A Temple of Football
Some teams need no introduction. Their success-laden past and recent glories speak for themselves, giving them a deserved place on the top table of world football. It's not without good reason that Real Madrid was crowned as the ‘FIFA Team of the Century’ and have followers in all four corners of the globe – and the epicentre of all of this is the club's iconic stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Bernabeu is one of football's most iconic grounds, thanks to its imposing appearance, illustrious history and all the drama that has taken place on its hallowed turf. The legendary stadium has witnessed so many unforgettable moments in football, and the weight and significance of its sporting history are palpable to visitors. The past and the present of the club has involved so many trophies, goals and amazing comebacks, moments so moving and significant that they transcend football itself.
As Real Madrid legend Juanito once said before a memorable comeback against AC Milan, “90 minutes in the Bernabeu seem to go on forever.” This particular game truly encapsulated the fear that the stadium puts into its opponents, or as Jorge Valdano described it, "stage fright."
Every match in the Santiago Bernabeu is a collaborative performance, in which the 80,000 or so attendees have a key participating role in the outcome of the encounter. For any given game there are more than 40 countries represented in the stands, and the synergy between the fans and the team makes for quite the spectacle. It’s not just for people with a passion for football, though – the matchday experience at the Bernabeu has become an integral part of the tourist circuit in the Spanish capital.
Located in the Chamartin neighbourhood of Madrid, which lent itself to the stadium's name until 1947, the Santiago Bernabeu is a timeless edifice. It's situated on one of the main arteries of the city, the Paseo de la Castellana, and, because of this, passers-by are constantly reminded of its formidable presence. The Bernabeu also possesses one of the best football museums in the world, which is also the third-most-popular museum in Madrid, with one and a half million people passing through its doors every year.
It receives even more visitors than the Thyssen museum, with only the Reina Sofia and Prado boasting greater figures. In fact, over 10 per cent of the 10 million tourists that come to the Spanish capital annually visit the museum. The tour of the stadium offers fans a chance to see the best trophy collection in world football, sit in the fabled dugout and even get a photo with Real Madrid's impressive collection of Champions League cups.
The Bernabeu has seen Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano and Raul all perform at the peaks of their careers, as well as memorable concerts by artists such as The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. It's because of this, and the fact that the stadium is located in one of the most attractive neighbourhoods in Madrid, that the Santiago Bernabeu has been, is, and will always be one of the most iconic landmarks in the capital, whether you’re in love with the beautiful game or not.