Germany is a great country to retire to. Not only does it have all the qualities of the perfect location to spend your golden years in (charming cities, beautiful nature, low living costs, excellent healthcare, and friendly people), but it is also ranked the seventh-happiest country in the world.
These are the best places in Germany to retire to:
In the following sections, I’ll take you through eight of the best locations in Germany to retire to and the qualities that make them stand out from the rest of the country. I’ll also provide you with some additional information you’ll want to be aware of regarding documentation and logistics.
Located in the south of Germany, Munich is a beautiful city with much to offer. It’s considered among the safest locations in the country and has a well-organized public transportation system. It also boasts some exceptional healthcare facilities.
If you’re a nature lover, over twenty parks span the course of the city. And even though Munich itself is quite sizey, most people agree that it does not have that rushed city feel.
If you’re not already impressed, Munich was ranked third in Mercer’s 2019 Quality of Life City Ranking. The rankings are based on the quality of life for expatriates living abroad in these cities.
As the third-largest city in Germany, however, Munich can be more expensive than other places in the country. The average cost of living for one person in Munich is around 900 euros ($900), not including rent. The average rent for a furnished studio apartment is 1,000-1,500 euros ($1090-$1640 USD).
Berlin is the capital of Germany and one of its liveliest locations. The city is always buzzing with energy and excitement and never lacks something to do. It even secured the #13 spot on Mercer’s Quality of Life Ranking.
If you enjoy going to museums, restaurants, and other events, Berlin may be the right choice for you. It’s a sprawling and active city that offers excellent public transportation services.
If you’re not excited by the thought of an active city lifestyle, it may be cheaper and more comfortable to retire somewhere in the outskirts of Berlin. Here, rent will be more affordable, life will be quieter, and you’ll most likely be surrounded by nature.
Berlin can be expensive, though not as much as Munich. One person’s average cost of living is €800 ($870), while rent averages about €800-€1200 ($870-$1300).
Located in the west of Germany, Dusseldorf is ranked sixth on Mercer’s Quality of Life City Rankings.
The city is known for its location on the incredible Rhine River, its beautiful and diverse neighborhoods, delicious multicultural cuisine, and the abundance of festivals throughout the year.
Dusseldorf is smaller than Berlin and Munich, even though it offers a lot of the same benefits (low crime rates, good healthcare, accessible public transportation). It can be an excellent option for those who prefer a smaller city feel.
The city is also close to the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, making it a great place to live in if you’re interested in traveling.
Dusseldorf is also cheaper than previous cities mentioned on this list. The estimated average monthly cost for one person is €800 ($870), while the average monthly rent for a studio apartment is between €600-€900 ($650-$980).
Frankfurt comes in close behind Dusseldorf in terms of quality of life, scoring number seven on Mercer’s scale. It’s a very safe and expat-friendly city that has a more of a peaceful, village atmosphere that you won’t find in busy Berlin.
Frankfurt is very multicultural and offers a vast array of markets and festivals throughout the year. The condensed city is easy to travel around and has a great biking scene.
However, Frankfurt scales on the higher side of living costs in Germany. While the average cost of living is about €900 a month ($980), the average monthly rent can vary from €800-€1200 ($870-$1300).
Hamburg is another excellent retirement option for those looking to move to Germany. As the second-largest city in the country following Berlin, Hamburg has lots to offer.
As a vibrant, port city located in the north, Hamburg is filled with gorgeous architecture, easy-to-use transportation, and multitudes of cafes.
However, the weather in Hamburg is not always ideal. Although the summers can get up to 17 hours of daylight, winters get 17 hours of darkness. The city can get very cold throughout fall and winter, not to mention it often rains over half of the year.
The average cost of living in Hamburg is around €900 per month ($980), with an average monthly rent that varies between €700-€1200 ($760-$1300).
Stuttgart is situated in a hilly region of southern Germany. The city is dense and packed with markets, stores, restaurants, and parks. Since everything is so close, walking is easy. However, there is also an organized transportation system at your disposal.
Safety and healthcare options all rank high in Stuttgart. Additionally,due to its geographic location, you can drive to France, Switzerland, and Austria in under two hours.
Stuttgart’s average monthly cost of living is around €800 ($870), while rent averages about €800-€1200 a month ($870-$1300).
Located in the warmer part of Germany, Heidelberg is a charming town with incredible medieval architecture. The town sits in a very scenic location along the Rhine River and boasts an exceptionally high quality of life.
It’s easy to maneuver around the city by walking, biking, or taking the bus. The city’s culture is unmatched. There’s no shortage of cafes, museums, and shops.
Heidelberg is also home to Heidelberg University’s hospital, which provides excellent healthcare services.
