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  • Chris Tuck

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - Real Madrid C.F.

Photos by Chris Tuck, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu Avda. de Concha Espina 1 28036 Madrid, Espana

Year Opened: 1947 Capacity: 81,044


Stunning Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

The city of Madrid was a reluctant capital city. The apparent scarcity of architecturally grand buildings and monuments testify of its lateness to the world stage. Madrid, it is said, is more about the people than its beautification. These truths are turned on their head, the minute you arrive at the famous Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.

This iconic football stadium, the 6th largest in Europe, has a grandeur and presence that demands your attention. From the outside you can tell it is going to be special; it is only when you step into the arena that you understand what all the fuss is about – stunning! The brand of Real Madrid and Santiago Bernabéu transcend the city of their birth. Although fiercely proud of their roots, a visit to the Bernabéu is a bucket list event in a globalised world.

This member’s owned club (known as socios) was founded in 1902 as Madrid Football Club, their famous white kit in evidence from the beginning. The title ‘Real’ (royal) was given to them by the football-mad King Alfonso (13th). Initially the club played at grounds including Campo de O’Donnell and Campo de Ciudad Lineal but ultimately a larger ground was required.

Opened in 1947, the Santiago Bernabéu became home (although the name, dedicated to clubs president, wasn’t introduced until 1955). Over time it has become one of the most iconic stadiums in the world.

After years of talk, in 2018 it was finally agreed the stadium was due a refurbishment. This being Real Madrid, the refit was announced with a YouTube video already watched by over 1 million people.

The £500 million revamp will be built up and over the current structure and will include wraparound LED lightning and a retractable roof.

Work is due to start in the summer of 2019 so plan your trip to the current stadium now and then come back ready to be even more impressed in 2024!

Food & Beverage 3

Outside the stadium the most popular food on sale seems to be packets of sweets!

The stadium itself has four restaurants within its confines, Asador de la Esquina, Puerta 57, Real Café Bernabéu and Zen Market. Book in advance, telephone numbers are on the club website.

Alternatively, refreshment kiosks are dotted around inside the stadium selling the usual football fayre including popcorn for the tourists. If you want to blend in then bring your own sunflower seeds to nibble during the game!

Atmosphere 4

Los Blanco’s (Real Madrid) are used to winning. Very used to winning. They currently have 33 La Liga titles to their name and, their proudest record, 13 European Cup wins (Champion’s league in new money). Thirteen! Incredible! The reputation for winning coincides with a reputation for signing galactico’s who add to the expectation that the club will conquer all before them.

As you enter the stadium itself the view will take your breath away. Seats at the very top of the stadium (the cheapest) provide an incredible view around this vast enclosed coliseum of football.

The four sides of the ground are named Rafael Santiago (north), Padre Damian (east), Concha Espina (south) and De la Castellina (west). Inside all merge into one wraparound bowl-shaped arena with mostly blue and some white seats. The west stand also contains the museum and trophy rooms.

Whilst away fans are not as part of the football culture here as the UK or Germany our game had over 2k away fans nestled in the top two tiers of the south stand providing a vocal and passionate support.

The home atmosphere is generated by Madrid fans at the north end of the ground. Expect cheers when things are going well and deafening whistles when they are not!

Neighborhood 4

The stadium can be found in the Charmartin district of Madrid, north of the city centre. Aside from the stadium, the other attraction in this area is the distinct ‘Gates of Europe’ towers that peer down onto the Plaza De Castilla. You can see them in the distance from the Bernabéu but to visit simply walk 20 minutes to the north of the stadium using the Paseo de la Castellana.

The Charmartin district is a rich and exclusive area with a business park containing four of the tallest skyscrapers in the whole of Spain. The ‘105 Cafeteria’ sits opposite the metro entrance and is perfect for a pre match beer and burger as it is not too busy. A burger and chips basket costs 6 euros, steak and chips 10 euros, eggs bacon and chips 7.50 euros and a small Mahou cerveza (beer) is 2.50. Across the road from the Café 105, behind the south stand, is another popular bar called the Volapie.

Aside from the match however most visitors will not spend a lot of time in this district. The centre of Madrid including the ‘royal’ and ‘old town,’ Triangulo de Arte (for the three main museums) and the area around the Gran Via metro stop will give you a better glimpse into the ‘city of cats,’ a nick name from medieval times that applies these days too as Madrilenos love to stay up very late!

Cathedral de la Almudena and Royal palace of Madrid are two must-see iconic buildings in Madrid. The Cathedral in particular is a fabulous piece of architecture, consecrated by Pope John Paul 2nd in 1993.

Eating establishments across the city are plentiful. A fashionable place to eat is the Market of San Miguel which sells an array of seafood, wines and beers which you can pick at as you move from stall to stall. Bring a coat just in case though as the sides of the large iron structure are open to the elements.

