Moving to a city like Berlin is exciting but make sure to be well prepared so you can enjoy the city to the fullest! Housing is probably up there on the priority list when it comes to moving to a new city and/or country right? We thought so too. However, finding a place to rent in Berlin might not be as easy and straightforward if you have no idea about things such as all the types of houses, housing jargon, neighbourhood, etc. Berlin is a big city. It is nine times the size of Paris.
In finding accommodation, we all have our preferences and we encourage you to know the kind of place you want to be your home - not just a house. Knowing what you want might be a bit tricky if this is the first time you’re moving to a city/country but don’t worry we got you a guide on the critical things you need to know about Berlin housing.
So, here are the things you need to know when looking for a place to stay in Berlin!
1. Berlin Housing Types
Wohnung. An apartment. This is the most popular type of renting in Berlin. Especially for students and expats.
Wohngemeinschaft (WG). A shared apartment. The place is usually shared between 2-4 people and you’ll share the kitchen and bathroom. Always check the number of bedrooms and if they have common space or not.
WFF Facts: There is a ‘minimum living space’ law in Germany. It differs between states but in Berlin, it’s 9 m² for adults and 6 m² for children up till the age of 6. This law makes it rare for people to share a room.
Zweck WG. The only difference about this type of apartment is that you don’t usually know your flatmates. Like, you don’t necessarily talk to them and ‘be friends’ with them. Not because of something bad, it’s just a preferred lifestyle.
Studentenwohnhein (STW). A student accommodation. What differentiates STW from WG is that STW is cheaper because it is funded by the government. However, there is also a private one which tends to be more expensive. There are several types of STW:
a. Einzelapartment. Basically, a studio. You have your own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom all in one space without a separation. Except for the bathroom, of course.
b. Einzelzimmer (in WG). Here, you only have a room and you’ll share the kitchen and bathroom.
Haus. Literally, a house. People don't usually rent a house - they buy it.
2. Berlin Housing Jargon
Short-, mid- or long-term rental. Short-term rental is normally below 30 days, mid-term would be between 1-6 months and anything longer than 6 months will be considered a long-term rental.
WFF Tips: There’s usually a three months notice before you want to end your contract. However, some short-term rental agreements might not permit you to end your contract before the initial period ends.
Commercial Lettings. 1 night to 3 months. For example, hotels and hostels.
Residential Lettings. Minimum stay of 3 months. For example, co-living spaces and some furnished apartments.
Untermiete. The house is permitted to be rented to a 3rd person - subletting. This means that if you decide to leave your place (i.e. going home, summer holiday, etc) you are allowed to rent it to other people.
a. Zwischenmiete. This is a type of Untermiete which basically means that there is a limited amount of time that you could rent it out.
Furnished (Mobiliert) or unfurnished. If the place comes furnished, the place tends to have some basic furniture (i.e. table, chairs, bed, washing machine, etc). Some places are fully furnished which means you often get things like bedsheets, pictures on the wall, lamps, etc. Short-term and mid-term rentals tend to come furnished.
WFF tips: Never forget to check what furniture is included, as ‘basic’ can mean differently to people.
If it’s unfurnished, then it comes empty. There’s no carpet and ‘white goods’ (i.e. fridge, stove, washing machine, etc). Long-term rentals are usually completely unfurnished.
Einbauküche (EBK). This means that the place comes with a built-in and functional kitchen.
Kaution. A house deposit. The landlord will keep your money until you move out and it will only be used in case of any damage in the place. If no repairs are required, you’ll get your whole deposit back. The deposit is usually around 2 months of the rental fee. The maximum deposit permitted by law is 3 months of cold (kalt) rent fee.
Zimmer. Is a room in German. A lot of people got confused with this term when searching for an apartment because some think that it meant a bedroom and not a room.
WFF Tips: 1 Zimmer Wohnung is a studio. 2 Raum means the place contains 2 rooms. Doesn’t necessarily mean 2 bedrooms. So, always check if the room mentioned is a room or bedroom.
Kaltmiete (KM). Translated literally, it’s ‘cold rent’ which means the rental fee is only for the room or apartment and doesn’t include water and electricity. Regarding the internet, it’s normally not included in the rental fee either or.
