What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Munich
- Antoine Mariaux
What I really like about InterNations Munich? The wonderful crowd of outgoing and lively expats at our local events, of course!
Relocating to Munich
At a Glance:
- Munich may not be listed among the most expensive cities in the world, but it is definitely one of the most expensive in Germany.
- There is plenty to do in Munich, especially as it is surrounded by many natural sites, such as the Alps, waiting to be explored.
- The visa you need to apply for, and indeed if you need a visa, will depend on your nationality, reason for coming to Munich, and how long you wish to stay.
- The housing market in Munich is very competitive: be prepared for a long search and high rental prices.
When you move to Munich, you will find that the city is a melting pot of people from not just all over Germany but from countries all around the world. The capital of Bavaria is currently undergoing steady population growth, fueled both by migration and a local “baby boom”. The popularity of Munich, especially among young families, is a convincing indicator of its quality of life.
Prepare Your Purse for This Cosmopolitan Village
Unfortunately, moving to Munich is not cheap. In an international context, the city does well in such expatriate surveys as the annual Mercer Cost of Living Study: Munich usually does not make it among the 50 most expensive expat destinations worldwide (ranked 77th in 2016, up from 87th in 2015). However, in comparison to other German cities, life in Munich is costly. As far as living expenses are concerned, Munich ranks ahead of other major cities such as Frankfurt (ranked 88th in 2016).
In comparison with Berlin — “poor but sexy”, as previous mayor Klaus Wowereit famously described it — Munich is the posh and conservative bulwark in the south. Until 2005, the city used the official advertising slogan “Weltstadt mit Herz” (“a cosmopolitan city with a heart”) to attract tourists and new residents moving to Munich; a description you might still hear being used. The locals, on the other hand, preferred to jokingly call Munich their “Millionendorf” — a village with a million inhabitants. This popular phrase hints at both the positive aspects and the downsides of moving to Munich: its whiff of provinciality, as well as its beauty, combined with a hefty dose of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit (coziness, laidback atmosphere).
The Perfect Location for Nature Lovers
Munich is located in the southeast of Germany, in the federal state of Bavaria. It is not only the home of the world’s biggest beer festival, but also the state’s political, administrative, and economic center. The city on the River Isar is fairly close to the majestic Alps and the German border. In two hours, you can go to Salzburg in Austria by train, and Switzerland and the Czech Republic are easily accessible for a weekend as well. After moving to Munich, you should definitely make use of its location for a daytrip to the mountains or a mini-break in Vienna, Zurich, or Prague.
Munich itself, however, is not situated in a particularly mountainous region, with an elevation of about 500 m above sea level. Though, on a day when the warm Föhn wind — a warm, dry wind that comes down from the mountains — blows, you will enjoy a spectacular view of the Alps from one of the lookout points in the city. When the stress caused by your move to Munich is over, climb the tower of St Peter near Viktualienmarkt or take the elevator to the top of the Olympiaturm and have a look yourself!
The Föhn is also responsible for the moderate climate of the transalpine regions. Munich’s winters can be somewhat cool, though. The negative record of -30.5°C in January 1942 was fortunately a rare exception. Nonetheless, when you prepare for your relocation, don’t forget to pack some woolen sweaters for winter as well as some comfy shorts for the summer. Especially if you are from a cooler climate, you will find the average high of 23 degrees in July and August very warm — the temperatures have even been known to reach as high as 30 degrees so be prepared for a large yearly weather variation!
An Ever-Growing Population
While the city of Munich covers a surface area of 310 km², it is also the heart of a much larger region as well as an extended metropolitan area. Moving to Munich can mean settling in the suburban hinterland or in another town altogether. The environs of Munich include parts of three counties: Landkreis München, Landkreis Dachau, and Landkreis Fürstenfeldbruck. Some people also prefer to move to Munich’s peripheral cities like Augsburg, Freising, Landshut, or Rosenheim, and commute to work every day.
Munich itself has about 1.52 million inhabitants. Thanks to the stream of people moving to Munich, as well as high birth rates in recent years, this is the highest demographic number in the city’s 850-year-old history.
Munich’s Foreign Community
The prospect of moving to Munich attracts Germans and foreigners alike. Munich has one of the highest percentages in the country for residents who do not have German nationality; about one quarter of the city’s residents do not hold German citizenship. There are also many second-generation immigrants, former migrants who have obtained German citizenship, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, German citizens with more than one nationality, etc.
