Not many cities can offer the quantity and quality of football that Madrid can. Euan McTear looks at look at this special footballing pilgrimage.
It’s hardly a stretch to claim that the capital of Spain is also the capital of European football. With five top-flight teams, two of the four best club sides based on UEFA coefficients and the Champions League Final coming to town in June, Madrid has all that a football fan could want and more. Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Rayo Vallecano, Getafe and Leganes are all currently in La Liga, so there are at least a couple of top-level fixtures in the city each weekend.
Logically, the main attractions will be Real Madrid’s historic Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and Atletico Madrid’s modern Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. To see Los Blancos live at the ground that hosted the 1982 World Cup Final is a bucket list item, while the club’s museum might just be the very best in the world. No other football club can boast 13 European Cups and the club’s historic successes are shown off in an ultra-modern and interactive environment.
Over in the east is Atletico’s new ground, which will welcome this season’s two Champions League finalists in just a few months. It’s truly impressive how quickly Los Rojiblancos have implanted the boisterous atmosphere of their old Estadio Vicente Calderon into their new home.
While much more modest, Rayo Vallecano’s stadium in Vallecas is just as special an experience. Only 20 minutes from the centre on the Madrid Metro, this working-class neighbourhood invites in fans from all around the world. Their stadium may only have three stands, but the unique design helps create an intimidating atmosphere that visitors to the city will want to be a part of.
Then, in the southern suburbs, you’ll find Getafe and Leganes, two clubs punching well above their weight in the Primera. They may only be a half-hour train ride outside the centre, but it’s a very different kind of experience at their stadiums, away from the hustle and bustle of the heart of the capital. If time permits, it’s worth staying in Getafe or Leganes for a meal, one much more authentic than some of the tourist taps around the other grounds.
Of course, there are excellent eateries in the centre too, if you know where to look. The area of Anton Martin can satisfy those tapas needs, La Latina offers the kind of culinary fusions impossible to find in most other cities, the San Miguel Market has some of the freshest food around and it can all be washed down with a drink in Lavapies, with Calle Argumosa boasting more bars per square metre than almost any other street in Europe.
If there is some time after checking out all the city’s football experiences, Madrid’s museums will keep anyone busy, while the royal palace is another top attraction and one you can actually go inside to explore.
An afternoon in the Retiro Park is also highly recommended. Even there, as is the case everywhere in Madrid, football is just around the corner, as the park is located just next to the Cibeles and Neptuno fountains, where Real Madrid and Atletico fans respectively go to celebrate their many triumphs. From north to south, and east to west, it truly is a football town.