Moving to Berlin

Moving to Berlin

In the last few years, Berlin has become a magnet for people who want to start a new life and a new career. Now more than ever before, people from all over the world are moving here to try their luck. In the beginning it was mostly people who had already been here before and were somehow in the know about the infrastructure of the city. But things have changed. The city has evolved and the type of people who come here have changed, too.

With iHeartBerlin, we have always tried to give a bit of guidance both for those who live here, but also for those who are new in town or are planning to come here, either for having a good time, or for starting a new job or university program. While we are mostly giving advice in terms of places and events, what’s been missing here is some general guidance to the process of moving here, including choosing the right district, finding an apartment, getting the basic stuff for the house and how to get around town. These are all important parts of your own Berlin story and today we would like to contribute to that.

After the jump we will give you some basic advice about moving to Berlin.

1) Choose Your District

Depending on your personal preferences and the location of your job or university, the choice of district is quite an essential one. Every area has certain qualities that might be appealing to one person but annoying for another, so we want to give you a little overview. We’ll focus on the more central districts that are within the S-Bahn Ring (the circular line of trains that go around the city center).

Neukölln, photo: Sascha Kohlmann

For the majority of our younger readers, the districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg are probably the most interesting. These districts are hubs for youth culture, nightlife and creativity and they already host a large community of foreigners living there. The infrastructure of both districts is amazing, especially for foreigners, but it can get very busy and loud, especially the areas of Oranienstraße, Schlesisches Tor and Weserstraße. These are magnets for party tourism. If you like to be surrounded by a lot of bars, vintage shops, hip cafes and urban hang outs, these are definitely your kind of places.

The contrasting districts are Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Apart from the really touristic and commercial areas in the West and South of Mitte, there is still really nice residential areas in the North of Mitte around Rosenthaler Platz that attracts a maybe more commercially established yet creative kind of crowd. They have some of the best restaurants and shops in town there. Prenzlauer Berg can be considered the more tranquil and family-oriented version of this.

Mitte, Rosenthaler Platz

The districts of Gesundbrunnen, Wedding and Moabit are a little bit like the Northern counterpart to Neukölln. It’s a bit old-style Berlin meets Little Turkey and depending on the area, this can be more or less urban. Wedding in particular has been coined as the next trending area, but due to lack of centralized infrastructure this hasn’t fully happened yet, which might be a good thing, because it’s way less gentrified compared to Neukölln, and yet there is still an interesting scene of young, international and local creatives spread out over the district.

Charlottenburg and Wilmersdorf are the big central districts of former West Berlin. They have a lot of the main tourist sights and shopping areas right in the middle of them, but they also have a couple of interesting more residential areas that are fancier and more glamorous than the hip districts on the other side of the city. It’s a little bit more of a grown-up world over there, but this is a good thing if you want to be away from all the fuzz.

Charlottenburg, photo: Alicia Kassebohm

Schöneberg is a little two-faced as it has some more fancy areas such as Winterfeldtplatz and Akazienstraße on the one end and the very artsy and more urban Potsdamer Straße on the other. The latter area especially has become a hub for the Berlin art scene.

Last but not least is Friedrichshain, the most Eastern district of the center. A lot of clubs and nightlife hubs are located here in a very condensed area, giving the district a very pulsating vibe, especially at night. It’s a quite gentrified area; I know a lot of people who either love or hate it. I think it has an amazing infrastructure and if you can overlook (or simply enjoy) the strong party tourism, this is a great option too.

Friedrichshain, Urban Spree Galerie

Of course all districts have different areas inside of them that can be more of this and less of that; I’m speaking more in general terms here to give you an impression.

2) Find a House

Finding a nice apartment used to be such a breeze in Berlin. I remember a time around 2005 or ’06 when a landlord would basically charm me to get me to sign the lease and even give into my demands of making changes to the contract. Well, let’s just say times have changed since then… Now the best chances of getting a great house is through friends. Apart from that, the most usual channels would be using real estate websites such as ImmoScout or WG Gesucht to find apartments or rooms. But be prepared to be standing with shitloads of other applicants at the visit or interview. If you want it more easy, you can also go through agencies or websites that arrange for long-term subleases.

One quite new example in this field is nestpick. They offer apartments and rooms for long term rent in many European cities, including Berlin. Their website comes in 6 European languages, which makes this sensitive task more easy for foreigners. You’ll find homes in all the major districts of Berlin and the process of booking them is easy.

