Hamburg City Guide

By Victoria Fellows


Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, after Berlin.

However, it’s also the third largest port city in Europe, and is often referred to as Germany’s ‘Gateway to the World’, which earns it plenty of interest from international organisations and visitors. In northern Germany, Hamburg is often overlooked for Munich the popular home of Oktoberfest, or even Stuttgart. However, there are plenty of reasons to consider relocating to live and work in Hamburg.

For a start, it comes tenth in the world’s most ‘liveable’ cities. This is because of its perfect combination of healthcare provision, stability, culture and infrastructure. Hamburg has two lakes, which offer a mecca of sailing and water sports activities in summer. And, in Spring, Hamburg’s 5,000 cherry trees burst into bloom along the banks of the Alster creating an unforgettable spectacle.

Enough already. The main reason you’d want to live and work in Hamburg is the technology scene emerging in Hamburg. Home to established tech giants such as Google, Meta, Freenet and Xing, the city is increasingly interesting to technology companies as a result of its three accelerator schemes.

Hamburg’s accelerator schemes

Hamburg’s accelerator schemes are split across media, e-commerce and logistics and are supported by large organisations such as Siemens and Airbus. In 2017, Hamburg start-ups raised €230million which was an increase of €2million on 2016, and in 2021, 5,107 start-ups were established in Hamburg  – the highest number since 2008.  

Housing in Hamburg

As an ex-pat in Hamburg, finding the right place to live is important to helping you feel right at home. Hamburg is a big city, but thanks to its smaller regions it feels small and friendly. Different regions of Hamburg each offer different vibes, though.

Altona is popular among students, internationals and artists. With its slightly bohemian vibe, you can browse second-hand stores and vintage clothes shops and pass the afternoon in low-key local pubs. While there are no universities in Altona, there are plenty of schools and kindergartens. It can be pricey but isn’t the most expensive place within Hamburg to live.

Then there’s Hamburg Eimsbüttel which is also a densely populated part of Hamburg but contains some Art-Nouveau architecture. It’s on Alster Lake which offers water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding and is the proud home of the University of Hamburg.

Hamburg Mitte is packed with popular restaurants, landmarks, museums and the Hamburg State Opera. In Hamburg Mitte, you’ll find St Paulie where you can while away the hours in clubs or watch football matches and events. Unfortunately, its proximity to nightlife means it’s also one of the pricier neighbourhoods in Hamburg.

Hamburg Nord offers large residential buildings and is close to the airport and Hamburg City Park. However, as it’s slightly further from the City Centre, it’s also a little kinder on the bank balance.

For a more tranquil part of Hamburg, check out Hamburg Bergedorf with its cycling trails through the woods and walks around the Elbe River.

The region of Hamburg you choose will influence the cost of renting in Hamburg and the general cost of living. For example, rental prices in Harvestehude in Eimsbüttel are high at €20.27 per m2 but in Curslak in Hamburg Bergedorf, you can literally halve the cost of renting to around €9.98 per m2.

Buying an apartment in the centre of Hamburg will cost around €8785 per square meter while buying an apartment in the suburbs of Hamburg will cost nearer to €5,635 per m2.

Visa requirements for working in Hamburg   

EU Citizens, Australian, Israeli, Japanese, Canadian, Korean, New Zealand or US Nationals are all able to live and work in Hamburg without the need for a visa. However, if you aren’t a national of one of these countries, you’ll need a visa. To be eligible for a visa, your gross income will need to exceed €43,992. You can apply for a visa through your District Immigration Authority.

The cost of living in Hamburg

Life in Hamburg is a little more expensive than life in Munich but with so much opportunity, most don’t mind the added cost.

In Hamburg rent is almost 47% lower than in London and the cost of living overall is 7% lower, but on top of rent, you’ll need to budget around €272.49 for basic utility bills (based on electricity, heating, cooling, water and refuge costs for an 85m2 apartment).

