Germany has long been considered to offer the best football fan experience in Europe – and with good reason.
From the quality of the stadiums and vibrant atmospheres, to the excellent transport links and the genuine efforts to put the fans first, have earned this reputation.
And, of course, there’s the ability to drink a beer in the stands. Here we offer the lowdown on organising that first weekend in Germany and what to expect in the Bundesliga.
How do I get to Germany?
For many the easiest route to Germany is by plane. The country has a good number of airports giving visitors multiple gateways to many parts of the country.
The biggest hubs are Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Munich, Hamburg and the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport that, between them, give you access to a sizeable number of clubs. As these have numerous connections to the UK flight prices tend to be lower and seat availability higher.
Other popular gateways include Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart, while cities with smaller airports include Nuremburg and Bremen. It’s a little more difficult to reach the south east of Germany, for these you are best to fly to Berlin or Prague and take the train. Freiburg and the Black Forest may be best reached via Basel in Switzerland.
It's easy to reach the west of Germany by train, taking the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels and then catching an onward high-speed train to Cologne, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, all within five or six hours of leaving London. Other destinations in Germany may require an overnight stop on the way.
Where do I stay in Germany?
There are so many places to choose from in Germany but for a first-time visit it’s hard to beat the Rhine-Ruhr region. If you’re unfamiliar with this area, it’s in the very west of Germany. Part of the reason we suggest this area is that it has good gateways via flights to Dusseldorf, Dortmund or Cologne/Bonn.
However, the main reason is the selection on offer. This is the heartland of German football. There are currently five Bundesliga sides including Dortmund, Schalke, Monchengladbach, Leverkusen and FC Koln. Throw in Dusseldorf, Duisburg and Bochum and a whole host of lower league clubs and you will be spoilt for choice.
Of places to stay Cologne is perhaps the nicest, geared to tourists with plenty to see and do. However you may prefer Dusseldorf which is more central to the area and where accommodation is often cheaper. It also has a hugely popular long street of bars!
Elsewhere Hamburg has everything you would expect from a big city, plus two big clubs to see. Frankfurt has a reputation as a business city, but this can mean good deals available in empty hotels at the weekend and the region itself is well-blessed with clubs across the leagues.
On the subject of hotels, it’s worth bearing in mind that many major German cities stage trade fairs throughout the year and while many are during the week they can stretch into and over weekends. There are often two hotel rates - for trade fair and non-trade fair periods – so if one weekend is looking particularly expensive it’s worth checking other dates. The trade fair districts - ‘Messe’ in German - usually have a plethora of hotels and are well connected to the main stations, so could be worth considering as long as they aren’t too far from the city centre.
One city that should be on your ‘must visit’ list in any event should be Berlin. The city at the heart of so much history in the 20th Century is a fascinating place to explore and can also be one of the cheaper places to stay in Germany.
For a quite different German experience head south to Bavaria and to Munich. Bavaria has a very different feel to the rest of the country and you’ll want to sample the many historic beer halls in this part of the world. Likewise, the Black Forest is a magical destination and Freiburg is the delightful gateway to this region.
How do I get around?
Germany’s transport system is excellent, both in cities, regionally and across the country. The train service is generally reliable and Inter City services thunder between the major hubs in good time. However, it is important to plan ahead and book in advance as fares on the day can be very expensive.
If you’re staying in one area travel can be affordable. Most cities offer day cards for their mix of metro, local trains, trams and buses.
Many German Bundesliga and 2 Bundesliga clubs offer free public transport to the venue in back. Called ‘Kombi-Tickets’, these allow you to travel for free in the region from three or four hours before kick-off to at least a couple of hours after the final whistle, sometimes the ticket applies all day. The exact times change depending on the club. In the unlikely event you are asked for a ticket on a packed tram to a stadium, simply show your match ticket.
This can be particularly good for planning a trip in a specific region. For instance, Dusseldorf falls in the same VRR travel district as Gelsenkirchen (Schalke), Leverkusen, Dortmund, and Monchengladbach, meaning most of your travel for the weekend could be for free. Just ensure you travel on local regional DB trains, as the ICE trains are not included in the offer.
The situation with 3 Liga, Regionalliga and Oberliga clubs varies so you need to check each time. The one exception in the Bundesliga is Bayern Munich who don’t offer free travel.
Additional trams, trains and buses are provided to cope with demand on a matchday. There are extra services ahead of the game, and afterwards you can expect to see trams and buses lined up to provide a speedy exit. Yes, they will be busy, and you may be packed in, but you will be back in the city centre quickly. Even the busiest and biggest of grounds can be largely empty of fans an hour after the final whistle.
