Best European Football City Breaks
Though most holiday makers in Europe plan their trips abroad to encompass good food, beautiful scenery and maybe even a spot of history, we like to ensure our weekends away on the continent coincide with a decent fixture. For us, going to game of football abroad is one of the best ways to experience a city – not only are the stadiums full of locals desperate to show off their club and area, it can often even work out cheaper to catch a game in mainland Europe than catch the train to a Premier League away day.
Everybody knows about the big boys – so they’ll be no Barcelonas or Bayerns in our list. We’re here to make you think outside the box and throw yourself in at the deep end. With that in mind, here are some of the best cities in Europe for a football weekend break.
Seville, Spain – Sevilla FC
Though Barcelona and Madrid will be your first thoughts when it comes to football trips to Spain, anyone who’s ever been to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville will know that Sevilla has one of the most passionate fan bases in the country. Culturally, Seville is rich in heritage, and is ideal for a long weekend away with plenty of bars and restaurants, as well as sights to see such as the Cathedral, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Archeological Museum, and the Gardens of the Royal Castle which were used for filming in Game of Thrones. Seville is football mad being also home to Real Betis and kick-offs for both sides can sometimes be as late as 10.30pm to avoid the heat in what is mainland Europe’s hottest town.
Plzeň, Czech Republic – FK Viktoria Plzeň
Prague may be one of the continents go-to stag destinations but Plzeň is half the price and only a short journey away. Not only that, the beautiful city is also host to two essentials for a football trip abroad; good football and good beer. Plzen is home to FK Viktoria who have won the Czech First League four times in the last seven years. Their ground isn’t much to look at and only holds 10,000 capacity, but it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre and it’s also next door neighbours with the Pilsner Urquell Brewery and the Czech Republic’s biggest pub. What more could you want?
Hamburg, Germany – FC St. Pauli
A city which packs most of the positive things about a weekend away in Germany is Hamburg. Home to seven football teams, six of which over 100 years old, Germany’s second city is perfect for a football weekend in Europe. While you could go see the city’s biggest club, Hamburger SV, FC St. Pauli attract visitors far and wide thanks to their famed atmosphere and vehemently left-wing ultras. Though they play their football in German football’s second tier, their recently redeveloped Millerntor-Stadion offers one of the best atmospheres in mainland Europe. The Sankt Pauli neighbourhood is also an ideal location for drinking too with the Reeperbahn, the famous harbour and plenty of bars all nearby.
Split, Croatia – HNK Hadjuk Split
Football in the Balkans is like nowhere else in Europe. Fiercely passionate and incredible loud, fans in the likes of Croatia live and breathe football. And if you want some beach life alongside your flares, look no further than Split. Football graffiti on almost every corner, as well as beautiful people sunbathing on golden sands, Split has the best of both worlds. Hadjuk v Dinamo Zagreb is the biggest game in Croatia, with the two usually fighting it out (sometimes off the pitch too) for the Croatian league title. Hadjuk is also home to the Torcida, Europe’s first organised fans’ group, so there’s some real football history here too. Cheap bars, stunning people and party islands just a boat ride away, Split is everything you could want for a European football trip.
Bologna, Italy – Bologna FC 1909
If you’re looking for a weekend away full of culinary delights as well as football – and why wouldn’t you be in Italy? – Bologna is often referred to lovingly as ‘La Grassa’ (the Fat One). Their local team, Bologna FC 1909 ply their trade in Serie A, Italy’s top division. And while the football is a must, a weekend away in Bologna won’t be all about the sport. This is the home of fresh pasta, the famed mortadella sausage, and nearby there are the finest producers of Parma ham, Parmigiano cheese, balsamic vinegar. The city is also known for its beautiful arcades, medieval architecture, and bustling social scene, partly down to its university which is one of the oldest in Europe. A brilliant weekend break destination regardless of the football.
Istanbul, Turkey – Galatasaray SK
The Istanbul football experience needs to really be seen to be believed. With fans from each of its big three clubs often turning up to grounds in full voice as much as 3 hours early, fixtures at Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahçe can be deafening. Galatasaray is traditionally the biggest club in the city, so we’d recommend heading to the Türk Telekom Stadium for your football fill. They may no longer welcome visiting fans with ‘Welcome to Hell’ banners, but Gala are still widely regarded as having one of the most intimidating atmospheres in European football.
Amsterdam, Netherlands – AFC Ajax
Amsterdam is undoubtedly one of the biggest weekend break bargains in Europe with flights in abundance and always relatively cheap. But the Dutch sort-of-capital is also perfect for catching a fixture. Ajax are the Netherlands’ most supporting club and the atmosphere in the Amsterdam Arena is second to none, especially if the roof is closed. The city itself has the ambience of a European metropolis but does away with many of the big city annoyances – primarily, Amsterdam isn’t the biggest city in the world which means you can walk or cycle, as the locals do, pretty much anywhere. The football is high quality, the canals and buildings are great to look at, and Amsterdam is generally perfect for a rebellious weekend away with your mates with vices around every corner.
Belgrade, Serbia – FK Partizan/Red Star
Finally, we make a trip to Belgrade and its famed derby one of world football’s Holy Grails. Since the Serbian SuperLiga was incepted in 2006, Belgrade’s two teams, Partizan and Red Star, have won each of the country’s 11 titles (Partizan – 8, Red Star – 3). Put simply, they hate each other. It’s not for the faint hearted and would almost certainly be one of the most intimidating experiences of your entire life, but it’s cheap, full of flares and would be an experience like no other available in Europe.