3) Make Yourself at Home

Once you’ve found your new nest and settled in, it’s time to make it your home. Berlin has a lot of options in different price ranges in terms of interior design and home accessories. We want to give you a few examples of where you can get original and nice stuff for you new house.

Küchenliebe

If you are looking for stuff for your kitchen, you should head over to the Küchenliebe shop in Friedrichshain or to their booth at Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg. They have all the kitchen equipment and ceramics that you could need.

bermuda living

New house, new bed, new sheets! The small Berlin-based label bermuda has super-original bed sheets and pillows and they also have shower curtains. You can get their charming products at the pop-up store in Neukölln at Reuterstr. 53, which will be open until the end of September 2015.

Schee

To decorate your walls, we recommend the brand new shop Schee, which offers a big variety of unique fine art prints (framed and unframed) as well as other decorative home accessories. Your walls and shelves will definitely feel more alive with some of these lovely things.

4) Getting Around

Berlin is quite efficient when it comes to transportation. The public transport network is one of the best in the world – you will be able to get almost anywhere with no problem with trains, trams and buses. For some things like going out to the lakes, a car would come in handy, and if you don’t own one, there are lots of cheap options to rent one over the weekend or use one of the many care-sharing services.

But if you want to be a real Berliner, you will need a bike. Berlin is quite flat and the traffic is quite moderate, which make it the perfect city for riding a bike. And especially in the Spring and Summer – everybody does. There are many options for bikes: you can go the fancy way and buy a beautiful fixie (but you better take good care of it and buy super-safe locks for these) or you go the easy way and buy a used bike at one of the many bike shops or at the flea markets.

A little advice: In Germany the police can be quite strict with cyclists. So make sure you have functioning lights on your bike, don’t ride on the sidewalk and don’t run red traffic lights. In other countries, you might never get into trouble for this, but here in Germany you might get fined or even lose your drivers license!

5) Start your Story in Berlin

Now that you are settled in, it’s time to start your own story in Berlin! Go out and discover the city. In the summer, there are plenty of lakes, parks, open air cinemas, outdoor locations and activities to enjoy. The number of great restaurants and cafes will never leave you hungry. There are heaps of galleries and museums to visit and there is always something going on at night, so you have no chance to ever get bored.

When it comes to education and career, Berlin also has a lot to offer. If you don’t already speak the language, you should check out some of the schools where you can learn German – this will really come in handy in the long term (and it might become necessary for any formalities or business matters). Germans also love to learn other languages, so if you want a more personal language experience, you will easily find a tandem partner with whom you can teach each other the respective language.

In the few past years, Berlin has developed into a hub for the start-up scene. There are a lot of good resources and opportunities here that range from support programs from the government to accelerators of big companies that support young businesses. There is lots of office space, people from all over the world with different languages and skills, and an audience eager to try out new things. It’s the perfect playground for ideas of any kind. It’s all up to you what you make of it ;)

We hope this little guide was a good introduction for you. Of course there is so much more to say on the topic and we will make sure to cover more of this soon, so stay tuned!

Thanks for the support by nestpick

Frank by Frank
on August 26th, 2015
updated on October 31st, 2016
in Stories
17 Comments »

17 Responses to “Moving to Berlin”

  1. Anja Says:

    Sehr coole Zusammenfassung, die hätte ich gebraucht, als ich vor nem Monat hergezogen bin ;) Kann aber nur bestätigen, was ich über die einzelnen Stadtteile gesehen und gehört habe. Mir persönlich gefällt Prenzlberg am besten, bin aber derzeit in Wedding unterwegs. Dass Wedding schon seit 10 Jahren im Kommen sei, höre ich auch an jeder Ecke :D
    LG

  2. Nergis Says:

    oh god, i love this city!

  3. pati Says:

    i’m about to move in Berlin for praktikum and studies actually in 5 days i’m starting my praktikum. i was really happy about the fact of movin here but i’m not anymore and i would resign if only i could. looking for a room or flat is ridiculous. i lived in 3 other european capital cities and renting a flat there depended on me and how much do i want to pay or in which area do i want to live and here you should be happy abou the fact that someone answeres your request and invite you for a casting. berlin is overloaded at the moment and its not welcomed to new people, i think. if could have make decision again i wouldnt decide to move here. its a pity because i used to love berlin.

  4. Agnis Says:

    I agree with Pati. It is almost impossible to find somewhere to live in Berlin. If you find something you Need to have a Job and pay a large deposit. Sadly NESTPIC mentioned above does not cater for people on a limited budget.

