Travel opens your eyes. It creates meaningful relationships, develops new skills, builds character, enhances your perspective, pushes your comfort zones, slows time down, empowers and humbles you. For those who love to travel, attending a local soccer match is without-a-doubt one of the most authentic ways to experience local culture. Soccer stadiums are a representation of the people and the place in which they lay. From England to Germany, South Africa to the Middle East, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, here are the top soccer stadiums to visit for those who love to travel brought to you by the Daily Soccer Digest:
17. Braga, Portugal – Estadio Municipal de Braga
· Tenants: S.C. Braga
· Opened: 2003
· Capacity: 30,286
Why you must visit? Known as “The Quarry,” due to literally being carved out the side of an old quarry, Estadio Municipal de Braga is one of the most distinctively unique stadiums in the world. It was built in 2003 as the home of S.C. Braga and a venue for the 2004 UEFA European championships. What the stadium lacks in history it makes up for it with beauty. A Financial Times article on Britain's stadia referred to the municipal stadium as one of the top four examples of "beautiful grounds", noting that: "There has been nothing in this country to match the architectural delight of Eduardo Souto de Moura’s stadium for Braga in Portugal, a breathtaking arena carved into the side of a rock face on the site of a former quarry".
16. Johannesburg, South Africa - Soccer City (officially named First National Bank Stadium)
· Tenants: Kaizer Chiefs FC
· Opened: 1989
· Capacity: 94,700
Why you must visit? Johannesburg, more commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, is a rapidly changing city in the vibrant heart of South Africa. Soccer City is the largest stadium on the African continent, a sign of Jo’burg’s renaissance, and is appropriately located on the site of an old gold mine, once the main source of Johannesburg’s wealth. It was also the site of Nelson Mandela's first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison in 1990, and served as the venue for a memorial service to him on 10 December 2013. FNB Stadium hosted the memorable 2010 FIFA World Cup final between Holland and Spain in which Spain defeated the Netherlands 1–0 with a goal from Andrés Iniesta four minutes from the end of extra time. The stadium is nicknamed "The Calabash" due to its resemblance to traditional African pottery. At night, a ring of lights running around the bottom light up to simulate a fire under this giant soccer 'pot'. Soccer City has become a sign that Africa, as a continent, is expanding its influence on soccer.
15. Munich, Germany – Allianz Arena
· Tenants: Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich
· Opened: 2002
· Capacity: 75,000
Why you must visit? Located in the magnificent city of Munich, Germany, the beautifully designed Allianz Arena is home to both Munich-based soccer clubs: Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich. It is the only stadium across Europe that is able to change colors to reflect which of the two teams are playing—red for Bayern and blue for 1860 Munich—and is the second largest stadium in Germany behind fellow Bundesliga powerhouse, Borussia Dotrmund’s Signal Iduna Park. The city of Munich draws its largest crowds during Octoberfest but year round, the Bavarian metropolis buzzes with tourists from all over the world who want to experience the history, fine dining and budding art scene. A visit to Allianz Arena is necessary while in Munich, especially if Bayern is hosting Bundesliga rivals, Borussia Dortmund, as both supporting fan groups create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere with their relentless support.
14. Liverpool, England – Anfield
· Tenants: Liverpool
· Opened: 1884
· Capacity: 54,074
Why you must visit? “Older than the club itself – the ground was Everton’s from 1884 until the 1892 rent dispute that caused the creation of Liverpool FC – Anfield is one of football’s most evocative names, with the Kop one of its most famous stands” (FourFourTwo). It is easily one of the most iconic soccer stadiums in Europe and has produced some of the most vibrant atmospheres during European competitions. The passion produced by the home fans is truly unrivaled, an experience that must be witnessed first-hand to truly understand. From the famous “This Is Anfield” sign hanging in the tunnel, to the vivacious home fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," Anfield will forever be a favorite amongst players, visitors and fans alike.
13. London, England – Wembley Stadium
· Tenants: English national football team
· Opened: 2007
· Capacity: 90,000
Why you must visit? Considered by many as “the home of football”, Wembley Stadium is famous for having one of the most electric atmospheres and is, without doubt, the most iconic stadium in world soccer. The new 90,000-seat stadium only opened in 2007 although it was first built on the site of the original Wembley Stadium that first appeared on the north London skyline in 1923. The FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United on April 28, 1923 was the first event to take place at Wembley Stadium and drew an official attendance of 126,047 - still the largest for any soccer match in England. London is well known for its double-decker buses, iconic red phone booths, museums and pub culture. But if you’re looking for a genuine British experience then look no further, make it a priority to watch a match at Wembley Stadium. If you happen to catch a game when the English national team is playing you will witness some of the most passionate sports fans in the world singing in harmony for 90+ minutes straight.
