Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf: Where is the best place to live?

The Worldwide Quality of Living Survey 2019 conducted by Mercer included Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt a.M. The JLL site managers explain the appeal of their city.

May 02, 2019

According to the Worldwide Quality of Living Survey 2019 conducted by Mercer, Munich is the best city in Germany to live in, and takes third place in the global rankings. The American consulting firm conducts annual surveys in which they ask people posted abroad by their employers about the quality of life in their respective locations. And Munich was not the only German city to (again) receive good marks: Düsseldorf (6th) and Frankfurt am Main (7th) were also still in the global top ten. According to Mercer, the best city for expatriate employees is Vienna, followed by Zurich, with Vancouver and Munich sharing the final step of the podium.

However, the Mercer survey is not exactly exhaustive: it only asks about the quality of life from the point of view of a very specific group of people, with some of the categories, such as the availability of international schools, somewhat irrelevant for “normal” inhabitants of the cities. Or aspects which we take for granted in Europe, or Germany at least, such as a functioning, basic infrastructure and healthcare provision. However, this is not a slight against the success of the top three cities. Quite the opposite, in fact, as we are very interested to discover just what makes them such popular places to live. To this end, we asked three specialists who know the top three German cities from both an occupational and a personal standpoint, namely our JLL site managers in Munich, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt am Main.

Why should I choose to live in your city?

Gunnar Gombert (Munich): What makes Munich stand out is its overall high quality of life. The city is safe, famed for its relaxed beer garden culture, while its proximity to the countryside with its many bike paths means you are close to nature all the time. When it comes to the economy, Munich is a very diverse and innovative city. It is home to two elite universities: the Technical University of Munich and the LMU Munich, while in terms of cultural offerings, Munich also scores highly with its many globally renowned museums. The feeling of “mia san mia” – “we are who we are”, the Bavarians’ proud regional confession - is strengthened by the Oktoberfest and, of course, the football club of which this is the motto, Bayern Munich.

Axel Vespermann (Frankfurt am Main): If you want diversity, look no further than Frankfurt. The architecture and cityscape, with its impressive skyline, St Paul’s Church, the Römer, the rebuilt historic city centre, and the various small city districts, they all combine to make it a truly manifold city. Add to this the equally impressive leisure and cultural programmes, including the Museumsufer and the Alte Oper, and culinary offers, where Frankfurt is also no stranger to the unusual, and you have the perfect recipe for diversity; unsurprising when you consider that Frankfurt is Germany’s most international city. This international flair also brings a wave of inspirational influences with it. The city is constantly changing, but still remains true to its roots and traditions.

Marcel Abel (Düsseldorf): Düsseldorf is the city of short distances. Everything is relatively close by; the airport, recreational areas, the Rhine, all connected by the city’s fantastic infrastructure which also extends beyond the city limits. The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region may be best known as home to numerous industrial monuments, but you don’t have to look far to enjoy its green side. And Germany’s neighbour, the Netherlands, is just a stone’s throw away. Economically speaking, we are a very exciting location with a vibrant art scene and creative industries – every eighth company in the city falls into this category.

Say I move to your city. What should I do in the first week to get to know the particular flair there?

Gunnar Gombert: A good starting point would be the tour of the city centre and the museums, just to get an initial feel for the place. Even if you only look at museums, there are more than enough to sate the most ardent of fans, with the Deutsches Museum, Lenbachhaus or Pinakotheken to name just a few, while architecture enthusiasts will be delighted by sacred buildings including the Frauenkirche, St Peter’s Church and the Theatine Church. Then, I’d go traditionally Bavarian. Start off with a “Weißwurstfrühstück” (veal sausage breakfast), followed by a visit to a beer garden and then take a stroll around the Viktualienmarkt. In May, the spring festival on the Theresienwiese and the Long Night of Museums are well worth a visit. Munich also has fantastic options for those wanting to get back to nature on its doorstep, with the Englischer Garten, the Hirschgarten, the area along the Isar river, Hellabrunn Zoo and the Munich Botanical Garden to name but a few.