WFF Tips: Make sure to make every agreement on paper! This ensures no to minimal hassle at the end of your contracts like getting the amount of deposit you’re supposed to at the end of the contract and much more.
Warmmiete (WM). If there’s ‘cold rent’ there’s also ‘warm rent’. Warm rent just means that other fees such as water and electricity are included in your rental fee. Again, the internet tends to be excluded.
TV and Radio license (GEZ-Gebühr). It’s never included in a hotel type of space. It typically costs around €17. Click here for more information.
Schufa is a credit bureau in Germany that gives credit scores to German residents. The higher the score, the easier it is to rent an apartment or get a loan.
Anmeldung. It’s basically the process of registering your address at the citizen's office (Bürgeramt). You could only register once you have an address and the accommodation provider needs to be able to provide the address.
Erdgeschoss (EG). Ground floor
Dachgeschoss (DG). Attic floor
3. Areas to live in Berlin/The Neighbourhoods
As you might imagine, Berlin has some popular spots that people tend to live in. Here are some of the best district and places to live in Berlin:
One word to describe it: Happening
In German, ‘mitte’ means ‘centre’ and, geographically, this is the centre of Berlin. The Mitte is a very lively part of Berlin. It is packed with various cafes, restaurants, theatre, music venues, etc, all within walking distance. There is also Alexanderplatz which is the biggest public square in Berlin and possibly the most famous too because of its shopping centre. Meanwhile, the Alexanderplatz Station plays an important role in connecting the city - both within and beyond.
You can also see a lot of cultural things in this area. For example, the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom), Berlin State Opera, the TV Tower (Berliner Fernsehturm), Museum Islands (i.e. consist of five world-famous museums), Brandenburg Gate, and Reichstag.
Left to right; TV tower, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Cathedral, Alexanderplatz.)
Alongside all the urbanity the Mitte has, it doesn’t forget about greenery. If New York has Central Park and London Hyde Park, Berlin has Tiergarten. The Tiergarten is more than just a park. It contains a lot of memorials, an art and exhibition centre (Haus der Kulturen der Welt), beer garden, open-air gas lantern museum (Gaslaternen-Freilichtmuseum), and much more.
WFF Facts: Berlin has more museums than rainy days!
There are two localities within the Mitte that are gaining popularity. Firstly is Wedding which is an especially affordable area of the Mitte to live in. Wedding is often misjudged as gray and boring but that’s not necessarily accurate. For example, you could find lively beer gardens, craft breweries, coffee roasters, brunch places, and bars. They also have a great town square where you could find organic produce. Furthermore, Wedding also has one of the best bathing lakes - Schwimmbad Plötzensee.
Secondly, Moabit which is largely a Turkish and Arabic area. You can find a lot of fresh food markets and kebab shops. It is also a very artistic part of the Mitte. Take the example of Baeckerei Moabit, an art space, or GRIPS theatre. Moabit is located near the Spree River too which means you could enjoy and relax by the river.
Although the crowdedness of the Mitte might not be as ideal at times for families and children, the amount of prestigious schools seems to outweigh it for some. It is also not a cheap place to live in. But overall, the Mitte is a good place to live in - practical.
One word to describe it: Hipster
It is one of the most culturally diverse parts of Berlin. Not to mention (possibly) the coolest because of the nightlife, restaurants, and affordable rent. This area has gained popularity among the younger generations - students and expats alike. You can expect to find some cool cafes, independent bookstores, record stores, buskers, etc. A lot of it can be reached in walking distance. Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg is that cool and artistic part of Berlin that attracts a lot of youngsters - especially, students.
WFF Facts: Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is the most densely populated area of Berlin! The hustle and bustle of the city are prominent here.
One of the main attractions this area has is The Landwehr Canal which stretches for about 10km in the heart of Berlin. It used to be an important industrial shipping route but now, people do a lot of activities here all year round - picnics, live music, party, and even skate. The canal also has some amazing markets that you can visit every Tuesday and Friday. Alternatively, every second Sunday, there is also The Nowkoelln Flowmarkt where you could find second-hand art, music, handmade items, etc.
