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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The King Baudouin Stadium is mostly remembered for its 1985 disaster when the venue was under its original name Heysel Stadium, taken from the Brussels district in which it is located. The disaster happened at the European Cup Final (Now Champions League) that year between Liverpool and Juventus. Despite being Belgium's National Stadium it was not well maintained at that time and poor crowd control led to the deaths of thirty nine supporters.
Following the disaster the ground was only used for athletics. A decade later, in 1995, it was completely rebuilt and re named after the Belgian Monarch who had passed away two years earlier. The stadium is now one of the most modern in Europe and has an all seated capacity of 50,122.
The stadium is constructed with a two tier "stand alone" main stand with the rest of the stadium being a wrap around construction.
The King Baudouin Stadium has also hosted a Rugby Union in addition to many of the world’s most famous pop artists performing at the venue.
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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 stadium's concourses are well populated with kiosks selling the normal range of bratwursts, frankfurters, pretzels and frites (fries) with ketchup or mayonnaise. Hot and cold drinks are available in addition to local beer. Service is fast and prices are reasonable.
The game that I attended was Belgium's pre World Cup farewell game against Tunisia and with high expectation of Belgium having a good tournament the atmosphere was buzzing. The game was a sell out and the stadium was noisy and colourful until the weather intervened.
The King Baudouin Stadium is unique in that there is plenty of entertainment both in the vicinity of the ground and the city centre to occupy your time before or after a game. The city centre offers all of the normal tourist attractions that capital city's tend to possess. Brussels Grand Square is excellent with its historical buildings, quaint shops, and excellent cafes and restaurants. The stadium itself is part of a complex that includes a water park and the world famous Atomium building. A visit to the Atomium is a must as it is a good time filler before a game and once at the top offers an excellent view of the stadium. There are also plenty of eating places here and a fan park on a match day.
Nicknamed the Red Devils, the Belgium National Team are currently in one of their most successful periods in their history. Their young crop of talent who are Premier League and La Liga superstars have given the team hope of success. This improvement in talent has in turn led to most games selling out over the last few years giving Belgium football the shot in the arm it needed. Local rivals are Germany, France and Holland.
The stadium is located in the Heysel district of the city around six kilometres from the centre. Three metro stations lie within walking distance of the stadium: Heysel, Roi Baudouin, and Houba-Brugmann, of which the first two are the closest. They can be reached with line 6 which circulates the centre of Brussels and also stops by railway station Gare du Midi (Zuidstation).
King Baudouin Stadium can be easily reached by car from the Brussels ring road. Take exit 8 (Wemmel) from the northern part of the ring and drive a few hundred metres south. The stadium will be on your left. Car parks are available near the stadium with plenty of street parking around a ten minute walk away.
Match day tickets start at 30 Euro and are available via the Belgium F.A. website. Ticket touts operate outside, but naturally ticket prices will be inflated.
Any seat in the stadium offers a good view and with the new Belgian crop of talent on show, prices can be described as reasonable.
There are plenty of souvenir stalls around the stadium selling the normal range of match day memorabilia. Stadium tours are available on non match days priced at 8 Euro. The one extra that I didn't bargain for was the freak weather storm that halted the game for fifty minutes during my most recent visit. On a day of 90 degrees weather the storm delivered golf ball size hail stones that caused destruction to vehicles including my car and brought down trees in the area.
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