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EHF Euro 2024 (Handball) at the Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin

EHF Euro 2024 at Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin

4

Rating

4.0/5

Flyctory.com Pros

  • Excellent location and good transportation options from the venue
  • Great range of services around the arena
  • Very nice size in regards of the event

Flyctory.com Cons

  • Catering in the arena slow and too expansive
  • Very limited merchandise options

Seeing one of the very first appearances of the Faroe Islands at a EHF Euro in handball just felt too tempting. Even though some of the train drivers in Germany were on strike, we made it to Berlin on 13th January 2024. The Saturday match day brought us to Mercedes-Benz Arena in the German capital – a venue, which I just had visited before once, for an ice hockey match. Here is my arena review.

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – Location & Transport

Mercedes-Benz Area is located close to the river Spree. Country music fans know the area very well. Mercedes Platz (“Mercedes Square”) where it is located, hosts the Country To Country festival at its secondary venue, the Verti Music Hall. The area features multiple restaurants of different cuisines and styles and three hotels, including the Hampton by Hilton Berlin East Side Gallery, where we stayed this time again. Next to the Mercedes-Benz Arena is also the East Side Mall, an average place, which however features two grocery stores and a couple of quick food outlets in its food court.

The traffic situation is mixed, I would say. Thee are numerous parking garages around the venue. One major one is shared with the Hampton hotel and the indigo Berlin East Side Gallery. Mercedes Platz as such can only be reached by bus . Line 300 also connects to Ostbahnhof (Berlin East Station), which is in walking distance and even features national high speed rail connections. East of the arena is the Warschauer Strasse stop, which features S-Bahn commuter rail, underground connections (U1, U2 line) as well as tram (M10) and bus connections. Based on that the location is rather central, the traffic connection is thus quite ideal. I definitely would favor public transport over going there by car, though… Driving in Berlin is special.

 

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – Arena & Ticket Situation

The Mercedes-Benz Arena (formerly known as O2 World Berlin) has been opened in 2008. The venue has a capacity of 14,200 for ice hockey, 14.500 for basketball and some 17,000, depending on the layout, for concerts. This also names the two main sports franchises playing there, ice hockey club Eisbären Berlin and basketball team Alba Berlin. There is an upper and a lower rank. While the lower rank is a full circle, the upper rank is U-shaped only. We had a seat behind one of the goals. Getting there was rather easy and seating was cozy. However, it is rather remarkable how small the central jumbotron is, compared to other arenas (especially compared to those in the United States). The arena and the Eisbären are, by the way driven by Anschutz Entertainment. Thus, the Berlin ice hockey franchise is somehow a sister one of the Los Angeles Kings.

While tickets for basketball team Alba should be rather doable to get (maybe apart from a few top matches), you should rather care for it rather early if you want to see an Eisbären ice hockey match in the German top league DEL. For the EHF Euro 2024, Berlin hosted a couple of preliminary round match days. You always bought day tickets for two matches. Match days including the German team were significantly more popular and had a higher price. However, especially the Faroese (!) team, who came with roughly 5,000, maybe more, spectators, did cause a certain pressure on ticket sales as well. Overall, the ticket situation was rather relaxed, though.

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – Atmosphere

We had two matches, Poland vs. Slovenia followed by Faroe Islands vs. Norway. In regards of the atmosphere, the matches were that different. There were two key factors for that. Even though the Polish border is not too far away from Berlin and the team had quite some support from local Polish people as well as people traveling to Berlin, they just could not beat the massive support by the Faroese crowd. Secondly, the first match was a clear victory for the Slovenian team, which the Faroe Islands and Norway had an epic battle with a David vs. Goliath story, which caught the spectators. Typically, European fans do tend to support their team without pushed by the speaker. However, the first match might have needed a bit of motivation through the stadium PA, other than kiss cams, drum cams and similar video screen games.

I have to say that the European Championship atmosphere was majorly driven by the people. There were not too many sponsors or other opportunities to get together. Berlin had a fan village in a pub not too far from the arena, but it opened not that early before the matches. However, one of the sponsors made you be a handball goalie against a robot throwing balls, which was quite fun. A grocery chain gave some free fruit and smoothies, which I really liked – apart from that it produced masses of plastic waste.

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – Food & Shopping

In the lower ranks of the arena, the situation of food booths felt to be rather weird. The food offered was rather limited, sausage, burger, fries and pizza. There is much more variety in other similar places. We had Currywurst (curry spiced sauce sausage) with fries, which was simply too small for 10 EUR. The pretzels felt very crispy (too long in the heated area?). Overall, I did not like the food service in Mercedes-Benz Arena. If you collect a 3 Euro cup deposit (which I generally support), why do you have to queue over 15 minutes to return it? In general, the service between the two matches scheduled, was simply too slow. Grabbing food, having a too small bite and returning the cup overall took some 50 minutes.

Vice versa, I was quite amazed how many different alcoholic drinks were on sale in the arena. I also feel that an 0.3 liter Gin & Tonic for 11 Euro feels like quite a bargain compared to a 6.50 EUR half liter Coke. In regards of merchandise, the EHF Euro strategy reminded me of my recent Ice Hockey World Cup experience. There were two merchandise booths in the arena with a few items, at least with a reasonable price. You could buy German national team jerseys, but no item from any of the other teams. I am sure that there are some sponsoring and legal reasons for that, but as a fan, this simply sucks. If you visit Mercedes-Benz Arena for the Eisbären Berlin, the capital’s ice hockey team, you can also use a pretty nice merch store right at Mercedes Platz.

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – Service

Within the arena, I had pretty big issues connecting to the internet. At my seat, there was very limited mobile network reception and the arena’s WiFi was absolutely weak. The mobile network is much better in the concourse, though. The staff was overall friendly. They might feel a bit harsh if you are not used to it – but that’s how Berlin people are. However, when I listened to one catering crew member asking another one after the first match, whether their workday is over now or whether there was a second match, I was not sure if the team is well-managed. By the way, I loved the toilets in Mercedes-Benz Arena – I just don’t get why you don’t make use of the running matches to at least basically clean them.

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin – My View

Mercedes-Benz Arena is a nice place, which needs to have some updates here and there. For the sake of the handball tournament, it also came with a nice size. The services around the arena are amazing and maybe even the best for a major German venue. However, the service inside the arena, especially on the catering side, just did not work out. I was too expansive and too slow. Better go for one of the bites outside the arena and re-fuel only on the liquid side once you passed the gates.

 

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