Want to know where to live in Cologne, where to stay in Cologne, or where you’ll find the best neighborhoods in Cologne? In this speedy guide, reliable ol’ Homelike has brought you juicy details on everything you need to know…
Unfairly overshadowed by Munich and Berlin, Cologne is a surprisingly brilliant place to live. In the city, you get stunning architecture, friendly locals, a colossal cathedral, the iconic Carnival, and one of Germany’s most liberal, laid-back places. It’s also one of the greenest cities in Germany, with lots of parks, ponds, and city-center escapes.
And because it’s not as busy as some of the nation’s bigger cities, you get lower prices, fewer tourists, and more authentic insights and experiences.
In short, Cologne is a great place to live, it’s a brilliant choice for a relocation, and it’s swiftly becoming a pretty popular place for expats from around the world.
But it’s bigger than most people realize. The 4th-largest city in Germany, Cologne has a population of around 1.1 million people (in the central stretch alone), and a massive number of neighborhoods. And these neighborhoods aren’t all made equal—all of Cologne’s districts are distinctly different from one another.
So in this handy guide, we’ve covered the ten best places to live in Cologne. We’ve included:
No matter why you’re moving, what you’re looking for, and what type of atmosphere you like, there’ll be a perfect place on this list—if you want to know where to live in Cologne, we’ve got you covered.
Pack a pretzel, leap into your lederhosen, and grab a liter of beer—today, we’re exploring the 10 best neighborhoods in Cologne.
Best for: Enjoying the center of the city, meeting lots of people, and living like a long-term tourist
Cologne’s most central main neighborhood is right on the western banks of the Rhine. Most people know this place as the Altstadt (meaning ‘old town’), but others call it the Heumarkt.
But whatever you want to call it, this is Cologne’s historic city center, and it’s close to all the stuff you’ve heard of. Dominated by the city’s gigantic cathedral, the area also has great transport links, Schildergasse (the city’s main shopping street), ancient streets, riverside hangouts, traditional old houses, lots of museums, busy breweries and plenty more.
It’s a pricey place to be, but it’s worth it—If you want to live like a long-term tourist, the Altstadt is for you. You can walk everywhere, you’ll be surrounded by lots of foreigners, and you’ll always find loads of fun. In short, if you can’t work out where to live in Cologne, it’s a good place to start your search.
Note: Alstadt is divided into two areas: Altstadt-Nord and Altstadt-Süd (meaning ‘Altstadt North’ and ‘Altstadt South’, but you probably worked that out for yourself). The south is a little more hip and happening, and famous for its medieval lanes, ancient architecture and the city’s drool-inducing chocolate museum. The northern part is slightly busier, with better nightlife, better shopping, and more tourists. But they’re both relatively similar, so don’t spend too much time fretting over which one you choose.
Best for: Living in the very center of Cologne, a very easy life, and pretending you’re on permanent vacation
A tiny area right inside the Altstadt, Neumarkt is the center of the center. The middle of the so-called innenstadt (which translates to ‘downtown’), this is the part of Cologne where most short-term tourists stay and explore.
If you’re only hanging around in Cologne for a short few months, you’ll probably love living here. It’s busy and bustling, and it’s packed with diverse restaurants, great shopping options, excellent transport links, and hordes of tourists and travelers.
In Neumarkt, you’ll never be far from anything you want to do—you’ll always find something to eat, somewhere to party, and someone to hang out with.
That said, if you’re staying in the city for longer than a short few months, this isn’t the place to be. You’ll probably get tired of all the tourists, you’ll spend a lot of money, and you won’t get much insight into ‘real’ German life (whatever that even means).
Neumarkt is probably most famous for its incredible Christmas market, which dominates the place in November and December. Yeah, you’ve all been to a Christmas market before—but Germany’s markets are on a different level, and Cologne’s are some of the best. If you’re here during Christmas, you’ll feel like you’re living in the middle of Lapland.
Best for: Raising kids, vast green spaces, affordable family housing, and living the quiet life
South of the Altstadt, you have the gigantic sprawl of Rodenkirchen—it’s one of the city’s biggest districts, and one of the best neighborhoods in Cologne for families.
You get great family homes, lots of green spaces, rural riverside hangouts and excellent national and international schools (St. George’s, for example, is hugely popular among the city’s expats). But because the neighborhood is both big and residential, it’s a pretty good place for finding an affordable (but spacious!) home.
