After leaving Barcelona on The Big Trip I took a train to Madrid. I’d had such a good time at Camp Nou visiting the Barça museum and going to a game that I was excited to see how the Bernabéu and Real Madrid would measure up. Here’s how the second half of my version of El Clasico played out.
My first full day in Madrid started with a bike tour. After the tour and some lunch I went to see what I considered to be the highlight of Madrid, Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid.
I wanted to do a tour of the stadium and bought a ticket right at the box office. The price was €24 and is a self-guided tour.
The tour starts by going to the top of the stadium to get a bird’s eye view of the field.
From there you go down to the museum, which starts with an overview and history of the team. As I was standing in this area it was so interesting to overhear how many people said they came to Spain from other countries for this experience.
My favorite part of this section is the feature on Zinedine Zidane. Zidane, aka Zizou, is the current manager of Real Madrid as well as a former Real Madrid player. He also played for the French national team, and I first became familiar with Zidane when I did study abroad in France during the 2006 World Cup. He became one of my favorites, and I was excited to see him in some form in Madrid.
One of the things that blew me away about the museum was the extensive use of technology. It was so well done and immersive.
After walking past a jersey wall there’s a room-length video wall highlighting players and stats.
Then you come to a social media wall where there’s a map highlighting the mentions of Real Madrid worldwide in real time.
One of the coolest parts was the sound wall. You walk along a row of gold speakers playing various sounds of Real Madrid: a practice session, a crowd singing Hala Madrid Y Nada Mas, game day sounds, and more.
The interactivity continued with a digital photo wall. You take a picture of yourself and then it floats into a large photo of Cristiano Ronaldo.
After walking through another room with an all-encompassing video about Real Madrid you walk out into the stadium bowl before going down to field level.
Following some selfies and a sit in the super comfy bench seats you go into the tunnel, visitors’ locker room, and the press room.
The tour, of course, ends in the multi-story gift shop.
Before I even left the US I tried to plan a trip to a Real Madrid game. When I looked for tickets online there were only premium seats available for a couple hundred euros each. That wasn’t going to work for me, so I figured I wouldn’t be able to see a game.
While I was in Madrid I tried again to get tickets. Luckily, when I checked the website I was able to find a single ticket. Unluckily, every time I tried to process the order I got an error message.
I decided to try to get a ticket at the box office on game day. I arrived a couple of hours before the game, and the scene was frenetic. There were so many people moving in all different directions.
I found my way to the ticket line, which was pretty lengthy. As I stood there my hopes started to take a beating.
When I got up to the ticket window I wasn’t sure what my chances would be, but since I was just looking for a single ticket I had options at each level and price point. Woohoo! I bought a mid-level ticket at €80. I was told that I had been receiving error messages online because I was trying to pay with a credit card that was from outside of Spain. I was, however, able to use my American credit card at the ticket window.
I was hungry, so I asked the guy at the window for a recommendation as to where to eat. I walked around trying to find the Italian place he told me about when I ran into a large crowd I couldn’t get past.
What was going on? A woman told me that they were waiting for the team to arrive. How cool! I had no idea this was a thing, but I’m so glad I ran into it. I decided to wait with the crowd.
It was a fun experience. If you want to see the arrival it happens about an hour and a half before the game, and I stood in front of (get this) the T.G.I. Friday’s outside of the stadium.
After the team bus passed the crowd started to move around, and I still wanted to find something to eat. I didn’t want Friday’s so I looked for other options in the same complex. Inside the center with the Friday’s there’s La Plaza de Dia supermarket, so I put together a lunch for myself. I was able to get fresh-baked bread and salami to make a sandwich, along with chocolate wafers and a bottle of water for €2.50. Score!
After eating my self-made lunch I was ready to go in and find my seat. Based on the way the gates are numbered I got a little turned around at first, but I finally found my entrance. I got to my seat in the mid-level of the stadium, which was a great spot.
I got to my seat in time for warmups and player introductions. I think I should note that the game day experience in European football is quite different from that of American football. Pregame in Europe does not include pyro, national anthems, and flyovers, so don’t come expecting a giant spectacle.
The game was really fun. Real Madrid was playing Valencia, and it was a tight match. Cristiano Ronaldo scored first, followed by a Valencia goal. Late in the match Marcelo, one of my favorite Brazilian players, scored the game winner.
I was also sitting on the same side as the loudest section of Madridistas (Real Madrid fans), who were waving flags, singing, and playing drums throughout the match.
It was a chilly, damp day, so I REALLY appreciated the fact that the stadium has heat lamps on the overhang that fully surrounds the stadium. Blessings.
Having first been to a Barcelona game I wasn’t sure what my experience would be like with Real Madrid, but it exceeded my expectations. Have you been to the Bernabéu before? What was your tour/game day like?