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Official Review by Adi Oula Sebastian, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Camp Nou, is one of the oldest and finest stadiums in Europe, and quite fittingly home to one of the finest football (soccer) teams in the world, FC Barcelona. The Catalan (sorry, Catalan folks don't consider themselves Spanish) club has always been one of Europe's powerhouses but their recent spike in popularity can be attributed to the success they have accumulated in the last couple of years.
If the Superbowl is the U.S. premier sports event, than the UEFA Champions League would have to be its European equivalent. In their distinguished history, FC Barcelona has won soccer's most prestigious club competition thrice, and twice in the last five years.
The stadium was built from 1954 - 1957 and has been the club's home ever since. During Francisco Franco's dictatorship, the Camp Nou was one of the few places where the Catalan population was allowed to speak their native language. It's one of the reasons why FC Barcelona adopted the slogan "mes que un club" (translation: more than a club).
It is an all-seater stadium that has a capacity for an audience of 99,354 spectators, although that figure is rarely, if ever, reached. If you are planning to go on one of your holidays in Spain, then Camp Nou should be part of your itinerary.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
While Europeans are no less crazy about their soccer than their American counterparts and football, it must be noted that soccer fans in Europe aren't spoiled with choices when it comes to food inside the venue.
Unfortunately, the Camp Nou offers the same standard soccer "cuisine" albeit with a local twist. Don't expect fancy sales counters, it is rather comparable to the local hot dog stand with a slightly more diverse menu.
For better or worse, one can expect the local version of a Hot Dog (Bocadillo) for €4 while soda's are priced at a reasonable €3-€5 depending on the size. But when in Barcelona, or the Camp Nou for that matter, one has to try the local beer, Estrella Damm or just Damm for €5.
Spanish soccer fans have much to celebrate these days, even more so the fans of FC Barcelona. The supporters of FC Barcelona (or Barca) identify themselves as culé; (derives from the Catalan word "cul" = arse). For more information click here.
Before the players enter the pitch, FC Barcelona's official club anthem is played, the "Cant del Barca", and when 90,000 or so supporters sing along it is really something special. The crowd gets at its loudest when the speaker announces the names of fan favorites Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Lionel Messi. It is especially true that the latter receives the full embrace of the supporters. Messi! Messi! chants can be heard long after he has been announced.
Soccer fans are usually vocal but the supporters of Spain's two biggest clubs (FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) are a different breed. When it comes to the actual atmosphere in the game, it depends on the occasion and the opponent.
The supporters of FC Barcelona are as demanding as any. To the Camp Nou faithful the spectacle is just as important as the result, if not even more. It is perhaps the only stadium where a 5-0 thrashing of an opponent can leave the crowd utterly uninterested if it is not achieved in style. That said, if the crowd feels they are getting their money's worth (read: nothing less than a mesmerizing performance) there's no stopping the singing, chanting and La Ola's (Mexican wave).
About the only occasion where the Camp Nou becomes the most emotionally-laden and intense venue anywhere in sports, is when FC Barcelona host their archrivals Real Madrid. It is perhaps soccer's biggest regular game of the year also known as El Clasico.
The Camp Nou is located in a residential area with a University Campus nearby. In close proximity to the stadium is FC Barcelona's world famous youth academy, La Masia. FC Barcelona's youth system holds the distinction of producing all three finalists for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d'Or award, soccer's most glamorous individual prize.
For those who aren't interested in the football academy, there's the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and its campus and parks. Unfortunately, these are also the most interesting places in this area. Nevertheless, one of Barcelona's party areas, Port Olimpic is just a 15 minute cab ride away from the stadium. Port Olimpic is packed with clubs, bars and restaurants. A cab drive won't cost you more than €15-€17.
If none of the above appeals to you, one can always choose to frequent Barcelona's Las Ramblas, a street that stretches from the heart of the city to the harbor. Along the Ramblas there are plenty of shops, cafes and street artists. It's hard to walk more than a couple of yards without spotting someone wearing a FC Barcelona jersey.
Since the current FC Barcelona side is universally lauded as the best team in the world, the crowd is much more appreciative than it has been in preceding years and thus the general atmosphere is very good throughout. After all, the club has only lost one league game all season (2011).
The public transportation system in Barcelona allows one to pick various scenarios on how to get to the Camp Nou. There are the Bus lines (7, 15, 43, 67, 68, 74, 75, L12, L50 & L62) as well as the Metro Line 3 (exit at Maria Cristina or Les Corts) and Line 5 (Collblanc or Badal).
Visiting the Camp Nou can be either fairly cheap or extremely expensive, because the pricing for the tickets ranges from €20 (general seating, class D game) to €230 (grandstand, class A++ game, read: FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid). If you entertain the idea of attending the El Clasico in the Camp Nou "" don't get your hopes up. Even if these are the official prices the tickets are usually sold out, due to season ticket holders and club members.
The cheapest Clasico tickets you'll ever find start at around €600 and can balloon north of €2.000. But it must be said, no matter where you are seated in the Camp Nou the view is excellent throughout.
Because in Barcelona the spectacle always comes first, one will almost never attend a boring and dull game. Once the team really gets going, the atmosphere is as good as in any other European venue. Since Europe is the epicenter for top notch soccer one has to visit Europe's biggest stadium at least once, no matter the game.
That said, at a very cheap €20/ticket one can attend a regular season game against a bottom club and still have a great time. While the food & beverages could be a lot better it doesn't diminish the overall experience of the Camp Nou. The view is excellent from any vantage point and although the Barcelona fans are perhaps a little bit spoiled the atmosphere is still great.
Like every major soccer club, FC Barcelona also has its own flagship store nearby, the FCBotiga megastore. Everything a fan, or casual customer, can think of can be found there, from FC Barcelona beer bottles, chips (!) to bathing robes.
But the true gem is FC Barcelona's state-of-the-art museum, where simply everything is interactive and every memorable moment can be relived. Through touchscreens (or rather giant sized tables) one can pick his favorite Barca moment and watch a related video and/or hear the original radio/TV commentary.
The museum also has an area where replicas of all trophies won are on display, with a special section devoted to FC Barcelona's historic sextuple year in 2009, where the club has won every trophy available in that year. The celebration of this magnificent achievement is further eternalized in a 30m long video wall that is highlighting the 2008/2009 campaign and its most glorious moments.
Nevertheless, the "Barca experience tour" will cost you an additional €19 but it also grants you access to the press box, press area and the players' locker room which are all part of the tour. One even gets to walk down the player's tunnel down to the pitch, which of course you are not allowed to enter. Either way, this is the closest a fan will ever get to match day experience and it's money well spent.
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