Cost of Living in Berlin

You’ve heard it all before; Berlin is changing, rents are rising, it isn’t what it used to be blablabla. By this stage you’re probably sick of hearing of days gone by when Berlin was cheap; a rhinestone in Europe’s crown of capital city diamonds.

And yes, those things are all technically true. But to what extent has the city’s transition from post-reunification squat central to the shiny new tech startup star it’s becoming affected the cost of living in Berlin?

First things first, it’s important to point out that “cost of living” means a whole lot of different things to different people. Some see a car as a necessity (they obviously haven’t spent enough time in Berlin), or a gym membership, or weekly wining and dining, or regular new clothes as things they couldn’t possibly live without. To others, those things are all total luxuries. Different standards in terms of where you live or what you eat, where you shop or how you socialise will all affect your cost of living.

What is important, and amazing, about Berlin is that it’s a city where you can live the high life if you can afford to, but you can also live very cheaply if you want or need to, which suits those coming here for the startup scene, the creative side, or whichever aspect of Berlin’s multifaceted character.

While it is an unfortunate and undeniable fact that rents have risen hugely in the last five years, this is still the homeland of Lidl and Aldi, a place where you can buy a 500ml bottle of beer for a mere 80 cents.

Let’s break down some of the average prices of everyday items or expenses that form part of your cost of living in Berlin.

Rent in Berlin

The reality of rents in Berlin is that they are changing so rapidly it’s hard to pin down an average price. The growing demand has been forcing prices continuously higher and neighbourhoods that were once run down and undesirable have seen an influx of new arrivals seeking cheap rent. This has changed the face of a lot of areas, creating unique ‘scenes’ and cultures that in turn attract more newcomers.

There are also a lot of factors that influence the price of individual apartments. Aside from the obvious such as location and square metre size, there are also factors such as whether or not it has been renovated, how much the “Nebenkosten” (building maintenance etc) are, does it have a balcony, built-in kitchen or bathroom?

Again, it’s hard to say exactly but what follows is an average idea of monthly rental price.

85 m² in expensive area 1,327 €
85 m² in normal area 1,013 €
45 m² in expensive area 1,029 €
45 m² in normal area 647 €

Cost of Food and Drink

With plenty of discount supermarkets to choose from it’s easy to eat well while keeping costs low; Lidl, Aldi, Netto and Penny to name a few. There are also slightly higher end shops such as Rewe, Edeka or Karstadt, and organic grocers that will naturally be more expensive such as Bio Company or Denns, as well as fresh produce outdoor markets that occur on a regular basis. Alcohol is in general very reasonably priced in Berlin.

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And it’s not just supermarkets that are affordable – eating and drinking out can be too. Of course you can eat in a Michelin star restaurant if the occasion calls for it, or you can eat from a kebab shop every night of the week for a hell of a lot less than that, but there is a very good middle ground that won’t break the bank.

Meal for two in mid-range restaurant (3 courses) 50.00 €
Meal for two in fast food restaurant 10.00 €
Domestic beer in local pub (500ml)  3.30 €
Cocktail in nice bar  8.00 €
Cappuccino (expat area)  2.70 €

Cost of Transport

Berlin is a big biking city. There is (mostly) good infrastructure to support it and the generally flat cityscape means the routes are never too strenuous. Invest in a bike and your transport costs are covered in that one payment.

That being said, the winters are not always cycle-friendly, so sometimes public transport is your best bet. The U-Bahn, S-Bahn and bus system all use the same tickets which is handy if you’re buying a longer pass. AB tickets cover the entire city area and Tegel airport and prices are:

Single trip  2.80 €
Four trip single tickets  9.00 €
Day ticket  7.00 €
7-day ticket 30.00 €
Monthly ticket 81.00 €

Lifestyle Expenses

Again these aspects of your lifestyle can be as expensive or cheap as suits you. You can get a very basic pay-as-you-go phone tariff for €4.99, and you can get a premium membership to a fitness club for over €100. The choice is yours but what follows is an average idea of prices.

Cinema ticket 11.00 €
Theatre ticket (best available) 45.00 €
Phone bill (pay as you go) 25.00 €
Gym membership (monthly) 25.00 €
Packet Marlboro cigarettes  6.00 €

Cost of Living in Berlin vs. London and Paris

Yes, rents in Berlin today are a lot more than they were five, ten or fifteen years ago, but that isn’t to say they are extortionate now. In historical comparison to itself, the city is more expensive, but by today’s standards it is still very affordable compared to other capital cities.

Here are a few comparisons.

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