Whether you seek café culture, vibrant nightlife, arts, leafy streets, or cheap rent, this guide explains where to stay in Berlin’s eclectic neighborhoods.
Where are the best areas to stay in Berlin? Whether you’re looking for hotels or homes to rent in Berlin, you’ll find plenty of choice, price ranges, and distinct neighborhood atmospheres. Immense urban renewal projects have thrown up enormous buildings alongside the gentrification of public areas, irrevocably altering old neighborhoods to become trendy and popular neighborhoods to live in Berlin.
Yet many of the city’s districts and suburbs still retain their distinctive character and charm. Although it’s been over 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell, you can still see the marks of four decades of division on the city’s architecture and infrastructures of the city.
Historically, renting in Berlin has always had lower house prices than other major European capital cities, although this depends on which Berlin neighborhoods you choose. Prices have been rising recently in certain Berlin neighborhoods but you may be surprised by what you can afford if you’re coming from popular capital cities such as London or Amsterdam. You can also consider where to stay in Berlin’s outlying suburbs if more space, tranquility, or cheaper prices are important.
Below is a guide to the top Berlin neighborhoods and where to stay in Berlin.
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Renting a flat in Berlin
From student squats to mansions, Berlin has something for everyone. As neighborhoods can vary from street to street, it’s a good idea to explore the areas you’re considering on foot. Few neighborhoods are unsafe, but some are significantly more noisy – vibrant if you prefer – with late night clubs staying open until dawn, when businesses roll up their shutters to start the day. We offer a guide to central Berlin neighborhoods, as well as Berlin’s outlying suburban areas, to help you decide where to live in Berlin.
With a high demand for property, finding a place can be challenging. After signing the lease, however, German law favors the tenant so your worries are largely over. You can read more about German rental conditions and tenants’ rights in our guide to renting in Germany.
If you’re planning to stay three years or more, you might consider buying a property in Germany. There are no restrictions for expats purchasing property, making it an attractive investment for many long-term expats. You can read more in Expatica’s guide to buying a home in Germany.
Berlin’s rental prices and annual increases
Expect to pay around €8 per sqm, or more for luxurious properties, small properties, and apartments in particularly desirable areas. House prices have risen dramatically in Germany in the last 10 years, with a knock-on effect on rents. Rents have increased by over 28% since 2007, with properties in desirable areas increasing by up to 10% annually. This is partly due to the German housing market being a sound investment in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, and partly due to an influx of new residents. Popular expat and arty districts, such as Prenzlauer Berg, are particularly hit. Locals are even campaigning against the increases, partly on the basis that the city is losing its artists and musicians.
On the bright side, it’s difficult for a landlord to increase the rent significantly while a tenant is in situ; once you’ve found a place, you should be secure. Berlin has strict regulations about rental increases: they should not happen more than once per year, and not total more than 20% in three years. Unscrupulous landlords have attempted to force out renters in order to increase the rent, provoking a strong backlash from local activists. In a few cases, however, renters have benefited by being paid to leave.
The property description should indicate whether the rent includes any utilities. If it doesn’t, it’s a ‘cold rent’ (Kaltmiete). Conversely a ‘warm rent’ (Warmmiete) will include heating bills, and may include other costs. Details should be laid out in the tenancy agreement. Find out about connecting the internet and telephone, and licences for German television and radio.
Fees and the deposit
A deposit (Kaution) equal to three months’ rent is standard. The sum should not be greater than three months’ rent. It must be kept in an escrow account, a type of savings account that is separate from the landlord’s or estate agent’s business accounts. You may need to open a German bank account.
Types of rental properties and contracts in Berlin
Rental contracts: Short or long term?
Most leases are unlimited or have a two-year initial contract before becoming unlimited. This means there are no contract amendment or renewal periods. A tenant may therefore stay as long as they choose, giving three months’ notice when they quit.
To remove a tenant, the landlord must either serve an eviction notice (by going through the courts) or give three months’ notice. Tenants have the right to dispute the notice, and landlords usually only hold sway in a very particular set of circumstances. These include essential repairs and non-payment of rent. If you feel your landlord is forcing you out, find your local Mieterverbände (tenant’s association) and ask for advice.
