We tend to treat sports venues as if they’re only of interest to major sports fans. In some cases, this is likely the case. However, when you forget about the idea of sport itself and consider these venues as urban landmarks dotted around the world, they can take on new meaning. Sporting venues are often beautiful, historic, or both, and they tend to welcome droves of locals engaging in a favorite form of recreation. In other words, they’re striking buildings and complexes that serve as stages for authentic exhibitions of local culture. And doesn’t that sound like just what we want to see when we look through landmarks, events, and attractions to visit in foreign lands?
Thinking of things this way, we’ve come up with a collection of the very best sporting venues in Europe for travelers to consider.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium – Madrid, Spain
Likely the most famous football stadium in Europe, if not the entire world, the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid is the home of Real Madrid. This is one of the most storied franchises in all of world sport, so you can imagine the atmosphere at the Bernabeu – particularly for big matches – can be magical. It’s not necessarily a state-of-the-art venue, having been built in the ’40s (though since renovated), but its capacity of just over 80,000 fans still makes it a wonder to behold.
Aviva Stadium – Dublin, Ireland
Here we have a more beautiful stadium in terms of pure architecture. It was designed as the result of a collaboration between global and local architects, and first opened in 2010, meaning it’s still quite young. Arranged in a way that makes it look like a sort of rolling glass oval, it’s an open-air stadium used for rugby and football alike – both of which can draw very impassioned crowds in Dublin.
Monte Carlo Country Club – Monte Carlo, Monaco
Despite its name, which makes it sound like some sort of exclusive holiday spa retreat, this is actually a tennis stadium, and quite possibly the most beautiful one in the world. Used primarily for the Monte Carlo Masters, a clay court tournament that tends to involve many of the world’s top players, it’s essentially a sprawling tennis complex overlooking the waters of Monte Carlo. You can’t do much better in terms of a venue’s natural surroundings.
Anfield – Liverpool, England
Anfield has been in place since the late 19th century, though it’s been updated to the point at which it feels fairly modern. Primarily used as the home for the English Premier League club Liverpool, it’s a place where you’ll find very loyal and passionate fans. And while Liverpool is typically a strong club, it happens to be in the midst of a hot streak. Some expect Liverpool to win the league title this coming season following a run to the Champions League final. That should only make the atmosphere at Anfield that much better in the near future.
Stade Velodrome – Marseille, France
Stade Velodrome first opened in the 1930s but like the other stadiums on this list it’s been renovated and actually looks quite modern in certain ways today. It’s used for various purposes including national football and rugby, but is also the home of Olympique de Marseille, a club in France’s Ligue 1 football league. A beautiful roof opens to the sky overhead but also seems to wrap the stadium up in an intimate fashion, allowing the fans – who have a reputation for being among the best in Europe – to make themselves heard.
San Siro – Milan, Italy
San Siro is the home of both AC Milan and Inter, two of the more prominent club football teams in Italy. And from the outside, it is frankly nothing special. It’s weird if anything, almost resembling a bizarre factory of some kind. Inside however it has a very intimate feel, and also seems more enormous than you might guess from the outside. Like State Velodrome, it has a reputation for particularly enthusiastic crowds.
All-England Club – London, England
Here we have another tennis stadium, and one that’s significantly more famous than the country club in Monte Carlo. The All-England Club is perhaps better known, however, as the Wimbledon venue, where the best in men’s and women’s tennis alike gather every July for what’s considered to be the most prestigious tournament in existence. Characterized by flawlessly manicured green lawns and a sort of air of prestige, Wimbledon is unlike any other sporting event, and it’s largely thanks to the venue itself.
Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany
Built for the 1974 World Cup and serving as the home of the club Borussia Dortmund, Westfalenstadion was ranked as the best football stadium in Europe just last year. Once somewhat unremarkable, an expansion of roughly 50,000 to over 81,000 capacity turned it into something of a phenomenon, and its fans – the most passionate of whom sit along the “Yellow Wall” seating bank – have made it special. It’s a stadium where you’ll see an incredible amount of enthusiasm, and perhaps the best place to go to fully understand Europe’s deep love of football.