Top Nine Football Stadiums In Europe
Football is enjoyed up and down this country not to mention right across Europe week in week out. Whilst modern technologies mean you can view all of your team's action from the comfort of your living room, nothing beats the thrill of watching the game live. So with that in mind, just where are the best stadiums to go and experience the atmosphere in Europe? FREEbets.org.uk gives you the rundown on nine of the best spots to take in a game. Our judging criteria? We are trying to find stadiums that are the most architecturally and visibly impressive combined with red-hot atmospheres. So don't expect a list full of ultra-modern, state of the art stadia, we've got some much smaller venues that cram in character in abundance.
9. Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
- Tenants: SL Benfica
- Opened: 2003
- Capacity: 65,647
- Notable fixtures: UEFA Euro 2004 final and UEFA Champions League Final 2014
Translating to the 'Stadium of Light', the home of the Portuguese giants may share its name with that of Sunderland's stadium but is in fact another English ground that the Estadio da Luz shares its name. Built by the same architectural firm that constructed Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, the similarities between the two are obvious. Benfica's old stadium of the same name was demolished with the club seeking a new modern venue to bring them in to the 21st century. With Portugal announced as the host nation for the 2004 European Championships, the new stadium was completed in time to host a number of games for the tournament including the final.
Benfica's supporters refer to the stadium as The Cathedral as fans flock in their thousands to support their team with the atmosphere particularly raucous when either Lisbon rivals Sporting or Porto are the opposition. The 'No Name boys' ultra group are not a group associated with hooliganism like many ultra groups but instead focus their attentions on making a serious racket from behind the goal. Prior to the game, Benfica's mascot, an eagle named Vitoria, circles around the pitch which looks an awful lot more impressive than when it is done at Crystal Palace, adding further to the grand sense of spectacle. If you're planning on visiting be sure to try the local delicacy of a Bifana (Pork fillet sandwich) from one of the many food vans prior to kick off. The locals gather in their droves ahead of the game and wash them down with a bottle of Super Bock whilst soaking up the atmosphere.
8. Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
- Tenant: FC Barcelona
- Opened: 1957 (Renovated in 1995 and 2008)
- Capacity: 99,354
- Notable fixtures: UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final 1972 and 1982, FIFA World Cup Opening Venue 1982 European Cup Final 1989 and UEFA Champions League Final 1999
The largest football stadium in Europe and the second largest in the entire world that is used primarily for football, the sheer size of the Camp Nou alone sees it make this list. Barcelona moved into the ground in 1957 after the club decided their Camp de les Corts stadium was too small despite its 60,000 capacity. The football club was ever growing in popularity at the time and after the signing of Hungarian superstar Laszlo Kubala provided the impetus needed for a much larger venue.
Camp Nou has long been an important part of pride amongst the inhabitants of Barcelona and across the whole of Catalonia. During Franco's regime he widely outlawed the speaking of the native Catalan language in public and the stadium became one of the rare places that Catalonia's were able to express pride in their region. This tradition continues right up until this day with the Senyera (Catalan flag) regularly flown from the stands. The giant bowl size makes for an imposing three tiered venue in which the locals come to cheer on their heroes. Any trip to see Barcelona these days will of course allow visitors to enjoy some of the best club football ever seen on the pitch in possibly the most iconic stadium on the planet. Despite its size, the atmosphere is not always overly impressive although few fail to be mesmerised by the Camp Nou on matchday. Despite renovations the facilities still remain slightly dated in comparison to some of Europe's other top stadia and Barcelona have plans in place for another to begin in 2017. Plans include a full roof for the stadium as well as increasing the capacity to around 105,000 whilst giving a modernising facelift to the exterior.
7. San Siro, Milan, Italy
- Tenants: Internazionale/Milan
- Opened: 1926
- Capacity: 80,018
- Notable fixtures: European Cup Final 1965 and 1970, World Cup Opening Venue 1990, UEFA Champions League Final 2001 and 2016
A stadium truly unique in its appearance and its rectangular shape is an uncommon site in Italian football. It also has no running track, another come fixture among stadia in the country, meaning that supporters are right on top of the action only enhancing the crackling atmosphere. Archietecturally it is perhaps the most recognisable of any stadium on the planet with the circular columns on the outside coupled with the Mechano-like red steel girders forming the roof. The steep three tiered interior makes for a cavernous atmosphere and if you are planning a trip to Milan during the football season, Inter and Milan alternate their home games meaning there is ore than likely to be a game at the famous stadium.