Short-term leases (under a year) are typically covered by serviced apartments, sub-lets and holiday homes. If you’re looking for a short-term lease, expect to pay a higher rent. The standard three-month notice for terminating a contract still applies, although some short-term contracts may not allow any contract breaks for an initial period (typically 6–24 months) which would mean that the tenant would have to wait those months out before giving notice. They may be entitled to leave at the end of the specified renting period, or three months’ after giving notice. You should check your contract for details.
Most furnished properties are holiday lets, typically available for the short to medium term (weeks or perhaps a few months). The standard in Berlin is for a property to be let completely empty; as a result, finding a pleasantly furnished property in a nice area can be difficult. In many cases, it’s easier and cheaper to pick a holiday home for a few weeks, then find and furnish a more permanent place.
Properties are typically entirely empty. They’re often without carpets, light fittings, or white goods (such as a fridge, stove, or washing machine). The flipside to this is that tenants are allowed more leeway in decoration: painting is usually accepted, although the flat must be returned in white or neutral colors.
Many students find their own housing through private landlords, and a few through their college or university. Over 9,000 students live in accommodation provided, maintained, and organized by the city itself. The organization, Studentwerk (site in German and Mandarin) operates housing across the city, mostly in dormitory-style blocks.
Choosing an apartment or house?
Berlin has a real mix of housing types. The center is primarily apartments, both converted townhouses, 100-year-old apartment blocks, and modern skyrise complexes. Farther out, you’ll find single-family homes and the odd mansion. Before you get as far as Potsdam, you can be out in the forest with no neighbors in sight. Building quality varies enormously, from beautiful historic homes through shabby Soviet-era prefabs to new builds with all the mod cons.
How to find accommodation in Berlin
Most Berliners (85%) rent their home, and as a result there is a constant supply of apartments and houses coming up for rent. The best deals are to in buildings where the landlord has owned the property for a significant period. The worst deals are from profit-hungry land investors. Renting directly from a landlord may improve your rate, but it’s important to be cautious, particularly if you don’t speak German fluently or are contacting people online.
Flat shares (Wohngemeinschaft) are common, and sub-letting happens regularly. Remember though: if your name isn’t on the tenancy agreement, you forfeit many of your rights as a tenant.
Whether you’re sharing or a sole tenant, expect to fill in a lengthy application form and provide supporting evidence of your status. You will usually need to include:
- your German credit report;
- copies of photo ID and any residence permits or visas;
- proof of income;
- a certificate from your previous landlord indicating you have no outstanding rent due (Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung).
If you’re a new arrival, consider including a letter of recommendation from your employer and explain why you’re missing documents.
Using an estate agent
For newcomers to the city, an estate agent (Makler) can be an excellent investment but their rates are high: three months’ rent plus VAT is standard. Agents usually represent properties rather than renters, so you may have to pay their costs even if you find an apartment through a friend or an advert. Ads online are sometimes listed as being provisionsfreie, which means ‘without agent’s fees’.
Online property portals:
Shared housing and student properties:
- www.studenten-wg.de (German only)
- www.studentenwerk-berlin.de (English, German, Mandarin)
Short-term, furnished and holiday lets:
- www.housetrip.com (English)
- www.ferienwohnung-zimmer-berlin.de (German)
- www.oh-berlin.com (English, German and four more)
- www.airbnb.com (20+ languages)
- SMARTments – (English and German)
- Tempoflat.de is an online portal that specializes in commission-free, furnished lodgings for short- and mid-term rental (one month to two years).
Where to live in Berlin
Berlin has 12 official districts. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the division between the city has been eroded by new-builds and standardized services. Today, you’ll find pleasant and exciting places to live on both sides of the old line. Close to the center, Prenzlauer Berg is the heart of the city. Once home to artists and student squats, rents are on the rise in this charming and characterful neighborhood.
The central areas are popular with families, too, as many of the streets are very walkable and there are plenty of parks. Three international schools rub shoulders with the government buildings in Mitte. There are dozens of schools with an international focus and student body, so expat families are more scattered than in some cities. Charlottenburg, a pleasant leafy neighborhood in the west, is an exception: it has been a home-away-from-home for expat Brits since World War II.
