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Official Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
This is the story of one of Europe’s finest football (soccer) stadiums, Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in Madrid. This stadium is the home of Real Madrid CF.
In the early years of the 20th century, Real Madrid played their home matches at Campo de O’Donnell, but in 1924, they moved to the larger Campo de Chamartín. In 1943, the Campo de Chamartin had already become too small, so club president Santiago Bernabéu decided that Real Madrid needed a new 100,000-seat stadium.
This new stadium was built at the same site of Campo de Chamartín. Construction began in 1945 and on the 14 December 1947, the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium officially opened. The stadium was initially called Nuevo Estadio Chamartín, but received the name of the club president 8 years later.
At that time, Estadio Santiago Bernabéu consisted of two uncovered tiers that could hold just over 75,000 spectators. Capacity was further increased to 125,000 in 1954. The Bernabéu Stadium was one of the playing venues of the European Championships in 1964, and hosted the final between Spain and Russia (2-1).
For the 1982 World Cup, the stadium was renovated, which included the construction of a roof that covered the three two-tiered stands and the installation of seats in half of the stadium. The capacity was reduced to 90,800 persons. Also during the 1982 World Cup, Estadio Santiago Bernabéu hosted a couple of group matches, as well as the final between Italy and Germany (3-1).
In the 1990s, there was another extensive redevelopment of the stadium, which included extending the third tier over the entire stadium and adding four access towers in each corner of the stadium. The stadium became an all-seater at this point. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu got further refurbished and upgraded between 2001 and 2006, and nowadays holds a capacity just over 85,000. Estadio Santiago Bernabéu has hosted four European Cup / Champions League finals. The last final was in 2010 when Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich (2-0).
In fact, UEFA has awarded this stadium with five-stars! This is how the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu became one of the finest football stadiums in Europe.
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".
Many food and drink counters can be found inside the ground. There are many varieties of sodas, beer or still water. There is also a choice of sandwiches, which can be bought at reasonable prices. To experience a football match in true Spanish style, buy a bag of "pipas", sunflower seeds folded in old newspapers, which will cost you only €1.00.
There are also a couple of restaurants inside the stadium. One of them is the Asador de la Esquina. With a seating capacity for 200 guests, the Asador de la Esquina boasts spectacular views of the Bernabéu pitch through its 25 metre-long glass window. The diverse menu includes a hamburger made of Grade-A beef from the Guadarrama mountains in Madrid and a spectacular T-bone steak. I also recommend the sea bream, goat, chicken, and assortment of vegetable dishes. Dessert items include churros, honey-coated pastries, and Campo Real cheese served with quince jelly.
The atmosphere in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is good. During the match against Real Sociedad, we could hear several songs by the "Ultras Sur", whom are the most fanatic Real Madrid supporters. I can imagine that the atmosphere can reach five stars when Real Madrid are playing local rivals Atlético Madrid. At this match, there was a small tifo action by the Ultras Sur (showing the Spanish flag with an axe). Unfortunately, there were no pyrotechnics involved as I experienced before at my travels to Paris Saint-Germain and FC Schalke 04.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is located in the north part of the city of Madrid. The stadium lies at the Paseo de la Castellana, one of Madrid's principal avenues. Around the stadium, there is a big shopping mall, and just opposite of the ticket office, there is a Burger King restaurant (at the Avenida de Concha Espina). There are also many restaurants and tapas bars in the surrounding area of the stadium. So, there is plenty to do and see if you come early to the stadium.
Real Madrid's hardcore supporters are the Ultras Sur supporters. However, they are also known for their extreme right-wing politics. This group of supporters are housed in the southern part of the stadium behind one of the goals. Keep in mind that the Ultras Sur are just a small part of supporters in comparison to the regular supporters that attend home matches of the Real Madrid CF.
You can reach the Estadio Santiago via several transportation methods. The stadium is best reached by metro line 10; stop Santiago Bernabéu lies right next to the stadium. There are also many buses that stop at the stadium (Lines 14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 147, and 150). If you are travelling by train, you get off at stop "Nuevos Ministerios". From there, it's about a 15-minute walk to the ground.
Real Madrid sells out various games per season, though for most matches, tickets will be easily available (except against big opposition). Seats behind the goal and in the corners range in price from €30.00 for the upper tiers to €95.00 for the lower areas. Seats at the long sides range in price from €55.00 to €175.00. This is quite an investment, but when you can get a hold of a cheaper ticket, it's money well spent.
Real Madrid offers self-guided stadium tours, during which you follow a route through the stadium. The route includes the dugouts, presidential box, press room, changing rooms, players' tunnel, and trophy room, and ends in the club shop. The stadium is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10:00am to 7:00pm, and Sundays and public holidays from 10:30am to 6:30pm. No reservations are required. You can book the tour online for €16.00.
The official Real Madrid club store is situated within Santiago Bernabéu Stadium and is located on Padre Damián Street next to Gate 55. Athletes and Real Madrid supporters can find a wide range of officially licensed Adidas and Real Madrid sports apparel and merchandise on each of the three floors. It truly is a meeting point for Madridistas and sports fans.
When you are in Madrid for a city trip, please visit a match of Real Madrid CF. This is a memory which will last for the rest of your life. See the stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, and Iker Casillas yourself. If you didn't manage to get a ticket for a home match, then at least book a stadium tour. It will make your trip to Madrid even more memorable!
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