LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

10 best football bars in Berlin

Where to watch the match in Berlin, bars, pubs and cult dives

Finding a place to watch the match in Berlin should be easy – finding time to sleep is the tricky bit

With 24-hour drinking and a bar on every corner, there are few better cities than Berlin for pushing the boat out. The classic venue is the Eckkneipe, an age-old local hostelry, but you’ll also find trendy dives, pubs catering to Berlin’s significant expat community and football-focused beer gardens.

Summer sees the city in full swing, and move outdoors – though you can just as easily disappear into a dark drinking den and not emerge until early kick-off the next day. If the 2006 World Cup was anything to go by, Berlin is by no means averse to football-inspired partying. The contrast with Qatar 2022 couldn’t be more marked.

Many first-time visitors head to the post-war landmarks of Mitte, the pubs and bars around them pretty mainstream, though get more individual as you veer north. Mention should be made of the FC Magnet bar, in thrall to the beautiful game.

Belushi's/Peterjon Cresswell

Further north from there, pretty much following the line of the Berlin Wall, atmospheric Bierbrunnen an der Plumpe is a shrine to its Hertha heritage and the German game. The city’s other main team, Union, are based in Köpenick, their smart supporters’ bar, Abseitsfalle, worth the trek East.

If there’s a bunch of you in the younger age bracket, Belushi’s might be an option, plus it’s close to Alexanderplatz. For an out-and-out pub, Kilkenny is probably the best bet, built into focal Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station.

For Euro 2024, the Fan Zone stretches through the Tiergarten between the Siegessäule victory column and the Brandenburg Gate, with another operating in front of the Reichstag on Platz der Republik. Live music, DJs and other cultural happenings are scheduled on non-match days. When sleep will happen is anybody’s guess.

Note that the order below is alphabetical – though some Union fans may well claim that Abseitsfalle is the best football bar in Berlin.

Abseitsfalle

Abseitsfalle/Peterjon Cresswell

It is probably no coincidence that Berlin’s most convivial Fankneipe is Union through and through – you can only imagine the scenes here recently after the city’s authentically working-class side failed to convert a penalty in stoppage time of the season’s final game against Freiburg. With Bundesliga status hanging by a thread, the ball then rebounded off the post to be slotted in for immediate redemption and communal mayhem.

With 45,000 members and a ground holding half that number, watching Union here in their heartland of Köpenick, south-east Berlin, a corner kick from the stadium itself, is the closest you’ll get to the real thing. Whatever the game, actually, this spacious, welcoming pub of dark wood and Union memorabilia should do the trick. 

Among the framed shirts and photos of long-forgotten DDR-Oberliga games, you’ll notice a poster of punk icon Nina Hagen barking into a megaphone – the former East Berliner followed Union rather than Stasi favourites Dynamo, and recorded the club’s anthem in 1998.

The name, by the way, Abseitsfalle, means Offside Trap.

Abseitsfalle, Hämmerlingstraße 80-88, 12555 Berlin. S3 to Köpenick. Open Tue-Thur 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sun open for Union games & major tournaments.

bar 11

Bar 11/Peterjon Cresswell

A few words about Kreuzberg before we start. A pocket of West Berlin enclosed on three sides by the Wall, where cheap housing had been thrown up during industrialisation, Kreuzberg saw two communities take advantage of its down-at-heel affordability, Turkish and punk/bohemian.

Decades later, it retains its edgy atmosphere. It’s not dangerous, it just likes its bars bizarre and alternative. If you’re fussy about the kind of soap left out in the toilets, this is obviously not for you. Others more used to the shabbier parts of London or Glasgow should feel right at home, plus football is often factored in, such as here at Bar 11.

‘Where Baroque meets trash’ says one review, quoting the bar manager back in 2006. One major domestic football tournament later, and those silver horses’ heads still nod over the bar counter, the façade still feels like a Dutch squat and St Pauli generally take priority whenever domestic games are screened (as well as, go figure, Eintracht Braunschweig).

By now, though, Bar 11 can boast ‘three beautiful HD TVs’ meaning they know their clientele. (Note, too, the scarves on the ceiling.) The beer of choice is probably Astra (cf St Pauli), the sipping of which should allow you to fit in with the regulars. There are also strong cocktails if you’re in a hurry/celebrating. Music aligns with the alternative surroundings.