With so much new development going on, the character of a neighborhood can change from street to street and year to year. While some families have lived in the same apartment for 50 years, students and artists tend to be much more mobile, drifting on to the next big thing. Whatever your style and situation, you’re sure to find somewhere that suits you in this diverse and evolving city.
Read more in our guide on where to live in Berlin.
Living in Berlin’s suburbs
Looking beyond the city center, the property market becomes less frantic and more affordable. Thanks to efficient public transport networks and relatively low traffic density for a major urban area, commuting from 20–50km away is entirely practical. Remember that most suburbs are in former East Germany, so in some cases housing quality can be poor, particularly for low cost accommodation built between 1950–1990.
Read a detailed guide on where to live in Berlin’s outlying areas.
Neighborhoods great for nightlife and culture
This neighborhood is at the center of Berlin, and the area home to the city’s most famous landmarks, several major embassies, as well as the seat of the German government.
The Berlin Metropolitan School, the Berlin Cosmopolitan School, and the Berlin Kids International School are all based here, giving both families and young professionals a reason to love having a centrally located property. It is also a happening neighborhood with trendy cafes, shopping streets, and art galleries.
What you need to know about Mitte
- Location: the geographical center of Berlin.
- Housing costs: expensive, typically €700–1,500 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: extensive bus, train, and metro services. Cycling is also possible. Driving is not recommended, however.
- Cars: Parking is limited and typically expensive. Few offices or homes will have parking. Traffic is typically dense.
- Recreation: All of Berlin is at your feet, with restaurants, theatres, music venues, and even more within a kilometer or two. The Tiergarten, a large city park, hosts many events as well as being a pleasant place to meet or exercise.
- Shopping: Shops of all kinds with a large shopping center at Alexanderplatz. Food shopping is limited to smaller supermarkets and specialist stores, however.
- Neighborhood: dense urban neighborhood and housing primarily apartments, many made up of old townhouses and without an elevator.
As housing quality and rents go up, the students and artists who once dominated this district have been moving farther out, replaced primarily by young, urban professionals.
Pankow has a bit of everything, from vintage and second-hand markets to museums to trendy bars and clubs. It’s also home to the Isaac Newton International School.
What you need to know about Pankow
- Location: stretches from Prenzlauer Berg, adjacent to Mitte, to Berlin’s northeast city limits.
- Housing costs: more expensive closer to Mitte, from €300–1,500 for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: buses, trains, and metro are common. Cycling is popular. Driving is possible but difficult, however.
- Cars: Farther from Mitte parking is easier. Main roads funnel workers to the city center, but traffic is typically congested.
- Recreation: something for everyone from outdoor activities in the Naturpark Barnim to the north through to nightclubs and bars closer to Berlin Mitte.
- Shopping: a mix of practical shops, small supermarkets, and quirky, independent stores.
- Neighborhood: working-class area being gentrified, with many buildings under renovation and prices rising.
These two neighborhoods have been joined to make one district. Formerly part of East Berlin, artistic Friedrichshain is now joined with working-class West Berlin’s Kreuzberg and both are going through regeneration.
Much of the old housing stock is crumbling but increasingly being bought and redeveloped. Although the area is in transition, it retains its independent, artistic vibe.
What you need to know about Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
- Location: directly south and east of Berlin Mitte.
- Housing costs: varies enormously depending on the age of building and location. Typically €600–1,000 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: buses, metro, and cycling are popular, and there are also some trains. Driving is typically difficult.
- Cars: Parking is limited and expensive. As a result, few buildings have dedicated parking.
- Recreation: quirky cafes, art galleries, including the Berlin Wall art park Mauerpark, and music venues add to the bohemian atmosphere. Spreewaldplatz is a taste of the outdoors in an otherwise very urban area.
- Shopping: primarily small, independent shops and low-budget chain stores.
- Neighborhood: in transition and much development underway, in fact; large foreign communities.
Where to stay in Berlin: great for families
An upmarket district in former West Berlin, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf has been popular with English-speaking expats since the end of World War II.
It’s home to the British School, and its pleasant streets and numerous parks make it a popular choice for families.
