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Official Review by Thomas Miller, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Ernst Happel Stadion is located near the Wiener Prater, an amusement park just outside of the city centre of Vienna. The stadium was named after a former Austrian national team manager, who passed away during his term as manager.
It has been said that Vienna itself is a museum, but there are also a plethora of famous museums for tourists to see. For the younger crowd, the nightlife is incredible. Their Opera and coffee houses are world famous. It is also a great place to catch some soccer/football.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food was exactly what I had hoped for from an Austrian football stadium. You will love the Schnitzelsemmel. Other options include: Frankfurter, Bratwurst, Wurstsemmel and Manner. Unfortunately, because the game I attended was a UEFA match, they weren't allowed to sell beer and the drink options were pretty slim. Don't forget to return your glass to the vendor for your deposit. If I had one concern, it was getting to the buffet area. The corridors are very skinny and difficult to navigate at halftime.
The atmosphere was electric because it was an international match and there was great representation from both countries (Austria and Turkey) in the sold-out stadium. The fans were cheering in unison well before kick-off and a beautiful summer night, such as this one, really lent to a comfortable feeling in the open-air stadium. The stadium itself is very old but it somehow has the feeling of a fairly new structure (it was renovated in the 1980s).
It's in a unique neighbourhood, to be certain. But in terms of bars or hangouts, the immediate area is lacking. It is a short UBahn trip (two stops) from the Wiener Prater, an amusement park which is home to some great beer gardens and nightclubs as well. Before the game fans generally congregate in front of the stadium where there are numerous food stands and often sponsored events. For sold out events you can buy tickets from anyone waving them in the air. I bought an 11-Euro ticket for 12 Euros from a scalper which turned out to be in the third row.
The fans were very passionate. The game I saw was a sell out (Turkey vs. Austria - EURO 2012 qualifying). It's not a major traditional rivalry but because so many Turkish people live in Vienna, it was a point of pride for both sides and they took it very seriously even though qualifying was already impossible for Austria.
Unfortunately there was some disrespect shown from the Austrian side. It was FIFA fair play day and the captains from each side gave a small speech on that in their own language before the game. The Turkish captain couldn't get a word out because of all the whistling from the crowd. Some fans left early to avoid any potential ugliness between the opposing supporters.
There is free parking on site but it fills up fast. I suggest taking public transit. Usually your game ticket will double as a transit pass before and after the game. If not, it will cost you 1.80 Euros each way. For big games they increase the amount of trains running on the line to the stadium but plan to get there very early because it's possible that the trains will fill up before you have a chance to get on. Bathrooms weren't difficult to find, but it was like peeing onto the floor while standing on a grate.
Cheap tickets can be had, even for big games. This stadium is not used often enough for football matches, in my opinion. There are a lot of good seats and the sight lines are great everywhere. The seats weren't incredibly comfortable but they weren't terrible either. I would definitely go again the next time I am in Vienna.
They are not very thorough at the security check in. The guy ahead of me had something clearly placed in the back of his pants (it was ridiculously obvious and they didn't notice), most likely a bottle of liquor. They didn't even look in my camera bag. At a game where safety was so big of an issue that the riot police made their presence known in the final few minutes, the lack of pre-game security made me uncomfortable.
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