Mundusians Guide to Living and Working in Hamburg

In this guide we cover topics like where to eat, shop and socialise in Hamburg. We also provide helpful information about housing, working, living costs, student grants, banks and health insurance.

2018.11.30 | Sabeen Jamil

Alumni Credit: A big shout out to our alumni Zoë Robertson, Enrique Mussa, Danni Huang, Sara Abbasi, Helena Gertz, Edward MicahI & Nfor Edwin for helping us create this guide. We couldn't have done this without you. Thank you!!

Welcome to Hamburg!

Located in the north of Germany, Hamburg is the second largest cosmopolitan city of Germany. It is home to the country’s biggest port and also home to dozens of Mundusians who come here every year to do their specialisation in Journalism Across Cultures.

The specialisation, which is offered at the University of Hamburg, has a strong focus on journalism research and comparative trans culture journalism. The Hamburg specialisation is a natural choice for Mundusians who want to build a career in academia, work in development media or communications for social change and/or focus on journalism cultures.

Living in Hamburg

Hamburg is a vibrant city bursting with nightlife, cultural activities and festivals. For Mundusians living in Hamburg, the biggest attraction of life here is the cultural vibe of the city; there is ample access to art spaces, museums, live music and cultural events.

A city built around lakes, canals and rivers, Hamburg has a nice mix of traditionalism and modernism. You can find old buildings and churches side by side to more modern pragmatic German architecture; quaint cozy cafes and to-go coffee shops, underground live-music, cinemas, museums, alternative art spaces, theaters, stand-up comedy shows, fancy restaurants and streetside doner kebabs all at the same time and at once fitting together beautifully like patches in a quilt.  

City of Delight: Eating Out & Having Fun in Hamburg

Mundusians define Hamburg as city of cafes, food and museums. Our alumni remember Hamburg for the coffee shops around the university area in Dammtor and Grindelholf that offer cheap coffee, free internet and working spaces where many students worked on their assignments or met up with friends. Coffee shops like Balzac Coffee, Dat Backhus and Pony bar at Grindelhof are the top pick of Mundusians--Ponybar for one has found its place as the official Mundus Bar for its late closing hours and weekend music programs.

Other than its cafes, Hamburg also offers a great variety of culinary delights that are fit for all tastes. Among the oriental cuisines, falafel from Falafel Haus or Falafel Stern and doner kebab from the shops around the university area are defined as the best and most affordable food options in Hamburg by Hamburgers. Among African cuisines, our alumni recommend to check out restaurants at Wandsbecker Chaussee for Ghanaian delicacies and Ghanian music. For vegan among us, Café Nasch, a cosy vegan place at Gängeviertel is a must check!

Theaters, Museums and Parks

There are a lot of interesting places in Hamburg that our alumni would recommend you to go.

First, there is Abaton Movie Theater which is popular for its screening of art and non-commercial movies (many with English subtitles). Among museums, Deichtorhallen Photography & Art Museum & Kunsthalle Art Museums are famous for their exhibitions among other museums that you can check out here. For theater, music and cultural activities KampnagelThalia and Hamburger’s most prized Elbphilharmonie are a must to visit!

For a weekend night fun, you can hit at dance-all-night clubs and live music cafes in the Reeperbahn red-light district and enjoy cocktails in the bars and pubs in St-Pauli and Sternschanze.

if you are looking for a quiet evening, you can take a ferry from the harbour to one of the beautiful beaches around Elbe, or jog around Alster, or take a walk in Planten Blomen and Stadtpark and watch the sun set behind small lakes in there.

On weekends, you can do a day trip to adjacent towns and cities like  Bremen, Lubeck, & Luneburg. Some of these towns are included in your semester ticket and are only half an hour train ride away.

Living Expenses

Mundusians define Hamburg as a city which falls between affordable and expensive. You can afford a very comfortable life here for 730-850€ per month. The biggest expense as a student is on accomodation. The rest comes down to your personal living style.

