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  • Writer's pictureLouis Scattergood

Stadium Guide: Estadio de la Cerámica

When it comes to some of Spain’s most unique stadiums, Estadio de la Cerámica is almost unrivalled. Home to Villarreal and set in the small town of Vila-real, many of those who visit the stadium do so only to watch a game of football.

It was initially built in 1923 and has been expanded over the years, with the first stands not being built until 40 years later. Eventually, it was demolished and rebuilt on the same site in 1989, with further expansions made heading into the turn of the millennium giving us the stadium as you see it today. Currently, it is the 25th-largest capacity stadium in Spain.

Where is the Estadio de la Cerámica?

The small town of Vila-real is known for little in Spain beyond its football team and its heritage with a rich history making ceramics. Hence, the name of the team’s stadium was changed to Estadio de la Cerámica in 2017. With a population of just over 50,000, there is little in the residential town. The nearest main cities are Valencia, with its beaches and two other top-flight football teams, and Castellón, a larger town with a substantial oil refinery.

Formerly known El Madrigal, the Estadio de la Cerámica is situated in a dense, urban neighbourhood that can be found towards the northwest of the town. You can find it located on Carrer Blasco Ibáñez.

What is a match like at the Estadio de la Cerámica?

Villarreal fan Carles (@carlesvillareal on Twitter) usually arrives a few hours before the game to give him plenty of time to have a drink: “The atmosphere is very nice; I personally enjoy the stadium bars, having a drink while enjoying the previews, the views of people arriving at the stadium and the arrival of the team buses is beautiful.”

Marc Sanchis (@Sanchis7 on Twitter) is also very fond of the bars, especially the ones behind the tribuna and the fondo norte, as he explains that “people are exceptionally nice, and no significant altercation has ever happened.” The atmosphere from within the ground isn’t affected by the occasional inability to fill up as the sense of community that ties the club to the town allows for passionate support from those that fill the stands.

How to get to La Cerámica

As Vila-real isn’t the largest or most elegant place in Spain, the default recommendation would be to stay in Castellón or Valencia, more populated and touristic areas, and travel into Vila-real for a game. There are hourly connections via local Cercanías train services, as well as bus routes, but it’s worth checking timetables in advance as the last trains and buses often run before the end of a 21:00 kick-off. Taxis are always an alternative option, as hotels and places to stay in Vila-real can be in short supply, and local drivers know that there will be high demand.

Once you’ve reached Vila-real, local supporter Marc affirms that the best way of travelling is walking, with the stadium located in the centre of the neighbourhood. “The maximum time you will have to walk anywhere in Vila-real is 25 minutes,” he says. If arriving by train, it should take you around 15 to 20 minutes to arrive at the stadium walking from the station through the town centre.

Where to go pre-match at La Cerámica

“Pre-match it is a great atmosphere outside the stadium because all the fans gather in the plaza and nearby bars to socialise,” Vicky Yarnold (@VYarnold18 on Twitter), a coach at Villarreal told us. That plaza, behind the west stand of the stadium, is a meeting point with several bars full of local supporters, with some heading to the neigbouring Plaça Llaurador with their own drinks.

Among the most popular jaunts in the plaza is Cervecería Los Maños, directly opposite the stadium. It features big screens to watch other matches, as well as Villarreal memorabilia on the walls such as signed shirts gifted to the bar’s owners by players.

How to get tickets for Villarreal games

La Cerámica’s capacity is 23,500, which is almost half of the entire population of the town that the stadium sits in, thus making a sell-out a rare occurrence. Carles echoes this as he lives slightly further away. “The best way to find tickets is online. I live far away, and I cannot get to the ticket office, but this isn’t usually a problem unless an important match is around the corner.”

In the event that you can’t buy online, or just desperately want an old-fashioned paper ticket and want to buy directly from the stadium’s ticket office, the best bet is to arrive at the stadium around 14:00 for an evening kick-off, or around 10:00 for an earlier kick-off, and head directly to the ticket-office. Queues are unusual until shortly before kick-off, and unless it’s a big European tie or a derby, you should be able to get your hands on a ticket fairly easily.

What's your favourite match at La Cerámica?

It has been a shock to many that the club that represents the settlement of 50,000 people has reached the levels of Europe’s best four teams, but if one thing is for sure, groguets will be forever grateful for what their team has achieved, never mind what they have the possibility of achieving.

Marc’s favourite memory of La Cerámica was the Europa League semi-final against Liverpool. “Adrian’s goal in the 90th minute was a magical sight and he really believed that it could be the first final in the history of the club.” Carles’ favourite experience takes him back to his first, “The day I went with my parents for the first time was a great day, despite not winning the game. Experiences like those are ones that mark you for life.”

Local secrets for La Cerámica

Perhaps the most unusual feature of the Estadio de la Cerámica is that it has been built around a house. Unlike most major sporting arenas, this stadium has grown around its neighbours and in the south corner you may be able to spot the residential building which the stadium was built to respect. In fact, a local residence for young players is directly opposite the ground for budding young talents to look out at where they could one day be playing.

Another peculiar feature is to keep an eye out behind the goals, where Villarreal hang shirts of the players in the squad. This unusual display is one which began during the Covid-19 pandemic when the stadium was the only Primera División arena to be completely filled by cardboard cut-outs of fans. The players wanted to be present alongside their fans, and the shirts have remained as a permanent feature, rotating to feature new additions.

Marc provides an interesting fact about the Villarreal kick-off routines, “In the first half, The Yellow Submarine like to attack towards the north bottom gate and in the second, towards the south. This is because it looks towards San Pascual.”

Post-match, the fun doesn’t end there. Carles has tender memories of an experience that he shared with one of the stars of the contemporary Villarreal squad at the doors of the stadium as he explains that “if you are lucky and wait long enough, you can see the players exit the premises in their cars. Once I went and was able to get one with Pau Torres, who got out of his car to greet me and take a photo.”

For more tips or to ask any questions, reach out to us on Twitter at @LaLigaLowdown.

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