Best of all, it’s also excellent for ambling along on exciting adventures elshere. The district is located along the incredible Rhine Cycle Route (running all the way from Switzerland to the Netherlands), it’s well-placed for exploring all the great green spaces south of the city, and it even has its own little forest.
Lots of families, when they’re deciding where to stay in Cologne, settle on Rodenkirchen. Quiet, calm and relatively conservative, it’s one of Germany’s best family-friendly neighborhoods.
Best for: Young professionals, a balance between everything, and living in the sort-of center
Quite where the tiny Chlodwigplatz begins and ends isn’t exactly clear, but it’s sort-of sandwiched between Rodenkirchen and the Altstadt, where the two much-bigger districts meet.
It’s a small place, but it packs endless amounts of fun into its diminutive dimension, with lots of places to eat and drink, great bars, and excellent proximity to lots of the Altstadt’s best hangouts. You also get a great alternative music scene, a pretty young population, and a laid-back atmosphere.
And on top of all that, you’re really close to the Volksgarten, one of Cologne’s best and oldest parks. Lots of people come here to run, walk their dogs, chow down on picnics, spend time with their kids, and just hang around. Don’t be surprised if you wind up joining them.
If you want to be really close to the city center without being right in the heart of the bustle, Chlodwigplatz is a great option—you get all the perks of city-center life, but with the welcome bonus of green spaces and quiet escapes.
All in all, the district is best suited to young professionals who want lots of excellent compromises—Chlodwigplatz is central without being unaffordable, green without being boring, and fun-filled without the non-stop nightlife of the city’s central stretch.
Best for: Students, families, cheap drinking spots, affordable housing, and great green spaces
West of the Altstadt is Lindenthal, another big neighborhood. The place is very diverse, with around 150,000 people living in its surprisingly-sprawling confines.
Because the University of Cologne is based here, the district has a huge number of students, meaning a young population, lots of cheap housing, and an anything-goes atmosphere. There’s also a great cafe culture in Lindenthal—any day, any time, you’ll always find people lazing around in bars and coffee shops, sipping and slurping on kölsch and coffee.
Because there are lots of students in Lindenthal, there are also lots of affordable hangouts. Some of the most popular spots include Kwartier Latäng, Soul Bar, and all the pubs, clubs and bars surrounding them. You could probably spend months in this one tiny area without running out of fun places to drink and dance.
But Lindenthal is huge, so it’s not all about partying and putting your feet up—it’s also a top pick for couples with kids, as the neighborhood has lots of spacious homes and green spaces (including Lindenthaler Tierpark, with its free-to-roam deer, cows and peacocks).
Lindenthal is also surprisingly central—it’s very easy to walk from here to the city center (though the neighborhood has great transport links too).
Because it’s vast, affordable and diverse, Lindenthal is a great place to get a serviced apartment in Cologne, no matter who you are. Most people would love living here.
Best for: World-class nightlife, hanging with hipsters, and exploring kooky venues
You’ve probably already heard of Kreuzberg, Berlin’s infamously edgy district.
If you like the sound of living there, you’ll also like the sound of living here—Ehrenfeld is Cologne’s version of Kreuzberg, and it’s just as good. Hip, happening and trendy, the nightclubs are great, the kebab shops are cheap, and there’s always something weird to do (and someone weird to do it with).
North of Lindenthal and northwest of the Altstadt, Ehrenfeld is packed with students, hipsters, and endless other people who like happening hangouts. It’s most famous for hosting some of Germany’s best nightlife venues, with live music, non-stop raves, weird bars, and plenty more.
There’s also lots more edgy and alternative stuff in the neighborhood, including unusual art galleries, independent cinemas, artists’ studios, thrift stores, street art, and endless servings of avocado-based brunch.
And on top of all that, Ehrenfeld is home to Germany’s largest mosque (Cologne Central Mosque), peaceful Westfriedhof Cemetery, some great theatre venues, and a huge number of grab-a-bargain flea markets.
If you like unique and unusual, and hanging out with a young crowd of carefree party-lovers, Ehrenfeld is one of the best places to live in Cologne.
Top tip: the southeastern part of Ehrenfeld, where you’ll find most of the nightlife, can be quite expensive (that’s gentrification for you!). But as you move further away from the city center, and into the northwestern part of the neighborhood, it’s pretty easy to find affordable housing.
