If you are passionate about football, rugby, American football, or baseball, holidays in the main foreign cities do not for you consist of the usual tour of museums and squares, or at least not only. Because surely you are among those who in London, Madrid or New York cannot avoid a visit to what are the largest stadiums in Europe.
Not surprisingly, these often mammoth structures combine various reasons of interest within them. Loaded with history not only sporting, architecturally capable of leaving you speechless, they offer museums, shops, statues, and views that cannot be found everywhere.
And if you are a fan of a specific team, a tour of its stadium – and its museum, and its official shop – can also be an opportunity to buy many souvenirs and take as many photographs.
But what are the biggest stadiums, at least in old Europe? You will be surprised to find that among the top five there are two that have nothing to do with football. Let’s see them together.
1. Camp Nou in Barcelona
The Implantation of Catalan Pride and Its Future Developments
Inaugurated in 1957 and able, thanks to the renovations that have taken place over the years, to accommodate up to 99,354 people with seats, the Camp Nou in Barcelona is without a doubt the largest stadium in Europe. And it is also one of the most loved and with the most “hot” cheering.
The structure is owned by the Futbol Club Barcelona, the only team authorized to play there. And it was designed at the time by Francesc Mitjans, Lorenzo Barbón, and Josep Soteras, strictly Catalan architects.
And that the stadium, like all the Blaugrana movement, is a hymn to Catalonia is also testified by the writing that emerges from the seats in the central grandstand when the stadium is empty, “ Mes Que un club “. A motto that in Catalan (and not Castilian) means “more than a club”.
In fact, in the city that bears the same name and a little throughout the Catalan region, Barcelona is the symbol of an identity that is not only sporting. His fight against Real Madrid for the national title, it is the most evident sign of the antagonism between Madrid and with a centralized and centralized idea of Spain.
The Big Matches
In addition to all the matches in Barcelona – which are followed by an average of more than 70 thousand spectators in the league -, the stadium is also used to host matches of particular international importance.
Here, for example, the 1999 Champions League final was played, the one won by Manchester United in comeback against Bayern Munich. But the epic final of the 1989 Champions Cup was also played with Sacchi’s Milan triumphant over Steaua.
Finally, it should be noted that inside the stadium there is a museum that hosts up to one and a half million visitors every year (a stratospheric figure for such a structure). However, a partial renovation of the plant is planned for the next few years.
The works will bring the capacity to 106,000 spectators and will redesign the facade through a series of colored panels in the style of the Allianz Arena in Munich. These panels will recall the colors of the team and the Catalan flag.
2. Wembley Stadium in London
The Second Most Expensive Stadium in the World
We talked about Wembley, the most famous stadium in all of Great Britain, some time ago when we presented the most beautiful facilities in the country where football was invented. But let’s now spend a few words in particular on the capacity and the events that are hosted there.
Rebuilt in 2007 to replace the historic stadium of the same name that was demolished a few years earlier, it is the second most expensive stadium in the world (after New York’s Yankee Stadium). It must in fact be considered that the final bill was dangerously close to 1 billion euros.
There are 90,000 seats, which, however, can drop to 70,000 if the athletics track is installed.
The Stage of the Finals
The events that are hosted within the London facility are varied. The first and most obvious intended use is to host football matches of particular importance.
We are talking about races such as the FA Cup finals – the famous and important English Cup -, League Cup, and Community Shield. Furthermore, in the past, two Champions League finals have been played here (in 2011 between Barcelona and Manchester United and in 2013 between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich). However, there are also many non-football uses.
Inspired by the old Wembley, in fact, the new facility has already hosted some epic concerts such as those of the late George Michael, Muse, Madonna, and Take That.
In addition, there were games of the American NFL teams touring Europe and events related to WWE wrestling. As for rugby, New Zealand-Argentina and Ireland-Romania played there during the 2015 World Cup.
Finally, the semi-finals and the final of Euro 2020 will take place at Wembley. This is particularly relevant given that this will be the first European championship for “itinerant” national teams (the group matches will in fact take place in 13 different countries).
3. Croke Park in Dublin
Gaelic Sports and Bloody Sunday
Surprisingly, in third place, there is a facility that has nothing to do with football, which is not found in the largest and richest European nations and which is not even particularly modern, at least in its basic structure. With a capacity of 82,300 seats, in fact, the third-largest stadium in the old continent is Croke Park in Dublin.