  5. Steve Says:

    Hey Pati,

    I totally understand your Berlin dilema. Finding a flat to rent in Berlin is notoriously difficult, even compared to Paris or London. We started nestpick to address this issue and to help people find and rent flats with ease and convenience. If you’re still looking for somewhere in Berlin please take a look at our website or contact us if you have any questions about a particular room or apartment. We’re always happy to help.

    All the best

    Steve
    nestpick
    (community manager)

  6. Nadia Says:

    Great note Frank! Congratulations 👏

  7. chuchofreeman Says:

    Does anyone know a place where you can volunteer in exchange for accomodation?

    Like a hostel or something.

    I’m gonna be there January (maybe February too) and don’t want to rent a flat

  8. Paula Says:

    These guides are amazing – helped me a lot finding my way in this city when I moved here 2013!

    I ended up in Wedding. First year I wasn’t sure about my decision and wanted to move again as soon as possible.
    Almost 3 years later now I am uber-happy I ended up here. No abundance (what often becomes redundancy) of cafés and bars like in Neukolln etc., but there is enough to have a good choice and all have style and charme and this quite unique Wedding- feeling, and to be honest there are more bars every year.

    In Summer: Wedding’s gorgeous parks will become your second home – unless you are into crowded noisy hectic parks, ’cause there are none.

    Wedding is very laid-back. And much of what it offers is well hidden, so you either have to live here for a while and explore it yourself or you need a local that guides you. It doesn’t work like the other “hip” districts.
    A friend of nailed it saying: “Wedding isn’t that Fast-Food-Berlin-Experience”.

    What surprised me the most was the abundance of cultural stuff (even highbrow) going on that flies pretty much under the radar as everyone is so focused on Kreuzberg/Mitte/Neukolln. Maybe not so surprising as A LOT of artists have their homes and ateliers here. Berlin’s Avantgarde hides in Wedding ;-)

    Also: Everthing is like 20% cheaper than elsewhere – cafes, takeaway, markets, antiques shops.
    And public transport connections to every f****** corner of Berlin is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in Wedding.

    In short: If you come to Berlin for a couple of month, you better be ending up in Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain/Neukolln.
    If you want to stay long, you might make your best decision by moving to Wedding.

  9. Christian Says:

    And make sure you RESPECT the city and it’s citizens.
    Don’t be an arrogant prick and at least try to learn some german.
    Keep in mind that this city has a lot to offer and just simply don’t be an asshole!

  10. Ariadne Says:

    May be it could be considered that the reason that you can’t find a flat in berlin anymore is the result of the „success“of companies like AirBnB and Nestpick and all the other „longterm rent“ companies. I live in a house in Berlin Schöneberg since 16 years and for the last 6 years the neighbours change almost weekly because the flats are all sub rented on Airbnb etc. sadly, very sadly berlin became so hip and now it becomes very hopp and the people actually living here have to move somewhere in brandenburg because they can’t find a place to live anymore.
    I actually don’t know any real Berliner living in Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Mitte, those are the areas of berlin where you have to order a german filterkaffee now called 3rd generation coffee trend, in english or spanish.
    I highly recommend the unhip areas like wedding, pankow, dahlem, zehlendorf, steglitz, spandau – you might find the real berlin if you explore them.

  11. Hattie Hardy Says:

    I am a writer and a photographer and I love places that inspire me to create. I love being in Berlin! I feel so great going around this magical city. I find it a separate world… it isn’t Germany, it is Berlin! It has a soul of it’s own! I really feel that it is the right place for me and ever since I visited Berlin I want to move there. I love this post! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Tinifee Says:

    There still are plenty of rooms/appartments available around Berlin, provided you are prepared to move outside the ring. Lichtenberg, Pankow, Reinickendorf, Treptow, even parts of Wedding – my sympathies for newcomers complaining about not being able to find a place to live and then finding out that they will only consider living in Kreuzberg, Mitte or Neukölln are pretty limited. Berlin is much, much bigger than this, people.

  13. learn and earn Says:

    Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have book-marked it for later!

  14. Ellie Young Says:

    great article!

    I moved to Berlin from New Zealand. I found a company called NomadenBerlin which I booked a relocation package with, made the move a piece of cake!

  15. Kira Says:

    JUST DON’T!

  16. Sina Says:

    Ich danke Ihnen für den interessanten Artikel. Ein Umzug in die Hauptstadt ist nicht immer leicht. Schon allein die Wohnungssuche gestaltet sich immer schwieriger.
    Mit besten Grüßen,
    Sina

  17. Wolfschaum Says:

    Where’s the 3-6 weeks at Bürgeramt ?

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