Jack MacHugh / May 01, 2016
A tour of southern European football stadiums
Football is a truly universal sport and this couldn't be more evident in Europe. It is a continent brimming with passion for the game and full of iconic stadiums. Because of the sheer number of great stadiums to visit and experience, we have chosen to focus on stadiums in southern Europe for now. So, here is our Interrail route through southern Europe to take in as many stadia as possible!
To begin the Interrail journey we'll fly out to the first destination, which is the Spanish capital. Home to both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, it's an ideal place to get the stadium tour started.
Located in the middle of the city, Real Madrid's home ground is one of the most famous and prestigious in the world. With a capacity of around 85,000, it is also one of the largest in Europe. The five-tiered stands make for some very steep viewing positions but this just adds to the theatre. The stadium tour through the enormous trophy room and museum is well worth checking out if you aren't there when Real Madrid are playing. You can book a stadium tour here.
Santiago Bernabéu (Credit: Real Madrid)
North of the Santiago Bernabéu is the Vicente Calderón. Built in the 1960s, it is home to Atletico Madrid. It is mostly uncovered but boasts one of the best atmospheres in Spanish football with incredibly passionate fans. Atletico Madrid are scheduled to move into a new stadium in 2017 so try and visit this stadium before they leave. Book a stadium tour here.
Vicente Calderón (Credit: Marca)
The next leg of the journey is to take a short 100-minute train ride from Madrid to Valencia
Valencia play their football at the Mestalla. It is classic European stadium with its steep, high stands, which offer great views of the game but also of the city. The stands are so steep, in fact, that Swansea City warned its fans of experiencing vertigo when climbing the steps up to the away section . The stadium and Valencia's fans are famous for the atmosphere they create, and the match day experience here is something special. The stadium tour provides full access and can be booked here.
The Mestalla (Credit: Valencia C.F.)
While in Spain it would be criminal to skip out Barcelona. So we'll travel up the coast from Valencia to the home of the Catalan giants, FC Barcelona.
Alongside the Bernabéu, the Camp Nou is one of the most iconic stadiums in world football - and quite rightly, too. It has been a true theatre of football for decades and with the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar strutting their stuff here, it's a stadium to add the bucket list. It currently has a capacity of 99,354, making it the third largest purpose-built football stadium in the world, but the club has just announced plans to increase capacity to over 105,000 and add a roof. Barca's stadium tour is also considered to be one of the best, book it here.
Camp Nou (Credit: F.C. Barcelona)
France is home to a number of great stadiums but our solo stop in France is on the South coast for one of the Euro 2016 venues.
Olympique de Marseille play at the Stade Velodrome, which was originally built in 1937 to serve as a venue for the 1938 World Cup. It initially had a running track, as well as a cycling track circling the pitch, hence the name. Over the years there have been different redevelopments with the stands gradually eating up the running and cycling tracks. The trademark round-shaped stands were built during the redevelopment for the 1998 World Cup and, after it was announced that France would be hosting Euro 2016, the stadium was redeveloped once again. This time, a roof was added and the two main stands were almost completely reconstructed. The stadium is now a joy to behold and is a great feature on the Marseille skyline.
Stade Velodrome (Credit: Reddit)
A 7-hour train journey along the French south coast and up into Italy takes us to Milan, the home of both A.C. Milan and Inter Milan.
The two big teams in Milan - A.C. Milan and Inter Milan - are historically fierce rivals. However, they have shared the ground from 1945 and still do today, which is rare in the modern era of football. The San Siro is one of the classic football stadiums of Europe and is one of the largest, making for a very imposing piece of architecture. The stadium, shop and museum tour are all shared.
San Siro (Credit: Curioseety)
This trip could have included many more Italian stadiums - the Juventus stadium in Turin and Stadio Olimpico in Rome being notable exclusions - but we have chosen to continue on to Naples.
Stadio San Paolo
Stadio San Paolo is the home of Napoli and is the third largest stadium in Italy with a capacity of 60,240. It's a real Italian football cathedral and is absolutely worth visiting, with an unbelievably passionate atmosphere on game day.
Stadio San Paulo (Credit: Lilz)
Let's jump back on the train and travel from Naples to Ancona and then get the ferry across the Adriatic to Split in Croatia, which is very close to Trogir.
HNK Trogir play here and it's one of the most spectacular settings for a stadiums you are ever likely to see - it's directly on the coast and right next to a castle! A stadium that's truly not to be missed and after the stadium tour is complete, you can finish your Interrail by relaxing on the beaches in Split or island hopping to Hvar!
Igralište Batarija (Credit: Paper Blog)
So, there it is! I hope you are inspired by this football stadium tour and that you manage to see a couple on your Interrail journey! If you like the sound of this trip, you can use this Interrail route plan.
Header photo credit: The Mad Jump