It is common place in Italian football for the teams of a city to share a stadium although both the inhabitants of the San Siro have explored the possibility of leaving the venue and building their own stadiums. However the two remain for now at least and this is a venue that is surely high on the list of football groundhoppers. Recent seasons have seen both of the Milanese clubs endure tough times on the pitch and as result the attendances are on average at around just 35,000. However for the big games and European encounters, the ground is much fuller complete with the usual mixture of flares, banners and tifos that are common place in Italian football. Spare seats are also in short supply when the two tenants meet, making for one of the grandest spectacles in world football.
6. Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany
- Tenants: Hertha BSC
- Opened: 1936 (Renovated 1974 and 2006)
- Capacity: 74,475
- Notable fixtures: 2006 World Cup Final and UEFA Champions League Final 2015
Whilst the club football seen at the Olympiastadion falls way short of some of the others on this list, it more than makes it up for it in terms of other historic significance. The stadium was initially designed for the 1936 Olympic Games with Adolf Hitler wanting to use the games for political propaganda. Hitler and the Nazi party wanted to put on a huge spectacle and in order to do so required a venue to match. The venue was the sight of Jesse Owens historic triumphs that summer as he won four gold medals. Reminders of the stadium's dark past can still be seen to this day such as the bell tower and Olympic gates, whilst the stadium retains the shape of the original stadium.
The late 90's saw many Berliners debate the stadium's future, with some in favour of replacing it with a new venue before it was ultimately decided it would be renovated. Renovation took place after Germany was announced as the host country for the 2006 with the Olympiastadion announced as the venue for the final. Now ranked as one of UEFA's top stadiums in Europe, the huge arena retains the imposing size and stature it has always had whilst encompassing all the latest technological features such as artificial illumination, sounds equipment, VIP areas and restaurants.
Hertha BSC are Berlin's biggest club and have played at the Olympiastadion since 1963 and despite never establishing themselves amongst Germany's elite clubs in terms of on-field success, they still average over 50,000 supporters per home game. The noisiest fans usually gather in the Ostkurve section of the stadium where a host of flags, banners and choreographed displays take place. British fans can also make the most of being able to stand up and enjoy a beer in full view of the pitch!
5. Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France
- Tenants: Olympique de Marseille
- Opened: 1937 (Renovated 1984, 1998 and 2014)
- Capacity: 67,394
- Notable fixtures: UEFA Euro 1984 and 2016 semi-final, World Cup semi-final 1938 and 1998
France's second largest city after Paris, Marseille has established itself a reputation as a genuine footballing hotbed. The atmosphere in the Velodrome is not only considered as amongst the most fervent in France but in Europe as a whole. Supporters of Olympique de Marseille, commonly referred to simply as Marseille, make their home an intimidating venue for any visitors with both ends behind the goals occupied by different ultra groups. This is somewhat unique for many clubs in Europe, who usually have just one area filled with fans making a right old noise but with supporters groups in both the 'Virage Nord' and 'Virage Sud'
As its name suggests, the venue has been the host of numerous cycling events over the years although over time they have been less and less frequent, with the cycling track around the pitch gradually eaten up by the expansion of the stands. The stadium has undergone major changes in the last couple of years with the notable addition of a roof. The way in which it contours around the curved stands makes it look like something from outer space and when lit up in the evening, it really is a truly stunning sight. The decision to recover the stadium was welcomed by the club's supporters who felt that atmosphere was able to escape out of the ground.
Whilst World Cup's have seen numerous games held here, it is for the vibrancy and colour produced by Marseille fans for which this stadium has become a must visit venue for football fans. If you get the chance, visit when Paris Saint Germain are in town for Le Classique. The meeting between France's two most successful clubs is when it is at its most atmospheric.