Classic Ruhr groundhop now back in the Bundesliga

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

A groundhopper’s dream, Germany’s Ruhr area developed around coal mines, steel mills and traditional football hubs, most notably Dortmund, Schalke and… Bochum.

While overshadowed by the two rivals in the Revierderby, both winners of European trophies in 1997, VfL Bochum are known for tenaciously clinging to Bundesliga status, hence their nickname of die Unabsteigbaren: the Undescendables.

Following promotion to the top tier in 2021, the Blues seem to have adopted the same trait as their predecessors of four decades ago. It may be no Yellow Wall, but Bochum fill their Ruhrstadion ground close to its 26,000 capacity for all home games. 

While the year on Bochum’s badge is an impressively venerable 1848, the story really starts at this same site, on Castroper Straße, in 1911. The previous date refers to the formation of a short-lived gymnastics club, part of a national movement to train young Germans for, essentially, combat.

By the run-up to World War I, when Europe’s largest industrial region turned to munitions manufacture, Bochum had embraced the round-ball game. Founded in 1906, working-class Fußballklub Bochum played ad-hoc sessions until local textiles entrepreneur Otto Wüst made them a more serious enterprise after his arrival in 1910. A change of name to Germania suited the prevailing mood. The black-and-blues soon be based at Sportplatz an der Castroper Straße.

The location stemmed from the initiative of Germania’s local rivals, the bourgeois Sus Bochum 08, who persuaded the owner of a field north-east of Bochum to lease them the land for matches. Dieckmann’s Meadow, where you find today’s Ruhrstadion, is still surrounded by greenery, close to the City Park and zoo. 

This was far enough from town to offer uncluttered space but close enough to be on the city’s tram network. Here, on October 8, 1911, 500 spectators watched Sus Bochum 08 take on a team from Hamm, on the other side of Dortmund.

The third team in town were TV Bochum 1848, honouring the original gymnastics club from half a century earlier. To the east of Bochum, in the then separate community of Wattenscheid, two local teams merged in 1909, the date used to identify the new entity, which would feature in the Bundesliga in the early 1990s.

With the Ruhr in chaos after 1918, and Germans keen on holding on to its economic potential, SuS and TV Bochum joined forces to re-establish football in the city. Backed by industrialists who had done well out of the war, TuS 1848 Bochum set about building a proper stadium on Castroper Straße, one capable of holding 50,000 people, huge for its day.

The first visitors in 1921 were local rivals Düsseldorf 1899, whose own stadium staged the showcase German Championship final that June, in front of 27,000. The following year, 35,000 gathered at the Sportplatz an der Castroper Straße in Bochum for a full international between Germany and Hungary, a goalless draw.

With French and Belgian troops then occupying the Ruhr, the vast Sportplatz would be underused for decades, until the national side revisited after its 1979 rebuild. Spectators at the renamed Ruhrstadion were then treated to eight goals, three from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, when Finland were tonked 7-1.

After 1924, when gymnastics associations broke with their attached football clubs over gambling, clubs had to choose which path to follow. A breakaway section from TuS 1848 Bochum stayed true to their heritage, playing against modest opponents otherwise focused on the healthy pursuit of exercise.

Germania, meanwhile, had no such qualms. When the Nazi reorganisation of football in 1933 imposed the Gauliga system across the regions, the Bochum side became founder members of the Westphalia division, alongside the strongest team in all Germany, Schalke 04.

The Sportplatz on Castroper Straße would not just host football matches however, but Nazi rallies and parades – Hitler even gave a speech there in 1932. A year later, an unremarkable clerk, Otto Leopold Piclum, a dedicated editor of the Nazi press, was elevated to public office in his home town of Bochum by Herman Göring. As a virulently anti-Jewish mayor, Piclum was keen on pleasing his superiors and showing his town in the best light under the new régime. 