Another place you can visit is Badeschiff which is an iconic beach bar - yes, you heard that right. It is a place where you can see the manifestation of modernity and creativity in Berlin.
The East Side Gallery
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is also home to a lot of museums and galleries. Among them are the Berlinische Galerie museum, Gropius-Bau, and Jewish Museum. Additionally, The East Side Gallery is also located here. It is the longest preserved part of the Berlin Wall as well as an open-air art gallery in the world.
Regarding nature, Viktoriapark has undoubtedly been a favourite for many. Two distinct features of the park are the waterfall and beer garden. It’s just a perfect place to chill and hang out with your family and friends! Especially when the sun is out.
Although Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are technically one district, there’s quite a contrast between the two. The biggest one probably being the Turkish community and influence in Kreuzberg. You can find some of the best Kebabs here!
3. Prenzlauer Berg
One word to describe it: Historical
Prenzlauer-Berg is possibly one of the most family-friendly neighbourhoods in Berlin - clean, safe, and picturesque if we may add. It is especially accommodating for young families. The place is full of activities for mummies and babies from pre-natal yoga, playgrounds at every turn, and children cafes (kindercafes).
However, don’t get it wrong, the area is also filled with amazing restaurants and bars! Some of the areas worth checking out include Kastanienalle, Kollwitzplatz, Helmholtzplatz, and the Eberswalder Straße train station.
Prenzlauer Berg Neighbourhood
Prenzlauer-Berg is also very rich in history. Over 300 buildings are protected as historic monuments. Some places you can’t miss visit include the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer) where you can learn how the Berlin Wall has formed the city, Mauerpark which is a popular Sunday flea market located in what used to be the Berlin Wall, Rykestrasse Synagogue which is the largest Synagogue in Berlin and Prater Garden a.k.a the oldest beer garden in Berlin.
WFF Tips: Rumour has it that the best Currywurst since 1930 is also located here - Konnopke's Imbiss.
While the buildings in other areas of Berlin get severely destroyed, this area has been lucky enough to sustain a lot of buildings before the war. In fact, 80% of the housing in Prenzlauer-Berg was built prior to 1948.
One word to describe it: New
Located southeast of the city centre, a lot of people say that Neukölln is the ‘new Kreuzberg’ because of the number of similarities they have. The area has been undergoing a lot of development that Kreuzberg went through years ago. Both are led by creative people which attracts a lot of students.
One of Neukölln's best features is probably the greenspaces. Among them is the Gutzpark which is a 1.8-hectare park that used to be owned privately until 1924 where it’s sold to Berlin. Within it stands also a castle (Schloss Britz) which offers a wide range of activities from changing special exhibitions, museums, restaurants, and even concerts. Secondly, a park that is noted for its beauty - Körnerpark. Think about small canals, trimmed hedges, and a colourful flower garden all in one space. Also, don’t forget to visit the free gallery when you’re here! Thirdly, Britzer Garten that is not only super beautiful in spring because of all the blooming flowers but it’s also a great place for kids to hang around as it has three massive and well-equipped playgrounds. It, interestingly, also has some animal enclosures for donkeys, sheep, goats, and many more.
The area is also packed with some top-tier restaurants, bars, and cafes. For example, Britzen Garten has some great restaurants and cafes (i.e. Café am See, Bistro am Kalenderplatz, Restaurant Britzer Mühle). Regarding pubs, Ä is a chill go-to place for a lot of people. However, if you fancy a rooftop bar that’s full of various activities like concerts, a DJ program, readings, cinema, culinary delights, and more that is spread over two floors, Klunkerkranich is worth trying.
Neukölln is still considered a very affordable yet attractive place to live.
One word to describe it: Up-and-coming
This district might not (yet) be as ‘well built’ as the Mitte but it is getting there. It used to be an industrial area and there are still tons of traces left giving Lichtenberg a unique vibe. A combination of a village and city vibe. Given that fact, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the residential part here is also not as densely populated and the rental prices are also affordable. The area is gaining popularity among students and young families. Today, Lichtenberg is also always at the forefront of development in Berlin. Tons of innovative and trendy rebuilding often start here.
