I am going to be studying in Germany next year, and I want to know what the best cities to live in vs. places to visit are. I have heard Heidelberg is gorgeous, so I really want to go there, but what is really worth seeing and what isn't?
Well on the best places in the world to live list for 2008, Dusseldorf came in 5th place and Frankfurt and Munich tied for 7th places.
Spend a bit of time on here and read what others have to say about all the wonderful places in Germany. Keep in mind though that what people want to see on vacation is not always what they want in a city where they will live. Sometimes though it does match up.
I really enjoy living in Frankfurt. The public transportation is great, there are over 3000 restaurants, the population is very diverse, learning about the history that has taken place in Frankfurt is amazing, there is always some sort of fest going on, I like spending the day at some of the many museums here, it is pleasant walking along the Main river, especially at night when all the buildings and bridges are lit up, and shopping is fun too. As a former chef, I truly enjoy the many produce markets here, and I really like strolling through our many wonderful old neighborhoods, popping into little boutiques or cafes, sitting outside all summer long, watching the world go by while I eat my genuine Italian ice cream or drink a great cup of coffee.
There are so many great places to live here that it probably does not matter much where you end up. One gets out of a city what one wants.
I noticed this post and your other post about clothing and studying in Germany but it is vague about where you are going. Are you participating in a university related study abroad program or are you think of just going on your own?
Heidelberg is great if you live in a fairy tale world and/or if you want to meet as many Korean, Japanese and Chinese tourists as possible ;-). The really great places are Cologne, Munich, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, Frankfurt - some would include Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Leipzig as well. Include the vicinities of those places as well. E.g. Frankfurt is not just great for the city itself but for all the mountains, the Main and Rhine river valleys, the historic towns and villages, the Roman and medieval castles - all nearby within about an hour's drive or train ride.
I lived 6 years in Germany in 4 different locations. I was an army hospital comptroller. When I would meet with other hospital comptrollers at conferences, I was struck by the fact that they all thought they had the best assignment in Europe. I would gladly go back to Landstuhl, Würzburg, Bremerhaven or Nürnberg to live.
I would not worry too much about it in your case. I would bet that with an open mind, you will love most any place that you land.
BTW the Heidelberg comptrollers were co-located with our headquarters, which meant they had more votes on the "best place" to live in Germany.
Jake, I studied abroad in Germany. I started out in Heidelberg for one month for a language course. Heidelberg was a really fun town. Yes, there are lots of tourists, but if you're living there, there's more to it than that. I was so glad I was living there and not a tourist because I got to stay whereas, they left after the day! It's a university town and I had a blast there. The building where we had our program was a short hike up from the castle, so we would often walk around the castle at night on our way up. What a beautiful city! After Heidelberg, I moved on to Stuttgart for the next two semesters. I had a really great time there as well. I was a 20-yr old single female (well, I'm still female ;), and it was 80% male which was part of the reason that I chose that city. I loved Stuttgart! Our program had a choice of a bunch of cities in Baden-Wuerttemberg. I don't know anyone in the program who disliked the city they went to (including Heidelberg). BUT, I really thought Munich was awesome, and if I'd been able to, I would have chosen Munich instead. Munich is probably my favorite city in Germany and you are at the hub for train travel there so you'd really be able to do some killer weekend trips from there. I notice that you're from CT, do you go to UConn? I went there and participated in their program. That would be so weird if you are, too! I'm happy to answer any questions if you want to PM me...
Let me clarify, Universitaet Stuttgart was 80% male, not the city of Stuttgart. Plenty of ladies in the city!
Well, just to add a bit more. Berlin is number 1 in the music and art scene, with Frankfurt and Cologne probably close behind. Clubs galore along with lots of students from the universities. Munich is known for being a bit on the stuffy side. There are lots of smaller cities with universities too, that are probably fun to live in, like Marburg or Heidelberg or Leipzig. Truly, you really can't go wrong any place you end up at.
manheim, munich, dusseldorf, berlin, leipzig.
My German relatives say it's Freiburg. They don't live there but their friends do. I liked Freiburg, too. Not a big city, scenery, close to France and Switzerland. I really liked the restaurant on the cliff. You go inside the cave, elevator transports you up and you are in the restaurant. You can sit outside on the terrace and see the town from above.
I'm with Jo on this...definitely Berlin first (because it is BERLIN!)...my second choice is Frankfurt...both because of all it has to offer, and also because of its central location...you can reach all of Germany and also Paris relatively easily from Frankfurt...(full disclosure, I lived north of Frankfurt for a couple of years, and really enjoyed the area while I was there).
I spend a lot of time in Europe and I would say either Munich or Berlin which are both very interesting as well as convenient for other travelling.. ..I find Heidleberg the most overrated city in Germany.
I think all of the cities mentioned by other posters are just wonderful places to visit. Regarding where to live, it all depends on what you prefer whether it be a fast city or easy access to the magnificent scenery.
We have been to a majority of the cities and every one is worth seeing if you can swing it. We have family and friends from all over Germany (North and South) and all have told us that you don't want to live in Berlin. Culturally, an excellent place to visit, but apparently there is a lot of crime which you do find in major cities, however, some less than others.
What about travelling through different countries? Is it a process to get over the borders? I live in this enormous country so I never have to deal with that, except Canada which took forever to get through.
If you are on a train, you never even know that you have gone over a border, except that the architecture will suddenly look a little bit different. Flying, it is also not much of a hassle. Not much different than going from Ohio to Michigan. Now, if you go someplace that is not in the EU or Europe, like Turkey or Morocco, it still is not a huge hassle, but it will take a little bit longer. Turkey for example requires you, as an American, to have a visa, but you can buy one at the airport.
I used to live in Germany and I would personally not live in a big city. If I lived there again I would live in the small town I lived in before or on the Mosel river, in another small town. The town I used to live in was so small it only had one restaurant that was hardly ever open and a casket maker. It was about 15-20 minute drive up from Zell on the Mosel.
Don't know if that small town life with one restaurant and casket maker is really what many teen-age boys have in mind when they move to a foreign country. It doesn't even sound like fun to me!
The biggest problem with small towns is lack of public transportation. Sure there will be some buses, perhaps a train, but that is it. For someone who will probably NOT have a car or may not even be able to drive over here, living in a big city is more ideal. Most kids do not work while they are in school, so being able to live somewhere that has lots of activities is important, along with being able to get there and back home again late at night without a car.
Jake,, what school are you going to?
Have you actually found a program or are you looking for one??
Do you speak German?
I am already enrolled in Youth For Understanding and no, I do not speak German but I am starting to teach myself.
I was in the U.S. Air Force and lived in Germany 1967-70, at a NATO airbase outside of Kaiserslautern. Not a particularly exciting town, but at least it was on the main rail line to Frankfurt and Paris. The trains in Germany are great. And, as another person said, crossing the border is pretty much a non-event if you stay within the main EU countries. They may not even ask to see your passport.
It is good that you are learning German. It will be helpful, but not something to worry about excessively. Except in really small towns, I think you will find that most Germans speak at least some English. I studied some German while I was there, but I never got fluent enough to converse very much because Germans in general are good with English. Unless you can show them that your German is pretty good, they will often just reply in English to your attempts to speak German.
Case in point -- I was in Munich once and asked for the well-known Löwenbräu beer in a restaurant. I tried to use my best German. The waitress replied in English. What I didn't know at the time was that my pronunciation was a dead giveaway -- Löwenbräu in German is pronounced "loovenbroi". I had forgotten about the umlauts over the o and the a, that change the sounds of those vowels!