Kempten: For students, a university town – for others, a holiday destination

The city of Kempten is the unofficial capital of the southern German region of the Allgäu. For visitors and students from around the world, Kempten is proof that the Allgäu has far more to offer than alpine cheese and cows. In Kempten you can look forward to optimal study conditions, diverse shopping opportunities and a dynamic cultural and culinary scene.

by Bettina Ruhland

Rathausplatz © Bettina Ruhland
Rathausplatz . © Bettina Ruhland

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
331 €
Try the various types of cheese produced in the Allgäu – preferably at the cheese shop “jamei”.

Welcome to Kempten

Snow-tipped mountains, green forests and cows lazily grazing on the meadows: That’s pretty much how most people imagine the Allgäu region. And they’re right! You just have to venture a little outside of town to go swimming in mountain lakes in the summertime and enjoy the tranquillity of a walk in the forest. But if you study in Kempten, you’ll also discover that the Allgäu is a vibrant, modern region which is among the most popular holiday destinations in Germany.

Residenzplatz © Bettina Ruhland
Residenzplatz . © Bettina Ruhland

Kempten is often called the “metropolis of the Allgäu”. That’s because it is home to more than 69,000 people, and numerous corporations and medium-sized firms have established operations in the surrounding region. Kempten is also a tourist magnet and draws some 140,000 visitors every year. The city is situated in southern Germany on the border to the Tirol and Vorarlberg regions of Austria.

On a stroll through the centre of town, you will immediately notice the many historic buildings and structures. Kempten was mentioned in an ancient Roman manuscript and is widely believed to be the oldest city in Germany. In addition to the church towers rising over the city, you’ll find the Residence of the Duke Abbots especially impressive. Inside this former Benedictine monastery, you can admire ornately decorated rooms and historic paintings.

Residence of the Duke Abbots © Bettina Ruhland
Residence of the Duke Abbots . © Bettina Ruhland

Are you interested in the life and times of the ancient Romans? Then you should definitely visit the Archaeological Park Cambodunum. Cambodunum was the name of the Roman administrative outpost located in Kempten long ago. In the park, you can view the actual excavation sites and discover the traces left behind by the ancient Romans. Interestingly enough, the name Kempten comes from the original Latin name Cambodunum.

Living in Kempten

If you receive a study place in Kempten, you’ll also receive a piece of untouched nature and mountains at no extra charge. Due to its location at the foot of the Allgäu Alps and its proximity to numerous Bavarian lakes, Kempten is a mini paradise for nature lovers and active students. The “home-town” mountain of Kempten is the Mariaberg. It’s just a few minutes away from the centre of town and is 915 metres high. You can take walks or go hiking there, and if you want a real challenge, you can mountain-bike up the more difficult trails.

My tip

Definitely try some of the cheeses produced in the Allgäu region. Each type has its own unique smell and flavour, and you’ll find your personal favourite in no time. The best place to try some cheese is the trendy cheese shop “jamei” at Hildegardplatz where they produce cheese in the old-fashioned way.

Künstlerhaus © Bettina Ruhland
Künstlerhaus . © Bettina Ruhland

And your faithful companion is the fantastic view of the Allgäu mountains and landscapes. Outside the city, there are numerous hiking and biking trails, as well as swimming lakes which are perfect for outings with your friends in the summer. In the winter, you can try out a very popular winter sport, cross-country skiing, on one of the many cross-country ski trails, or go ice-skating in the ice stadium.

Kempten is also the one place in the Allgäu where numerous live events are held – concerts, readings, comedy shows etc. The cultural event centre “bigBOX Allgäu” is situated quite centrally, and after a concert, you can easily walk downtown to go out for drinks. A nice locale is the Künstlerhaus Kempten, situated inside an old town mansion. That’s where people of all generations meet – from grandparents to grandchildren – to drink coffee and watch the artists who regularly perform there.

(Another) real insider tip is the cocktail bar “The Kitchen” in Poststrasse. Thanks to its furnishings and excellent cocktail creations, the bar brings a little New York City flair to the Allgäu. At “The Bio Deli” (Königstr. 1), you can order a delicious breakfast or a smoothie made with "super foods”. They only serve food produced at local farms, and everything is freshly prepared right in front of you in an open kitchen. The menu offers numerous international dishes such as falafel, as well as the obligatory Allgäu specialties, like “Käsespätzle”.

Interview with Kohei from Japan

Kohei Noro comes from Japan and is 24 years old. He studies Business Administration at the University of Applied Sciences in Kempten.

Kohei Noro © Private
Kohei Noro . © Private

How did you prepare for your studies abroad? Was it hard for you to leave home?

Ever since I first began at university, I’ve wanted to study abroad in Germany. The most important thing for me was learning to speak German well. Not only did I practice German with a teacher during the semester, but also in the semester breaks. It was great that I also found a language partner with whom I could improve my language skills further. Other than that, I didn’t prepare all too much for my studies in Germany, because as I said, the most important thing for me was learning the language. I didn’t find leaving home very hard. I know I’ll only be studying here for a year and then will return to Japan.

Have Kempten and Germany met your expectations? Were there any surprises? If so, what were they?

I haven’t really put any thought into whether my expectations were met. I’ve been studying in Kempten now for one semester, and when I’m finished here, I’ll consider whether my expectations of Germany and Kempten proved to be true. But there were definitely some surprises. Normally I lead a very quiet life in Japan, and that’s why Germany often seems very loud to me. I’m always surprised by the noise – it’s quite strange to me.

The Bio Deli © Bettina Ruhland
The Bio Deli . © Bettina Ruhland

Was/is life in Germany expensive for you? And is life in Germany very different from life at home?

Living in Germany is not more expensive than at home. For example, I sometime like drinking a beer or wine, and both are cheaper than in Japan. The big difference, I find, is the food culture. Japanese prefer rice and fish, which Germans don’t eat so often. We use soy sauce in almost everything. German cuisine has lots of meat and potatoes, which was something I had to get used to.

What do you like best about Kempten? Is there a place here that you especially like?

I like the historic downtown the best. It’s very pretty and I like spending time there, drinking a coffee or meeting with friends. Foreign students should definitely visit the weekly market. They sell lots of good produce from the region which I like very much.

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