Living in Cologne: Everything You Need to Know
In this helpful tell-all guide, good ol’ Homelike have brought you everything you need to know about moving to Cologne. We’ve covered visas, prices, healthcare, accommodation, neighborhoods, language, and plenty more. Smash out that schnitzel and come join the fun!
1. Why should I move to Cologne?
In short, cathedral-topped Cologne is one of the best places to live in Germany.
Arty, friendly, historical and welcoming, it’s a great place to visit, a great place to live, and a great place to call home.
The nation’s fourth-most-populous metropolis, it’s often (understandably but unjustifiably) overlooked in favor of Berlin, Munich and Hamburg.
Partially because of its under-the-radar status, Cologne offers lots of perks… including fewer tourists, lower prices, and a more ‘authentic’ insight into German life (whatever that even means). If you want to relocate to Germany without feeling like a perpetual tourist, moving to Cologne is a good choice.
It’s also one of the most laid-back and liberal cities in the nation—so no matter who you are or where you’re from, you’ll always be welcome in Cologne. The city’s residents are famous for being super warm and friendly… and although the place offers all the perks of a big city, it also has the feel of a small-town community.
And on top of all that, Cologne offers plenty of things to do. Some highlights include a massive cathedral, Rhineside running and cycling, an atmospheric old town, many museums and galleries, endless events, edgy nightlife, and lots of excellent green spaces.
In short, living in Cologne is fantastic, and we totally recommend it. But coming up, we’ve given you lots more, in the helpful form of some practical information and insight…
2. Do I need a visa for living in Cologne?
That depends upon where you’re from, what your plans are, and how long you’ll be hanging around.
If you have an EU passport, you don’t need a visa to relocate to Germany (because, as you probably already know, Germany is also part of the EU).
That said, if you’re from the EU and you’re gonna be staying in Germany for longer than three months, you’ll need to register with a local registration office… but that’s the only bureaucracy you’ll need to endure.
If you’re not from within the EU, you probably will need a visa.
Some passports allow you to enjoy visa-free travel to Germany for up to three months… but if you’re reading this guide, you’ll probably be moving to Cologne for longer than that.
So if you’re not from the EU and you want to stay in Germany for longer than three months, you’ll definitely need a visa and a residence permit.
The visa you’ll need will depend on where you’re from, what you’re doing in Germany, and how long you’ll be sticking around. Family members of German residents, for example, need a different visa to people who are moving to Germany to study. Here’s an in-depth introduction to all of your various options.
3. Do I need a job to move to Cologne?
You usually don’t need a job to enter Germany—but you’ll probably need to find a job eventually.
If you’re moving to Germany from outside of the EU, you might have already secured a job in advance… and your application and entry will be much easier if you have.
But moving to Cologne (or any other part of Germany) from outside of the EU is also possible by making use of a so-called ‘job seeker visa.’ If you qualify for this relatively-strict scheme, you need to find a job within six months of arriving in Germany.
Things are of course different if you’re moving from within the EU. If you’re moving to Cologne from another EU nation, you don’t need a visa, and you’re therefore under no obligation to get a job.
For finding a job in Cologne, three of the best resources are Stepstone (which was founded in Germany), and Monster and Indeed (both of which weren’t). If you’re specifically looking for an English-speaking job in Cologne, Englishjobs.de is a good place to begin.
Facebook can also be a decent place to start your job-searching odyssey in the city. On the platform, you’ll find lots of Cologne-specific groups… and many of them have various job opportunities. Although, as you’d probably expect from Facebook, most of those jobs are low-paid and non-specialist.
Whatever the case, here’s much more information on how to find a job in Germany.
If you’re a digital nomad who’ll be living in Cologne, the nation offers a freelance visa. But it has rules, requirements and tax implications depending on where you’re from—despite what some people believe, you can’t just freely turn up to Germany and start plinking around on your laptop in a cafe (well, you can, but you’ll probably get in trouble for doing it).
4. What is the average cost of living in Cologne?
As we’ve already mentioned, Cologne is quite a lot cheaper than some of Germany’s more well-known cities. So if you want to move to the nation without spending lots of money, living in Cologne is a logical option.