Lichtenberg also has some interesting attractions. Such as the Tierpark which is home to the largest zoo in Europe which is no less than 160 acres. Or, a bay and a shore in the middle of a city is just something else - Rummelsburg Bay. You could also order a barbeque if you fancy one. If you want to explore a bit more of Berlin’s history, the Stasi prison (Hohenschönhausen Memorial).
The area is also known for its Asiatown and in fact, Berlin’s Chinatown is here. Dong Xuan Center is also located here. It is a market hall where you can find a lot of Asian restaurants as well as Asian groceries and cooking ingredients that are hard to find anywhere else. Although it has various sorts of ‘Asian’, it is predominantly Vietnamese. Furthermore, other Asian things can also be found here from bags and toys to hairdressers and nail salons.
One word to describe it: High-end
From the 18th century up until 1920, Charlottenburg used to be an independent city. This west part of Berlin is most known for its affluent lifestyle. People here are often well-off. (Not)surprisingly, the biggest shopping boulevard, Kurfürstendamm, is located here. It is lined with shops from world-known fashion designers to car showrooms, houses, hotels, and top-tier restaurants. The largest department store is also located here - KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens – the ‘Department Store of the West’). Charlottenberg’s affluence reaches even to the smaller streets like Knesebeckstraße, Bleibtreustraße, and Fasanenstraße. Here, you could find many fine boutiques and cafes.
WFF Tips: Don’t forget to check the top floor of KaDeWe to eat and shop for food from all around the world!
One thing you can’t miss visiting here is the Charlottenburg Castle (Schloss Charlottenburg). Established in the late 17th century, it used to be a royal summer residence and is popular for the collections of antiquities, paintings, and musical instruments that the queen at that time was fond of. The Castle has a baroque and rococo style and is the largest and oldest existing palace in Berlin. Today, there are tons of things you can see and visit here. From concerts in the Orangery to Christmas markets. Click here for more information.
Other places you should visit include a bookshop that is a favourite of many Berliners, Bücherbogen, which is filled with excellent books and manuscripts. Or, Paper & Tea (P&T) where you can learn and find everything tea-related. They are passionate about creating awareness regarding tea cultures. You could find and buy from an extensive collection of tea here.
Charlottenburg is particularly popular among English speakers. In fact, it is home to the British School. It is also a family-friendly area. Although it’s definitely not the most affordable, the prices come with perks.
One word to describe it: Green
Welcome to the largest and greenest part of Berlin. Located slightly further from the city centre, it has the lowest population density among all Berlin districts. With the amount of forest, lakes, and parks, Treptow-Köpenick is a quieter part of Berlin but that also means that you can do a lot of outdoor activities here. There’s an Old-town (Alt-Treptow) part of the district where you can take a refreshing and peaceful stroll. Although it might not be everyone’s favourite place to live in, it’s definitely a good ‘day-out' place to go.
WFF Tips: If you live here, a bike might be useful because some places are a bit far from public transport.
The main attraction here is Treptow Park. It’s no ordinary park. The park is huge and located near the Spree River. If you’re a cyclist or jogger, you’ll definitely love this place. Some other things you can do when you’re here include visiting the Insel der Jungend (Island of Youth) where you do tons of water activities (i.e. riverboat, canoeing, etc). Furthermore, in the centre of the park, there is the Soviet War Memorial which is a valuable historical place. Five thousand soviet soldiers were buried here. Today, people come here not only to pay their respect but it’s also a lovely place to hang out in as well. Treptow Park also has a huge grassy area where people love to sunbathe and have picnics. At night time, you could also gaze at the stars in Germany’s oldest and largest public observatory, The Archenhold Observatory.
Treptow-Köpenick is not necessarily all about chill culture. It’s also home to the ‘science city’ of Berlin, WISTA Science and Technology Park in Berlin-Adlershof. It is Germany’s most modern park of its kind. In fact, since its establishment, WISTA now has eleven extramural research institutions, six Humboldt University institutes, and more than 800 companies. As you could imagine from this, the Teptow-Köpenick population consists of quite a bit of students and professionals.
Regarding entertainment, the best place to go here is probably Arena. Basically, you can swim, dance, and drink in one place.
So, which part of Berlin sounds up in your alley to be your home?