Santiago Bernabeu. Even the name sounds impressive.
As a football fan, a visit to Madrid was not complete without a trip to the home of Real. However, I was visiting the Spanish capital with my girlfriend Chloe on our first holiday together, and I felt guilty about taking her along to the Bernabeu.
I knew Real Madrid had a Champions League group stage fixture during our trip, but even if I was being optimistic that was never on the cards.
A tour of the stadium was more realistic though, so I found myself outside the famous ground the morning after Real’s victory over Porto.
As soon as you emerge from the Bernabeu’s metro stop, you see the iconic façade of the stadium. After a climb to the top of one of the corner spirals, the tour begins at a viewing platform in the top tier.
I knew the Bernabeu was big – 80,000 seats obviously don’t fit into a small ground – but looking down it’s hard not to be blown away. What struck me most was the way tiers were added over time, making the Bernabeu what it is today.
Moving down the stadium, a museum shows off Real’s continued success over time. Everyone knows Madrid have a long history of winning trophies, but I never realised just how many trophies that was.
Most impressive is the collection of Champions League trophies. When we visited in 2016, there was only a mere eleven on display. Typically, Madrid have added another Champions League since.
After the museum we had a coffee overlooking the pitch, in arguably the best seats in the house. Then, we made our way down to pitch level for the highlight of the tour:
The Galactico’s changing rooms.
Only the night before, the world’s best players were celebrating a European win in this very room. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, James Rodriguez, Sergio Ramos. I was starstruck in an empty room.
Then it got even better.
Walking out of the changing rooms a corridor takes you down steps with a metal caged wall separating us from the away team. At the bottom of the steps were more steps – this time heading up onto the pitch. Just as some of the world’s best players have done.
I could have spent hours walking around that technical area and sitting in the dugout. Meanwhile, Chloe was taking advantage of the comfy seats in the dugouts, unfazed Zinedine Zidane had been sat in the very same seat hours before.
Eventually, I dragged myself away from pitchside and we left the stadium via the away changing rooms and media zone.
As much as I would love to see a match at the Bernabeu, the access-all-areas tour was a far better way to see the stadium. If I want to see a match, I just have an excuse to return to Madrid.
The Santiago Bernabeu metro station is a stone throw from the ground, and fairly cheap to reach from the city centre.
Tickets are 25 euros, and available at the tour ticket office at the ground. Tours are self-guided, so you can take as long as you want at each stop.
For matchdays, tours are reduced, so it’s best to go on days without a game.
For making the most of the rest of your time in Madrid, see my Madrid travel blog.