Germany offers a great variety of cultural and sporting activities. Many Germans are members of a sports club.
Germany is passionate about football and the GermanFootball Association (DFB) is the largest football association in the world with 6.35 million members (8% of the German population) in more than 25,000 clubs. Many German football clubs are among the most popular football brands in Europe, such as Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Munich. Every village has a club and the matches are often the main social event at the weekend. Bear in mind that due to the nature of football fans (a small minority), police presence is often heightened during matches and violence is rare but not unheard of. Other popular team sports include (Olympic) handball (especially popular in the north), ice hockey (“ice hockey”), volleyball and basketball. Motorsports are a popular attraction for visitors, with many famous Formula 1 circuits such as Hockenheim and the Nürburgring (“Green Hell”).
American football is also played in Germany with a tradition that goes back to the 1970s. The German national team is even European champion (2010&2014). Although the crowds are not nearly as big as in more popular sports (2,000 fans is a number many teams only reach at big games), the finals attract between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators. The atmosphere is relaxed, even fans of the visiting teams are welcome and the worst that can happen is that you make fun of your team or its history. On Super Bowl Sunday there is a lot of “public viewing” (that’s the current German term), even if it’s in the middle of the night, and it’s a good opportunity to meet other football fans as well as the local North American expatriate population.
In winter, many people go skiing in the Alps or in mountain ranges such as the Harz, the Eifel, the Bavarian Forest or the Black Forest.
Tennis is one of the most popular individual sports. Although it has declined somewhat since the days of Steffie Graf and Boris Becker, there are still tennis courts in many places, most of which can be rented by the hour.
Almost every medium-sized German city has a spa (often called a Therme) with swimming pools, slides, whirlpools, saunas, steam baths, solar roofs, etc.
Several theatres in major cities perform excellent classical and contemporary plays. Germany prides itself on its wide variety of cultural events and every city develops a cultural programme. Most theatres and opera houses receive generous subsidies to keep tickets affordable, and it is possible to get a seat in many theatres in the single-digit euro range if you get certain discounts.
Germany has several world-class opera houses (notably Berlin, Bayreuth and Munich) and the Berlin Philharmonic is known as one of the top three orchestras in the world. Germany is considered to have one of the strongest classical music traditions in Europe. Many famous composers such as Bach, Handel (called Handel before his move to London in 1712), Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Wagner originated in Germany.
While France and Italy have a longer history with opera, Germany has also developed a unique operatic tradition. German is considered one of the most important opera languages, along with Italian and French. Many German-language operas were composed by famous composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Strauss.
Musicals are popular in Germany. Although a few productions tour from time to time, most shows stay in a particular city for a few years. The main “musical cities” are Hamburg, Berlin, Oberhausen, Stuttgart, Bochum and Cologne. German shows include The Lion King, Wicked, Starlight Express and Rocky.
It is interesting to note that William Shakespeare is held in high esteem in Germany, even in the Anglosphere. This is mainly thanks to Goethe, who fell in love with the Bard’s works. If your German is up to the task, attending a performance can be very interesting. Some Germans think Shakespeare is even better in translation because the language used is more contemporary. Judge for yourself.
In general, German theatres are numerous and – compared to most other Western countries – very cheap because the state considers them “necessary” and subsidises them so that everyone can go, regardless of their income. There are often special discounts for students or older people. Most plays are performed in German, but there are also western events with plays in other languages.