The biggest foreign communities consist of residents from Turkey, Greece, Italy, Austria, Iraq, and various Eastern and Southeastern European nations, with many people also hailing from France, the USA and Britain. Even if you are not from one of these countries, you’ll probably find some compatriots after moving to Munich.
But how to get the right visa and work or residence permit? What about finding accommodation? The following parts of our guide on moving to Munich can help you out!
Visas and Permits for Munich, Germany
In order to move to Munich, you may need a visa as well as a work or residence permit. Obtaining a visa and the appropriate permit(s) depends on several factors: the duration of your stay, your nationality, and your reason for moving to Germany.
In this overview, we assume that you are planning to move to Munich for work. If your upcoming stay has a different purpose (e.g. study or family reunion), this affects your visa application. Please contact the nearest German mission for further details. #### Visas for Short-Term Stays in Germany For a short-term stay of up to 90 days, chances are good that you don’t need a visa at all, especially if your purpose in Germany is not for gainful employment. In general, EEA and Swiss nationals never need a visa for moving to Munich regardless of motivation or length of stay. They can just find accommodation, pay a visit to the registry office (more below), and settle down. Citizens of the following countries do not require a short-term visa, either:
- Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Australia
- Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica
- El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan
- Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro
- New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay
- Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea
- Taiwan, Uruguay, the US, Vatican City, Venezuela This list may be subject to change, however. For comprehensive and up-to-date information, please refer to the Federal Foreign Office website. Nationals of other states have to apply for a Schengen visa. It allows them to travel freely within the Schengen area for 90 days or less. The processing of the visa application usually takes up to 15 days, but may take as long as 60 days. To get this visa, you need the following:
- complete application form with a passport photo in color
- valid passport
- travel health insurance
- proof of sufficient financial means to pay for your trip and your return ticket
- further documents, depending on the purpose of your journey and the embassy where you apply
- visa fee of 60 EUR The fee is waived for children under 6 years old and may also be waived depending on your reasons for travel. #### Long-Term Visas for Germany If you intend to live and work in Germany, your visa application process will be different to the short-term visa application described above. EEA and Swiss Nationals As mentioned before, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa to live and work in Germany. (Croatia, as the newest EU member state, was the sole exception to this rule, however, as of 1 July 2015, the same visa-free travel rules apply to Croatian nationals.) Please do note, however, that Swiss nationals — contrary to EEA nationals — do still need to get their residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis-CH) within the first few months of their stay. However, this is mostly a formality and shouldn’t cause any problems. Third-Country Nationals Nationals from certain countries are able to enter Germany without needing to first apply for a visa and then take care of their permits once arrived. You can check if you are eligible on the Federal Foreign Office website. Nationals from all other non-EU/EFTA countries will have to apply for a visa. Please ask your German Embassy or Consulate which personal documents they require for the visa application and when you can make an appointment for your interview. Make sure to plan ahead and apply well in advance! If you are a highly qualified expat with a prospective annual salary of 49,600 EUR or more, you may be able to join the Blue Card Scheme. This makes it easier for you to get your visa and work permit, as well as for your family to join you in Munich. Moreover, if you work in an area in which Germany has a shortage of workers, this annual salary requirement is lower at 38,688 EUR as of 2016. You can read more about German visas in the Moving to Germany guide. #### Staying to Work? If you are a non-EEA or Swiss national and intend to work in Germany, you will need a residence/work permit in addition to your visa. You will not only need to hold a job offer, but also proof that the company could not find a German or EEA-national to fill the position. Receipt of a work permit is not guaranteed. However, if you have already gone through a successful visa application for going to Germany in order to work there, getting your residence permit which includes permission to work is typically more of a formality provided your documents are all in order. For more information on the application process, please see below. #### Local Registration: A Necessity for All Once you have arrived in Munich, you must get a registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung) from the registry office (KVR, Bürgerbüro, Meldebehörde). The registration certificate is not the same as a residence permit! Everybody — including EU nationals and German residents — needs one. Alongside the central registry office in Munich’s city center, there are smaller branch offices throughout the city and at the town hall of most municipalities. #### Residence Permit For expats from the EEA, getting a registration certificate is all the red tape they have to deal with. Everyone else has to make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners’ Registration Office) to apply for, or collect, their residence/work permit. As mentioned before, this also applies to Swiss nationals. Depending on where exactly you’ve moved to, you will need to head to either the Ausländerbehörde of Munich City or the Landratsamt of the rural Landkreis München. If you have moved somewhere else, the Foreigners’ Registration Office is usually part of the town hall administration. #### Further Information
Accommodation for Expats in Munich
Whether you decide to live in the city itself or in the suburbs surrounding the city proper, you will be spoilt for choice. However, moving to Munich does bring challenges. No matter your exact destination, you will likely face stiff competition in this competitive rental and property market. As such, your choice of neighborhood may well depend on the amount of money available to you.