Here is a break down of the average monthly expenses in Hamburg:

  • Housing: 300-600€
  • Insurance: 35-90€ (cheapest Insurance)
  • Transportation: 0€ Included in your semester fees
  • Groceries: 150-250€ (Vegan, organic & halal groceries are a bit more pricey)
  • Entertainment: Depends on how much you want to spend. Student discounts are available on most museums, cinemas and cultural events which makes entertainment cheaper.

Groceries & Supermarkets

Our top pick for affordable grocery shops are Lidl, Aldi & Penny. They have weekly discount  offers that are worth checking out! There is also Netto on the cheaper side of the budget scale.  Rewe, another store is slightly steep but you can save € by checking out Rewe’s store brands that are relatively cheap. Specialty stores like Alnatura and African, Asian Indian and Turkish supermarkets are pretty expensive but they stock every delicacy and spice you miss from home!

Living on a Budget

There are many ways to enjoy your life in Hamburg without breaking your wallet.

For students living on a budget, our alumni recommend to check out free activities and tours arranged by university student association PIASTA. Public library Bücherhallen also has a wide selection of films and literature that one can use for a very small fee.

For eating out, restaurants around the campus area and in suburb Sternschanze offer affordable food. There are really nice deals on coffee and kuchen in bakeries like Shanzen Bakery and happy hour on cocktails in bars like Roxie near the university area. Cultural centers such as Centro Sociale, Gängeviertel, Rote Flora offer cheap drinks and entries. For our vegan Mundusians, there are affordable options at Café Knallhart, Vokü and often when the aforementioned cultural centers make events with food, they make it vegan and payment is “gegen Spende” (based on donations, i.e. you define how much you want to pay).

If this is still expensive, you can never sleep hungry with a falafel roll for 3€ or a doner kebab for 4€ anywhere in the city.

To stay fit on a budget we recommend you to check out the sports center at the University of Hamburg and McFit for affordable plans for students. If that is not affordable to you, jog around Alster for free!

Tip: Download the app “Too good to go”. Some drugstores (Rossmann, for instance) offer digital coupons through apps.


Hamburg is a home to thousands of international students. This means that one of the most challenging part of living in Hamburg is to find long term place for yourself at the same time as these students.

Neighborhoods Mundusians Love to Live: Eimsbüttel, Harvesthude, Sternschanze, Winterhude, Barmbek and St. Georg are Mundusians top pick to live in because of their location and the parks nearby. But we won’t advise you to limit your options by making neighborhood your priority. Hamburg is very well connected and you can live anywhere and reach to centre with in 30-40 minutes.

You have 2 options to apply for a room

University Residences

Student Residences are one of the ideal options for international students because they are furnished, can be rented out for the entire study period and are super cheap. A room in a shared dorm can cost between 260€ - 350€. There are also options to get a studio apartment for a higher price. You can also rent a room there for short term 3 to 6 months. Short term residences are located a bit far from the center but are a viable option if you are looking to stay here only a few weeks before you move in to a long-term room.

To apply for a room: Coordinators of the Mundus Journalism Hamburg Specialisation will share the procedure to apply for the room with you a few months before your move. Application is made online and ideally you should apply 6 months in advance.  You can also keep checking the page for available rooms here. Information is available in English.

Private Rental Market

Hamburg has a huge market of private rentals that you can apply for online. There are different room options and rent price varies from neighborhood & facilities. Most websites are in German and can be challenging to navigate if you don’t know German. But, we wouldn’t recommend you skip those websites from your house hunting - many Mundusians have found share flats this way! Google translate is a helpful start if your German isn’t so good. In private rentals, you have more choices of the type of room and neighborhoods.

