I wasn't a huge fan before I moved here. I'm still not, by European standards, but I understand the game (as one of the millions of Americans that played soccer as a kid) and I love watching the World Cup and getting caught up in the excitement. It's sort of like the Olympics - but so much more -because most of the world gets WAY more into the World Cup than they do the Olympics. And luckily for me, Germany almost always fields a good team, which means there should be several weeks of getting to scream and cheer and bond with all manner of locals at public viewings across town. And of course I'm also really looking forward to the U.S v. Germany game on the 26th! And while I would like to pull for my Americans in that one - I'll be cheering for both sides - I'm going to have to put my money on Germany (or should I risk it and go for the underdog? It's not often that the U.S. is an underdog in the international sports arena).
The World Cup will also forever hold a special place in my heart because it was my introduction to Germany. I moved to Berlin four years ago right before the start of the games in South Africa. And of course I had no idea what summertime in Germany + World Cup madness would bring! I remember a Sunday afternoon riding my bike around the streets of Berlin, marveling at the complete silence and lack of cars or any motion in the streets... it was because the entire population of the city had crammed themselves into bars and homes across town to watch the game on television. Only when Germany scored a goal was the dead silence pierced by raucous screaming, cheering, horns tooting, bells ringing, whistling... and general cacophony from behind the walls of those unassuming buildings. A couple minutes later, and everyone had returned their attention to their beers and the game playing out on the screen. Another goal by Germany... rinse, lather, repeat.
That World Cup also originally introduced me to the idea of "public viewing" - Berlin's not a beer garden kind of town like Munich, but what they did was create an entire "fan mile", closing down the streets around the Brandenburger Tor and erecting giant screens to watch the games. In Munich, it's mostly about bringing a picnic and finding a good spot in the beer garden. The following are my suggestions for good places to watch the games:
1. Hofbräukeller am Wienerplatz
As my list of Munich's Best Beer Gardens indicated, this is one of my favorite places for public viewing. It's small enough that you should always have a decent view of the game without obstruction from wayward trees or structures.
This is the place to go to watch Spain play (if you are cheering for Spain). All the Spaniards gather here for games, and it is a passionate, enthusiastic crowd.
3. Kino am Olympiasee
It's an outdoor movie theater in the middle of the Olympia Park, and during the World Cup they project the game on the huge screen - the screen is definitely way better than anything you'll find in one of the beer gardens!
Always a favorite... huge beer garden with multiple screens dotted around the grounds.
It's usually a concert hall, but it'll be taken over by World Cup party fever for the next month. It's a big venue with multiple indoor and outdoor public viewing areas.
This is the usual summer festival in Olympia Park that happens every July (it opens this year on July 2nd)- always a good place to spend a summer evening. And during the World Cup they have a special viewing area set up so that you can enjoy Tollwood and the World Cup simultaneously!
So those are some of "big" places for watching the games, where you can be in the company of thousands of other fans, and undoubtedly encounter an enthusiastic crowd. There are also hundreds of bars and cafes around Munich that will be showing the games - in fact, it would be rare to encounter a place that doesn't have a television set up for public viewing (after all, that would be a bad business decision as it would result in a huge exodus of customers!).