LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

VfB Stuttgart

Swabians step up a gear to claim place in Euro elite

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Formed in 1912 as an amalgamation of Stuttgarter FV (1893) and Kronen-Club Cannstatt (1897), Verein für Bewegungspiele Stuttgart enjoyed reasonable success in the regional Württemburg league.

After the war, VfB won the more testing Oberliga Süd three times, going on to lift the national title in 1950 and 1952. Pulling the strings was one-armed German international Robert Schlienz, who suffered the injury when driving to play in a cup game in 1948. He later won that same cup twice, in 1954 and 1958, and the club’s reserve team ground is now named after him.

Founding members of the Bundesliga in 1963, VfB suffered relegation in 1975, when influential local politician Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder took over as long-term club president. An attack-minded outfit spearheaded by later legendary coach Ottmar Hitzfeld managed 100 goals in a season, and VfB flew back up.

First under coach Jurgen Sündermann, then Helmut Benthaus, with the Förster brothers at the back and Hansi Müller in midfield, the team of the early 1980s enjoyed record crowds and a UEFA Cup semi-final appearance before the Bundesliga title win of 1984. Jürgen Klinsmann and Guido Buchwald then came on board, VfB losing out to Napoli in the UEFA Cup final of 1989. 

Buchwald made up for this disappointment by heading the winning goal in the last minute of the decisive Bundesliga match at Bayer Leverkusen to give VfB their fourth title in 1992.

That autumn, VfB lost a third match against Leeds, forced through a tactical oversight by later disgraced coach Christoph Daum. European progress was further halted until a sparkling side under Joachim Löw reached the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, with goals by Fredi Bobic and midfield creation coming from Krassimir Balakov. They weren’t enough to prevent Chelsea winning the trophy, 1-0.

With Balakov in sublime form, VfB enjoyed winning runs in the Inter-Toto Cup of 2000 and 2002, before an enthusiastic young side under Felix Magath pipped a star-laden Dortmund to the runners-up spot on the last day of the season – earning VfB a debut slot in the Champions League.

Under Armin Veh, an unfancied VfB finished strongly in 2006-07 to take the title. Locally born Sami Khedira and Mario Gómez were the stars of a side that so nearly did the double – but the subsequent Champions League campaign proved poor.

Despite rather up-and-down seasons thereafter, European football was achieved in 2013-14 with a creditable 3-2 defeat in the German Cup final to champions Bayern Munich. Two-goal Martin Harnik was the VfB hero.

Given VfB’s disappointing league campaign however, coach Armin Veh briefly returned to Stuttgart for 2014-15. With the club in the relegation zone, another returnee, Huub Stevens, managed to keep Stuttgart up – but only just. Two relegations duly followed in swift succession.

Even the return of 2007 title-winner Mario Gómez failed to ignite VfB, although his goal in his last game for the club helped secure them promotion in 2020. Another 2007 veteran, sporting director/CEO, Thomas Hitzlsperger, engineered a mini-revival under Pellegrino Matarazzo before the former Germany international left for a job in TV in 2022.

Just when no-one expected it, all came together in 2023-24. After his successful spell on loan from Rennes in 2022-23, Guinean international Serhou Guirassy hit ten goals in the first five games of the subsequent campaign, then 13 in seven, including a 15-minute hat-trick against Wolfsburg. 

Despite injury, the former French U-20 cap surpassed the previous scoring total set by Mario Gómez to push Stuttgart into a Champions League spot for the first time since that record-breaking season of 2008-09.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the story behind it

The MHP Arena, previously Mercedes Benz Arena, was originally built in the early 1930s on the site of an old aerodrome and the city’s beer festival. Stuttgart’s first proper sports ground was designed by the same architect responsible for the city’s landmark main railway station: Paul Bonatz. 

Similar in style to the neo-classical arenas being built in Berlin and all over Italy at the time, the arena was inaugurated in June 1933 with an exhibition match between Stuttgart and Nuremburg. The Nazis, who had just come to power, named this then 70,000-capacity venue the Adolf Hitler Kampfbahn.

Although the Kampfbahn staged a number of crowd-pleasing sports events, it wasn’t until after the war that the football took centre stage. The renamed Neckarstadion was where West Germany played their first post-war international the same year, 1950, as VfB won their first national title. The German FA give the official attendance against Switzerland as 115,000, a record that will surely never be broken.

Facilities were gradually improved, terraces expanded and floodlights installed, before the Neckarstadion gained a new main stand to host the World Cup of 1974.

After hosting the European Athletics Championships in 1986, Euro 1988, the renamed Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion hosted the World Athletics Championships in 1993, for which improvements included extra roofing and converting standing areas to seated ones.

For the World Cup 2006, new video screens were installed and extra tiers added, giving an overall capacity of 60,000 all seated.

The Haupttribüne stands alongside Mercedesstraße parallel to the Neckar river, with the EnBW-Tribüne opposite. Home fans gather in the Cannstatter Kurve, particularly blocks 34 and 35. 

