As a bit of a girl (well, I am female), I must admit that on hearing on hearing the word ‘football’ my reaction isn’t exactly one of joy. For a start, I still don’t fully understanding the concept of the offside rule (even if it is explained in terms of purses and shopping queues), and, in one of my finer moments, I thought that Christian Bale played for Spurs.
Nevertheless, whether you’re a football fan or not you can’t escape the fact that Europe is packed with formidable, world-class football teams that are just a stone’s throw away on a city break – and unlike a certain team we won’t mention, they know how to get to a World Cup final and get important goals in the net when it counts. It’s easy to incorporate a trip to Europe’s most impressive stadiums on a city break, and you could be surprised at how they offer a change to the traditional, guide-book-in-hand, gawping-up-at-architecture sightseeing. After a little (ok, a lot of) research, I’ve rounded up some of the best stadiums to visit on a European city break, which even non-football fans should enjoy…
Camp Nou, Barcelona – Football is so engrained into the fabric here that on a city break to Barcelona a visit to Camp Nou (home to world-class FC Barcelona) is among the major attractions at the top of the ‘to do’ list. In fact, second to the Picasso it’s the most visited museum in the city. Not only is this the largest stadium in Europe (seating a mind-boggling 120,000), but the team itself is pretty impressive too. In 2009, FC Barcelona achieved every football fan’s dream – an unblemished win of six trophies in six tournaments, which you have to agree is pretty admirable. As well as the museum, the Camp Nou experience offers visitors the chance to snoop around the press room and changing rooms, walk through the players’ tunnel and out into the stadium itself. You can even visit the chapel where the players say a prayer before going out onto the pitch. This is one experience that definitely lives up to its club motto, Mes Que un Club (More than a Club).
Museum and stadium admission is €13 for adults and €10 for children (6-13).
Check out city breaks to Barcelona.
Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid – This enormous stadium is home to the legendary Real Madrid CF, arch rivals of FC Barcelona and the most successful football club of all time – fact. Mourinho’s super squad were pipped to the post to the title by just 3 points last season, and they’ve put on an equally good show for their stadium visit. Some of the biggest names in the world have played for Real, from Beckham to Ronaldo, Figo to Zidane, and you can follow in their football boots by roaming the players’ tunnel, benches and coaching area and dressing room. Don’t miss the trophy room, which hosts a fairly sizeable and varied silverware collection from UEFA Cups to League cups, the glass lifts which offer amazing panoramic views of the stadium, or the chance to sit in the managerial dug out and make like Mourinho. Even if you’re not the slightest bit interested in football, you should still find it a gratifying experience.
Adult admission is €16, or free if you already have a Madrid Card.
Check out our city break to Madrid.
The Allianz Arena, Munich – If you’re not here for Oktoberfest or the Christmas market, or you are and you’re still sober/you’ve got some spare time on your hands, take a trip to the uber modern and relatively new Allianz Arena, home to current German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. To match its inspiring stadium (it reminds me of the Yaz Hotel in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit), Bayern just happen to be the most successful club in German football, with 22 German titles and 15 cups under their belts. The stadium seats 69,000 and tours are available at 3 levels – Fan Tours, VIP Tours and Kids Tours. If you really want to take it all in, plump for the VIP option which allows the chance to snoop around the executive suite and coaching dug out, go pitch side and visit the all elusive dressing room. To add a little VIP glamour, you’ll even be treated to a glass of champagne at the end.
The tour lasts 120 minutes and is priced at €25 per person.
Check out our city breaks to Munich.
San Siro, Milan –Two of the biggest teams in Europe in one fantastic city, and in one stadium – yes, the San Siro is (conveniently) home to AC and current Champions League holders Inter Milan. For that reason alone the stadium is worth visiting on a city break here. Famous players gracing the San Siro pitch include the internationally acclaimed Ronaldinho and Kevin-Prince Boateng, with current stars also including Ibrahimovic for AC Milan and Scneijder and Samuel Eto for Inter Milan. AC Milan alone has won four world titles (more than any other club in the world), and has won the Champions League a whopping 7 times, only being superseded by Real Madrid. Take a look around the museum which features real size statues and a video history of the teams, then the stadium itself.
Adult admission is €12,50.
Le Parc des Princes Stadium, Paris – Ok, so it’s not quite in the same league as the Spanish super sides, but if you fancy a break from climbing the Eiffel Tower and clocking loved up couples strolling down the Champs Elysees, take the Metro to Le Parc des Princes Stadium, home to local side Paris St-Germain (PSG). At 60,000 seat capacity the stadium is modest compared to the likes of Camp Nou, and the same could be said for PSG’s pitch prowess, with them currently nestled mid-table in the French Premier League (Ligue 1). You should still take a look in the museum though and tour the trophies room, VIP room, stadium and clubhouse.
Tours occur every Wednesday (except match day and the days either side of it), last approx 45 mins and start at €10.
Check out our city breaks to Paris.