You can compare the average Kaltmiete (rent not including bills) for a 70 square meter flat across all the areas of Munich city on the immobilienscout blog. Rents in Munich have been steadily rising, with an average of 17.40 EUR per square meter in September 2016, so be sure to factor this into your cost of living!
Munich’s Most Popular Neighborhoods
Lehel, the historical city center (Altstadt), and certain areas of Bogenhausen and Schwabing are Munich’s most exclusive neighborhoods. If you can afford the property prices for an art deco apartment near the English Garden or a chic loft in the heart of Munich, go for it!
The gradual process of gentrification has led to rising rents in such areas as Haidhausen, with its village flair, and many parts of Isarvorstadt, especially near Gärtnerplatz and in the Glockenbach neighborhood. If you’d like to enjoy the advantages of a nearby club scene or the gay-friendly atmosphere of the Glockenbach at a lower price, then the area along the Au, close to the river, might be just the place for you.
There are several upmarket residential areas in Nymphenburg-Neuhausen, Obermenzing, and Alt-Harlaching. These neighborhoods feature a variety of beautiful mansions, quiet streets, and lots of green space. However, among families with children, more affordable, middle-class neighborhoods at some distance from the city center — such as Thalkirchen, Pasing, and Forstenried — are a more popular choice.
Furthermore, newer developments like the Ackermannbogen or the Messestadt Riem tend to attract younger residents and couples with small children, too. These neighborhoods are located more or less on the outskirts, and they can sometimes still feel somewhat sterile. On the upside, they have been planned with a decent infrastructure in mind. There is usually a bus stop or an underground station in the vicinity, and shopping malls, doctor’s offices, etc. within walking distance.
Freiham, a new district far from the city center, is currently under construction. So far, it houses a commercial and industrial area, but it will also provide room for up to 20,000 new residents.
Less Desirable Neighborhoods
Even as beautiful a city as Munich has its less attractive sides. Unless you are on a tight budget, you might want to avoid a couple of neighborhoods for various reasons: Feldmoching, Hasenbergl, and Neuperlach have become synonymous with dreary apartment blocks from the 1960s and 1970s. However, these low-income neighborhoods have improved far more quickly than their unfortunate reputation.
While rents are comparatively cheap for such a central and well-connected location, the area around the main train station is not a desirable place to live, either: it features quite a few seedy bars, strip clubs, and sex shops. In Freimann, you should make sure to check how far your prospective apartment is from the sewage treatment plant and the local landfill.
And in general, anything too close to the Mittlerer Ring (Munich’s major ring road), an important thoroughfare like the Dachauer Strasse, or an access road to the expressway may suffer from traffic jams, noise, and air pollution. Choose your new home in Munich wisely!
Top Tips for Flat Hunting in Munich
Be aware that the real estate market in Munich is both expensive and very competitive. Families with more than two kids or with one stay-at-home parent, as well as expats on short(ish) assignments, may face some difficulties during the housing search. High-income households, tenants who are going to stay for several years, and those couples who both work and have no kids have a certain advantage on the housing market.
Always bring a proof of income and, if possible, references from previous landlords to your appointments. You may be asked to hand in a Schufa-Auskunft (personal credit history) as well. You’ll find some useful resources for the apartment search in Munich below. Good luck!
Online Resources for Finding Accommodation in Munich
- Immoscout 24
- Wohnung Jetzt
- WG Gesucht (flatshares for students, interns, trainees, and young singles on a budget)
- Süddeutsche Zeitung
- Kurz & Fündig
If you prefer to hire an agency to help you with the housing search, these are some of Munich’s biggest real estate agents:
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- Antoine Mariaux
What I really like about InterNations Munich? The wonderful crowd of outgoing and lively expats at our local events, of course!
- Chen Ming
I had my first "mass" of Oktoberfest beer at the InterNations event for the Munich expat community - thank you, InterNations! :)