How do I buy tickets?
Germany does have some of the biggest stadiums in Europe, but it also has the biggest crowds. Bundesliga can rival the English Premier League for sold-out games, so getting into a Bundesliga game can be quite difficult
Yes, German games have some wonderfully cheap tickets. Standing on the terraces can start from around €10-€15 - and bearing in mind that the price probably includes your transport to and from the ground you realise just how inexpensive attending the Bundesliga can be.
The bad news is that buying these cheap tickets can often be extremely difficult. Many terraces at major grounds are sold out, or at best a few places go on sale to club members. The chances are that availability to overseas visitors is limited to seats and you’ll generally find these can be on a par with the prices you’ll pay in the Premier League.
If you are prepared to try German language club websites, then you can buy tickets for many games in advance – leaving it until matchday is an extremely risky business as you may well be greeted at the stadium with the dreaded word ‘Ausverkauft’ – it means ‘sold out’.
If you do try online, select e-tickets where you can as these can be used to obtain free transport to the stadium. If a ticket collection at the stadium is the only option remember to take ID, ideally a passport, as you will be asked for it.
The hardest games to buy for are home games at Bayern Munich – or anywhere else Bayern happen to be playing. It’s the category A* game for every other team in the league so tickets fly out of the window to members only. Likewise, the Allianz Arena is sold out to members. You could sign up as a club member to give you some priority in the ticket-buying process but it’s not a very cost-effective way of getting in for a one-off game.
The other most difficult venue is Union Berlin’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei. The limited capacity, together with the huge excitement of arriving in the Bundesliga and their growing status as a people’s club, means that tickets for Bundesliga matches are like gold dust.
Here is a guide on the chances of buying football tickets directly from the club:
Fairly good: Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig, Augsburg, Mainz.
Sometimes possible: FC Koln, Monchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt, Armenia Bielefeld, Stuttgart.
Tricky: Dortmund, Schalke, Freiburg.
Almost impossible: Bayern Munich, Union Berlin.
Below the top-flight you shouldn’t have too many problems buying tickets, with the one exception being Sant Pauli of Hamburg who only put a limited number of tickets on general sale per game, and these can go in a matter of minutes.
At Nickes.Com we only buy football tickets directly from the football club or from the club's officially appointed dealers so your ticket purchase is always 100% safe and secure.
Bundesliga price examples
Two nights in Berlin 3* accommodation in a double / twin room including breakfast and match ticket costs from £119 per person *
* We reserve the right to make any price changes. You will receive a confirmed price when booking. Read our recommendations for, among other things, extra nights, transfers etc.
Experts in the Bundesliga
Nickes.Com has seen a lot of football in Germany and we can call ourselves experts in the Bundesliga. Let us help you tailor a trip to suit your needs. Maybe you even want to put together a super weekend to the football-crazy Ruhr area where you can watch several top matches during one and the same weekend!
Football trips to the Bundesliga
There are 18 clubs in Germany’s Bundesliga. They play each other twice, a total of 34 games, and in the end Bayern Munich win the league! OK, Bayern don’t win the league every year but the past few seasons have followed a predictable path with Bayern’s power just too strong for their challengers. However, every dynasty has an end point and you only have to look back a couple of decades when the likes of Wolfsburg and Stuttgart won the Bundesliga. In normal times matches generally operate to a fixed schedule: one match on Friday night; three or four games at the traditional 3.30pm kick off on Saturday followed by a late game at 6.30pm.
Sunday sees two or three matches, while the hugely unpopular Monday fixture is now a rarity. On the weekend after international breaks there’s no Friday night game. There are usually a couple of midweek rounds of fixtures per season.
Match times are decided in batches, usually shortly after European competition rounds are finalised.
The 2 Bundesliga also has 18 clubs. Expect two matches early evening on a Friday, followed by three on Saturday lunchtime, three on Sunday lunchtime and one on Monday night. In 3 Liga six of the ten weekly games take place on Saturday afternoon. There’s usually one on Friday evening, a couple on Sunday afternoon and one on Monday.
The fourth tier Regionalliga is, as the name suggests, regionalised and most games are spread across Saturday and Sunday early afternoons. The Oberliga, the fifth level, is also across both days but most take place on Saturday.
What’s the Bundesliga matchday like?
Germany has won many admirers for the matchday experience, often regarded as the best around. We believe Germany leads the way in putting the fan at the very heart of a matchday.
The first aspect has already been covered - the free public transport that many clubs lay on for fans on a matchday. But on arrival it’s clear that a football match is a full event, particularly at the big Bundesliga stadiums.
It’s not difficult to spot a German fan on a tram on matchday. Colours are worn with pride, with a scarf wrapped round one wrist and the other hand clutching a bottle of beer. It’s the unofficial look for fans everywhere in the country!
One advantage German stadiums have is that, as many started as athletics arenas and parks, there is often plenty of room around them. This allows for vast fan zones to spring up, with bars and food stalls alongside picnic tables the norm, and there’s often a stage with a local band playing. Early kick offs will be showing on big screens, and for kids there are often football challenges to enjoy.
The bigger the club, the more activities will be going on, and some smaller outfits may be more limited in their offering but it’s rare not to find at least a few bars operating outside in the top three divisions. For this reason it’s well worth getting there early, a couple of hours before kick-off.
The one downside of the big clubs is getting into the stadium itself. Usually there are entrances on most corners but forget any idea you may have that it will be orderly. In the hour before the game there is often a mass of bodies edging towards ticket checks and security. If you want to avoid this, please get in early, a good hour early.
Once you do reach the front, bear in mind that security is now significantly tighter and that some clubs will let nothing bigger than an A4 sized bag into the arena. And that’s a flat ‘no’, no amount of pleading that you’re simply a tourist will win your case, and the chances are you will have to turn around and find the luggage store that may well be a long walk away, with a long queue itself. Travel light.
Facilities inside are pretty decent, and all major clubs have their own official beer for you to try. These come with the standard German offerings of bratwurst, currywurst and schnitzels. And, as we all know, there’s no rush to drink up quickly as you can take beers to your seat in the stadium. Half time is the usual busy time so you may want to avoid this period. You’ll often find one or two kiosks stay open after the game should you want to avoid the masses at the tram stop. While some clubs insist you buy a club card, it’s not standard everywhere. The arenas are top notch. Many are new, or substantially rebuilt, and from the seats - often comfy and with decent legroom - the views are excellent. All clubs have a ‘Hymme’, or club anthem, that bring all the fans to their feet with scarves aloft. It’s usually a passionate and spine-tingling moment and you’ll soon realise how many clubs have adopted ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ as a special song.
Once the game gets going the ultras on the home terrace take over, with their leader complete with megaphone orchestrating events from a specially provided perch at the front of the stand. It’s often non-stop, and you’ll recognise more than a few of the chants from English stadiums.
While police presence can still be high at some games, trouble at most grounds is extremely rare and you should feel perfectly safe. Quite simply Germany leads the way for the fan experience. If you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for?
Bundesliga winners since 1963:
1963/64 1.FC Köln
1964/65 SV Werder Bremen
1965/66 TSV 1860 München
1966/67 Braunschweiger TSV Eintracht
1967/68 1.FC Nürnberg
1968/69 FC Bayern München
1969/70 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1970/71 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1971/72 FC Bayern München
1972/73 FC Bayern München
1973/74FC Bayern München
1974/75 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1975/76 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1976/77 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
1977/78 1.FC Köln
1978/79 Hamburger SV
1979/80 FC Bayern München
1980/81 FC Bayern München
1981/82 Hamburger SV
1982/83 Hamburger SV
1983/84 VfB Stuttgart
1984/85 FC Bayern München
1985/86 FC Bayern München
1986/87 FC Bayern München
1987/88 SV Werder Bremen
1988/89 FC Bayern München
1989/90 FC Bayern München
1990/91 1.FC Kaiserslautern
1991/92 VfB Stuttgart
1992/93 SV Werder Bremen
1993/94FC Bayern München
1994/95 BV Borussia Dortmund
1995/96 BV Borussia Dortmund
1996/97 FC Bayern München
1997/98 1.FC Kaiserslautern
1998/99 FC Bayern München
1999/00 FC Bayern München
2000/01 FC Bayern München
2001/02 BV Borussia Dortmund
2002/03 FC Bayern München
2003/04 SV Werder Bremen
2004/05 FC Bayern München
2005/06 FC Bayern München
2006/07 VfB Stuttgart
2007/08 FC Bayern München
2008/09 VfL Wolfsburg
2009/10 FC Bayern München
2010/11 BV Borussia Dortmund
2011/12 BV Borussia Dortmund
2012/13 FC Bayern München
2013/14 FC Bayern München
2014/15 FC Bayern München
2015/16 FC Bayern München
2016/17 FC Bayern München
2017/18 FC Bayern München
2018/19 FC Bayern München
2019/20 FC Bayern München