What you need to know about Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
- Location: directly west of Berlin Mitte.
- Housing costs: more expensive, typically €800–1,400 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: numerous bus and metro services, and some trains. Cycling or walking are also possible.
- Cars: Parking is generally difficult and expensive. Few homes or businesses have dedicated parking. Traffic is often congested.
- Recreation: five-star restaurants and concerts at Charlottenburg Castle mix with mainstream cinemas and take-aways. The extensive Teufelsfenn park provides outdoor recreation.
- Shopping: designer clothing boutiques and specialist food stores dominate, especially around Kurfürstendamm.
- Neighborhood: large townhouses and apartments, typically good housing stock. It’s also a very walkable neighborhood.
Home to the Berlin and Alexander von Humboldt International Schools, and with easy access to the Berlin Brandenburg International School in Potsdam, Tempelhof-Schöneberg is a great choice for expat families.
The area is suburban and surrounded by countryside, making it easy to get out and play. Tempelhof Airport is now a public park, with children’s activities and safe areas to play, cycle, and skate.
What you need to know about Tempelhof-Schöneberg
- Location: between Berlin Mitte and Potsdam, in south-west Berlin.
- Housing costs: moderate, around €1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
- Commuting options: Metro, bus, and train routes connect this suburb to the city center. Driving and cycling are also popular.
- Cars: Many houses have on-street parking or a driveway. Traffic is often congested at peak periods, however.
- Recreation: easy access to the cultural centers of Berlin and Potsdam.
- Shopping: mainly chain stores and shopping malls, as well as some clusters of independent shops.
- Neighborhood: largely residential, with a mix of apartment buildings and houses with gardens.
A historic quarter, Spandau has a mix of highly ornamental historic buildings, converted 19th-century housing, and more modern apartments.
The old town is a popular tourist destination, while the surrounding areas are full of charming and quiet residential streets. It is also home to the Villa Amelienhof English-language school.
What you need to know about Spandau
- Location: northwest Berlin.
- Housing costs: moderate, around €1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
- Commuting options: Bus, train, and metro lines run through the area. Cycling and driving are also common.
- Cars: Many houses have parking as do newer apartment blocks. Driving is generally simpler than in the center.
- Recreation: Cultural events and concerts happen in the center. There are also many sport and leisure areas, including the running, biking, and hiking trails in Spandauer Forest.
- Shopping: traditional shopping in the old town, with the largest pedestrian area in Berlin and more than 160 shops.
- Neighborhood: Residential and industrial areas are largely separate, with idyllic streets an easy commute from several major businesses.
Great for students and tight budgets
Primarily a residential district in former East Berlin, Lichtenberg neighborhoods tend to be quiet and cheap. As a result, they’re often home to immigrants and working-class Germans.
Farther from the center, living space expands and there are more houses with gardens. The traffic eases as well, making it ideal if your work is outside the city but you still want access to the center.
What you need to know about Lichtenberg
- Location: a long, narrow district in eastern Berlin.
- Housing costs: affordable, cheaper farther from Mitte, typically €300–800 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: Buses and the metro connect the area to the rest of Berlin. The train station has also international trains, primarily to eastern Europe.
- Cars: Houses often have on-street parking and businesses tend to have some parking for workers and customers.
- Recreation: There are many small parks and river walks, independent restaurants, and one of Europe’s largest zoos, the Tierpark.
- Shopping: Chain stores and supermarkets are common, with several large shopping malls scattered around.
- Neighborhood: primarily residential, often low-density. Single-family houses are more common in this part of Berlin.
Part of the former American sector, Neukölln still has a high population of foreigners and a strong Turkish community.
The neighborhood has gone dramatically up-market since the closing of Tempelhof Airport. The empty runways are now a public park, and the ideal place to rollerskate, cycle, or skateboard.
What you need to know about Neukölln
- Location: southeast Berlin.
- Housing costs: moderate, typically €400–800 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: Buses and metro connect the area to the rest of Berlin. Cycling is also popular.
- Cars: Few buildings have dedicated parking, and streets are often narrow and congested.
- Recreation: Tempelhof is a center for outdoor pursuits, as well as concerts and more. Small galleries, theatres, and nightclubs dot the area.
