Berlin or Hamburg: Which city is right for you?
Cities such as Berlin and Hamburg are becoming increasingly popular destinations for ex-pats looking to settle in Germany. As a potential homebuyer, your expectations may be focused on better job prospects and a higher standard of living. Or alternatively, your priorities may include lower living costs and the opportunity to enjoy a different kind of lifestyle with new cultural experiences. Whatever your plans, this comparison between Berlin, Germany’s multicultural capital, and Hamburg, a founder member of the ancient Hanseatic League, should help you decide which of these cities is the right place to make your home.
Berlin vs Hamburg: Climate, cityscape & environment
Hamburg’s coastal climate offers milder winters with moderate summers. Its winters can produce around four months of mostly light rain and temperatures not much above freezing point. The city is a little cooler than Berlin, about 500 kilometres to the south, which has a temperate seasonal climate influenced by the prevailing winds. Berlin summers are warmer (around 23°C), if sometimes rainy, and winters are generally mild. Berlin boasts plenty of attractive neighbourhoods with rivers, lakes such as the Müggelsee, green spaces, allotments and leisure areas. It has great public transport, is cycle-friendly, and has less vehicle traffic than most cities of similar size. However, not all of these assets are exploited to their full eco potential, especially much of Berlin’s natural environment. Hamburg, the port city on the Elbe, has its own rivers, canals and lakes – a waterway system complete with ferry transport and more than 2,000 bridge crossings. Designated the European Green Capital for 2011, the city is committed to sustainable development. Hamburg encourages eco-friendly technologies and cycle transport, while banning plastic bottles and aiming to remove all cars from the city by 2034. Parks, leisure areas, and even green fields, help to enrich the city’s bustling commercial landscapes.
Life in Berlin vs Hamburg
Each city has its own unique character and distinctive quality of life: Berlin is a value-for-money destination which embraces diversity and fun. It is a celebrated clubbing capital with a global reputation for techno music and prizes its liberal culture. Leisure time is a priority for Berlin’s citizens who consider a good work-life balance to be essential. Though Berlin is a vast sprawling city, getting around without a car is not at all complicated. That encourages people to walk beside the Spree, visit world-famous heritage sites like the Brandenburg Gate or the Berlin Wall, and enjoy the city’s renowned museums, galleries and sports arenas. Meanwhile, port life in Hamburg is further enhanced by the beauty of its two Alster lakes at the heart of the city. Frequented by sailing clubs throughout the summer, the area also hosts a colourful ice festival when the Alster freezes over in winter. Classical music concerts amid the architectural splendour of the Elbe Philharmonic Hall are a special treat, and ever since the Beatles made their mark, Hamburg’s Reeperbahn district and other city music venues have continued to champion the best of live music. The exquisite architecture of this verdant city reflects its historic importance and includes two UNESCO heritage sites: the Speicherstadt and Kontorhausviertel.
Berlin vs Hamburg: Cost of living and employment
Berlin is rated one of the most affordable capitals in Western Europe. For instance, you can eat out and pay less than €10 for a meal, and a monthly rail/bus/tram card works out at €81 compared to Hamburg’s charge of €83. Rents too are cheaper than Hamburg, according to the International Rent Index, though it should be said the gap is starting to narrow. As a capital city, Berlin has a broad range of job opportunities at different salary points, with ICT, media and new technologies particularly strong. The city also has a reputation as a youthful, thriving start-up hub for creative entrepreneurs. Hamburg is a rich city home to many German millionaires, and its status as the ‘gateway to the world’ makes it equally attractive to multinational corporations like Siemens and Unilever. Start-ups are also encouraged, especially in media, ecommerce and logistics, and the presence of tech giants like Google, Facebook and Xing is no disadvantage. Such features push up the cost of living, so unsurprisingly, Hamburg salaries tend to be above the norm: In 2016, a worker in Hamburg was estimated to earn €90,905 – nearly €21,000 per year above the national average.
Read next: The 5 part series exploring Hamburg
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