If you fancy a change of scene or a ferocious game of table football, a few doors down at No.14, cult favourite Wiener Blut should fit the bill, plus it’s got a jukebox and generally stays opens even later. Stick around and you might just get picked for its pub football team.

Bar 11, Wiener Straße 21, 10999 Berlin. U1/U3 to Görlitzer Bahnhof. Open daily 3pm-3am.

BELUSHI'S

Belushi's/Peterjon Cresswell

Maybe it was because that Belinda Carlisle song was playing on the radio, but one morning in a grey basement in Shepherd’s Bush, London W12, Franca Knowles decided that ‘Live Your Life’ should be the motto for her burgeoning chain of Beds and Bars.

Thus was born a lifestyle concept of affordable but comfortable hostels, St Christopher’s Inns, and, attached to them, fun, sport-focused, standalone pubs, Belushi’s, welcoming all-comers.

While this may seem distinctly European, with Belushi’s today found off the Ramblas, by the Saint-Martin canal in Paris and here a pleasant stroll from Alexanderplatz, it all began in West London.

Before Franca, Ron Knowles opened his first pub in Holland Park in 1960, moving to the Goldhawk Road in the mod era and into Soho just after punk. Perhaps not by chance, therefore, this particular branch in Berlin, stretching over two floors and an outside terrace, places almost equal emphasis on music as on football. One wall is dedicated to rock, rap and reggae icons, and Friday nights are usually given over to live shows.

Belushi's/Peterjon Cresswell

Depending on the location, the menu tilts towards the surroundings, with Schnitzel and Currywurst among the local favourites in Berlin, but otherwise burgers, pizzas and wings are the order of the day. Draught Spaten and Löwenbräu come by the jug as well as half and pint, with Berliner Berg, Berliner Pilsner and Franziskaner available by the bottle.

For the Euros, Belushi’s suggests a match package of €20 behind the bar and guaranteed seating – the same as at its Mitte branch on Ziegelstraße. The Shepherd’s Bush outlet is still going strong, btw, a handy stop-off by the Tube station before heading up to see QPR struggle yet again in the Championship.

Belushi’s, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 41, 10179 Berlin. U2 to Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. Open Mon noon-midnight, Tue-Wed noon-1am, Thur & Sun noon-1am, Fri-Sat noon-1.30am.

bierbrunnen an der plumpe

Bierbrunnen/Peterjon Cresswell

In February 2024, Hertha Berlin celebrated the centenary of die Plumpe by publishing a colourful history of the club’s old ground on Behmstraße. Hertha Platz gained its nickname thanks to a water pump, ‘die Plumpe’, that also once stood here, connected to the healing springs that lent their name to both the district, Gesundbrunnen, and later to the rebuilt S-Bahn station serving it.

Behind one end of the ground rose der Zauberberg, ‘the Magic Mountain’, a dauntingly steep terrace open to the elements. After August 1961, when the Berlin Wall was built right alongside, Hertha’s many fans from the GDR could no longer come to the stadium but had to follow their team’s progress as close to the Wall as they dared, listening out for the cheers wafting over from the Magic Mountain.

Two years later, Hertha moved to the Olympiastadion and, cash-strapped, sold die Plumpe for real estate in 1974. A collection of sculptures commemorates this rich football heritage, along with this bar, Bierbrunnen an der Plumpe, ‘Beer spring at die Plumpe’, diagonally opposite the site of the old ground.

Here it could still be the 1970s, 1950s, even. Around a wood-panelled interior, the old ground and Hertha history are celebrated in large photo form, black-and-white, natürlich, teams, players and spectators in raincoats and trilbies crowding atop the Magic Mountain.

Bierbrunnen/Peterjon Cresswell

To one side, in the glassed-off smoking room, German sides line up as the anthem plays before three triumphant World Cup finals, gazing down on regulars drinking and chatting. There is little need to go to the German Football Museum in Dortmund: it’s all here, the determined expression on the players’ faces, the expectation, the football talk around it. The rest is just statistics.

In the middle of the large saloon, an island bar dispenses pleasingly affordable beer and spirits. If you want lunch, go to a restaurant. Retro Berliner Kindl ads add a final decorative touch.

Beyond, workaday Wedding, the area where the Boateng half-brothers grew up, is still the spiritual home of Hertha, 60 years after leaving it. Slap opposite the bar, part shopping centre, part station with no entrance, is featureless Gesundbrunnen S-Bahn.

