This blog post was updated on December 18, 2019.
If you’re the kind of soccer fan who’s got up at 3 a.m. to watch your favorite team play, who has faithfully worn your unwashed team jersey all through the season for good luck, and who’s bitten your fingernails down to the bone agonizing through every penalty shootout — then you deserve a well-earned break! But if you have to pack up and head off to a foreign destination, wouldn’t it be cool if it’s a place that embraces the history, culture, fun, and buzz that surrounds “The Beautiful Game”?
We’ve got you covered! These destinations are not only great for their culture and people, but also hold something special for the soccer fanatic in you – get them lined up in your sights, and kick off a great holiday!
Barcelona is perhaps the most soccer crazy city in Spain, and is a must for any traveler looking for the total soccer vacation. The legendary home team FC Barcelona is well known for its fierce rivalry with Real Madrid, and when these two teams meet for a match known as El Clasico, the passionate clash creates an atmosphere you wouldn’t want to miss.
The Camp Nou Stadium, which houses FC Barcelona, is definitely worth the visit. When you’re there, do the virtual reality experience at the Barça Museum to relive all the most exciting goals and moments as if you were really there! A visit to Barcelona would not be complete without it. If you ever manage to catch a game and Barcelona wins, head to the Canaletas fountain at the beginning of Las Ramblas to celebrate the victory with the fans (legend has it that whoever drinks the water from the fountain will return to Barcelona!).
For the people of Brazil, soccer is not just a sport. It’s a full-blown religion. People start playing soccer on the streets using anything they can find as a ball in hopes that they will become good enough to play professionally like the legends who have donned the gold and green jersey over the decades.
Start your visit at Rio de Janeiro‘s Maracanã Stadium. Come watch the rivalry between the Flamengo, Fluminense, Vasco, and Botafogo soccer clubs as they face off to see who will become Rio’s champion team. Before the game, check out the street festivities where vendors sell unbelievably cheap ice-cold beers and kebabs. Post-game, head to the beach and ask the locals if you can join their game of beach soccer. Many competitions are held on the beach, but be prepared to work hard because the sand makes it difficult to pass the ball. If you’re looking to get out of the sun, join a futsal club (indoor soccer played with small teams) and learn to play on a concrete floor!
This small, island nation in the Northern Atlantic Ocean only has a population of 334,000, but has in recent years accelerated up the rankings as one of the best teams in Europe (the Icelandic National team has risen 91 spots in the FIFA world rankings in just 5 years!).
Known for its rugged natural beauty that includes glaciers, fjords, and volcanic black sand beaches, the country has been on most travelers’ bucket list for years, and now, it seems like soccer fans have a reason to visit as well! During your trip, be sure to watch a game with the locals, as their new-found success has sparked a resurgence in soccer mania. Head to Sportbarinn Olver in Reykjavik, a great sports bar just 10 minutes away from the Laugardalsvöllur national stadium. Grab a beer, try the off-menu steak sandwich, and maybe even participate in the “Viking clap” – a chant where the crowd claps their hands above their heads and cry out “Huh!” in unison.
A game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is a no-brainer for any soccer enthusiast. It holds 95,000 fans, and has seen some epic battles over the decades. This stadium is notoriously difficult for visiting teams because of its high altitude and the deafening roar of the crowd. If you can’t catch a game, take a private tour and get behind-the-scenes access to the stadium.
Consider visiting in 2026, when Mexico will be co-hosting the World Cup with the United States and Canada. Mexico will become the first country to host three men’s World Cups, as it had previously hosted in 1970 and 1986. The matches will be played in Mexico City, Monterrey, and in Guadalajara. You can also use the time between games to chill out on Mexico’s picturesque Caribbean coastline at Cancun or Playa del Carmen.
No list would be quite complete without mentioning England. Leaving aside all the beautiful historic sites, diverse food culture, and buzzing pub culture, you can enjoy some amazing stadium tours in London and experience the energy around the hallowed grounds of the iconic Wembley Stadium or the tension in the player’s tunnel at Arsenal’s home ground Emirates Stadium.
Head out of London to visit the city of Manchester, home of the famed Red Devils — Manchester United. While there, you can brush up on your knowledge of soccer history at the National Football Museum and even plan a stay at a soccer-themed hotel, aptly named Hotel Football. If time permits, make sure to plan trips to Liverpool or Newcastle — both cities with proud footballing histories. For a more unconventional soccer experience, head to the small village of Bourton-on-the-Water, where locals play football knee-deep in the River Windrush every August, making quite the splash in the process!
Start your adventure in Dortmund to see the Signal Iduna Park Stadium — the largest stadium in Germany. If you can, get your hands on a ticket to sit in “Die Gelbe Wand” section, or the Yellow Wall section with the home fans all clad in their yellow jerseys. Have a few pints of Brinkhoff’s beer, which is brewed right in Dortmund, and a bratwurst while you watch the game.
Want some game time on your trip? Bring your whole soccer team with you and book a guided tour where you can go sightseeing, play friendly matches with local teams, and train with some of the world’s top educated coaches. Pick from cities like Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf, or Bonn and visit the stadiums or watch matches of world-class Bundesliga teams such as FC Bayern Munich, FC Cologne, and Bayer Leverkusen. Be sure to include Munich on your tour route so you get to see the #1 ranked FC Bayern Munich in action…and keep drinking lots of great beer wherever you roam!
If you’re interested in a piece of history, Zurich is the place for you! Zurich is home to the FIFA World Football Museum, where several unique objects are housed, such as a referee’s notepad from 1966 that was used in the England vs. Argentina quarter-final.
The official World Cup Trophy can also be seen there when the World Cup is not taking place. Both soccer fans and those who don’t know much about the sport will appreciate the museum, as there are over 1,480 photos from the earliest days of soccer, more than 1,00 exhibits, and 500 videos of the FIFA member countries since 1930. While you’re there, head to Letzigrund Stadium to watch FC Zurich play. This club team is 121 years old, and while the stadium is modest in size, it makes up for it in style and aesthetic with floating wood ceilings.
Know of any other locations that can score with soccer fans? Let us know in the comments.