Axel Vespermann: Frankfurt is a compact city and it’s worth discovering on foot. This is namely the best way to experience the different “atmospheres” in the various areas and districts. I’d then recommend taking a look at all the different markets, such as the one held in the Kleinmarkthalle. If the weather is good, why not go for a picnic in the Palmengarten or Günthersburgpark, or check out the Lohrberg, Frankfurt’s local mountain? In terms of cultural significance, Frankfurt is also one of the leading cities in both Germany and Europe. The Städel Museum is renowned around the globe and, alongside 14 other museums on the Museumsufer, invites visitors to enjoy the finest art around, while other famous attractions include the MMK Museum of Modern Art, the English Theatre or the Städtische Bühnen. As well as events such as the Luminale Festival or the Long Night of Museums, Frankfurt is also home to urban art and design. But culture isn’t all Frankfurt has to offer, as partygoers will also feel right at home here. And if you want to take a break from the hustle and bustle, in just 15 minutes you can be out of the city and surrounded by nature, for example in the city forest or at a swimming lake. And don’t forget the “Ebbelwoi” pubs which serve one of Hesse’s most famous cultural assets, apple cider!

Marcel Abel: At the moment, life here is particularly exciting as you can see the city centre transforming before your eyes. The “Kö-Bogen” development is raising the quality of life in the city still further, and fans of architecture will be able to see their fill of fascinating buildings designed by international starchitects, such as those in the Düsseldorf-Hafen district. Why not then visit one of the three city breweries and enjoy a famous Altbier? It’s easy to make friends in Düsseldorf too, as the people are open and warm and enjoy welcoming new people. The city is also a renowned cultural centre with its relation to Joseph Beuys, Heinrich Heine, the Kunstakademie arts academy and many more. Pop culture is another string to the city’s bow, with well-known German bands Kraftwerk and the Toten Hosen originally from Düsseldorf.

Where you live often depends on your employer. What career options does your city have to offer?

Gunnar Gombert: Munich has a wide range of options in this regard. We have a highly diversified economy across many different sectors and are home to the highest number of DAX corporations in Germany, as well as many other global players, a strong SME sector and a thriving start-up scene. I’d also like to give a special mention to JLL Munich; a diverse real estate consultant and service provider which employs around 150 fantastic people.

Axel Vespermann: When you think of Frankfurt, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the banking and finance sector, with consulting firms also strongly represented. Appearances can be deceiving, however, as the variety of business sectors in the city is far larger than the skyline would have you believe. The metropolis on the river Main is home to a highly diverse range of businesses, from industrial companies, through transport and logistics firms – and not just at the airport – all the way up to creative industries.

Marcel Abel: Düsseldorf is a city of hidden champions with numerous top ten companies in their sectors located here, such as law firms, auditors, management consulting groups, media companies and even large telecommunication service providers, such as Vodafone or E-Plus. In a radius of just 50 kilometres there are 500,000 companies, including sector-leading banks and insurance companies. And the city is not just a centre for fashion and beauty, but also innovations, with the highest number of patents filed here in Germany. International flair is naturally also part of Düsseldorf: it is the largest Japanese economic site in continental Europe and the most dynamic investment location for China.

Vienna has once again topped the Mercer ranking. What would have to happen in your city over the next five years to knock the Austrians off their throne?

Gunnar Gombert: Munich would have to further solidify its position as an innovative, clean and efficient city. This would include pushing forward with climate protection measures, alongside optimising energy, production and traffic flows. The mobility and automotive industry needs to be transformed under the aspects of digitalisation, while at the same time, societal balance is still vital. Any social tension or divisions must be prevented through sociopolitical measures and programmes. To be a “Münchner”, a resident of Munich, means being a citizen of the world.

Axel Vespermann: Frankfurt has to learn to play to its strengths more! It’s a compact city covering a relatively small area, meaning it is ideally suited as an attractive location for pedestrians and cyclists. The conditions may not always be ideal and there is competition from vehicle traffic, but initial projects have already been implemented. These projects have helped improve the image of the city as well as simultaneously increase the quality of life here. The next step would be to continue promoting the principle of mixed use in some parts of the city, reduce functional separation and with this, enable real urbanity to be created. City development and transport concepts such as the Regionaltangente West (a regional train service) have long been in the discussion stage, but it’s about time they were finally implemented. Improving the connection between the city and the region would then follow – and I don't just mean on an administrative level. One important topic here is affordable living space and transport links.

Marcel Abel: Düsseldorf is already well on its way. The “Innenstadtentwicklung 2030” project (city centre development) and the mobility concept clearly showcase the city's efforts towards creating an improved and pioneering infrastructure for its residents. It will allow Düsseldorf to assume the leading role as a metropolis of short distances. The city is also viewed as being very safe thanks to the low crime rates recorded here, and this is obviously something that should continue.

Gunnar, Axel, Marcel, thank you very much for the fascinating insight into your cities.

Dr.-Ing. Gunnar Gombert
Regional Manager Munich
Marcel Abel
Strategy Board Member Germany, Regional Manager Dusseldorf

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