The average cost of living in the city is around €900 a month ($980), with an average monthly rent between €600-€900 ($650-$980).
If you’re looking for a more relaxed and slower-paced retirement, you might find Leipzig enticing.
Leipzig has a low crime rate and an incredible cultural scene when it comes to music, architecture, and restaurants. It has an excellent transportation system that makes getting around the city a breeze.
The city is also remarkably cheaper than the other destinations. The average cost of living is about €750 a month ($820), while the average monthly rent varies between €400-€600 ($440-$650).
Out of all these cities, you are sure to find one that’s tailored to your needs and preferences. Whether you’re interested in active city living or a more relaxed lifestyle filled with nature and culture, Germany offers a bit of everything.
Retiring in Germany: Pros and Cons
Like any country, there are pros and cons to retiring to Germany. Therefore, in the following sections, I’ll dive into a comprehensive comparison between the country’s best and worst qualities, in an effort to help you make the best-informed decision possible.
- Cost of living: One of the biggest pros of retiring to Germany are the low living expenses. The country is one of the cheapest in all of Western Europe. Compared to the other big cities in Europe and abroad, German cities are relatively cheap. That includes accommodation, food, and transportation expenses.
- Ability to travel: Since Germany is smack dab in the center of Europe, you’ll have the ability to travel all over the continent with relative ease. Depending on where you choose to settle down, you will likely be able to take road trips across borders. Germany also has multiple large international airports that offer cheap flights to destinations all over Europe.
- Easy transportation: No matter which city you choose, the transportation systems in Germany are impeccably organized. They’re so reliable that many Germans even don’t bother with cars. Trains and buses connect the entire country, making it easy to get where you need to go without driving. You can even take buses or trains across country borders.
- High healthcare standards: Germany’s healthcare is excellent. Hospitals are well developed with modern treatments and technology. Additionally, most medical professionals in the country speak English, so there won’t be a language barrier should you ever need medical attention.
- It’s incredibly beautiful: There are so many beautiful sights to see in Germany. The cities and towns are filled with rustic cobblestone streets and charming German architecture. You can visit stunning castles on the Romantic Road, explore the lush, green nature of Mosel Valley, or traipse around modern cities mixed with the historical and cultural past.
- Language barrier: While there are many Germans who speak English, there are also many who don’t. The language barrier may be difficult if you don’t speak any German. However, you can sign up for German classes after moving there and learn the language so that you can communicate even with the most traditional locals.
- Making friends can be challenging: Germans are often stereotyped as being difficult to engage with; unfortunately, this idea might hold some truth to it. They don’t have the warm and welcoming attitude that other countries are known for. However, Germans are wonderful people. If you put in the effort, you can definitely make some lifelong friends.
- German cuisine isn’t for everyone: German cuisine primarily consists of meat, bread, and potatoes. While they definitely have some delicious dishes, it can be difficult for people looking for some fine European dining to get used to it. However, most German cities offer an incredible array of global cuisine options.
- Slow healthcare insurance: Healthcare in Germany, especially public healthcare, is known for being a bit slow. However, private health insurance is miles better than its public counterpart, even if it’s still slower than what you’re accustomed to.
- Tax deductions: Germany has high tax rates, and your pension isn’t safe from them. However, since you’ll likely have a private pension, they won’t be subject to total taxation, only partial taxation.
- Cold winters: For some, cold weather is something to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, while Germany experiences all four seasons, winters can get especially cold. If you prefer a warmer climate but don’t mind all four seasons, I recommend checking out cities located south of the country.
Who Can Retire in Germany?
Any citizen of the European Union or of a Schengen member state can retire in Germany without needing a visa. However, within fourteen days of arrival in Germany, you should register at the local Residence Registration Office.
In order to register, you will need your passport, proof of your address, health insurance, and proof of financial ability to live in Germany. The registration office might request more documents if they need further information.
Other citizens, including those from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, and Japan, can enter Germany for up to 90 days without a visa. However, they must apply for a residence visa while living there. Countries outside of the ones mentioned have to apply for a retirement visa before entering Germany.
Non-German citizens are commonly given a residence permit. This lasts for one year but can be renewed annually. After five years, if you’re still living in Germany, you can upgrade to a settlement permit. The final stage is reaching full German citizenship, but this can usually take at least eight years of living in the country.
Healthcare in Germany for Retirees
Retiring German citizens don’t have to worry about healthcare. Their social security covers the costs of their health insurance after they retire. However, new citizens have to get their own health insurance.
If you plan to retire to Germany from a European Union country, you can use your S1 health form to get medical care, either free or at a reduced rate. The forms must already be registered with German authorities.
Other individuals will have to join a health insurance provider in Germany. This is more or less a requirement for being able to move there.
