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Many Americans only pay attention to soccer once every four years during the World Cup. But for much of the world, soccer (or football) is a way of life.
"The beautiful game," as Pelé famously called it, is steeped with history. Many stadiums (that are still used today) are over a hundred years old, making them travel destinations for die-hard fans from across the world.
But if you are going to travel to watch soccer, you'll want to know the best places to go is and why. To help, we gathered up the 9 best soccer stadiums in the world so you can start building your soccer vacation bucket list.
Wembley Stadium — London, England
Date Opened: 1923 (Rebuilt in 2007)
Wembley Stadium is home to the England National Football team and also hosts the FA Cup final and many international matches (and famous musical acts such as Queen). This stadium is also the Football Association headquarters and holds the largest capacity of fans in the U.K.
The Wembley Stadium has a distinctive arch and if you have visited London before you have probably seen in when flying into Heathrow. Although the current stadium is new, the original Wembley Stadium opened in 1923. Pelé once said, “Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.” We agree with Pele.
Old Trafford — Manchester, England
Date Opened: 1909
Home to Manchester United, Old Trafford is the largest club soccer stadium in the U.K (with the largest stadium being Wembley). It’s nicknamed “The Theater of Dreams” for a good reason. It has been United’s home for over 100 years; that it’s pretty epic. David Beckham started his soccer career with Manchester United if that tells you anything.
As one of the most famous stadiums and teams in the U.K., the energy in the stadium will not disappoint if you are able to attend a game, the pure magic of soccer will come to life in the infamous Old Trafford stadium.
Estadio Azteca — Mexico City, Mexico
Date Opened: 1966
The Estadio Azteca stadium is home to Club América and the Mexico national football team. This stadium is the largest in Mexico and home to some of the most memorable FIFA World Cup goals ever. It’s also one of the only stadiums in the world to host two FIFA World Cup finals.
Despite being located 15 kilometers south of one of the biggest cities in the world, public transportation via Metro and light rail makes easy to access.
Maracanã — Rio de Janeiro
Date Opened: 1950
The Maracanã stadium is full of history. Not only did it host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but it also hosted the FIFA World Cup in 1950 when it opened. The Maracanã is home to club Flamengo, and it’s located in one of the most gorgeous cities in the world, Rio de Janeiro.
While you are visiting Rio, make sure to check out the infamous Christ the Redeemer statue for a great view of the stadium; you won’t be able to miss it.
Johan Cruyff Arena — Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date Opened: 1996
Home to the AFC Ajax’s the Johan Cruyff Arena, formerly known as Amsterdam ArenA, changed names during the 2018-2019 season in honor of an AJAX player. Johan Cruyff, who passed away in 2016, after battling cancer, was a renowned player and a coach.
This stadium is the largest in the Netherlands and has a state of the art retractable roof. This colorful stadium is definitely worth a stop while you are in Amsterdam and easily accessible by train from the center city as well.
Luzhniki Stadium — Moscow, Russia
Date Opened: 1956
The Luzhniki stadium is home to Russia's national football team. You might also recognize the Luzhniki Stadium from the 2018 World Cup finals when France beat Croatia to take home the gold. Located in Moscow, the capital city, Luzhniki is the largest stadium in Russia and one of the biggest in Europe.
While the stadium has made some major renovations with the field, seating capacity, and all-inclusive spectator services, we can not forget about the stampede during the 1982 Champions League final. This is the biggest disaster in Russian football, The Luzhniki Disaster, resulting in 66 deaths.
FNB Stadium — Johannesburg, South Africa
Date Opened: 1989
FNB Stadium (First National Bank) is home to the Kaizer Chiefs F.C. and formally known as Soccer City. Not only has it hosted a FIFA World Cup, but more importantly, it was where Nelson Mandela gave his first speech after being released from prison. This is also where memorial services were held when Mandela died in 2013.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium — Madrid, Spain
Date Opened: 1947
The Santiago Bernabéu stadium is another one full of history and producer of exceptional athletes. It’s home to Real Madrid and has been since 1947. This is the stadium to watch a Championship game and to cheer on one of the winningest clubs in history. The stadium has been home to some of the best players in the world, including five-time ballon d'or winner Christiano Ronaldo, World Cup winner (and current Real Madrid coach) Zinedine Zidane, and countless others.
Emirates Stadium— London
Date Opened: 2006
While the Emirates Stadium is decades newer than a lot of stadiums listed above, it’s home to one of the best teams around, Arsenal. While there may still be some disgruntled fans about the move around the corner to a new stadium, we are big fans.
The Emirates Stadium is a step up from most of the other stadiums in Europe from a fan’s perspective. It’s equipped with padded seats and giant screens for fans in the upper-tier seats, making it enjoyable at any price range.
Parken Stadium — Copenhagen, Denmark
Date Opened: 1992
Parken Stadium is officially called Telia Parken stadium because of sponsorship formalities. It’s home to both the FC Copenhagen and Denmark's national football team. This is definitely the smallest stadium on the list from a capacity standpoint, but it holds a Category 4 ranking from the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations). Category 4, formally known as the elite category, makes them one of 12 venues to host the UEFA Euro 2020, the international men’s championship.
The intimate setting for games at the Parken Stadium makes sense with the vibe of Copenhagen. And if you want to embrace the local lifestyle even more, you should probably plan to ride your bicycle to the game.
Soccer has fans all around the world. Our 9 favorite stadiums span across 4 different continents, and there are hundreds more to see that didn’t make the cut.
If you don’t have a favorite team yet watch out for some star players during the 2020 Olympics this summer in Tokyo, you are bound to have a favorite player by the end.