In 1936, Germania had finished runners-up to the dominant Schalke – some way behind, it must be said, the Gelsenkirchen club hitting 94 goals (!) in 18 games. Piclum could see his chance to gain reflected glory. In 1938, the mayor decided to create one superclub, VfL Bochum, from the city’s three main teams: TuS Bochum; their former clubmates attached to the gymnastics association since 1924, and Germania.

This way, Schalke 04 would be faced with credible opponents, and Bochum granted a more level playing field. Mayor Piclum even chose Georg Hochgesang as coach, hiring a key member of the great 1. FC Nürnberg side of the 1920s, a former German international. In their first season, the unified Bochum team finished only seven points behind the champions – and four ahead of Borussia Dortmund.

The Gauliga Westfalen continued through most of the war, even when the Allied bombing campaign of the Ruhr stepped up in 1943, mayors such as Piclum thinking it boosted morale on the home front.

By 1944, however, with much of Germany’s industrial heartland flattened, and mayor Piclum sent back to pen-pushing, a beleaguered VfL could only compete as part of a makeshift team with Preußen Bochum. Their last game, as late in the war as October 1944, was abandoned after 75 minutes when the players were plunged into darkness.

With the Ruhr under British command from the spring of 1945, a modest regional league, the Landesliga Westfalen, was permitted to start up that September.

Little affected by the bombing, remarkably, the Sportplatz had been commandeered by the British authorities, but VfL could use it from the following spring, condemning Wattenscheid to relegation with a 10-0 whitewash.

With currency reform and rapid economic regrowth from the late 1940s – although the Ruhr’s coal and steel capabilities were severely restricted – the authorities in Bochum were able to redevelop the Sportplatz from the 1950s onwards.

VfL competed at regional level, as every club did in the pre-Bundesliga era, and wouldn’t reach the top flight until 1971. To do so, they required a better goal difference than Fortuna Düsseldorf – narrow margins continued to work in the club’s favour in the desperately tight relegation battles of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Without the pedigree of a Dortmund or a Schalke, however, Bochum was regularly sidelined when it came to building a new stadium in the boom years from the late 1960s onwards. Eventually, the Ruhrstadion was created from the old Sportplatz an der Castroper Straße in 1979, and would soon witness its first full international. In 2011, it co-hosted the Women’s World Cup.

Days before the tournament started, Ottokar Wüst passed away in his home town of Bochum. President of VfL from 1966 to 1993, overseeing the club’s 22-year run in Germany’s top flight, not to mention the development of the Ruhrstadion, Wüst was directly linked to the origins of the game in Bochum. His father Otto had been the textiles entrepreneur who had created a proper team out of Fußballklub Bochum in 1910 and turned them into Germania.

As a young man, Wüst junior had played for the newly formed VfL Bochum, later taking over his father’s clothing store and entering the football club’s boardroom in the early 1960s. Hiring and firing coaches to keep VfL in the elite, Wüst bowed out following relegation in 1993 but remained honorary president. He now has his own plaque in a corner of the stadium named after him.

Ironically, Wattenscheid 09 would outlast Bochum in the Bundesliga for just one more season, dropping down in 1994. For three years previously, the pair met at this top level for the Kleines Revierderby, the more modest version of the titanic clashes between Dortmund and Schalke.

Currently, the Schwarz und Weiß are in bad shape, having dropped down from the Regionalliga in 2023 to flounder in the fifth-tier Oberliga Westfalen. Their home, the Lohrheidestadion, is being rebuilt to host the athletics events for the World University Games in 2025 – several German national championships have taken already place there.

Wattenscheid, meanwhile, are having to move fixtures around the reconstruction schedule. The club charges €11 admission, home fans allocated sectors K-L and M of the covered Osttribüne, visiting supporters in J and K of the Osttribüne. All other areas of the ground, including the home Südkurve and away Nordkurve, are out of bounds until 2025. Stauder beer from Essen and Thiers bratwurst are served in the Fantreff behind the Osttribüne.