There are quite a few healthcare provider options in Germany, whether you’re looking for a large multinational provider or a local German one.
Some of the popular healthcare providers in the country include:
How Much Money Do I Need To Retire in Germany?
If you’re planning on retiring to Germany, you need to make sure you have the funds to do so.
You’ll need around €2,500 a month ($2,700) to comfortably retire to Germany. Even though the exact costs can vary depending on the city you choose, this budget will allow you to pay rent and living costs while still having leftover money for other expenses.
I would say €1,800 a month ($2,000) is the minimum retirement budget. Anything less than that could be tight.
Now, if you’re budgeting for a retirement of 25 years, €2,500 a month would equal a retirement fund of €750,000, while €1,800 a month would require a retirement fund of €540,000.
This retirement budget only takes into account the cost of rent and living expenses. If you’re planning on purchasing a property in Germany, the calculations may be a bit different.
Is Retirement Income Taxed in Germany?
You may be wondering if your retirement income is taxed in Germany.
Retirement income in Germany is subject to taxes. According to the German tax website, pensions for official or state employees are fully taxed, while private pensions are partially taxed.
Pensions are taxed at the same rate as income and can range from 0% to 45%, depending on your retirement income. However, retirees are allowed the same tax-free benefits as workers. Additionally, you don’t have to pay taxes on the first €9,744 or $10,667 (double that for married couples).
Can I Transfer My Pension To Germany?
Transferring your pension to Germany will certainly make your life easier when it comes to exchange rates and day-to-day purchases. However, your ability to do so will depend on your nationality.
You can easily transfer your pension to Germany if you’re a citizen of a EU or Schengen member country. This is because Germany already has a social security agreement with your home nation.
Germany has social security agreements with 21 countries. There is also a special delegation agreement with China.
If you’re a native of one of these countries, you should be able to transfer your pension without too much trouble.
For citizens of the UK, Germany has a Qualifying Recognized Overseas Pension Scheme that allows you to transfer your pension as well.
Useful Resources for Retiring to Germany
Here are some useful resources for those planning on retiring to Germany:
Searching for an Apartment
Finding an apartment in Germany can sometimes be difficult. There are a number of documents you need to show while applying to rent somewhere, including your personal information, your credit report, proof of income, proof of payment certificate, your passport, and a copy of your WBS.
You can search for apartments on the following websites:
If you’re moving to Germany from another country, you might need to hire a moving company to help you out.
For individuals moving from other international locations, you can check out Crown Relocations.
Obtaining a German Driver’s License
In order to be legally allowed to drive a car in Germany, you need to have either a German driver’s license or a driver’s license from an EU country.
For all other countries, your driver’s license is only accepted in Germany for the first six months of your stay. When you first arrive, you must register your vehicle and license in your local police station. The six-month countdown begins after this moment. Along with your original license, you must also always carry a German translation.
After this period, you’ll have to get a new German license. In order to do so, you’ll need to apply at your local Driving License office. It could take some time for this process to go through, so start early. Meldebox is a great website for finding a Driving License office.
After your application goes through, you must go to the office in person with the required documents. Here they will decide whether to grant you a license right away or have you go through some further tests.
Contacting Other Expats
There are plenty of organizations in Germany that allow you to connect with fellow expats or locals who speak English. This is a great way to make friends in the country.
A few great groups include the following:
- German-English Association: Based in Munich, this organization holds a bunch of fun cultural events and activities for English speakers.
- JFK Friendship Center: This is a German American nonprofit based in Berlin. Joining the organization is a great way for American expats in Berlin to meet some fellow community members.
- Metclub: This organization is a center in Stuttgart that offers exciting activities to international expats of all nationalities.
There are plenty of other organizations all around Germany that offer similar services, so you’re sure to find one in whichever town or city you choose to retire to.
- Handbook germany: The website Handbook Germany offers plenty of useful advice for those planning on moving to Germany. I highly recommend checking it out for any advice that may not be included here.
- Locating a doctor: There are a few services I recommend for finding a doctor in Germany. In Germany, most people use the site Jameda, which rates professionals based on their performance. You can search around and book an appointment through this site once you find someone you like. Two other sites, Zava and Doctena, similarly help you to connect with a doctor in Germany.
- Emergency help: It’s critical that you know how to get emergency help in Germany should such a situation ever arise. If you ever need to call the police, the phone number is 110. For the ambulance and fire brigade, you can call the number 112.
Germany is quickly rising in the up-and-coming scene of amazing retirement destinations. There’s a vast array of gorgeous cities at your disposal along with great benefits.
Whether you choose the lively cities of Berlin and Munich, or the small village-like atmosphere of Leipzig and Heidelberg, you’ll surely find the happiness you’re looking for throughout your golden years.