If you like to get out and about in the evening, a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant will set you back around €60. Whereas a McDonalds will cost around €9. Half a litre of local beer will cost around €4, the same as a 33cl bottle of imported beer.

At the supermarket, a litre of milk will cost €1.12, a loaf of fresh bread will cost €2.25 and a Kg of rice will cost around €2.15.

Salaries in Hamburg  

In 2022, a good net salary in Hamburg is considered to be between €3,000 and €3500. This level of income would cover the cost of a two or three-bed apartment, eating out and even weekends away. But to achieve this, you’d need to command a gross salary of around €5,400 per month, or €65,000 per year.

The average salary among those working in the IT industry in Hamburg is around €4290 per month but can range from €2220 to €6990 (on average).

Actual salaries vary wildly depending on the role and the individual’s experience. For example, an Android Developer could expect a salary of around €4.000 per month, whereas a Director of Technology could expect a salary of around €6,700.

Commuting and Public Transport in and around Hamburg

Hamburg’s extensive public transport system makes getting around the city a breeze. The U-Bahn offers four underground rail lines, and the S-Bahn offers six overground rail lines that connect the different regions of Hamburg. These S-Bahn lines run from 4.30 am to 1 am so are available to get you from A to B at almost any time of the night or day. There is also an extensive range of bus services that include a frequent service bus (metro), express buses, sprinter buses and regional buses that connect stations and surrounding towns.

And, if you want to avoid a long trip around the lakes, there are six ferry lines that serve the port and the river Elbe.

The Education system in Hamburg   

In Hamburg, the education system is very similar to elsewhere in Germany - children start Kindergarten at the age of 3. Then, after Kindergarten, children go to a primary school called Grundschule (Primary School) until the age of 7. Then, they can either attend a ‘Gymnasium’ which is like a grammar school, or a Comprehensive school. Attending a Comprehensive school gives students the option to start vocational training after year 9 or 10, or to continue on and later attend university. You can find a really useful breakdown of the Hamburg education system examination levels here.

There are also around 7 international schools in Hamburg to choose from if you want your children to follow a more international education system or to be taught in a language other than German. These schools tend to cost between €2,500 and €25,000 per year.

Hamburg’s technology sector

Hamburg is an emerging tech hub within Germany. More understated than Munich and friendlier than Berlin, Hamburg is beginning to appeal to tech companies in their own right with its accelerator programs smoothing the way for both start-ups and giants alike.

The German IT industry has a turnover of €178 billion and more than 1.3 million skilled workers, and Hamburg plays a key role in that. Organisations that have laid roots in Hamburg include Google, Twitter, Meta and Yelp, and start-ups such as Xing, Jimdo, myTaxi and Stuffle. Hamburg is also a burgeoning gaming mecca with Goodgame Studios, Bigpoint and Innogames all taking up residence in the German city.

Things to do in Hamburg

Hamburg offers plenty of entertainment for those who choose to relocate to Hamburg. A visit to the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg’s tallest inhabited building, is a must, especially if you can team your viewing of the spectacular concert hall with hearing the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra play in this spectacular acoustically structured venue.

If you like your green space, you can visit Planten un Blomen where 47 hectares of gardens, lawns, ponds and greenhouses will keep you amused for hours. The largest greenhouse contains plants from across the Mediterranean, whilst another boasts a wide variety of succulents from desert climes.

To expand the mind, a trip to the oldest warehouse in the Spicherstadt will inspire, with a vast array of maritime exhibits including letters from Admiral Nelson and a reproduction of Ernest Shackleton’s lifeboat or visit the Kunsthalle Hamburg to admire a wide collection of art.

Then there’s the Miniatur Wunderland or a tour of the harbour by boat, and so many more things to do to expand your mind and experience the culture and history of Hamburg. So, if you’re considering living and working in Hamburg, you’ll find plenty of things to enjoy in your spare time, whatever your age or interests.

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