To Apply: Check out these websites

Things to remember:

  • Make a profile on housing website. Put up your picture and social media links. German landlords like to know who they are renting the room before they answer your email.
  • In Germany there are two kinds of rent- warm rent and cold rent. Warm rent is inclusive of all the charges including electricity and heating. Cold rent is the basic rent and you have to pay electricity, internet and heating charges on top of it.
  • In Germany, deposit is usually 3 cold rents.
  • Your room can or cannot be furnished.
  • Making a visit to Hamburg and meeting the landlord improves your chances to get a room.  If you can’t visit in person, insist on a video call. Also, emailing your house request in German also helps.
  • And finally, make sure to be aware of online scams - never hand over money without having done a full background check and ideally, visit the flat and meet the flatmates and/or landlord before signing anything or handing over money.

Blocked Account and Health Insurance In Hamburg

Non-EU students are required to open a blocked account before they come to Germany. A blocked account (Sperrkonto) is a special account which proves that you have enough

finances to fund your entire duration of studies. You need a minimum amount of 720 €/month in your account for 12 months which will be 8500+ €. You can withdraw up to 720 € from your blocked account every month after you arrive here. Alternatively, you can find a sponsor in Germany or fund yourself through a monthly scholarship.

The rules about visa and blocked account keep changing so it is best to follow up with your coordinators in Hamburg and or German embassy in your country for updates before you take any step.

Which banking services to use? Deutsche bank, Sparkasse and Advanzia offer free services to students and are recommended by other Mundusians. N26 is another online bank based in Berlin which is recommended by our alumni.

Health Insurance

International Students have to purchase health insurance before they apply for visa. There are two types of insurance service options.

·       Public Health Insurance which is offered by TK, AOK & costs 90€/month for the cheapest plan

·       Private Health Insurance which is offered by companies like Mawista & HanseMerkur & costs 35€/month for the cheapest plan

The two sectors differ in services and plans they offer. Before you purchase a plan, consult your coordinators as they can advise you about the plan that fits your needs best.

All EU students also have to have insurance organised in order to study in Germany too.

Working in Hamburg

International Students can work up to 20 hours/week in Germany where minimum wage is  between 9-13€/ hr depending on the nature of the job and company payscale. Mundusians in Hamburg usually find it easy to get into student jobs that require their native language skills like Chinese, English, Arabic, Hindi etc. Mundusians also are received well at jobs that are related to writing, content management, research, communications, outreach & coordination,  teaching languages and social media marketing. There are also jobs at restaurants, bars, cafes and retail stores that pay enough to get by in Hamburg.

You can find a student job if you don’t know German but knowing basic German (at least A1) creates more and better job opportunities for students.

For student jobs, check out these job portals:

For placement in non-professional student jobs, contact Zeitarbeit employment agency in your neighborhood in Hamburg. These agencies help you find jobs in malls, cafes, bars and restaurants

Emergency Funds & Grants

If you struggling with finances and need funds to finish thesis, there is a grant and emergency funds option available at University of Hamburg. Similarly, there is fund for students to present a paper in international conferences. Check out the resources here:

What is next after Mundus

After graduation, you can apply for a 18 month job seeker visa in Germany. You can search for a full time job during this period.

From our alumni who found a full time job in Germany or alumni who found student jobs, here are some tips:

  • Make a profile on German recruiters post jobs and look for hiring on German professional networks like Xing more than on LinkedIn.  
  • Mundus is a huge network of professionals who are working around the globe. Make connections with in the Mundus network to find jobs in Germany. Also, use network from your own region in Germany to find job recommendations.
  • Get experience of working in EU while you are in Denmark or during your studies here. Traineeships, student jobs, internships, freelance work all make your CV attrcative for employers in Germany. If you are unable to get experience through such work, do volunteer work for european organisations and ask them for recommendations and feedback in return.
  • Internships in UN, UNESCO and EU institutes have a great impact on your CV. Try to get one during summers before you move here.
  • Learn German language. If you want to make your way up in the German work market, you can’t do that without learning German.
  • There are jobs related to your language and region in Europe. Try to develop your expertise in that area and look for such jobs+ local connections that can help you land such jobs.