12. Paris, France – Parc des Princes
· Tenants: Paris Saint-Germain (PSG)
· Opened: 1972
· Capacity: 48,583
Why you must visit? Paris is a city that needs no introduction. Called the “City of light” because it was a place of enlightenment in the 18th century, the French capital has established itself as one of the most remarkable cities in the world. Located in south-west Paris, Parc des Princes (“Princes’ Park in English) is one of the most historic stadiums in Europe, albeit used by PSG who has only been in existence since the 1970s. A stadium existed on this site since the late 1800s but a new remodeled version was built in 1972. The venue was designed by architect Roger Taillibert, who also built the Olympic Stadium of Montreal, and is much-admired for its innovative design that allows spectators to enjoy excellent sightlines with no seat being further than 45 meters from the pitch. Parc des Princes was the first stadium where lighting systems were integrated onto its elliptical roof, and it is still praised for its unique acoustics and its distinctive concrete ribs. A trip to Parc des Princes to watch the local club PSG play will surely be a night to remember. The passionate home fans, spectacular views, world class players and marvelous setting combine to make this an obligatory visit for anyone looking to get a genuine Parisian experience.
11. Montevideo, Uruguay – Estadio Centenario
· Tenants: Uruguayan national team
· Opened: 1930
· Capacity: 76,000
Why you must visit? The Estadio Centenario is one of the most historic and famous stadiums in all of world soccer and is the only venue to be named an “official historic monument in world soccer” by FIFA. It was built for both the very first FIFA World Cup in 1930 and as a celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Uruguayan independence, hence the name Estadio Centenario. FIFA has listed the stadium as one of the football world's classic stadiums, along with the likes of the Maracanã, old Wembley Stadium, the San Siro, the Estadio Azteca and Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. As host of the first World Cup final (and semifinal), the Centenario's status as a true "soccer mecca" is beyond reproach. Uruguay lifted the FIFA World Cup with a 2-1 win over Argentina in the final and to this day, Uruguay remains the smallest nation ever to win the prestigious World Cup. The stadium is considered a fortress for the Uruguayan national team whose record at the Centenario is really quite extraordinary (top ranked Brazil has only managed three wins in 20 opportunities). People from all over the world travel to Uruguay to enjoy the dozens of sandy beaches, soak up the sun, relax in the capital and sample local wine. If you find yourself in this beautiful South American country then do yourself a favor and take in the history, culture and passion first hand at the Estadio Centenario.
10. Dortmund, Germany - Signal Iduna Park (formerly named Westfalenstadion)
· Tenants: Borussia Dortmund
· Opened: 1971
· Capacity: 81,360
Why you must visit? An atmosphere that is truly un-rivaled, the Signal Iduna Park (formerly named Westfalenstadion), home of German giants Borussia Dortmund, is one of the most famous soccer stadiums in Europe and was elected best soccer stadium by The Times for its electric atmosphere. It is Germany’s largest stadium with a capacity of 81,360. Dortmund currently have an average attendance of 80,297 which is a remarkable 99.6% capacity average, meaning Dortmund have the highest average attendance in world soccer. Ex-Dortmund head Jurgen Klopp coach praises the grounds saying, “You come out and the place explodes – out of the darkness into the light. You look to your left and it seems like there’s 150,000 people up on the terrace all going completely nuts…” The beautiful grounds, sheer number of thunderous fans and the 25,000 standing supporters south terrace wall (A.K.A. ‘Yellow Wall’) combine to make this venue a must-visit for an experience of a lifetime., whether you’re a soccer fan or not.
9. Manchester England – Old Trafford
· Tenants: Manchester United
· Opened: 1909
· Capacity: 75,643
Why you must visit? “This is Manchester United football club, this is the theatre of dreams” proclaimed Bobby Charlton, one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Old Trafford, located in Manchester, England, is the largest club stadium of any soccer team in the United Kingdom and the 11th largest in Europe. It was designed by the celebrated architect Archibald Leitch, whose iconic work can still be viewed at Everton's Goodison Park and Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium. The venue has been the home ground for Manchester United since 1910, although from 1941 to 1949 the club shared Maine Road with local rivals Manchester City as a result of the World War II bombing damage. In addition to the rich history embedded in the grounds, visitors should not pass up the opportunity to watch one of the most passionate rivalries in sports – the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.