Best for: Older people, a multicultural life, making friends from around the world, and housing on a budget
Northeast of Ehrenfeld and north of the Altstadt, Nippes is one of the city’s most multicultural areas. You get Turkish stores, ethnic eateries, and lots of non-native residents—so you’ll always be welcome, no matter where you’re from.
It’s also one of the best places to live in Cologne if you’re on a tight budget. Like any neighborhood in the world, there are expensive pockets—but head away from the southern section of the district (and away from the city center), and you’ll easily find an affordable place to live.
Nippes is noticeably quieter than lots of the city’s other central districts—cafe culture is really prevalent here, and lots of the neighborhood’s residents prefer sipping a coffee over chugging a beer.
You also get great green spaces, allotment gardens, and a pretty quiet life. If you’re young and trendy, you probably won’t enjoy living in Nippes. But if you’re a little older, or if you’re raising a family, you’ll likely love the place—the population here is older and tamer than it is in some other areas of Cologne.
Nippes is well-connected to Cologne’s center by public transport, it’s home to Cologne Zoo, and it’s a pretty friendly place.
If you want an assorted cast of friends in a laconic and affordable neighborhood, Nippes is a great place to get a serviced apartment in Cologne.
Best for: Families, enjoying a quiet little life, finding an affordable home, and feeling like you’re living in the countryside
Northwest of Nippes, you have Chorweiler, on the very outskirts of the city.
If you’re on the hunt for a quiet life, you’ll love the place—Chorweiler has the lowest population density of all of Cologne’s districts, and lots of its areas feel rural, relaxed, and miles away from the city. It’s laden with green spaces, including Worringer Bruch, some great stretches of the Rhine, and watersport-heavy Fühlinger See lake.
But despite its distance from the center, Chorweiler is well-connected to lots of the city’s better-known districts—so you don’t need to spend all your time in the middle of nowhere.
Chorweiler is also a great choice if you like living in ‘local’ areas. Here, you’ll find few expats, even fewer tourists, and no tourist attractions. So if you know where to look, it’s probably the most affordable neighborhood we’ve featured.
In short, Chorweiler is one of the best neighborhoods in Cologne for people who like living in a city without really feeling like they’re living in a city.
Within Cologne, Chorweiler has a slight reputation for being a little bland and rough. But that perception is slowly changing, and the place is transforming itself into a leafy and welcoming residential neighborhood.
Best for: Seemingly-endless green spaces, living in a village-like district, and close proximity to the airport
For the first time so far, we’re venturing over to the eastern side of the Rhine. Over the river from Rodenkirchen, you have Cologne’s biggest borough, measuring in at a hefty 78.92 km² (30.4 square miles).
It’s one of the best neighborhoods in Cologne for green spaces. Riverside harbour Zündorfer Groov is great, Herfeld is a relatively popular city-center hiking area, and Rolf’s Streichelzoo (an excellent petting zoo) is a great place to take kids.
Because the vast majority of Porz’s residents are locals, and because it’s so green, the neighborhood feels more like a village than a city suburb, so it’s a pretty relaxing (and often affordable!) place to call home.
Cologne’s airport is also in Porz, perfect if you fly a lot for work (or even for fun).
Because it’s such a big neighborhood, Porz is one of the best places to live in Cologne for lots of people. It’s popular with families, couples, older folks, and even young professionals. Unless partying is your priority, you’ll likely love life here.
Best for: Living in an underrated place, professionals on a job hunt, and finding an affordable home
The northern part of the eastern side of the Rhine, Mülheim is one of the city’s lesser-known districts. Lots of people, when they’re working out where to stay in Cologne, overlook Mülheim—but it can be a great place to live.
Admittedly, it’s a little ugly—but look beyond that, and there’s plenty of charm. Once an industrial district, it’s now one of Cologne’s biggest creative hubs, stuffed with concert halls, arty hangouts, artistic residents, and lots of media and music companies.
And because lots of IT companies have recently moved to the area, Mülheim is a great place to find a job, making it an intelligent choice for young professionals.
Some of the housing can be expensive here, but head to the industrial areas rather than the media-heavy zones, and you’ll find an affordable home.
Note: between Mülheim and Porz, you have the districts of Deutz and Kalk. There are better alternatives to both of those neighborhoods (Alstadt is a better Deutz, while Lindenthal and Chorweiler are better versions of Kalk), so although they’re both relatively popular, they’re not the best choices for a relocation.