The construction is particular for various reasons. Inaugurated even in 1913 (but at the time it was very different from the current configuration), it is a stadium with a horseshoe plan, whose stands are named after the founders of the Gaelic Athletic Association or sports martyrs of Irish independence.
The particular thing, however, is that here still today all sports of English origin (in particular rugby, football, and cricket) are still strictly forbidden here since the facility is proudly intended only for Gaelic football, hurling, and the camogie.
These three are Gaelic sports of very ancient origin. Gaelic football seems to date back to the 16th century and is a sort of combination of football and rugby, albeit with very fast rhythms and from a certain point of view even chaotic. .
Hurling and camogie, respectively male and female versions of the same sport, are reminiscent of field hockey but date back to the 12th century and perhaps are even older.
These sports were resumed and protected at the beginning of the twentieth century by the GAA, which built this facility to make it the main reference point for various competitions. It is clear, however, that immediately this recovery of the identity of the island and the rejection of British sports made it a symbol of the independence struggle.
And it is emblematic that the famous Bloody Sunday of 1920 took place within these walls.
On November 21 of that year, in fact, the British auxiliary police entered the structure during a game. At that point, he fired indiscriminately on the crowd and on the players in retaliation for the killing, a few hours earlier, of 15 secret agents of His Majesty discovered by Michael Collins and his organization.
Thirteen spectators and a player died, Michael Hogan, to whom the stadium’s first grandstand was named three years later. In addition to Gaelic sports, some exceptions to the regulations in recent years have allowed Six Nations rugby matches and a handful of international football matches to be held here.
4. Twickenham Stadium in London
The cathedral of rugby
We remain in the British Isles for the fourth position, but we move back to London, which undoubtedly is the city with the largest number of stadiums and relative seats in all of Europe.
In the district of Richmond upon Thames, there is in fact the Twickenham Stadium, the “cathedral of rugby”. Inaugurated even in 1909, it has undergone three major renovations in the last thirty-five years. The last of these – in 2005, and concerning the south grandstand in particular – gave it its current configuration.
The stadium, as its nickname suggests, is exclusively dedicated to rugby, so much so that within the structure – in addition to the restaurants and sporting goods shops, now common in British facilities – there are also the offices of the Rugby Football Union, that is, the English federation, and a much-visited museum dedicated to this sport.
The representative facility of the English rugby team – which plays the Six Nations matches here -, it was also used for various matches of the Rugby World Cup played in England and Wales (venue of the final in 1991 and 2015 and of the semifinals in 1999) and is still used today for the European tours of the Southern Hemisphere national teams.
However, there are also huge numbers of rock concerts that occasionally find hospitality there. Here the Genesis, U2, Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Police, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna have sold out over the years.
5. Stade De France in Saint-denis, Near Paris
More Concerts Than You Go
We conclude our overview by moving back to continental Europe and in particular to France. There, since 1998, the Stade de France has stood, with 81,338 seats in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris.
Built for the World Cup which was later won by the hosts and still owned by the government, the facility hosts both football and rugby matches of some importance, as well as major concerts.
However, it is often the focus of French public opinion due to its alleged underutilization, as no club team has agreed to move their weekly matches there. However, there is also an athletics track which makes it usable also for sporting events of a different nature.
The most important matches that took place here are obviously those of the 1998 World Cup. Even Italy, that year, played its cards here, first beating Austria 2-1 during the group stage and then losing in the quarter-finals with France on penalties (remember the mistakes of Albertini and Di Biagio?).
In addition, two Champions League finals were played there (the one in 2000 between Real Madrid and Valencia and the one in 2006 between Barcelona and Arsenal) and competitions in the 2003 Athletics World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup, including the final won. from South Africa to England.
From a concerted point of view, memorable (and sold out ) were the performances of the Rolling Stones, Johnny Hallyday, Céline Dion, Bruce Springsteen, and U2. But also those of the Police, Madonna, Mylène Farmer, Muse, Indochine, Black Eyed Peas, and One Direction.
Finally, we returned to hear about it in 2016, during the French European Football Championships. Various matches were played there, such as the opening match of the tournament or the eighth final which saw Italy prevail 2-0 over Spain. The final between France and Portugal was also played there, with the surprise victory of the Lusitanians.