8. Tehran, Iran - Azadi Stadium
· Tenants: Persepolis FC, Esteghlal FC, Iranian national team
· Opened: 1973
· Capacity: 95,225
Why you must visit? The only Middle Eastern stadium to make the list, Azadi Stadium is located in the lively and welcoming capital of Tehran, Iran. Its current capacity is 95,225 but it once hosted a record 128,000 spectators for a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Australia in 1998 which FIFA declared as the biggest-ever crowd for a World Cup qualifier. It is self-owned by two top Iranian clubs, Esteghlal F.C. and Persepolis F.C., and is also the home stadium of the Iran national football team. “Azadi” which translates to “Freedom” in farsi, is a fitting name for a venue located in a country whose young population has been seeking freedom from its government for years. The stadium was renamed after the Iranian Revolution, and is an iconic symbol of the people of Tehran. Built in 1973 for the 1975 Asian Games, the architecture is designed to heighten noise and when at capacity. In addition to the world-renowned Persian cuisine and sightseeing, attending a match at Azadi Stadium is a cultural experience that is tough to beat.
7. Glasgow, Scotland - Celtic Park
· Tenants: Celtic FC
· Opened: 1892
· Capacity: 60,355
Why you must visit? Celtic Park is the oldest and largest stadium in Scotland and is a must-see for anyone holidaying in the country. Celtic supporters are often referred to as some of the best in world soccer and are true appreciators of the game. What makes Celtic Park so special is that it is often at full capacity, regardless of the game's importance—a testament to the wonderful ground and magnificent fans. Barcelona’s Iniesta praised the stadium saying, “The Celtic fans are very special and the club and players can be very proud of them. They are the best I have ever heard. I have played many games for Spain/Barca but I've never heard fans like Celtic, they were amazing, not quiet for a single second.” If you are able to catch a game at Celtic Park when the rivals Rangers are in town, you are truly in for a treat!
6. Buenos Aires, Argentina – La Bombanera (Officially Estadio Alberto J. Armando)
· Tenants: Boca Juniors
· Opened: 1940
· Capacity: 49,000
Why you must visit? The ground known as La Bombanera—the chocolate box, because of its structure—is the most famous stadium in Argentina and is home to the best supported team in the nation, Boca Juniors. Soccer legend Diego Maradona calls it “a temple of world football” and FourFourTwo named it as the no. 1 football stadium in the world. “A popular Argentine saying claims that ‘La Bombonera no tiembla, late’: the Bombonera does not tremble, it beats -- It’s a living, breathing stadium. The combined effect of the fans singing, clapping and (especially) jumping makes the ground vibrate like a mini earthquake. It’s an architectural phenomenon that must be seen by those passing through Argentina. The unique design of the stadium, with a “flat” stand on one side of the pitch and three deep stands around the rest, places La Bombanera as one of the most iconic stands in world soccer.
5. Mexico City, Mexico – Estadio Azteca
· Tenants: Club America FC, the Mexican national football team
· Opened: 1966
· Capacity: 87,000
Why you must visit? Mexico City's Estadio Azteca, built in 1966, is the largest soccer stadium in Mexico with an official capacity of 87,000. Regarded as one of the most famous and iconic football stadiums in the world, it is the first to have hosted two FIFA World Cup Finals. In the 1970 World Cup Final, Brazil defeated Italy 4–1, and in the 1986 World Cup Final, Argentina defeated West Germany 3–2. It also hosted the 1986 quarter-final match between Argentina and England in which Diego Maradona scored both the "Hand of God goal" and the "Goal of the Century". The Azteca is the home of both the Mexican National Team and Club America, the most successful team in Mexico with 12 league titles. Soccer is a microcosm for the city in general: passionate, intense and with a distinct love for food. Although there is no pre-game pub culture in Mexico, fans often sit around the food stalls and discuss the beautiful game while enjoying top-quality tacos.
4. Milan, Italy – San Siro (Officially named Stadio Giuseppe Meazza)
· Tenants: AC Milan and Inter Milan
· Opened: 1926
· Capacity: 80,018
Why you must visit? Bitter crosstown rivals, AC Milan and Inter Milan, share this stadium and thus have their home games on alternate weekends. If you happen to be in Milan when they play each other, well…you’re in for a spectacle like no other. The San Siro is Italy’s most treasured stadium and a UEFA category four stadium that hosted six games at the 1990 FIFA World Cup and four European Cup finals, in 1965, 1970, 2001 and 2016. San Siro has the capacity for about 80,000 and it is designed to give maximum visibility to each of its spectators. So in addition to tasting the world’s finest cuisine, visiting the city’s architectural beauty and taking in the awe-inspiring cathedrals, watching a match at San Siro will be an unforgettable thrill But if that doesn’t prove possible, take a tour of the museum and stadium on a non-match day. The highlight is a peek inside the dressing rooms – revealing the contrasting philosophies (both sporting and political) of each squad.