- Shopping: independent designers, vintage fairs, and farmer’s markets, as well as small supermarkets and chain stores.
- Neighborhood: formerly a rough neighborhood undergoing gentrification.
Where to stay in Berlin: great for peace and quiet
Formerly an industrial area, Reinickendorf is still home to a number of large businesses. The district is largely residential, with housing for workers at all levels, from low-cost housing to large homes with big gardens.
Some areas can be rough, so it’s best to visit in the evening as well to get a real feel for the atmosphere of a street. Nearby residents can wander around Lake Tegel, the second largest lake in Berlin.
What you need to know about Reinickendorf
- Location: northwest Berlin.
- Housing costs: moderate, typically around €1,000–1,500 per month for a three-bedroom house.
- Commuting options: Bikes, buses, and the metro take you to the center. Driving is also popular for workers in the nearby factories.
- Cars: Most houses have on-street parking or driveways. Rush hour can cause severe congestion.
- Recreation: a quiet neighborhood with some good restaurants and scattered entertainments including cinemas, with extensive forest and lake areas nearby.
- Shopping: primarily chain stores and supermarkets.
- Neighborhood: mainly residential, with clusters of large, detached houses and dense housing estates.
Looking at a map, this district seems to be half forest. It’s a leafy, almost rural setting while still being part of Berlin, and only a 30-minute commute from the city center.
Numerous streams, rivers, and lakes run through the area. The district is divided into smaller communities, many very quiet and peaceful, others with a bit more vibrancy.
What you need to know about Treptow-Köpenick
- Location: southeast Berlin.
- Housing costs: low, typically €800–1,000 per month for a three-bedroom house.
- Commuting options: Train, bus, and metro lines serve the area, but many communities are somewhat isolated. A car or bike can be useful.
- Cars: Parking is typically easy and free, and traffic is usually low.
- Recreation: The FEZ leisure park has activities for children and adults. There are also numerous beaches and forest areas, so it’s easy to get in touch with nature.
- Shopping: primarily large shopping malls, with some small-town style shopping streets.
- Neighborhood: almost rural, with many homes with large gardens set back from the road, with some areas of denser neighborhoods.
Where to stay in Berlin: great for being active
A working-class neighborhood in former East Berlin, Marzahn-Hellersdorf retains a significant proportion of Soviet-era architecture. The area is scattered with parks, canals, and rivers, and is also edged by farmland and forest to the east.
Although this is still very much part of Berlin, it’s easy to get outdoors. Golf, rock climbing, hiking, as well as other sports facilities are available.
What you need to know about Marzahn-Hellersdorf
- Location: at the eastern edge of Berlin.
- Housing costs: affordable, typically €300–600 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.
- Commuting options: Metro, bus, and train lines take you to the city center. Driving is possible.
- Cars: Many houses have on-street or driveway parking. Driving typically smooth outside rush hour.
- Recreation: numerous parks, as well as charming family-run restaurants, cinemas, and the odd theatre or music venue.
- Shopping: primarily chain stores, malls, and supermarkets, with clusters of small, independent shops.
- Neighborhood: largely residential and typically quiet, with a mix of Soviet-era high-rise apartments and village-style houses.
Within easy reach of the capital, many homes in Steglitz-Zehlendorf are nestled among lakes and forests. The area is large and varied, including industrial areas, outlet malls, and surprisingly wild areas in its catchment.
It’s a great area to investigate if you love the outdoors, perhaps want to keep animals, but also value being within 30-40 minutes of both Berlin and Potsdam.
What you need to know about Steglitz-Zehlendorf
- Location: southwest Berlin, near Potsdam.
- Housing costs: moderate, typically around €1,000–1,500 per month for a three-bedroom house.
- Commuting options: Buses, metro, and trains serve the area, but may require a car or bike to reach the station.
- Cars: Most homes have parking and driving is common.
- Recreation: watersports, from sailing to sunbathing, on the lakes and rivers as well as golf, horse riding, and more in the forests, with some cinemas and leisure centers.
- Shopping: scattered supermarkets, malls, and big-box stores, as well as some small-town style shopping areas.
- Neighborhood: ranges from clusters of apartments to mansions in the forest.