Lohrheidestadion has its own stop on the 365 bus route. From Bochum main station, take S-Bahn S1 (direction Essen) to Bochum-Wattenscheid-Höntrop, then bus 365 (direction Bochum Ottostraße). Overall journey time is 30mins, frequency 30mins. This is fare zone A3, single ticket from Bochum €3.40.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

The nearest airport to Bochum is Dortmund, 32km (20 miles) east. An hourly Airport Express bus runs to Dortmund Hbf main station (€10 from the ticket machine or cash on board, 25min journey time). From there, the S1 S-Bahn runs every 15mins to Bochum Hbf main station, journey time 25mins, single ticket €7 (Preisstufe B) valid for 2hrs, 24hr ticket €17. Hopping around with VRR regional transport can also work out cheaper by using its eezy app.

A Dortmund Airport Taxi to Dortmund Hbf should cost €35, all the way to Bochum €70-€75. A local Bochum service such as Taxi Ünal (+49 176 621 18266) may charge less, to the airport at least. They also offer transfers to Düsseldorf and Cologne.

Busier Düsseldorf Airport is 44km (27 miles) south-west of Bochum, the airport connected by free Skytrain to Düsseldorf Airport train station. From there, either take S-Bahn S1 direct to Bochum Hbf or a regional train (RE) to Essen Hbf, then change onto the S1. Journey time in all cases is around 1hr, eezy-ticket price €12, single €18.

TaxiRuf Düsseldorf (+49 211 71 41 41) offers all kinds of airport transfers. A cab to Düsseldorf main station should cost around €30.

Bochum Hbf is on the southern edge of the city centre – the stadium is to the east, two stops on the swift VRR regional tram network or an easy walk from town. A single ticket is €2.10 or use VRR’s eezy app. A network of regional buses operated by Bogestra serves outlying destinations such as Wuppertal.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Many cities in the German-speaking world have a Bermuda Triangle of nightspots – Bochum’s is near the station, just south-west of the centre along and off Kortumstraße. It even has its own tram stop, Bochum Bermuda3eck/Musikforum.

Most places serve drinks till late, some opening mid-afternoon, such as Mississippi Bochum, with its TV screens for sport, popular cocktails and extensive food menu. Its terrace fills in summer. Opposite, intimate Pinte puts the focus on beer, namely DAB from Dortmund and Schlösser Alt from Düsseldorf.

Back across the street, Freibeuter keeps the party going until 3am five nights of the week, 5am at weekends. Towards the station, you’ll find retro party bar Flashbacks (Thur-Sat from 5pm) and pool hall/sports bar, the Cotton Club.

At the other end of the party vortex, Zacher on Brüderstraße combines TV sport with sought-after beers, table football and occasional live sets. Close by on Kergwege, Schulz does not mess about when it comes to late-night fun, Thursday through to Sunday morning. 

Further up in the heart of Bochum, the Ratskeller is more than just a restaurant set in faux historic surroundings but a terrace bar and party spot. 

Towards the northern end of the city centre, at Trinkhalle on Herner Straße, friendly staff serve rare beers from 6pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays while a loyal, savvy clientele battle each other at table football. Across the street, Germanic Irish pub Paddy’s offers Guinness, Kilkenny and sundry whiskeys. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

The regional Nord-Rhein Westfalen tourist information site has a hotel database

The nearest lodging to the stadium, Moxy Bochum, the former Hotel Stay, now in Marriott’s economy lifestyle portfolio, comprises 177 bright rooms, a bar and dining area. Linked to the RuhrCongress complex, it’s a minute’s walk from the Ruhrstadion.

Near the station and the tram to the stadium, the funky four-star Mercure Bochum City defies the stereotypes of this otherwise wallet-friendly chain. Under the same Accor umbrella, the other side of the station, the ibis Bochum Zentrum offers convenience in economy surroundings.

Also within easy reach of the stadium, on Nordring north of the city centre, Acora Living the City provides the features of a hotel – 24/7 reception, gym, restaurant, buffet breakfast and underground parking – with the benefits of long-term stay apartments. Singles and doubles are also available.