The fourth-biggest stadium in the Bundesliga, Schalke’s Veltins-Arena is home to some of the world’s most passionate fans. One of the most high-tech grounds around – with a retractable roof and a pitch that can be slid outside the stadium if necessary – it also pays homage to the coal miners that helped make Gelsenkirchen an industrial heartland.
Schalke are a working-class club, and their first home – the Glückauf-Kampfbahn – was built on the grounds of a mine in the 1920s with the help of the players themselves. The Royal Blues won their seven national championships while based there – the last came in 1958 – before moving to the Parkstadion in 1973. Built in time for the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the Parkstadion was also used as a venue for the 1988 European Championship and even a visit by the Pope.
With football swiftly changing, however, a new stadium was required to bring fans closer to the pitch and offer more covered seats. In 1998 work began on the Veltins-Arena, which has been Schalke’s home since 2001.
At the time, it became the most modern, multi-functional football stadium in Europe. It includes, after all, a roof that can be closed within 30 minutes, and a pitch that can be pushed outside the stadium so that the hallowed turf will not be damaged during big concerts, winter sports events or boxing bouts.
Watch: Take a closer look at Schalke's home!
Football is what the ground is famous for, however, and one of the most atmospheric venues in Europe now has a capacity of 62, 271 for Bundesliga matches. The tunnel that the players emerge from has become iconic, resembling a coal-mining shaft that many of the club’s fans would have been all-too-familiar with.
The matchday experience is constantly improving, too. In 2016, Schalke made free Wi-Fi available to fans and replaced their impressive four-screen video cube above the pitch – doubling its size to make it the biggest in Europe. New LED floodlights – and the light shows they made possible – were installed two years later.
Amongst the biggest events the ground has hosted to date are the 2004 UEFA Champions League final and five matches during the 2006 World Cup.
By car: The Veltins-Arena is over 600 kilometres north-west of Munich and over 500 kilometres west of Berlin, but only about 40 kilometres from the home of Schalke’s rivals Dortmund. Exit 6 on the A2 motorway and Exit 17 on the A42 will take you to the stadium. The closest international airport is Düsseldorf, which is the third largest in Germany and only 40 minutes away by car. Cologne-Bonn airport is an hour’s drive away, while Frankfurt – the biggest airport in the country – is over 250 kilometres south-east.
Parking: There are 14,000 parking spaces at the ground. If you’re feeling adventurous and environmentally friendly, there are also around 600 secure bicycle spaces available.
By train: Situated on the northern edge of Gelsenkirchen, Schalke’s home is a 16-minute tram ride from the city’s main train station. The Gelsenkirchen Hauptbahnhof tram stop is on the lower level of the central station. Taking the number 302 tram from there in the direction of GE-Buer will bring you directly to the Veltins-Arena stop. The good news is that your match ticket entitles you to use public transport free of charge to travel to and from the ground on the day of a game.
All sorts of blue and white gear is available from the official club store, ranging from jerseys, flags, and scarves to pillows and dog bowls. The shop is open from 9am-6pm Monday-Friday and 9am-2pm on Saturdays, as well as on matchdays.
If planning to buy food and drink inside the ground on matchday, though, remember that Schalke do not accept cash payments – more information on their Knappen cards system can be found here.
Want to see the home dressing room and the famous tunnel from which the players enter the field? Want to learn more about how the pitch can be moved, how the roof opens and closes, and how the video cube works? Then book yourself in for a tour of the stadium, which lasts about 75 minutes and features English-speaking guides. You’ll also learn plenty more about the history and working-class roots of the five-time DFB Cup winners and 1996/97 UEFA Cup champions. Tours also include entrance to the Schalke Museum, where you can check out some of the silverware for yourself.
Did you know?
If you do tour the Veltins-Arena, you’ll get to see the chapel inside the ground. Located at a prominent location near the dressing rooms, it welcomes people of all faiths and none. Over 2000 children have been baptised in the chapel and over 1000 weddings and anniversaries have been celebrated there since it was inaugurated in August 2001.