Those of us who still light a candle to Hanne am Zoo, the timeless German football bar at Zoo station whose time was called in 2010, may remember how quickly these places disappear. May beer flow from Bierbrunnen until Hertha Berlin come home.

Bierbrunnen an der Plumpe, Behmstraße 3, 13357 Berlin. U8/S-Bahn & rail to Berlin Gesundbrunnen. Open Mon-Sat 9am-11pm, Sun 3pm-11pm.

fc magnet bar

FC Magnet Bar/Trevor Fletcher

Several World Cups ago, 1998 to be precise, the hipsters behind nightspot FC Magnet Mitte decided to push the disco ball to one side and shift the spotlight to match action on the TV screen. In fact, they were more engaged than that, forming their own pub XI which still convenes here after games.

Among their number were homesick Mönchengladbach fans, for whom FC Magnet had become a home from home, hence the seminal exhibition, Netzer ’72, hosted here, celebrating the lank-haired genius in the size 14 boots. More cult you cannot get.

With another major tournament upon us, FC Magnet should draw a random footfall of first-time visitors to take in the game on the big screen, battle it out over Tischfußball and keep the drink flowing until 3am. It’s also a meeting place for the Berlin Reds, the Hauptstadt’s very own LFC fraternity.

FC Magnet bar, Veteranenstraße 28, 10119 Berlin. Tram 12 to Brunnenstr/Invalidenstr. Open Mon-Fri 6pm-3am, Sat-Sun 1pm-3am.

golgatha

Golgatha/Peterjon Cresswell

‘Football is back!’ proclaims Golgatha, as this legendary open-air hangout at Viktoriapark ushers in yet another tournament summer. For all its rushing S-Bahns and busy traffic intersections, Berlin can be surprisingly green and relaxing. Even when Germany isn’t hosting a huge football tournament, people flock to outdoor bars, parks and beer gardens. Big-screen action just ups the ante.

Of all the alfresco choices, Golgatha takes the biscuit. Originally the Terrassen am Kreuzberg serving the Katzbachstadion, aka Willy-Kressmann-Stadion, it was built in 1928 by the same architect responsible for the stadium 14 years earlier, Georg Demmler.

Like his contemporary, Hungarian Alfréd Hajós, Demmler was a pioneering sportsman who took part in the inaugural Olympics of 1896 and found equal fame as a stadium architect. Founder of the Berlin Football Association, Demmler was also responsible for the Poststadion, but his plaque can be found here at Golgatha.

Golgatha/Peterjon Cresswell

Opened in its current guise in 1977, Golgatha soon became a late-opening mainstay of Kreuzberg’s alternative scene and has since adapted to modern times by becoming a family-friendly beer garden.

For major tournaments, it practically transforms into an open-air cinema, match-watching a communal experience interspersed with trips to the bar inside the main, century-old building. A separate kiosk dispenses grilled favourites.

You can reserve a table through the German-only website, the booking process reasonably straightforward, but plenty of seats are always left available for all-comers.

As for the stadium, revered Berlin side Türkiyemspor now use it as their home ground, returning to their spiritual home of Kreuzberg following bankruptcy. Demmler was buried in Kreuzberg in 1931 but his grave was destroyed.

Golgatha, Katzbachstraße 8, Monumentenstraße, 10965 Berlin. Bus M43 to Dudenstr/Katzbachstr. Open summer only Mon-Thur 10am-midnight, Fri-Sun 10am-2am.

kilkenny

Kilkenny/Peterjon Cresswell

Many first-time visitors to Berlin flock to the revamped retail and nightlife hub of Hackescher Markt, where sport-friendly pub Kilkenny is integral to the station building, its terrace spreading out over the cobblestoned square.

It was opened in 1992, soon after Reunification and just as former Marx-Engels-Platz station was being redeveloped. No better time, therefore, for Mel McNally to expand his empire East. An architecture graduate from Dublin, McNally had studied Irish pubs in depth, and was exporting the concept, literally lock, stock and barrels, far beyond the Irish Sea.

Award-winning Kilkenny became one of 2,000-plus he built from the ground up in various styles, gastro, Celtic, Victorian. The centrepiece is its traditional bar, where pints of Berliner Graf-Hacke Pils, König Ludwig Weizen, Guinness and Kilkenny are presented in swift, friendly manner.

Food, served until 10pm, involves Irish breakfasts, Irish stews, fish & chips and the like. Live music shares the spotlight four nights a week with live sport, with open-mic sessions on Mondays.