With clearly signposted access points at the back of the stadium on Benzstraße, visiting supporters are allocated blocks (lower) 61-62, (upper) 68-70 in the corner of the Untertürkheimer Kurve nearest the EnBW-Tribüne.

getting here

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

Your match ticket allows you free transport between station and stadium, the match-day only NeckarPark (Stadion) U-Bahn station on the U11 line from the Hauptbahnhof is just across Mercedesstraße from the stadium. The station is similarly served from Bad Cannstatt on the U19 line.

On the S1 S-Bahn/RE73 regional train line that goes both through Stuttgart main station and Bad Cannstatt, the Neckarpark (Mercedes-Benz) stop is behind the stadium on Benzstraße, near the entrance for away fans. 

Bad Cannstatt itself, one stop (S1, S2, S3) and 5mins from Hauptbahnhof, is a 15min stroll from the stadium and allows access to the most popular pre-match bars. Bus 56 (stop immediately left of the station as you exit) also links Bad Cannstatt and stadium.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

The main two ticket outlets are at the VfB Fan-Center (Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-3pm) outside the stadium’s main entrance on Mercedesstraße; and at the tourist office (VfB City-Shop im i-Punkt; Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-6pm), at the end of pedestrianised Königstraße nearest the train station.

With the four match categories, tickets are priced €52-€80 for a prime seat in the Haupttribüne Mitte (€10-€15 cheaper in Mitte 2 and opposite in the EnBW-Tribüne Mitte. A seat over the corner flags in the main stand or behind the goal in the Untertürkeimer Kurve is €30-€55. The cheapest, standing places (€15-€20) in the lower tier of the Cannstatter Kurve are invariably sold out. The club also has an online service.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

At the VfB Fan-Center (Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 10am-3pm) by the stadium on Mercedesstraße, its windows displaying landmark moments in VfB history, you can find figurines of club mascot Fritzle in furry and bathtub toy forms, plus eggcups, breakfast trays and LED garden lights. 

A more modest range of VfB merchandise is also available at the tourist office (Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 11am-6pm), at the station end of focal Königstraße in town.

Stadium tours

Explore the ground inside and out

The MHPArena runs several types of stadium tour, including match-day and legend-guided, but the standard 90-minute version (€8/€5.50 under-13s) runs Mon-Fri 10am, 1pm and 3pm from the Fan-Center. 

On non-match Saturdays, tours are at 10.30pm and 12.30pm, and in summer there’s an extra one (Mon-Fri only) at 5pm. At least 11 people are required for each tour and English-language guides can be requested.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Bars surround the recreation zone of Bad Cannstatt, a 10min walk from the stadium. Close to the station serving the city resort, the Gaststätte Pfiff (‘Whistle’) has been a popular pre- and post-match drinking and dining spot since it opened back in 1995. The beer is local Schwaben Bräu, affordable, too. 

On the other side of Wilhelmsplatz, by Motel One, Sophie’s Brauhaus is the leafy, Bad Cannstatt branch of the successful traditional pub in town. Close by, The Corner screens games and offers darts, plus Stuttgarter Hofbräu on draught. Alongside, the Gaststätte Jakobsbrunnen embodies cosiness, though it’s an upscale Greek restaurant rather than age-old Bierstube. Beer options include Stuttgart Dinkelacker.

If you’re staying at one of the hotels along Wildunger Straße, Holz-Klotz 5min from Bad Cannstatt station might be a nice place to start your pre-match build-up,  a quiet pub with a big screen.

Towards the stadium on Daimlerstraße, the VfB bar is Karlseck, on the corner of Reichenbachstraße, lined with Cannstatter Kurve scarves, a giant image of Jens Lehmann and Old Warriors iconography.

Around the stadium, the Carl-Benz Centre behind the Cannstatter Kurve, you’ll find Tiki-themed Palm Beach crammed with TVs, beside the Mexican-themed Cancun bar/restaurant. On this same side of the stadium, the Sportrestaurant im Neckarpark, serves the many institutions here, including multisports club VfL Stuttgart alongside. 

Behind the Untertürkeimer Kurve, at Fritz-Walter-Weg 10, the cutesy cabin with the promising Stuttgarter Hofbräu beer sign houses the local Police Sports Club. Painted and porcelain images of Greece (it’s another of Stuttgart’s Greek-run venues) mingle with VfB match pennants (including Napoli ’89) and an impressive trophy cabinet. Open Mon-Fri 11am-2.30pm, 5pm-11pm, Sat 11am-5pm, Sun 11am-8pm.

Pick of the bunch is the excellent VfB Clubrestaurant, with its Swabian specialities (VfB grillsteaks, local spätzle noodles), Stuttgarter Hofbräu beer and terrace. They’ve jazzed up the décor, so you can play guess-the-club as you take in the wall of pennants around the bar, special moments in club history now illustrated by a series of soundbite quotes.

 Reservation on match days is recommended, but there’s usually elbow room at the bar. If you’re here during the week, the daily menu comes in at under €10 – note early closing on Mondays and all day Sunday except for match days.