Madrid and Valencia
Posted on March 17, 2012
Four days, three stadiums, two games. In February 2011 I travelled to Spain for some La Liga action….
First up was the Vicente Calderon, for Atletico Madrid v Sevilla:
The ground is dated, but it’s brilliant and has bags of character. The area outside the ground (which is not far from Madrid city centre) is pedestrianised, so people gather outside drinking before the game. We sat in the main stand, and had great seats although at 60 euros they were pretty expensive (high ticket prices seem to be common throughout Spanish football).
Unlike in England, fans are trusted to drink in view of the pitch which means you can have a beer while watching the game and there seemed to be loads more families at the game than you would expect at a Premier League game. The atmosphere was great, despite the complete lack of away fans:
Big thanks to Gareth from the Madrid Atleticos blog for meeting us before the game and taking us for a beer and making sure we got to our seats ok!
The game finished 2-2.
Next up, was a tour of the Bernabeu which is well worth doing if there isn’t a game you can make it to. The stadium itself is very impressive, but the real highlight is the trophy room(s). Being a Spurs fan, I had never seen so many trophies in one place.
The tour of the ground is fairly comprehensive – you start at the highest point of one of the stands, then go down by the pitch, into the dugouts, through the away changing room and into the press room (where you can have the obligatory photo taken of you holding a press conference…).
The ‘Go Madrid’ city tour bus stops off at the Bernabeu, and it only takes a couple of hours to do so you can easily squeeze it into an afternoon.
For the final part of the trip, we took the train from Madrid to Valencia, which took about 2 hours. The main highlight of this journey was the fact that there is a rainforest in Madrid station. Travelling by train in Spain is a joy compared to in England – the trains are quick, clean and run on time.
The game we had tickets for was Valencia v Barcelona, which kicked off at 10pm on a Sunday! We got to the Mestalla a couple of hours before kick off, and there were already thousands of people outside the ground. We went to Bar Manolo el del Bombo, which is about 100 metres from the ground for a couple of pre match beers.
The guy who owns it is a football lunatic, who goes to all of Spain’s games, home and away. The bar is covered in an incredible amount of football memorabilia, and is full of atmosphere. I wouldn’t bother going if there wasn’t a game on, however, there are better bars in the centre of the town.
To get to the ground, the Barca team bus had to drive right through the street where all the Valencia fans were gathering, which added to the atmosphere in the build up to the game. It also gave me an opportunity to have a picture taken next to the team bus:
Inside the ground, the first thing that struck me was just how steep the stands were. It’s crazy, if you tripped and fell you’d fall miles. Again, it’s great being able to have a beer while you watch the game and similar to Atleti absolutely everyone was chewing on sunflower seeds. The game was won by a goal from Messi (who else) and was also notable for the positive reaction that Iniesta got from the Valencia fans, thanking him for his World Cup winning goal.
Tickets – For both games, we ordered tickets online from Servicaixa, which is a Spanish bank. Collecting the tickets is easy, you simply insert your card into a cash point and the tickets are printed out.
Hotel – We stayed at the Room Mate Alicia, which is in a great location on the Plaza Santa Ana, which has a load of bars and restaurants around it – there is a good tapas bar directly opposite the hotel.
Bars – there are hundreds of bars in the centre of Madrid. A couple I particularly enjoyed were La Venencia, which is very shabby and only serves sherry and Dos Gardenias, which did really good mojitos.
Hotel – on this trip, we stayed at the Ad Hoc Monumental Hotel, which was reasonably priced and ok. On a previous trip, I’ve stayed at the Vincci Lys, which I would recommend if you wanted to splash out a bit more.
Bars – The aforementioned Bar Manolo el del Bombo is great if you fancy a beer before or after a game at the Mestalla. San Jaume in Barrio del Carmen is a good point to start a night out in the old town.
When in Valencia, don’t miss out on the phenomenal Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias!