The most Bundesliga clubs, the oldest traditions, the most emotional derbies: football is traditionally loved and lived in North Rhine-Westphalia. A visit to one of the big stadiums is an unforgettable experience. Guided tours past the pitch and into the dressing rooms bring the unique atmosphere to life even after the final whistle. Various museums bring the history of the club to life and make it possible to get close to the national team players. Even when the pitch is quiet, the North Rhine-Westphalia land of football still has plenty to offer.
Stadiums and tours
Of course, the atmosphere during a local derby between Dortmund and Schalke or a Rhine derby between Cologne and Mönchengladbach is truly unique. But it is hard to acquire tickets because so many people want to attend. Fortunately there are other ways of getting into the stadium, for example taking a tour. This is a better alternative for those wishing to gain a glimpse behind the scenes, because when else would you be able to enter the player dressing rooms or walk down the tunnel into the stadium like a professional?
Germany’s largest stadium offers tours like these, among other things. The stadium formerly known as the Westfalen-Stadion in Dortmund and now called Signal-Iduna-Park is the largest in Germany and seats 80,000 spectators. Professional footballers love the special atmosphere of this stadium and a few years ago, the London Times even named this footballing temple the best stadium in the world. The competition ground in the eastern Ruhr Area also has another superlative to offer: the local stadium of BVB is home to Europe’s largest standing area. The Borusseum is also housed at the museum. This is the BVB club museum – a real ‘get involved’ museum with club song karaoke and the chance to commentate a match yourself.
Of course, there is also a club museum ‘auf Schalke’, as the Gelsenkirchen stadium is known. Hardcore fans can get married or have themselves or their children baptised in the adjoining chapel. There is even a cemetery just for Schalke fans! The stadium tours also offer a glimpse behind the scenes at the Veltins Arena, which is classed as Europe’s most modern stadium due to its closable roof and retractable pitch.
Fans are able to spend the night at the Borussia-Park in Mönchengladbach as well: the H4 hotel offers 125 rooms and six suites with an athletic design and comfort. Depending on room category, the price includes access to the executive lounge. In addition to the hotel, the “Borussia-8-Grad” building complex opened in 2019 houses a fan shop and club museum. “Fohlenwelt” (Foal World) is the name of the Borussia Mönchengladbach club museum that tells the club’s story on 1,150 square metres, using pictures, large projections, and videos. Visitors can pick from a selection of eight guides, all of whom are Borussia insiders and will introduce them to the club’s history from a very personal point of view.
There is also the option of taking a circuit around the Merkur Spiel-Arena. While the Fortuna team that plays here is constantly switching back and forth between the first and second league, its home arena has already been long established as a topclass football venue. The arena has not only hosted the German national team several times, but concerts by international superstars and other events are also regularly held here. Tours of the stadium take visitors to the players’ locker rooms and the press conference room, among other areas of the arena.
About a dozen different stadium tours lead visitors through the RheinEnergieStadion of the 1. FC Köln. No matter if they prefer the offside tour with Walter Eschweiler, the team quiz tour, the Jecke StadionTOUR, or “On the tracks of Lukas Podolski”, any tour will give them glimpses of areas that are otherwise reserved to VIPs or players only.
For those who don’t want to leave the stadium, even at night, the Bayarena in Leverkusen is the perfect destination as Germany’s first stadium hotel – nestled within the ‘Nordkurve’ stand where the Leverkusen fans stand to watch the match. The entire stadium can also be visited during tours.
The reason why the Bielefeld stadium, officially called the SchücoArena, is traditionally nicknamed “die Alm” (mountain meadow) by the fans has been lost to time. In any case, the home of DSC Arminia Bielefeld is not located along the slopes of the Teutoburg Forest, but in the middle of a residential quarter. Stadium tours provide a peek into otherwise-closed areas and share information about the “Anfield Road of Eastern Westphalia” as well.
Museums and German Football Route
In addition to the stadiums, there are also other options for exploring North Rhine-Westphalia’s legendary football. These undoubtedly include the German Football Museum in Dortmund. Opened in 2015, this museum is one of the top attractions in North Rhine-Westphalia, land of sport and a real paradise for football fans! Visitors here become participants and can walk through the players’ tunnel to the sound of the fans singing. Even the restaurant area fits perfectly into the concept, since here, the former chef of the German national team, star chef Holger Stromberg, has had a hand in the menu. Guests are served the same dishes that helped the German national players become top fit world champions.
There’s even more football at the German Sport and Olympic Museum in Cologne where everything revolves around the history of sport, from antiquity to the present day. As Germany’s favourite sport, football has its own special area in this permanent exhibition. The perfect atmosphere is created with excerpts from the legendary radio commentary of the World Cup finals in 1954 by Herbert Zimmermann in the background.
No matter if by car or bicycle, the German football route takes football fans through North-Rhine Westphalia to explore football cult sites, building monuments, and sights, from the Eifel, to the Lower Rhine and the Ruhr area, to the Teutoburg Forest. Anyone interested can learn many strange and interesting things about football, while exploring very special locations, such as the amateur football field in Bergheim where Lukas Podolski first learned to score goals.