When you’re living in Cologne, here are the types of prices you can expect:
- 1-bedroom apartment in the city center: €788
- 1-bedroom apartment outside of the city center: €631
- 3-bedroom apartment in the city center: €1,592
- 3-bedroom apartment outside of the city center: €1,143
- Basic monthly utilities for average-sized home: €244
- Typical monthly internet bills: €34
- Average monthly gym pass: €32
- One-way ticket on public transport: €3
- Monthly pass on public transport: €95
- 1 liter of milk: €0.98
- 1 loaf of fresh bread: €1.62
- 12 regular eggs: €2.36
- 1kg of local cheese: €10.64
- 1kg of chicken filets: €7.40
- Half-liter bottle of local beer from a supermarket: €0.54
- Meal for one at an inexpensive restaurant: €12.50
- 3-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant €50
- Half a liter of beer in a bar or restaurant: €3.70
- Regular cappuccino in a cafe: €2.69
All figures have been taken from the crowd-sourced information of ever-reliable Numbeo.
As you can see, prices are pretty reasonable, and living in Cologne can be a relatively affordable choice (by German standards anyway!).
And here’s some more good financial-related news for moving to Cologne: the city is also a pretty good place for being all frugal. It’s cycle-friendly, supermarkets and groceries are affordable, and the German government routinely offers money-saving nationwide public-transport schemes.
5. What are the best neighborhoods for living in Cologne?
Like any big city, Cologne is broken down into various different districts, areas and neighborhoods. So no matter who you are, what you’re looking for, or who you’re moving to Cologne with (if anyone!) the city will definitely have an ideal neighborhood.
To get you started, here are some of the top neighborhoods where you might want to consider living in Cologne:
- Altstadt/Heumarkt: the very heart of the city, Cologne’s old town is the historic center of the city, and it offers all the famous stuff… along with endless places to eat and drink. If you’re only going to be in the city for a short while, you’ll probably love living here.
- Rodenkirchen: one of the biggest districts in the city, and one of the best areas for families, Rodenkirchen is perfect for a low-key life. The neighborhood offers great green spaces, excellent international schools, and a peaceful escape from the central bustle.
- Chlodwigplatz: sitting between the two places we’ve just listed, Chlodwigplatz is a popular choice for young professionals, and offers a central-but-outskirt compromise in all the best ways. It has a great music scene, and lots of bars, eateries and events.
- Lindenthal: home to the University of Cologne, Lindenthal is popular with students and other young people. It also has affordable housing, excellent green spaces, a surprisingly-big population, and a great cafe culture.
- Ehrenfeld: hip, happening and trendy, Ehrenfeld is Cologne’s answer to Kreuzberg. If you love slurping on craft beers and munching on avocados, this is where you want to be. You’ll always find something interesting to do, and someone interesting to do it with.
- Nippes: one of the most multicultural parts of the city, quiet Nippes offers diverse food, diverse faces, and lots of warm welcomes. Largely quiet and calm, it’s a good choice for families and older people, and it has some very affordable housing.
We’ve covered all these districts (and more) in our in-depth guide to the top 10 neighborhoods in Cologne.
6. How do I find accommodation in Cologne?
This is of course one of the most important parts of moving to Cologne. But sadly, it can be a little more tricky and stressful than most people expect.
Some of the best websites for finding properties in the city include Homelike, The Local, WG-Gesucht, Immobilienscout24, and Immowelt. Physical newspapers can also be useful, but they’re of course only an option after you’ve already arrived in the city.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are lots of Cologne-specific Facebook groups… and many of these groups offer houses, apartments and rooms in the city (both long-term and short-term). These groups are especially useful if you’re looking to rent a room in an apartment, rather than renting an entire property for yourself.
Another option (of course!) is to enlist the help of some type of estate agency, just as you would anywhere else in the world. These guys can help you to search for the specific type of place you’re looking for, and can help you to arrange viewings. Again, this is only worth doing after you’ve already arrived in Germany. The Homelike website also has some amazing long term rentals in Cologne. They all come furnished and includes internet and utilities. The option would be perfect for those who don’t want to set up a home from scratch.