Elsewhere in Madrid, the largest queues are for the Tacos! For a less ‘local’ meal try the Ribs restaurant on Calle De La Abada, just around the corner from the Plaza Del Callao.

There are various accommodation options within a stone’s throw of the stadium such as Holiday Inn Madrid, or AC Hotel by Marriott Aitana. If you are here for other matches too or just to see the Madrid sites then a more central option is Hotel Anaco in the Gran Via area of the city.

Many football fans will take the opportunity to visit another match whilst in the city. TV schedules dictate and finalise the La Liga kick off times around a month before match day and the smaller games sometimes don’t have a kick off time confirmed until a week before the game. To counter this, book flights Friday-Monday and a visit to two or three new grounds is easily achievable.

After the team’s poor home form during the 16/17 season, the club started a ‘singing section’ behind the southern goal. The Grada fans, the most vocal, moved down from the higher tiers and agreed to stand for the entire 90 mins and wear a white Real shirt. The improvement has been a positive one with the singing drowning out the moans and groans typically associated with such expectant supporters.

Fans 3

Founded in the 80s, Madrid Ultras Sur has a reputation for trouble and was reported to be involved in skirmishes before recent matches against Barcelona, Athleti and Malaga.

Hala Madrid will be heard throughout your visit – roughly translating to ‘Come on’ or ‘go’ Madrid!

Just 48,446 attended the 18/19 season opening match v Getafe, the first match without a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, the late kick off time on a Sunday night did not help. In 17/18 season the average attendance was 65,653 second only in La Liga to fierce rivals FC Barcelona (65,824).

Access 5

Fly into the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, (Madrid–Barajas) which is situated in the northeast of the city and is served by the cities efficient metro system.

The nearest train station to the stadium is Nuevos Ministerios, it is south of the ground and a 10 – 15 minute walk away. To the north is Charmartin station but that is 3k from the Bernabéu so not the best option.

The nearest metro is Santiago Bernabéu on line 10 (the blue one) which brings you right outside the stadium. To avoid the queues, particularly after the game, you can walk west to the Estrecho metro stop which, south bound, will take you back to the city centre.

You could also catch a bus. These numbers all take you close to the stadium, 14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 126, 147 y 150

Tickets can be purchased directly from the club website. If you plan to visit a number of matches here, pay 35 euros to become a Madridista and get priority when tickets are released. For matches unlikely to sell out you can buy tickets on arrival at the ticket office. For La Liga fixtures there are a myriad of prices, starting at 45 euros behind the goals and 60 euros along the sides. Tickets will be either print at home or a QR code sent directly to your phone. Tickets are numbered beginning with 100 which is the lowest tier to 500 which is the top tier.

As you enter the stadium there are a plenty of steps up and down into the different sections of the stadium. If you have mobility issues do contact the club in advance.

Return on Investment 3

On the face of it, a trip to Madrid either booked yourself or via a travel company such as ‘football breaks’ will not break the bank. Hotel tickets and flights for a less glamorous fixture can be purchased for just over £200.

However, stay the whole weekend, add a couple of other matches and then pay ‘capital’ prices for your food and drink and the money will soon begin to drain. As such, a visit to the Bernabéu may well be more in the ‘trip of a lifetime’ category than a cheap weekend of groundhopping!

Extras 4

Tours of the stadium are available at 25 euros for adults. Tours can be booked online and reduced versions (without changing rooms) are available on match days. The tour includes the press room, the presidential box, the tunnel and benches plus amazing views of the pitch.

The prestige of the stadium is such that it has hosted the national side, champions league finals, European and world championship matches.

The club shop situated at the north end of the stadium is, of course, huge and every possible item you can think of can be purchased with a Real Madrid logo on the front. Club shirts sell the world over however at 100 euros+ you’d need to factor them into your Madrid visit budget!

Printed match day programmes are available inside the stadium for free. The 28-page glossy ‘Grada Blanco’ provides an excellent memento of your visit.

Final Thoughts

The stadium and the city are even more impressive than any pre-visit research suggests. Whilst there isn’t the ‘San Siro’ wow factor outside the stadium (it is still very impressive), once inside you will be glad you came. The four steep stands provide an imposing yet intimate atmosphere that bowls such as Wembley Stadium fail to muster.

The city of Madrid, too, has more interesting architecture, street art and positive vibe than the guide books might suggest. To enhance the trip still further check the fixtures for La Liga clubs like Real Vallecano, Club Deportivo Leganés, Club Atlético de Madrid and Getafe Club de Fútbol to make it a double. Alternatively there are numerous lower league sides you can visit in Madrid, a visit to Unión Adarve on the west of the city is recommended.

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