Carnival city where Jürgen Klopp learned his chops

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

The historic city of Mainz on the Rhine is currently enjoying a soccer boom. Top-flight football never before figured in the history of flagship club 1. FSV Mainz 05, a history that stretches, as name would suggest, back to 1905. 

Now looking forward to 14th season in the Bundesliga, Die Nullfünfer are still basking in the memorable year of 2011 when they finished fifth after starting the season with seven straight wins – and the following summer opened the now named Mewa Arena, one of the newest stadiums in the Bundesliga.

Modern history conspired to give the game in Mainz more complicated early development than in cities such as, say, Nuremberg. Immediately after World War I, the French occupied Mainz until as late as 1930 and reoccupation by the Nazis was swift and brutal.

One of the club’s founding fathers and long-term patrons, Eugen Salomon, was forced to flee to France – he was later murdered at Auschwitz. The war destroyed most of the city and rebuilding was slow.

1. FSV Mainz had been established after a meeting of Salomon and fellow enthusiasts at the long-disappeared Café Neuf on Große Langgasse. Games were later played on a patch of land between today’s Am Fort Gonsenheim and Dr Martin-Luther-King-Weg (previously Bretzenheimer Bruchweg), where first the Sportplatz am Fort Bingen then, from 1929, the Stadion am Bruchweg, were used.

Now occupied by the Mainz reserve side that compete in the fourth-flight Regionalliga Südwest, Bruchweg was where later Dortmund master coach Jürgen Klopp ran out as a forward throughout the 1990s before coaching Mainz here for most of the following decade.

The Klopp era changed Mainz from provincial also-rans to a top-flight football club. It isn’t just the Mewa Arena – the whole city is jumping on a Saturday, bars all over town fly the red and white, and supporters know their football history.

A campaign by fans saw the path leading up to the new stadium named after Eugen Salomon. In 2013, plaques were placed at the last house in Mainz he lived in – overseen by the club, a group of fans and Salomon’s living descendants.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

The nearest airport to Mainz is Frankfurt, only 40km (25 miles) away. A regular direct rail connection between the airport terminal and Mainz main station takes 20-30mins. A local Mainz taxi firm (+49 6131 910 910) would charge €50.

In Mainz, city transport consists of buses and trams. A single ticket is €2.60, a day pass €6.10. The city centre is walkable but it’s a fair stretch from the station to the river.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Bars dot downtown Mainz, particularly the central stretch of Große Langgasse and its later continuation of Weißliliengasse. A few key spots also make a river visit worthwhile.

A fine starting point is the wonderful Onkel Willy’s Pub (Binger Straße 5) near the station, a treasure trove of Hollywood and 05 kitsch, with table football and pool at the back. Nearer the station, Kelly’s Pub offers plentiful match action and live music on Saturdays. It’s in the same family as the below-ground Irish Pub, in the  Weißliliengasse bar hub near Mainz Cathedral.  screens matches and offers live music, too. Next door is the excellent, and popular pre-match Eisgrub-Bräu, which serves its own house beer in three- and five-metre towers, and sausages by the metre. 

On Holzhofstraße, the continuation of Weißliliengasse away from town, mention must be made of the Kölsch-serving, traditional, 05-leaning Kleines Andechs. On parallel Neutorstraße, Nolan’s is probably the best of the city’s Irish pubs, big on TV sport. Closer to town, where Augustinerstraße meets the Hopfengarten, Hopfen & Malz fills the former Zum Schambes with plentiful sought-after draught options.

Back on Große Langgasse, the Sixties is a large, friendly bar dedicated to the party decade, 05-centric with football on TV. Attached outlet Hopfen Hoehle stocks 100 brews. Also on  Große Langgasse, the spacious Porter House pub puts live football first. Further along, Bierstop G1 is just that. If the sun’s out, you could do worse than find a spot on the terrace of rustic Zeitungsente on nearby Neubrunnenstraße.

Towards the river, old locals gather at Die Bierbumb (Frauenlobstraße 57-59), the most demonstrative of the city’s 05 bars. A block away, the terrace at Bistro 23 is a handy spot on a fine day.

further down near the Rhine, bohemian Hafeneck still attracts a fair few 05 fans. Nearby trendier Schröders (Illstraße 14) offers big-screen football before DJs and cocktails take the spotlight.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

Mainz Tourism has a hotel database.

Hotels cluster around Mainz station, starting with the superior AC Hotel Mainz, in the upscale Marriott group, right on Bahnhofplatz. Alongside, the old-school, lower mid-range Königshof and renovated Schottenhof of similar ilk have been accommodating rail travellers for decades, as has the slightly dowdier but comfortable Terminus.

On the other side of the railway bridge that the stadium bus passes over, the InterCity Hotel Mainz offers attractive online advance rates while alongside, me and all is a class apart. It’s not just the unusually shaped building with the blaring motto ‘Mainz, Baby!’ on the façade, this urban retreat  actively promotes local brands, Tante gin, Eulchen beer, Müller coffee, N’Eis ice cream. Guests will also find a 24/7 gym with a sundeck, a sauna and bar hosting Mainz DJs. The 162 rooms feature plentiful pillows and huge TVs with Sky Bundesliga coverage. They also offer packages for Mainz 05 home games. 

These are pretty much the closest hotels to the stadium, also convenient for the train station and city centre.

In town, on Kaiserstraße a short walk from the train station, the Mercure offers mid-range convenience and bright studios fill the GuestHouse Mainz, each equipped with a kitchenette. 

At the Rhine end of the same street, the mid-range Hotel Mainzer Hof takes advantage of its riverside location by offering a panoramic breakfast. All 90 rooms were overhauled in 2021. Further down the waterfront the other side of Theodore Heuss Bridge, the Hilton Mainz gives guests a full view of the river from its Weinstube terrace restaurants and some of the guest rooms.