The Best Stadiums in the World

The Times had an interesting list of the top ten stadiums in the world last week, as judged by Tony Evans. Here’s his top ten, with a photo of each — what do you think of the list?  It seems impossible for one man to have visited enough world stadia to have even made this judgment, and there doesn’t appear to be any particular criteria being used — no special focus on architecture, atmosphere, location or history, just a jumbled up mix of each randomly justifying each selection. Notably, nine of the ten stadiums are in Europe, and only one has been built since the 1970s (though most have obviously been renovated or almost entirely rebuilt since their original openings).

1. Signal Iduna Park (formerly Westfalenstadion), Borussia Dortmund, Germany
Opened 1974
“Two huge end terraces (and they are terraces, with the use of safe standing) that fling noise down at the playing area with deafening intensity.” Good to see it recognised by Evans that safe terracing is the way to go in terms of ensuring our corporate arenas can still have atmosphere, and no surprise a Bundesliga stadium tops the list.

Westfalenstadion

Photo credit: H.Haupt on Flickr

2. San Siro, Internazionale and AC Milan, Italy
Opened 1926
“Lit up, it looks like a spaceship set down in suburban Milan. It could take on the Death Star and win, it’s that impressive.” Difficult to argue with this choice, though the stadium is in need of further renovation according to many visitors.

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3. Anfield, Liverpool, England
Opened 1884

“Come those spring nights, the Kop gets a surge of energy and sound pounds down onto the pitch, crushing the weak-willed (Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus), recreating Shankly’s “Bastion of Invincibility.”” It doesn’t get much more obvious than Anfield for a British newspaper’s list of top stadia — or more cliched descriptively.

Anfield

4. BJK İnönü Stadium, Beşiktaş, Turkey
Opened: 1947
“If they get bored, the fans behind one end can look across the Bosphorus to Asia. But their boys don’t get bored, to judge from the row they kick up. Brilliant atmosphere and a setting that’s unbeatable.” Once the home to Galatasaray S.K. and Fenerbahçe S.K as well as Beşiktaş, it’s Pele’s favourite stadium. But it’s about to change substantially, with work set to begin after this season on a new stadium at the same location.

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Photo credit: Kartal Bafiler on Flickr

5. Allianz Arena
Opened: 2005

If you have to build a new stadium, this is the way to do it. The architects who created the home of Bayern and 1860 Munich managed to equal the comfort level of the Emirates but also built in some atmosphere.” The only stadium built since the 1970s in the list, we featured the Allianz Arena here just recently — and I still wonder a little about the coldness of the design inside, despite the warmth of the colour-changing facade.

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Photo credit: MrTopf on Flickr

6. Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Opened 1947
“The Nou Camp’s evil twin. Real Madrid’s palatial home does everything better than its Catalan counterpart except, perhaps, big-game atmosphere. But it’s a close-run thing. Effortlessly stylish, the place has the easy charm of a brilliantly successful tycoon whose career has been underpinned by a ruthless streak. Franco would feel right at home.” A pretty clumsy way to end a compliment there.

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Photo credit: Jeroen! on Flickr

7. La Bombonera, Boca Juniors, Argentina
Opened 1940

“There can be no such thing as health and safety inspectors in Argentina: if there were, Boca Juniors’ ground would be closed in a heartbeat. Three sides of the stadium are traditional sloping seating areas but the fourth, a vertical stand, makes the Bombonera a design classic.” The Chocolate Box is the obvious choice as the sole non-European selection — an obvious deficiency in this list.

La Bombonera

Photo credit: #Hernan# on Flickr

8. Stadionul Dinamo, Dinamo Bucharest, Romania
Opened 1952
“A running track is normally enough to destroy a stadium’s credibility. However, Dynamo Bucharest’s ground is a masterpiece of Cold War chic. You are greeted by Stalinist statues before arriving at a sunken bowl. A wide staircase behind the goal takes you pitchside — you can imagine a baby’s pram rattling down the stairs — and the closest thing to executive boxes are the balconies of neighbouring tower blocks.” A curious choice in an attempt to give a nod to Eastern Europe perhaps, it’s hard to see what could give it a nod above the Nou Camp besides “Cold War chic” — I’m sure somewhere, Nicolae Ceauşescu is chuffed.

stadionul dinamo

Photo credit: Molkover on Flickr

9. Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain
Opened 1957

“Depending on the match, this place could easily end up on the list of worst stadiums. When it’s dull, it’s deathly. But on nights when Barça fans are hurling pigs’ heads at Luis Figo, it’s electric. The Cathedral of Catalan identity — even if the locals queue up to sell their tickets to tourists. . .It’s a shame the Champions League has made visits to places like this commonplace.” It’s hard to imagine Camp Nou appearing on the list of the worst anything, but the jaded Mr. Evans has apparently been there too many times — such a pity for him!

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Photo credit: Missha on Flickr

10, Craven Cottage, Fulham, England
Opened 1896
“In the era of identikit bowls, the ramshackle little ground on the banks of the Thames is like a throwback to a different age. It’s a genteel place, but it feels right.” And the final choice takes us back to the nineteenth century, which is not a bad way to end such a list.

