Stadium Guide: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
Opened in 1947, the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is home to Real Madrid and is one of the most iconic venues in sport. With a capacity of 81,044 seats, building work is currently ongoing to expand the arena as Los Blancos’ president Florentino Pérez modernises the stadium.
Host of the 1982 World Cup final and four Champions League finals in its time, the Real Madrid stadium is one that you simply must visit. Here, La Liga Lowdown’s Madrid resident, Jorge López Torrecilla, gives us insight into a matchday at the Bernabéu.
Where is the Santiago Bernabéu?
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is located in Avenida de Concha Espina nº1, in the middle of one of Madrid’s most famous streets, El Paseo de la Castellana. It is located in the Chamartín district and was inaugurated in 1947. It was officially called “Estadio Real Madrid”, but because of its location it was simply referred to by the locals as “Estadio Chamartín” or just “Chamartín”. Madrid is one of the football capitals of the world, and the Bernabeú has played a huge role in that, becoming the first stadium to host a World Cup, European Cup, Champions League and, historically in 2019, a Copa Libertadores final.
What is a match like at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu?
Matchdays at the Bernabéu are really something else. From the moment you see the stadium outside, until you enter and finally see that green grass, it’s truly an amazing feeling.
Just the sheer number of people that enter the stadium, the second-largest in Spain, the Real Madrid anthem playing just before kick-off, the feeling of knowing that you’re going to witness some of the best players in the world is priceless.
That said, the atmosphere on Champions League nights is nothing like the experience of a LaLiga game at the Bernabéu. It´s true that there is something magical about the Bernabeú during a Champions League encounter, the roar of the crowd is more intense. Fans back the team during the whole game (and this doesn’t always happen in every game of the season) and I truly believe that there’s no better place in the world to enjoy a Champions League game.
How to get to the Bernabéu
Because of its location, it is relatively easy to get to the stadium, no matter where you’re coming from in the city. The easiest and fastest way to arrive is by underground, subway or Metro, as it is called in Spain.
Line 10 drops you off at the Santiago Bernabéu station, and from the exit of the station you’ll already be able to see the outside of the stadium just across the street. This line is available from the city centre through the Plaza de España or Príncipe Pío stations, so it’s really easy to get to.
If it´s a sunny day in Madrid, which is often the case, you can also get to the ground using the number 150 bus which passes through central attractions like Cibeles, Puerta del Sol or Círculo de Bellas Artes, and it drops you off right outside the stadium.
Where to go pre-match at the Bernabéu
In the Bernabéu there’s no culture of a pre-game ritual, as most fans are season-ticket holders and it’s more typical to go straight to the stadium. However, if you want to have a drink before kick-off, there are plenty of bars to the north of the stadium, following the Paseo de la Castellana, that will be full of Madrid supporters. If you want a heavier meal, take the time to go to the Asador Donostiarra, a 15-minute walk to the stadium, and one of Madrid´s finest restaurants where players often go to eat.
If you just want to soak in the atmosphere, there are usually fan meetings in the Plaza de los Sagrados Corazones where you’ll usually hear at least a few Real Madrid chants. But if the game is big enough, the former ultras, an extreme-right wing group that was expelled and banned from the Bernabéu, sometimes meet outside to support the team. They meet in the south part of the stadium, surrounded by police officers. They usually bring tifos and flares, so it’s fun to witness.
How to get tickets for Real Madrid games
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of season-ticket holders at the Bernabéu so the number of tickets that the club actually sells is limited. I strongly recommend buying Real Madrid tickets direct from the club online and planning weeks ahead, because you can receive an email whenever tickets go on sale, so you’ll have the best chance of entering the system as soon as possible. On sale dates and prices are usually published a few weeks in advance, so it’s easy to get prepared.
One of the advantages of the stadium is that it doesn’t matter where you sit to witness the action. For me, the best balance of price and quality is the third level of the stadium. It´s not as expensive as the lower sections and you can see the whole pitch, so you won’t miss a thing, no matter which end all the action is at.
It’s also important to note that Real Madrid usually choose to start the game attacking the north end of the stadium and finish the match attacking to the south stand, where the Grada de Animación is located for supporters who lead the chants. If you think it’ll be a tight game, you’re better off in the south end, but the north end might be a good idea if you think Real Madrid might be out of sight by half-time!
What’s your favourite match at the Bernabéu?
The best memory I have of going to a game at the Bernabéu is on one of those magical Champions League nights, in this case in the 2016/17 semi-final against Atlético Madrid. The night began with the people waiting for the team bus to cheer them on just as they got to the stadium. There were flares and chants in one of the most amazing pre-match atmospheres I’ve witnessed.
Normally, just before kick-off, they play the anthem inside the stadium, but on the big nights like this one, they silence the chorus and it’s amazing to witness the whole stadium chanting in unison: ¡Madrid! ¡Madrid! ¡Madrid! ¡Hala Madrid! ¡Y nada más, y nada más! ¡Hala Madrid!
But obviously, the icing on the cake was the 3-0 derby victory, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick. People left the stadium with the feeling that the team could really become the first team in history to win back-to-back Champions League titles, which they ended up doing.
Local secrets for the Santiago Bernabéu
One of the things I enjoy the most about going to the Bernabéu is the walk to the stadium, so I highly recommend going to Plaza Castilla station on the Metro if you have the time. From there, it’s a 20-minute walk downhill to the stadium and you get to see one of Madrid´s most known streets in El Paseo de la Castellana.
Plaza Castilla also gives you the chance to stroll past a food truck with a lot of churro varieties in “Churrería Kini”, one of Madrid´s classic delicacies. Another one of the most famous things to eat in Madrid is the jamón serrano, and if you want to live the true experience of a match at the Bernabéu with a bocadillo de jamón serrano, I recommend Viandas Hacienda Zorita, one of the best places of the city to get jamón.
The alternative to that downhill walk is going with your car. If that´s the case, try to avoid going to the stadium from Colón to Bernabéu, because of the amount of traffic during matchdays. It’s better to take a longer route and avoid that area of Madrid. There are lots of car parks surrounding the stadium, but the best one is located inside Moda shopping mall. Inside it will only cost you seven euros to park your car, you don´t have a time limit and you’re five minutes away from the stadium.
Try to get to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu at least half an hour before kick-off because there are security controls at the gates to the stadium and it usually gets crowded close to kick-off, especially if you are in the upper tiers and have a long way to climb up the towers to get to your seat once passing the controls.
If you aren’t sure where to go, take a look for Real Madrid volunteers outside the stadium, often wearing big flags, to help you, as well as inside, so you won’t get lost.
Enjoy your matchday!
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