Football is the world’s most popular spectator sport, and every weekend millions of dedicated fans head to their local stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams. From Austria to Zimbabwe, the raw passion and emotion of soccer is there for all to see, and some of the most famous global superstars have become instantly recognizable sporting icons.
Many of the best football arenas on the planet have evolved into popular tourist attractions, thanks to the provision of organized tours, so fans can see the inner sanctums such as the dressing rooms, media centers, corporate hospitality boxes, warm-up areas and, of course, the pitch itself, where all the spectacular action takes place. Here are five stadiums that are well worth a visit.
Camp Nou (Barcelona)
One of the most popular clubs in the world, Barcelona are always challenging for top honors in Spain’s La Liga. Their spectacular stadium was built in the 1950s and is capable of holding more than 99,000 spectators. The city itself is a popular destination for short break holidays, and Camp Nou has become something of a must-visit for tourists in recent times, even those who aren’t necessarily fans of the beautiful game.
Old Trafford (Manchester)
Affectionately known as the Theater of Dreams, Old Trafford has been the home of Manchester United for more than a hundred years. United are the most popular club in England, and their magnificent stadium holds more than 75,000 people on match days. Fans who attend the stadium tour can also pay a visit to the club’s museum, home of an impressive collection of fascinating artifacts.
San Siro (Milan)
In many parts of Italy, football is more of an obsession than a sport, and in Milan you’ll find perhaps the most famous stadium in the country. The San Siro, officially known as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, is the home ground of both AC Milan and Inter, and a tour of this beautifully iconic arena is highly recommended. It was first opened in 1926, and it currently has a capacity of 80,000.
Estádio da Luz (Lisbon)
Benfica is one of Europe’s great football clubs, and over the years they have enjoyed plenty of success at both domestic and international level. The Estádio da Luz (Stadium of Light) was built in 2003, replacing their older ground which dated back to 1954, and it holds around 65,000 spectators. On match days, the atmosphere is always passionate and energetic, so if you manage to get tickets for a game you’ll have a wonderful time.
Allianz Arena (Berlin)
The home of Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful club, as well as TSV 1860 Munich, the spectacular Allianz Arena is one of the newest German arenas, having been opened in 2005. It’s a wonderfully modern stadium, with a state of the art design and a number of cutting edge features. A guided tour gives the visitor a chance to experience the emotions that the players feel as they prepare for a big game.