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Photo credit: nicksarebi on Flickr

What are your thoughts on the list?  What stadiums has Evans missed that simply had to be on this list?


New from Stadium Porn: The new Juventus Arena in video and photos, opening September 8th 2011.

31 thoughts on “The Best Stadiums in the World

  1. Football Fan Ian

    The Nou Camp is just superb. I did the tour their a year or so ago and it is even more extraordinary when nobody else is there. It has to be my favourite. The view from the furthest back seat is something else and I would love to go there on a match day.

    As for the best of the rest, I’d have to say Anfield. Especially on a European night. Hopefully there will be plenty of successful ones this season.

  2. Ben

    “and I still wonder a little about the coldness of the design inside, despite the warmth of the colour-changing facade.”

    The question is, how to do it without offending your fierce rival and provoking vandalism. You can’t install red seats and give it all a Bayern Munich identity, without having to deal with the backlash by 1860 Munich fans and vice versa.

  3. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Ben, I’d never really thought about that point in such a direct sense with regard to the Allianz Arena, but it’s a very good one and something — given the point about Anfield mentioned above too, with the prospect of Liverpool and Everton sharing still supported by many — any proponents of groundshares have to defend against.

    Though at the same time, it’s not just the lack of singular club identity: it’s something to do with the starkness of the design inside from what I’ve seen of the Allianz that bothers me (see our photo feature here. But not having been there myself, it’d be silly of me to be offering any kind of a conclusion….Which is also why I’d never write the list above.

  4. Michał

    This ranking, like all other ones in the world, is less than satisfying if you look for a comprehensive list of really best stadiums. But no one will ever be able to compare all stadiums equally. So it’s a big advantage of this list that it’s not really a serious attempt at creating any firm top ten. Instead they just took what’s best.

    I’d like to argue with the choices, but actually I cannot find any good reason to. Of course they could paste nearly any historical stadium from behind the Iron Courtain in the Stadionul Dinamo’s spot, but that’s not a bad choice. I might maybe miss the Serbian Marakana here, but as I said – there’s a lot to choose from back here.

    There’s the best from Germany, best from Spain, best from Latin America (arguably, but still), best from the Turkey (Besiktas – supposedly best choice of the big Istanbul three), best from Italy and finally probably (again – arguably) best from England. I’m glad they didn’t treat us to the new Wembley or Emirates – good sign. Though the French and Scottish might feel somewhat forgotten. I think Ibrox might easily fight for a place (winning with Parkhead by the magnificent facade), with Parc des Princes or Velodrome to team up from France.

  5. Michał

    Oh, and would have forgotten – Stadion Fejienoord would also be a strong contender here.

    PS: Tom, Westfalenstadion remains known as Westfalenstadion, not formerly known. The sponsorship deal will thankfully end in 2016. It’s a while, but still, Borussia fans won’t forget and stop using it. It’s a football culture blog, you could go for it Signal Iduna Park – how’s that supposed to represent a football stadium? ;)

  6. Michał

    gonen – it’s definately the Bucuresti stadium. There’s nothing like the described ultra-wide stairs (which are actually a whole section of the stand) in Minsk.

  7. Tom Dunmore Post author

    Gonen — I’ve seen that claimed elsewhere, but I’m pretty sure Michal is right — he usually is! ;)

    Dany — if you’re going to call someone stupid, please direct it to the author of the original list on the Times. I’d be curious to know what your list would be instead.

    Pattrick — shocking, isn’t it!

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  9. Larry Uhle

    No Estadio Azteca??? Sorry. I can’t take his list seriously. The place is a monument (except when cups full of urine and vomit come flying from the upper decks when they lay the US.

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  11. ifotbol.com

    No doubt La Bombonera deserves it’s place for all the sheer experience of the place at full bounce. There’s many other stadiums in Buenos Aires that offer a similar atmosphere. My personal favourite is Huracan’s El Palacio. From the outside it resembles Highbury’s now flattened East Stand with high windows and licks of red and white paint. Inside it is one of the loudest places in the world to spend a couple of hours.

  12. James Fulham Fan

    Good to see the Cottage making the top 10!

    My favourite of all the stadiums I have visited is the Bernabau – awesome.

    Would love to go to the ‘Chocolate Pot’ – Boca Juniors

  13. SWC 2010

    Check out the new South African Stadiums. Stadium in Cape Town, Durban and Soweto. World Class!!!!

  14. pat

    Im young (19), aussie and probably particularly naive, but the MCG during a boxing day test, AFL final, or world cup qualifier is pretty incredible, not to mention easy to use, get to/from.

  15. Keir

    Ibrox and Celtic Park in Glasgow should be on hear, what about Old Trafford and Wembley???

  16. abdulkadir

    you forgot Old Trafford its one of the best Stadiums, If you are listing the top stadiums definitly Old Trafford should be in there or you dont nothing about foot ball