For the first time since before the pandemic, the new Bundesliga season will kick off this weekend in full stadiums with no capacity restrictions, with clubs hoping it will remain that way throughout.
Alongside top names, talented young players and progressive coaching, the German top flight is renowned for its stadium atmospheres — largely a result of affordable ticket prices and standing terraces, which provide the foundation for a vibrant, socially-inclusive fan culture.
So, how does it all work?
While several English Premier League clubs are re-introducing "safe standing" areas this season, standing terraces have been commonplace in Germany for a long time.
Every stadium in the Bundesliga features at least one unreserved standing section, usually several blocks behind one of the goals, where tickets are substantially cheaper.
Technically, Hertha Berlin's Olympiastadion doesn't have a standing terrace but tickets behind the goal in the Ostkurve are sold as such. The same was true of the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, but actual standing terraces have now been added. Union Berlin's Stadion an der Alten Försterei is famously over 80% terracing.
The average cost of a season ticket (Dauerkarte) in a standing section at a Bundesliga club this season is €196.80, up €10 from before the pandemic, but still working out at just €11.57 per home game.
The Yellow Wall
Germany's most famous standing terrace is the Südtribüne at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, which can house over 24,000 standing fans. However, while famed for its atmosphere, tickets on the "Yellow Wall" are also the most expensive standing season tickets in the league at €240, or €14.11 per game.
Most of the spots on the Südtribüne belong to long-term season ticket holders, but a limited number of individual match tickets (Tageskarten) do go on sale for each home game. Demand is high but if you do manage to get one, they cost more and again are the most expensive in the league at €18.50. A 20% surcharge applies for the biggest two home games of the season: the Revierderby against Schalke and the so-called Klassiker against Bayern Munich.
As for Bayern, yes, you literally can watch the perennial German champions for €10. Less, in fact, with a standing season ticket on the Südkurve terrace costing just €160, or €9.40 per game – the third cheapest in the league. Individual standing tickets, if you can get one, cost €15, plus a €1 processing fee.
Before the pandemic, Bayern actually offered the joint-cheapest season tickets in the Bundesliga but, having increased their prices, that crown now belongs solely to Wolfsburg, who remain very much the people's choice at €145. That's just €8.50 per game.
Admittedly, you have to watch Wolfsburg but, like we said, DW is considering getting one, so you can stand and suffer with us.
The cheap seats
Of course, while standing is cheap and eminently safe, not everyone wants to be stood up and pushed around in a crowd with a restricted view for 90 minutes, with an ultra screaming at you to sing louder through a megaphone.
Demand for standing tickets is high at most clubs, especially Bayern and Dortmund, but also at well-supported clubs like Cologne, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and newly-promoted Schalke.
Unfortunately, whether you are forced to buy a seat, or prefer to, these are substantially more expensive and don't really differ as much from equivalent tickets in other top European leagues. But you still need not break the bank.
Once again, the cheapest seats can be found in Wolfsburg, where the cheapest season ticket is only €220. That's just €12.94 per game, cheaper than a standing ticket at Borussia Dortmund, VfB Stuttgart, VfL Bochum or Union Berlin.
Hertha Berlin also offer eminently affordable seated season tickets at just €249 (€14.64 per game), while Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz 05 also have seats available for under €300. On average, however, the cheapest Bundesliga seats work out at €345 per season, or just over €20 per game — but keep in mind that single tickets are slightly more expensive.
The posh seats
Others, though, are much more expensive. Seated season tickets at Borussia Dortmund cost between €435 and €805 (or €25.60 – €47.35 per game), with individual match tickets costing extra, from €36 at the very top of the quadrants to €61 for the best seats – plus that 20% surcharge against Schalke and Bayern.
Seats at Bayern Munich cost between €375 and €810 (or €22 – €47.64 per game), with individual match tickets costing up to €80.
The most expensive Bundesliga season ticket can be found at Cologne (€910 or €53.50 per game), while the most expensive single matchday ticket this season is for a "category one" match (i.e. Bayern & Dortmund) at RB Leipzig, costing €90.
What else do you need to know?
Coronavirus: As the season kicks off, there are currently no capacity restrictions at Bundesliga stadiums, no vaccine or test requirements, and masks are not mandatory in the ground. They are, however, on trains and public transport.
Free travel: Visitors to Bundesliga matches are often pleased to discover that the cost of local train travel to the stadium is included in the price of a match ticket, and that's no different this season. Just show your ticket, digital or physical, to the train inspector.
A couple of things, though: free travel is generally only valid for three hours before kickoff, and strictly only on local, regional trains (RE/RB) in the immediate local travel region. In other words, not the fast, long-distance trains (ICE/IC/EC). Don't get caught out.
Borussia Dortmund tickets are valid for the entire state of North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), although you have to print off a separate ticket.
Alcohol: Beer and other beverages are on sale at most games, with the exception of certain fixtures which local police might deem to be particularly "high-risk," and can be consumed in the stands while watching the game, unlike in the Premier League.
Away fans: While there are segregated home and away sections, and away fans should try and buy tickets via the away club, away supporters are generally tolerated in home areas. As long as you don't behave in an excessively partisan manner, you'll be fine, even in the away team's colors. With the exception of ...
Ultras: Don't wear the away team's colors in the home club's main standing section. This is reserved for the regular, hardcore support, and is the home of the ultras.
From a distance, the ultras can perhaps appear menacing, but they're not fundamentally violent or criminal and, unlike some of their counterparts abroad, are generally politically rather center-left leaning. In fact, "ultra" is one of largest youth subcultures in German society, a movement which goes beyond the 90 minutes of football. They're there every week, home and away, and the atmosphere wouldn't be the same without them.
Still, they won't take kindly to an away fan in their midst, nor to tourists taking photos of them or trying to film them, so keep your distance if asked.
PANAMA: Bundesliga stadiums may have become safer for everyone in recent years but if, for whatever reason, you feel threatened or unsafe, you can approach a steward, with some clubs operating specific systems.
At Borussia Dortmund, for example, just ask "how to get to Panama?" - a code which every member of staff will understand and know how to help. Similar initiatives also exist at Schalke, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Arminia Bielefeld, and others.