Ever find yourself distracted from the on-pitch action by the awesome stadium architecture? Ok, so that’s pretty unlikely to happen, but that’s not because there aren’t some pretty magnificent stadia out there.
We got thinking about world-wide football stadiums where the magnificent architecture equals the passion of fans who pour through their gates every weekend. Here is our selection of the best ones, which are worth a detour if you’re visiting their city – even if it’s not for a match.
We’ll start off with one very close to home. Wembley stadium: the home of the England national team is located in London, has a capacity of 90,000 and was recently refurbished and re-opened in 2007. The most notable change was the twin towers of the original building being replaced by the iconic Wembley arch. Tours of this stadium are very popular among football fans and people who enjoy striking architecture. During the tour you can pretend you’re one of the players whilst visiting the changing room, feel the tension of match-day experience with a walk down the tunnel leading to the pitch and sit in the interview hot seat in the press box.
Barcelona is a city known for many wonderful sites and a trip to the 100,000 seater Camp Nou is certainly one of them. Take a stadium tour and you can retrace the footsteps of legendary players who have played for one of the most successful clubs in the world. The tour includes a trip around the stadium, insight into the player’s dressing rooms, press box visit and at the end of the tour you can go to the museum and see a collection of trophies and memorabilia associated with the celebrated club.
The venue for 2014’s World Cup final, the Maracanã is among the most famous stadiums in the world and is home to the Brazil national team. Located in Rio de Janeiro, it has a capacity of 96,000. Experiencing it on match days with a traditional Brazilian samba attitude is something we definitely recommend. Of course there’s the slightly quieter stadium tour you can take part in too. Taking place every Monday to Saturday, visitors will have the chance to walk down the tunnel and onto the pitch where they can touch that football fresh grass.
You’ll find the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. It’s home to football club FC Bayern München. The stadium has a capacity of 71,000 and is a magnificent sight, especially when viewed at night-time when you’ll notice the outside of the building changing colour. The stadium was constructed in 2005 and with it being the stomping ground of the most successful football club in German history, you can be sure the stadium tour is full of legendary details of past and current glories. Some highlights include tours of the middle and main stand lower tiers, press box, dressing room and player’s tunnel.
Step into the home of AFC Ajax, the most successful football team in the Netherlands. This 51,000 seater is based in Amsterdam and there is a traditional tour available of the dressing room, press box and player’s tunnel. There is also a two-hour match day tour where you will be taken around the stadium, followed by watching the team play live. A must for football enthusiasts.
In Milan, Italy you will find the 80,000 seater stadium, home to football clubs AC and Inter Milan. This ground is one of the oldest football stadiums and is steeped in history. Originally constructed in 1925, it has had various renovations over the last 88 years. A stadium tour gives you the chance to learn all about these two clubs’ histories, stand in the mixed zones and walk out of the players’ tunnel onto the famed green turf.
Estadio da Luz
Take a trip to the capital of Portugal in Lisbon and you’ll find the 65,000 capacity home of SL Benfica. The Portuguese are fanatical about their football and this stadium is a good starting place to feel some of it. Often referred to as a football cathedral, Estadio da Luz (translated to Stadium of Light) is a mightily impressive piece of architecture which was built in 2003, in time for Portugal to host UEFA Euro 2004. There are many tours available, including a museum that shows the history of the football club as well as the history of the city for extra added value.
Also known as its sponsored name, First National Bank Stadium, this 94,000 seater is located in Johannesburg, South Africa and was the ground where the 2010 World Cup final took place. The stadium is covered in history – it was the site of Nelson Mandela’s first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison in 1990. There’s a professional guide who will take you around the stadium in a 70-minute-plus tour. Highlights include scale models of the Nasrec precinct and cinema-style videos about the design, construction and architecture of the stadium.
Beijing National Stadium
Head to Beijing in China to witness a truly stunning site. Built for the 2008 Olympics and now used to host football matches, the stadium is unique in its build. Consisting of two independent structures standing 50 feet apart and a red concrete seating bowl with an outer steel frame around it. From the outside it looks like a massive bird nest, hence the official nickname of the ground. The stadium is open daily and has become a popular tourist attraction in Beijing.
Home to Arsenal, the most successful football club in London. This 60,000 capacity stadium has become a surprise hit with tourists visiting London. Due to popular demand they have recently opened the ground for stadium tours. There are a few options including the popular Legends Tour which includes live speeches from some of Arsenal’s former match day heroes. After the tour you can have a wander through the museum, experiencing the history of the club first hand.
If you’re holidaying in Madrid, then you may want to check out Real Madrid’s 85,000 capacity marvel of a stadium. Officially the most successful team in football history, a tour of the Madrid stadium is a vast and in-depth guide through the club’s many triumphs. There’s an exhibition focused entirely on the many trophies they’ve won over the last 112 years, a panoramic view of the stadium and a chance to visit the dressing room and tunnel that the players get ready to do battle in every other weekend.
During the 70s and the 80s Liverpool football club were the leading team in Europe. During this period they amassed a fan base that is up there with the best in the world. Full of history, the club set the bar of a successful English team playing in Europe. The 45,000 Anfield stadium is one of the most iconic grounds on the planet. If you’re lucky enough to hear the fans do a live rendition of the 1945 song “You’ll never walk alone” on match-day, then shivers will surely fly down your spine. A tour of the stadium will give you the chance to visit exhibitions and see the five European cups they have won.
Located in La Boca district of Buenos Aries in Argentina. La Bombonera (translated to “the chocolate box”) is a 49,000 seater stadium for the football club Boca Juniors. Not just a football ground, the stadium is also used as a concert venue and has housed acts such as Lenny Kravitz, Sir Elton John, Bee Gees and erm, James Blunt. A tour of the stadium includes important history about the football club, fantastic views from the stands and visit to the immortal Diego Maradona’s private seating area.
Century Link Field
The 67,000 capacity stadium is home to USA football (or do we call it soccer?) team, the Seattle Seahawks. Commonly known as one the best football grounds in the USA, a stadium tour here will take you behind the scenes and show you round suite and club level. You will also get the chance to walk out on the pitch to feel the turf the players play on, an experience not many grounds offer.
Visit Old Trafford and you’ll be visiting the most successful club in English football. Home to Manchester United, it holds a capacity of 75,000 and is often referred to as ‘the theatre of dreams’. There are many museum and stadium tours on offer where you can learn all about the rich history of the club and visit player exclusive areas.