No matter how and where you decide to find a place to live in Cologne, competition can be pretty stiff… so it can be massively difficult to find a place to live before you arrive (and, sometimes, even after you arrive!).
For that reason, it’s often best to look for short term rentals in Cologne first two or three months, which you can use as a base while you’re hunting down a long-term place to live.
Serviced apartments are also a good solution if you’re only hanging around in Cologne for a short few months. If you’re not in Cologne on a long-term basis, the house-hunting process just isn’t worth the stress or hassle.
If that’s what you’re looking for, we have lots of great options on our site. All of our Cologne serviced flats and serviced apartments are affordable, beautiful, and convenient, and they’re all ready to move into right away. And best of all, they’re dotted around various parts of the city!
7. Do I need to learn German to live in Cologne?
No, you don’t need to learn German to live in Cologne. The vast majority of Cologne’s young people speak English, and even many older people in the city have a pretty good grasp of the language.
That said, it’s always good to get immersed… so if you want a richer life and you’re gonna be living in Cologne for a while, it’s a good idea to learn German. With a good understanding of the language, you’ll be able to make more friends, learn more about German culture, and more easily deal with your bureaucratic needs.
For learning the German basics, reliable little Duolingo always provides a useful foundation. To kick on from here, you might want to find an online course or an in-person course—the mega-famous Goethe-Institut is always a good place to consider.
8. What do I need to know about healthcare in Cologne?
Germany is routinely voted as providing some of the best healthcare in the world—and it offers both public and private treatment (both of which are excellent).
And that’s no different in Cologne—as it’s a big modern place, the city’s healthcare is great, and it offers lots of excellent hospitals and medical facilities.
All German residents are entitled to free healthcare in the nation, but some people like to use private healthcare instead. Like in any country, private healthcare is often better, and provides much shorter waiting times.
But things are a little different for you. Because you’re not (yet!) a German resident, you’ll need to take out some form of private health insurance (even to access public healthcare in Germany). If you do later become an official tax-paying German resident, you’ll then be entitled to public healthcare without the need for private insurance.
Of course, if you’re visiting short-term from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, your handy little EHIC card will keep you covered. But as we’ve said, even EU/EEA/Swiss citizens need to register if they’ll be in Germany for longer than three months—and if that’s the case, your EHIC card no longer provides sufficient cover.
9. Can I take my pet when I’m moving to Cologne?
Yep! Your cute little critter will definitely be welcome in Germany, no matter which city you’re living in. The nation is one of the most pet-friendly countries in the world, and your much-loved buddy will easily be able to find plenty of hairy homies.
Cologne in particular has lots of dog-friendly hangouts, including cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants… and you’ll always see people wandering around with their four-legged friends. So, yep, moving to Cologne with your pet is absolutely possible (and absolutely rewarding!)
But to take your pet to Cologne, you of course need to go through some (pretty strict) bureaucratic stuff. Here are the basic things you need to know:
- When you move to Germany, you’re able to take the following animals with you: dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, turtles, tortoises, fish, rodents and (some!) birds. Other animals may be accepted, but you’ll need to consult an embassy for some in-depth advice. Also, you can only take a maximum of five separate creatures.
- Your animal must be vaccinated against rabies (and must have been vaccinated more than 30 days before your arrival). You will need to provide proof of this vaccination via some official paperwork.
- Quarantine may be required for your hairy friend, depending on where you’re coming from, what paperwork you have, and what type of animal you’re bringing with you. If you’re coming from the EU, and have a ‘normal’ animal with all the right vaccinations and paperwork, you can probably skip the need for any quarantine.
- All dogs and cats are required to have a microchip (or an ID number tattooed somewhere on their body).
It’s also important to note that some dog breeds (such as pit bulls, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American Staffordshire terriers) are banned from Germany.
Living in Cologne: final words
And here we are—the end of this guide, and the end of our in-depth Cologne adventure.
Hopefully we’ve covered everything you need to know, and encouraged you to make the big exciting move to the city. As you can probably tell by now, we absolutely recommend living in Cologne.
Before we go, here’s much more detail on living in Germany (whichever city you choose!), and some useful info on getting your all-important Anmeldung.
Thanks for reading, thanks for stopping by, and make sure you keep using Homelike for all your relocation needs!