Sleepy hamlet within Dietmar Hopp’s domain

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

Hoffenheim, a village near Heidelberg of just over 3,000 people, supports a club of nearly 6,000 members. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim have notched up ten consecutive seasons in the Bundesliga – after playing professional football for only six. 

This absolutely remarkable achievement has not pleased everyone in the German game, the deep pockets of ex-Hoffenheim youth player and software billionaire, Heidelberg-born Dietmar Hopp, funding not only a top-flight football club but a spanking new stadium opened halfway through his club’s first Bundesliga season.

Though finishing a very creditable seventh in that first year, Hoffenheim were everyone’s tip for the drop in 2012-13. Despite a bottom-two position for much of the spring, the Blue and Whites surprised many by overcoming Bundesliga hopefuls Kaiserslautern in both legs of the play-off, and live to fight another day with the Bayerns and Dortmunds of this world. 

By 2017-18, they were within one game of qualifying for the Champions League group stage, only to gain the right automatically a year later. After the visit of Liverpool for that vital tie in 2017, it’s Manchester City in 2018-19.

Their stadium is the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, whose capacity of 30,000-plus is ten times (!) the population of Hoffenheim. Its location, though, is in the nearest town of Sinsheim (population 35,000) a short S-Bahn hop from Hoffenheim. Though with its own station on the same S-Bahn line, Hoffenheim is today the largest of a dozen villages considered suburbs of Sinsheim.

A steep climb from Hoffenheim station is the club’s modest old stadium, named after its patron Dietmar Hopp and surrounded by quiet houses. Sinsheim has shops, bars and hotels, and the quirky Technology Museum that was recently the only reason to visit. The Rhein-Neckar now beckons beyond the discarded Concordes and Tupolëvs that create a surreal horizon above the sprawling museum grounds.

Nearby stands one of Germany’s nicest stadium hotels, the four-star Sinsheim – another feature that would grace a town ten times the size of Hoffenheim.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and tips

The nearest airport to Sinsheim is Frankfurt 112km (70 miles) away. By train directly from the airport, it’s a relatively simple journey of 1hr 20mins by high-speed ICE (changing at Mannheim, ticket €30 online) or just under 2hrs if changing at Mannheim for the S-Bahn to Heidelberg. A taxi (+49 7261 3777) would cost around €150.

If you’re setting off from Heidelberg, take S-Bahn S5 (every hour, 35min journey time, direction Eppingen) that follows the river and calls at Hoffenheim, central Sinsheim (Elsenz) Hbf and Sinsheim Museum/Arena.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Main Bahnhofstraße leading to Sinsheim (Elsenz) station contains a number of cafés and restaurants. At No.14, Quints has decided that a smart, gastro approach is preferable to a bar run by a football-focused boss, so the photos of him with various players and framed shirts have been packed away. It’s still a pleasant spot, all the same. 

At No.6, the Drei Könige is similar in offer, with a sun-catching terrace. Just behind it on Burggasse, the Alte Scheune makes more of its outdoor space, a leafy Biergarten. The Gasthaus zum Lamm on Hauptstraße is more trendy in its gastro approach.

On the other side of Bahnhofstraße, by Metzgerei Dick, the butcher’s, on Kleine Badegasse, Turkish-run football bar Bistro Zentrum shows games and  flies the flag for Hoffenheim. Nearby on Karlsplatz, the evening-only Rock Café also screens matches and blares out a guitar-driven din in between. Behind, on Freitagsgasse, cocktail-focused Subito would be a more refined choice of match-watching venue.

Also recommended is the Restaurant Grill-Burger Neuer Bahnhof, the former Schmidts, an excellent railway bar/restaurant established at Sinsheim station in 1868, adapted for modern-day use with live TV football, DJs and a roof terrace in summer. The conservatory adjoining the lovely main bar room overlooks the platform.

Nearer Hoffenheim station, at the old TSG 1899 ground, the Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion, authentic Italian cuisine is served at the clubhouse Fair Play on Silbergasse (Tue-Sat 5pm-11.30pm, Sun 11am-11.30pm), where TSG 1899 line-ups stand proudly alongside Cannavaro and the boys lifting the 2006 World Cup.

Past today’s stadium, near Steinsfurt station on the very eastern outskirts of Sinsheim, the TSV Biergarten zum Phoenix opened in 2020 to serve the local team TSV Phönix Steinsfurt 1910, whose friends and family members can lay into litre Steins of Hacker-Pschorr and Augustiner Hell while casting an occasional eye on the Kreisliga action alongside. A train from Steinsfurt can whisk you back to Sinsheim in five minutes.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and town centre

Sinsheimer Erlebnisregion has a German-only database of accommodation with a booking function.

The four-star Hotel Sinsheim is located almost exactly between Sinsheim Museum/Arena and the stadium, and a 7-10min walk to either. Setting the right balance between boutiquey and business, it features a spa area downstairs and quality restaurant and lounge bar by the lobby. There are no match packages as such, but reservation for big visits are recommended. Room 421 overlooks the stadium.

On the stadium side of town, the Hotel Bär is a friendly, local place patronised by visiting actors, entertainers and, according to the photos in the lobby, Uwe Seeler, Fritz Walter and various Schalke players. Look out too, for evidence of overnighters by DJ (Hey Baby) Otzi, Scooter and, bizarrely, Christopher Lee. Angela Merkel didn’t stay here, apparently, but one of her aides did. The celebrity guests may or may not have used the sauna and dined at the adjoining Italian restaurant.

The other main lodging in town, also on Hauptstraße, is the modern, mid-range Hotel Zum Prinzen, comprising 45 rooms and various apartments. Just off Hauptstraße on Burggasse, the Gästezimmer am Burgplatz provides convenience and standard comfort at under €50 a single and under €80 a double.