3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – The Maracana (officially named Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho)
· Tenants: Brazilian national football team
· Opened: 1950
· Capacity: 78,838
Why you must visit? The Maracanã Stadium is one of the most notable stadiums in all of world soccer and is situated in Rio de Janeiro, one of the most beautiful coastal cities. The stadium was opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup, in which Brazil was beaten 2–1 by Uruguay in the final. Since then, it has mainly been used for football matches between the major football clubs in Rio de Janeiro, including Flamengo, Fluminense, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama. The total attendance at the final game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup was 199,854, making it the world's largest stadium by capacity (when it was inaugurated). After its 2010–13 renovation, the rebuilt stadium currently seats 78,838 spectators, making it the largest stadium in Brazil and the second in South America after Estadio Monumental in Peru. The Maracanã was partially rebuilt in preparation for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, and the 2014 World Cup. It was also selected as the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Brazil’s passion for football is known worldwide, in part thanks to this soccer shrine that has become a symbol of attractive soccer perfected under animated crowds. Rio is known for its beaches, gorgeous people, art and food. Those traveling to Rio must also add a jaunt to the Maracanã to experience the passion of the city through the country’s favorite sport.
2. Madrid, Spain – Santiago Bernabeu
· Tenants: Real Madrid, the Spanish national football team
· Opened: 1947
· Capacity: 81,044
Why you must visit? Royal Madrid Football Club, more commonly known as Real Madrid, is one of Europe's most successful clubs with nine European titles. For one of the most decorated clubs there isn’t a more fitting venue to host their opponents than the astounding Santiago Bernabéu. The 81,044-capacity Stadium in Spain's capital has been Real’s home since 1947 and unlike most European sporting entities, Real Madrid's members (socios) have owned and operated the club throughout its history. The stadium has been home to many of the world's greatest players over the years, with the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Zinedine Zidane and the “Brazilian” Ronaldo all showcasing their skills on the famous grounds. Santiago Bernabéu is one of the world's most famous and prestigious football venues having hosted the European Cup final on four occasions: in 1957, 1969, 1980, the UEFA Champions League Final in 2010. The final matches for the 1964 European Nations' Cup and the 1982 FIFA World Cup were also held at the Bernabéu. "Madrid is hectic yet relaxed, it's a friendly vibrant place with masses to see, and its downtown area can be easily explored on foot. From Puerta del Sol and the Gran Vía boulevard to Plaza de España, Malasaña, Chueca and the Real Madrid stadium, it's not sheer multitude that makes the city stir. It's the madrileño attitude -- a zest for socializing, taking to the streets and cheerfully maximizing every hour not spent working." (madrid-guide.homesfortravellers.com)
1. Barcelona, Spain – Camp Nou
· Tenants: FC Barcelona
· Opened: 1957
· Capacity: 98,757
Why you must visit? FC Barcelona's motto “mes que un club”, which translates to “more than a club” is recognized throughout the soccer world and is evident in their stadium, The Camp Nou - the largest soccer stadium in Europe. Aside from the fact that Barcelona is one of the greatest soccer clubs of all time, there are many other reasons why Camp Nou should be an obligatory stop for people visiting the city. It symbolizes more than just the city, it stands as a powerful representation of for the entire Catalan people, a large fraction of whom aspire for independence from Spain. The Catalonian history was engraved in the grounds since it’s construction started in the 1950s in order to accommodate all the fans that Barcelona’s new star striker, Hungarian Laszlo Kubala, was bringing in. As for the venue’s atmosphere, it’s nothing short of spectacular, especially if you’re present during “El Clasico” – Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. The pre-game recital of the club anthem – which ends with a raucous “Barça, Barça, Baaaaaaaarça” – adds splendor and ceremony to the echoing bowl. This is a ground that is bigger than even soccer, if that’s even possible. Pope John Paul II celebrated mass with 112,000 in attendance at Camp Nou in 1982, while the legendary Bono has performed here with U2 three times. Tennis star Andy Murray said it perfectly, “It started as a dream, stood proud for independence, and helped Barcelona become more than a club.”
Have you visited any of these stadiums? How was your experience? Did we miss a stadium that you believe should be included in the list? Comment below!
Author: Sean Bakhtiari
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