The station location not only encourages footfall for tourists visiting Alexanderplatz but facilitates any onward journey via Berlin’s main S-Bahn transport artery, as immortalised by Iggy Pop in The Passenger.

Kilkenny, Am Zwirngraben 17-20, 10178 Berlin. S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt. Open Mon-Thur & Sun 10am-midnight, Fri-Sat 10am-2am.

puschel's pub

Puschel's Pub/Peterjon Cresswell

A local bar for local people, Puschel’s Pub is just what you need when you want to catch the match with like-minded football lovers in a casual, intimate space. Puschel’s takes the dutiful game seriously enough to warrant complete focus on the large screen in the bowels of the bar, while lending a humorous touch with some of its décor.

If the average age of the clientele were 20 years younger, this could be referred to in German as a Kult-Kneipe but, as the regulars here aren’t looking to be part of, or indeed create, any kind of scene, just knock back the Berliner Kindls and follow football, cult bars are best left to others over in former East Berlin.

Somehow, Newky Brown has elbowed its way to stake its place among the beer taps, the wheat beer is Schöfferhofer and your Kindl will come with a de rigueur frilly doily around the stem of the glass. There’s beer food, too, though probably not enough room to tuck into it on a busy match night unless you’ve claimed a prime spot at the bar counter.

Seats outside overlook the busy street life of Potsdamer Straße, a few convenient paces from Kurfürstenstraße U-Bahn. This summer, look out for any original T-shirts on offer – the ones from 2006 are collectors’ items.

Puschel’s Pub, Potsdamer Straße 112, 10785 Berlin. U1/U3 to Kurfürstenstraße. Open Tue-Fri 3pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 1pm-11pm.

the pub

The Pub/Peterjon Cresswell

The PUB shares the same name and logo as its Czech-chain cousins, although this long-established Berlin outpost of the franchise begun in Plzeň, home of Pilsner Urquell, has since broken away from the mothership. In fact, as a brand, The PUB (‘Pilsner Unique Bar’) barely survived the pandemic, closing down in its home town and elsewhere.

Given the location here, however, halfway between Hackescher Markt and Alexanderplatz deep in tourist central, and its terrace spreading out beneath the S-Bahn railway, it’s no surprise that this bar under the arches bounced back to thrive. It still owes much of its success to concepts hanging over from the Plzeň days, keeping the gimmick of allowing customers to pour their own beer from taps at their table.

The beer these days is Berliner Kindl, though Czech Krušovice is also available, along with Schöfferhofer wheat and Guinness. Food is mainly burgers, including the Hangover variety with bacon and fried onions, although another Krušovice is probably just as efficacious.

The other hangover from the Czech days is TV football, an essential element in the equation, although the PUB is more suited to big tournaments than random Bundesliga games.

The PUB, Rochstraße 14, 10178 Berlin. S-Bahn to Hackescher Markt or Alexanderplatz. Open Mon-Thur & Sun 6pm-2am, Fri-Sat 6pm-3am.

zur insel

Zur Insel/Peterjon Cresswell

Near Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportpark, the closest East Berlin ever got to a showcase stadium, this unassuming bar is a shrine to the football heritage of the GDR. In fact, GDR culture in general, given the children’s toys in their original boxes, beermats, cigarette packets, propaganda posters, the works.

But it’s the soccer stuff you’re immediately drawn to, those blue shirts with the white V-necked collar and ‘DDR’ emblazoned over the hammer-and-compass badge. There’s photographic evidence of the greatest triumph in the GDR game, the 1-0 over hosts West Germany at the 1974 World Cup – those watching it on TV in this street would have been in the very shadow of the Berlin Wall.

Intriguingly, while curious tourists do frequent the place – it can’t be more than two minutes from Eberswalder Straße U-Bahn station, including waiting for the lights to change – the bulk of the clientele is older locals, who would have lived through the whole experience with no inkling that one day the Wall would just fall away.

Jürgen Sparwasser, for example, who scored that single goal in ’74 to strike a blow for the East, defected as late as 1988 at considerable risk to himself and his family.

Prices here are kept reasonable in any case, keeping the regulars happily drinking in the nostalgia around the busy bar counter. There’s even a TV showing football, although sadly not an original 1961 Alex.

Zur Insel, Eberswalder Straße 23, 10435 Berlin. U2 to Eberswalder Straße. Open Mon-Fri 11am-11pm, Sat-Sun noon-midnight.