Germany’s ten largest cities are Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Essen and Leipzig. Here we profile each of them and look at the sectors in which they excel.
Population: 3.52 million
The capital city of Germany, Berlin was split by its infamous wall between 1961 and 1989. Since German reunification in 1990, Berlin has emerged as a global centre of culture, education, media, tourism, politics and science. The city’s universities are among the best on the planet, and it contains three Unesco World Heritage Sites. While garnering a reputation as a hotbed for start-ups and entrepreneurs, Berlin still plays host to a number of large multinational companies, such as Deutsche Telekom, Delivery Hero and Deutsche Bahn, while the likes of Bombardier Transportation, GAZPROM Germania, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Sony and Total have their European headquarters in the city.
Population: 1.79 million
Hamburg is the largest non-capital city in the EU. It hosts the third-busiest port in Europe, and the city is situated close to the North Sea (about 100km away) on the River Elbe in northern Germany, some 230km from the border with Denmark. Hamburg is a cultural and tourism hub, with its rivers and canals being crossed by about 2,500 bridges (the highest number of bridges in any city in Europe). It has a strong tradition in the finance sector, hosting Germany’s oldest stock exchange, while industrially it thrives in steel, aluminium and copper production, shipbuilding and aerospace. Airbus employs more than 13,000 people in the city.
Population: 1.45 million
Munich is located in the southern part of Germany, in the federal state of Bavaria, about 160km from the Austrian border. The city has a widespread reputation for excellence in arts, science, technology, culture, education and finance, while its premier football team, Bayern Munich, is known all over the world. It is also a tourism hub, with its annual Oktoberfest attracting millions of visitors. Munich has strengths in a wide array of industries and sectors, such as automotives, IT, biotech, engineering, electronics and renewable energy. It is home to multinational companies such as BWM, Siemens and Allianz.
Population: 1.06 million
Cologne is located in the west of Germany, some 70–100km from the borders with Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It is also the closest major city to former West Germany capital Bonn. A centre of culture and education, the city hosts one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe in the University of Cologne, and it also serves as a leading research hub for the aerospace industry, hosting the German Aerospace Center, and the headquarters of the European Astronaut Centre and Germany’s largest airline, Lufthansa. Its industrial strengths largely lie in chemicals and automobiles, while the city is also a national hub for the insurance and media sectors.
Frankfurt is officially known as Frankfurt Am Main, taking in the river upon which it stands in Germany’s south-west. The city has numerous strengths in areas such as commerce, education and transportation (its airport being one of the busiest in Europe, but it is the finance industry for which Frankfurt is renowned on a global level. It is home to the headquarters of the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, KfW and Commerzbank, and has forged a reputation as a hotbed for fintech start-ups.
Stuttgart is located in the southern part of Germany on the River Neckar, some 160km from the French border. Home to the headquarters of Porsche, Bosch, Mercedes-Benz and Daimler, Stuttgart’s economy is built on its strengths in automotives and engineering, but the city also excels when it comes to publishing, winemaking, financial services, research and development and tourism.
Düsseldorf is located where the Rhine meets the Düssel in western Germany, 180km from the border with the Netherlands. It stands as the capital city of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The city is renowned for the impressive quality of life it offers its inhabitants, and it plays host to 22 institutions of higher education. Düsseldorf is Germany’s leading telecommunications centre, and it is the location of the European headquarters of numerous ICT and internet companies. It also has strengths in the retail, automotives and finance industries.
Dortmund lies close to Cologne and Düsseldorf in North Rhine-Westphalia in western Germany. It sits on the the Emscher and Ruhr rivers, which are tributaries of the Rhine. It was built on the steel and coal industries, but since their collapse has reinvented itself as a high-tech hub and is considered one of the most innovative cities within the EU. It is also a major point for investment in engineering, tourism, finance, education, services, media and logistics. Dortmund is renowned for the volume of ‘mittelstand’ (German small and medium-sized enterprises) within its boundaries.
Essen is the fourth city in this list to be located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and it too lies within close proximity to the Dutch border. The city is regarded as the energy capital of Germany, and it is home to the headquarters of E.ON and RWE, Germany’s largest energy providers. The specialisms of the city’s universities have garnered it a strong reputation in both the arts and medicine. Industrial engineering and steel production giant ThyssenKrupp has one of its dual headquarters in Essen, and the city also contains a cluster in the construction sector.
Leipzig is the largest existing city to be entirely located in the former East Germany. Located about 160km south-west of capital Berlin, Leipzig’s historic reputation was built on the arts, culture and trade. While these fields are still highly prevalent in the city, in recent years it has emerged as a European hub for ecommerce and logistics too. Leipzig has a healthy tourism sector and is rated as Germany’s most liveable city by Gfk. Other areas of industrial strength in Leipzig lie in automotives, energy, software and medical research/biotech.
Population figures are from December 2015 and are estimated by the Federal Statistical Office of Germany.