European football weekends: Your guide for trips to Germany, Spain and Italy
All you need to know if you’re planning on attending a La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga match
From left: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Photos: Getty Images
Borussia Dortmund’s yellow wall, the San Siro, seeing Lionel Messi at the the Nou Camp, they’re all bucket list entries. With cheap flights now available to so many European destinations a weekend away to take in a match from some of Europe’s top leagues is becoming a more and more popular option for a trip. While there are hundreds of options around Europe, we’ve looked at some of the most popular ones, as well as some alternatives, across Germany, Italy and Spain.
With cheap tickets, great atmospheres and modern stadiums Germany has become one of the most popular destinations for football tourism. Most stadiums are divided between seating and safe standing areas and fans can drink beer from plastic cups inside the ground while the food on offer is usually good quality German fare of bratwurst, currywurst and the like. A good tip to keep in mind is that if you return your beer cup at the end of the game you will receive €1 back in most stadiums. In Germany even the fans clean up after themselves.
Tickets are also incredibly good value. For instance, a standing season ticket for five-time European Cup winners Bayern Munich only costs €145. However, these cheap prices do lead to huge demand and don’t be fooled into thinking you can get a season ticket for the Allianz Arena, even the club’s official website says that new applicants “stand no chance whatsoever” such is the length of the waiting list.
If you’re planning on making a trip to see a Bundesliga match you have a wealth of options in terms of when to go as kick-off times are spread over the weekend. Every Friday there is a match at 7.30pm, on Saturdays six matches generally kick off at 2.30pm with one at 5.30pm and the final two matches of the weekend at 2.30pm and 5pm on Sunday. Occasionally there will also be a Monday evening match. Yet another positive note when planning a football trip to Germany is that, unlike in Italy and Spain, kick-off times are confirmed well in advance. For instance, at the time of writing, all match times are confirmed until the end of September. You can see all of the Bundesliga fixtures here.
So, let’s take a look at the big two first.
Flights: Munich is very handy to reach from Dublin with Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Lufthansa all flying direct. From December Aer Lingus will also offer a route from Cork. As is generally the case, Ryanair usually works out the cheapest. For instance, you can fly out from Dublin on the morning of Bayern Munich’s first home game (Friday August 16th) and back the following evening for €127 in total.
Tickets: Now comes the tricky part. Reasonable prices and top quality football leads to serious demand for tickets but they can still be obtained. Almost every club in Germany has a ticket resale website and they’re generally the best place to get sorted. For non-members tickets for Bayern Munich home games generally appear on the resale website about 10 days before the game. Ticket prices for the Allianz Arena range between €15 and €70 and because the resale website is official to the club there is no mark-up from fans, only a slight extra transaction fee. Be warned that tickets do sell very quickly and a good tip for giving yourself the best chance of a getting one for any big European team is to aim for a game in the same week as a home Champions League match because more fans will usually be selling their tickets for the league game in question.
Flights: There are no direct flights from Dublin to Dortmund but the city is still very accessible with Dusseldorf and Cologne both nearby. Aer Lingus offer return flights from Dublin to Dusseldorf twice a day seven days a week while Ryanair have one return service per day from Dublin to Cologne. For Dortmund’s first game of the season at home to Augsburg (Saturday August 17th) you can fly to Cologne the day before the game and back the day after for €113 return.
Tickets: Like Bayern Munich, Dortmund run a ticket resale website where prices range from €17 for standing areas to €60 in category one. Dortmund tickets are some of the most in-demand anywhere in the world and you will need to act quickly as they sell quickly on the resale site. Some tickets do go on sale at the BVB FanWorld shop in the city centre as well.
Why not try...
You can’t go wrong with pretty much any ground in Germany in both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga II but if you’re looking for atmosphere and a pretty unique environment then Union Berlin is the way to go. With multiple cheap direct flights from Dublin and Belfast International to the German capital it’s a city that is easy to get to and, while known mainly for its history, the football isn’t bad either.
Last season Union were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history and there are few stadiums you will visit anywhere quite like Stadion An der Alten Försterei – in English ‘The Old Forester’s House’. That’s because the ground is located right in the middle of the forest and the experience of walking through the trees towards the distant stands make it feel more like a music festival than a football match. Tickets will be harder to come by now that Union are in the top tier but, for most games, they go on general sale on the website while for the bigger games there is a secondary ticket site. Hertha Berlin are also located in the city – playing at the historic Olympic Stadium – so it’s occasionally possible to get two games in over one weekend.
Once the powerhouse of European football, the Italian domestic game saw somewhat of a decline in the early part of this century but has seemingly been on the rise again for a few years now. While, on the face of it, it’s more a case of Juventus reaching a financial level where they can attract players such as Cristiano Ronaldo with most Serie A teams still playing in crumbling old council-owned stadiums, the experience of a match in Italy still maintains a unique and romantic feeling.
The draw of Ronaldo attracts plenty of tourists to Turin to see Juventus play but there are equally good options around the country and with most teams rarely, if ever, filling their grounds, it means tickets are quite easy to come by.
While kick-off times for the new Serie A season are yet to be confirmed, the games are generally spread between Friday nights, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday lunchtime, afternoon and evening and, occasionally, Monday nights. Unlike in Germany, kick-off times aren’t confirmed by TV companies sometimes unntil as late as a fortnight beforehand, making it more difficult to plan. When fixtures are confirmed you can see them here.
