Moving to Cologne


Our rating

4 out of 5

  • Affordability 4 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 3 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 1 out of 5

  • Property affordability 3 out of 5

  • Climate 5 out of 5

  • Environment quality 3 out of 5

Cologne, or Köln, sits on the Rhine in the eastern part of Germany less than 70km from the border with the Netherlands. Founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD, Cologne grew in importance as a centre of commerce during the middle ages and also became a tourist hotspot – though in those days the tourists were pilgrims and the attractions were religious relics rather than historic sites.

As Germany’s fourth largest city Cologne was a target of Allied bombing campaigns in World War II. The senseless destruction of war reduced the city’s population by 95% and reduced most of the buildings in the city centre to rubble. It took until the 1990s to rebuild but a determination to restore Cologne’s culturally significant buildings has led to a modern cityscape which is also architecturally diverse and which projects rather than obscures the city’s history.

The economic centre of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Cologne’s chief industries are finance (particularly insurance) and media (several broadcasting and publishing companies are based in the city) while major employers include Ford and Lufthansa.

Economic success as well as high living standards and the many cultural assets have boosted Cologne’s attractiveness to immigrants and led to a population with a non-German component of more than 17%.

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Moving to Cologne from the UK

As an EU citizen a Brit moving to Cologne will have no trouble gaining a residence permit – you just need to register at the Kundenzentrum Innenstadt in the city centre or at another Meldehalle (registration centre) in your first week.

While all Colognians are fluent in standard German, Cologne actually has its own dialect of German known as Kölsch, so don’t be surprised if you find locals difficult to understand at first. Getting used to the differences will take a little time and can only really be achieved by speaking the language as often as possible.

Cologne is separated into two halves by the Rhine. The historic centre is on the west/left bank within the first of many semi-circular rings while the right/east bank is newer, cheaper and more popular with immigrant communities.

In line with house prices across Germany, Cologne property prices are seeing modest gains of around 4% per annum at present. Luxury family houses have an average price of €4,650 (£3,925) per sq. m. whereas apartments go for an average price of €1,815 (£1,530) per sq. m. Property transfer tax is levied at 3.5% of the purchase price.

Comparing Cologne vs London

While London and Cologne are at very similar latitudes, the German city lacks the moderating effect of the atlantic ocean. Summers in Cologne are therefore marginally hotter (average highs in August reach 24 °C, a degree higher than London) and winters distinctly cooler (average lows of -1 °C in January and February are 3-4 degrees colder than those London). While the number of annual sunshine hours is roughly the same for both cities, on average, Cologne sees about 40% more precipitation.

Lower property and rent prices are the largest contributors to the lower cost of living in Cologne compared with London. In addition, restaurant prices, groceries, transport and utility bills all usually amount to less whereas consumer goods can be more expensive.

On average Colognians report themselves as feeling safer than Londoners, spending less time commuting and putting up with less pollution. They also report experiencing slightly poorer healthcare.

Over a quarter of Cologne is dedicated green space which works out to an average of 75 m2 for every inhabitant of the city. Chief attractions among the 2 million+ annual tourists include mediaeval churches like the gothic Cologne Cathedral and the Cologne Carnival, characterised by street parades and stage shows, which takes place every winter.