Germany’s motor city of Stuttgart is home to the Mercedes-Benz Arena and VfB Stuttgart, five-time title-winning football power of south-western Germany. Formerly the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, the Mercedes-Benz-Arena is set in the old spa suburb of Bad Cannstatt, a leafy recreation area by a bend in the Neckar river that lent the venue the first of its post-war names.
This is where West Germany played their first post-war international in 1950 and, 40 years later, celebratory match to mark Reunification, each time against Switzerland.
It was in Bad Cannstatt, at the former Concordia Hotel, that city flagship club VfB were founded in 1912, an amalgamation of Stuttgarter FV and Kronen-Club Cannstatt. Both were multi-sports clubs who mainly concentrated on rugby. FV themselves were founded at Zum Becher, then a hotel, now a restaurant close to the main train station.
Once established, VfB became the second-most successful club in the regional league for Württemberg-Baden. Top dogs during this pre-Nazi era were city rivals Stuttgarter Kickers, also formed at the turn of the last century, and who also rejected rugby. Die Blauen, now in Germany’s third tier, enjoyed a short period of success between 1987 and 1991, with an appearance in the German Cup final and two short stints in the Bundesliga.
That proved the last time Kickers and VfB crossed paths. Kickers play at the Waldau-Stadion, or Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau, near Stuttgart’s TV Tower, accessed from the Waldau stop on the U7 and U8 lines, or Ruhbank (Fernsehturm) on the U15 line.
After the war, VfB came into their own, earning major success in the early 1950s, the 1980s and 1990s. An unexpected title win in 2007 broke the Bayern monopoly. While VfB haven’t yet repeated the feat, they’re expected to be top-half Bundesliga finishers every season.
Stuttgart Airport is 13km (8 miles) south of the town centre, served by S2/S3 S-Bahn trains that leave from just below Terminal 1 for the main train station (every 15mins, journey time 30mins, single €3.60/day ticket €10.10). A taxi should take 15mins and cost about €30.
The city transport network consists of U-Bahn trains, S-Bahn trains, trams and buses. A single ticket is €2.20, €1.20 for a short journey (Kurzstrecke) such as the one from the Hauptbahnhof to Bad Cannstatt. A day ticket is €6.30.
The Tourist Office at Konigstrasse 1A by the train station can book hotels (and VfB match tickets). Stuttgart hosts major trade fairs all year, so check first.
The classic stadium hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn Stuttgart NeckarPark, slap next to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, a four-star with gym and sauna, where visits by Franz Beckenbauer and Hot Chocolate are displayed in the lobby, along with a shirt signed by West Germany’s 1982 World Cup side. Those on a budget may stay at the DJH Youth Hostel Neckarpark near Bad Cannstatt station, with a limited number of two- and three-bed rooms.
In town, there’s plenty of choice near the station. When Bayern are in town, they stay at the luxury Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin, with its superb fitness facilities and soundproofed rooms. A few steps away, the comfortable, mid-range Hotel Rieker is worth it for the online price and location – there’s free in-room WiFi once you’re there. Opposite, part of the station building itself, the InterCityHotel Stuttgart is a train-to-bed economy choice.
Slightly further away but still convenient, the Hotel Pension Riehe is another budget choice, and right next to former Zum Becher hotel, now restaurant, where VfB Stuttgart can trace their formation.
For city-centre luxury, the Maritim Hotel Stuttgart features a pool, sauna and popular late-night cocktail bar in a former 19th-century riding school.
Central Stuttgart has two main bar hubs: pedestrianised Geißstraße and Töpferstraße near Rathaus U-Bahn; and the southern end of Theodor-Heuss-Straße, the other side of the street from the city centre.
On Theodor-Heuss, a stretch of nightspots includes the sport-friendly One Table Club, football-screening 7grad and more loungey Barbee. Zwölfzehn, at the nearby junction on Paulinenstraße, is also highly recommended.
Of the expat pubs, since the sad closure of the George & Dragon, Biddy Early’s is extremely popular, though you can expect a €4 cover charge on busy music nights. A short walk from the Theodor-Heuss hub, friendly, long-established O’Reilly’s also offers live football. Opposite, Zehn Biere (Reuchlinstraße 26) is very much locals’ spot, with mounted football scarves including a Rangers-Stuttgart match one.
Halfway back to town, make a point of popping into Greek-run, football-obsessed Seekneipe (Rötebühlstraße 89), with its VfB mural and welcoming, loyal regulars.