Flights: Direct flights from Dublin to Turin are very limited in that they only run during the ski season from December to March with Ryanair every Saturday. Outside of that the best way to get to a Juventus match is to fly into Milan where there are three airports – Linate, Malpensa and Bergamo. Linate and Malpensa are both serviced from Dublin by Aer Lingus while Ryanair fly to Bergamo from the Irish capital. Ryanair also offer route from Belfast to Malpensa and from Cork to Bergamo. Malpensa is geographically the closest to Turin but any of the three work fine as all have good connections to Milan central train station. From there you can find numerous services to Turin although some require a switch.
Tickets: With only 41,000 seats and a high number of season ticket holders there aren’t many tickets usually available for the bigger Juventus home games but for smaller games they don’t always sell out. Prices usually range from €40 to €125 but, depending on how big the game is, they can change. The official website is the easiest way to get tickets, however the general sale portal is renowned for crashing and isn’t the most reliable. Tickets usually go on sale less than a fortnight before the game but there is also a dedicated overseas phone number – (+39) 011.45.30.486 – on which you can buy tickets.
Flights: As covered in the Juventus segment, any of the three Milan airports are easily accessed from Dublin, Cork or Belfast.
Tickets: Neither Inter or AC regularly sell out home matches and tickets are available to buy online and the websites of both clubs (Inter here and AC here) as well as at the ticket office outside the ground for most games. Tickets for most AC matches can be bought at Banca Popolare di Milano branches around the city as well as the Casa Milan shop in the city while Inter sell tickets at most Deutsche Bank branches as well as the Inter Store near the Duomo. Prices for both teams range from €20 to €150 and, as with most teams in Italy, they fluctuate depending on how big the match is.
Why not try...
Anyone who has seen the new Diego Maradona film will attest to the fact that football in Naples looks like an experience of a lifetime. While the city has long had a poor reputation for pickpockets and mafia links, it’s becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination and both Ryanair and Aer Lingus offer direct services from Dublin to Naples at the weekend – fitting in perfectly for a trip to the San Paolo Stadium.
Ryanair also fly direct from Cork while EasyJet provide an option from Belfast. Naples is, after all, the home of pizza so that’s another excuse to visit while the football team isn’t bad either, indeed they’ve been the closest challengers to Juventus for a number of years now. The stadium is classic old Italian fare with a running track around it and the fans miles from the pitch but the passion and atmosphere of the southern Italians who still feel left behind and neglected by the north of the country is something to witness. Tickets can be bought on the Napoli website but require a supporter card. However, as the stadium never sells out, visitors can buy tickets at outlets around the city. Prices for this season range from €14 for the cheapest tickets at the smaller games to €110 for the most expensive tickets at the biggest games against the likes of Juventus and Milan. A full list of ticket prices can be found here.
While the support in Spain doesn’t quite match the fanaticism of Italy and Germany it does boast two of the biggest football clubs in the world in Real Madrid and Barcelona. Going to a football match in Spain is, at times, more akin to going to a show at the theatre, particularly when it comes to Real Madrid where the fans expect to be entertained by the best and nothing less.
Kick-off times are very stretched out in Spain with as few games as possible taking place at the same time. Most weeks there are two games on Friday evenings at 7pm and 9pm, four on Saturday at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm, three on Sunday at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm and one on Monday at 8pm.
That leaves plenty of scope for arranging a trip but, similarly to Italy and unlike Germany, kick-off times aren’t confirmed too far ahead. Indeed, at the time of writing, times have only been confirmed until Sunday September 1st. You can see La Liga fixtures here.
Flights: Madrid is very accessible from Dublin with Ryanair, Aer Lingus and Spanish airline Iberia all flying direct. Ryanair go out and back twice a day every day, Aer Lingus once a day every day and Iberia once every day except Tuesday and Thursday. Iberia also fly direct from Cork but that route only runs until September 14th.
Tickets: For the most part, Real Madrid games don’t sell out unless they’re playing Barcelona, Atletico Madrid or it’s a big Champions League tie. For most matches they will go on general sale on the Real Madrid website about a week before the game. Tickets can also be bought from the ticket booths at the stadium if they have not sold out. For the cheapest tickets you can expect to pay about €30 while better located tickets will go up to about €120.
Flights: Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Lufthansa all provide multiple direct flights from Dublin to Barcelona International while Aer Lingus fly to the same airport from Cork and EasyJet from Belfast. If that’s looking too expensive then a cheaper alternative can occasionally be found by flying with Ryanair from Dublin or Shannon to Barcelona Reus. From there you can get a direct bus to Barcelona city centre or, alternatively, a short taxi journey to Camp de Tarragona train station allows you to catch the high spend train to Barcelona.
Tickets: There are multiple options for getting Nou Camp tickets although be warned that you probably won’t get one for the Clasico or big Champions League matches unless you want to pay a small fortune. Tickets are available online to the general public for almost every match as well as at club stores and some tourist offices around the city. Prices change depending on the game and while you can get tickets for as little as €29 for some games, be warned that you will be sitting in the gods and watching a Subbuteo match.
Why not try...
Statistically the hottest city in Europe is Seville with temperatures even during the winter months regularly rising above 20 degrees. It’s also one of the better destinations for football in Spain and indeed many people rate the derby between Sevilla – considered the aristocrats – and Real Betis – the working man’s team – as the best in Spain for atmosphere at least.
A wander through the tapas bars of the old town before taking in a match that night – where they are almost always late kick-offs due to the heat – is a pretty pleasant way to spend the day. Ryanair fly directly from Dublin to Seville three times a week, including on Saturdays. Sevilla tickets can be bought online or from booths at the stadium while Real Betis operate in the same way.
– This article is part of a series of consumer-based sports stories. If you have any queries, stories or issues regarding travel, tickets, sport on television or anything else you can email email@example.com or via Twitter @Ruaidhri_Croke.