency, Cologne has first-rate public schools and a great quality of life.  Germany is the second country of choice for expats, after the USA.

  • There are ten universities in Cologne, some of which offer scholarships to international students.
  • There are three international schools in Cologne, including St Georges, The English International School. It is pricey, and places are limited, so early applications should be made.  Nearby Bonn also has an international school.
  • Public or private schools are another option. Schooling is conducted in German, which would suit younger pupils, but older students would be advised to learn the basics of the language before starting their new school.  Depending on your choice, the fees are either affordable or completely free from kindergarten to university.  The German education system allocates different education streams based on evaluation of each child, dependent on the student’s strengths.
  • With a strong social security system, paternity/maternity leave can reach two years per child.
Relocating to Cologne

A festive city, with friendly inhabitants, Cologne has a very high standard of living and education.  The unique history of the town, along with beautiful buildings and churches, a surfeit of culture combined with superb accommodation in great neighbourhoods is very appealing to expats.  The thriving economy, with strengths in finance, manufacturing, tourism, media and logistics makes Cologne a destination of choice.  The schooling system is complex, as is the housing rental application, which combined with language problems, can be complicated and intimidating.  Employing the expert services of a specialist relocation agent will smooth the way for the expat family.


City Centre
Great Transport
Museums & Galleries
Pretty Villages
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Suburban Living Near City
Average Monthly Rent - Cologne
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre €727
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre €536
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre €1,450
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre €1,042
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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