You don’t have to be a football fanatic or a Real Madrid fan to fancy taking a look at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Paseo de la Castellana. The tour laid on by the club to include almost every nook and cranny of the stadium has just been revamped, resulting in a fascinating and entertaining experience, even for people who haven’t been to a football match in their entire lives. The other day I persuaded my friend Nacho – he’s a poet, what more can I say – to go along with me and some other friends, and he came out of there completely overwhelmed. OK, so we had to teach him how to tell Marcelo from Kaká and explain who Di Stefano and even the one and only Pelé were, but that’s the great thing about this particular museum, you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy it to the full and, more importantly, to have a fantastic time.
The trophy room, where the nine European cups are displayed, is the highlight of the tour, but what I liked best was the interactive room, where you can play around with loads of screens, Minority Report style. The images displayed on the screens let you relive a series of memorable moments, like Zidane’s famous goal in the 2002 Champions League final, or Del Bosque’s top matches before he became the Spanish national team manager. It’s also fun to see some of the more unusual cups won by the club over the course of its history, have a peek into the team changing areas, sit on the team benches next to the pitch and pretend you’re Mourinho in the press conference room.
When the tour is over, the Santiago Bernabéu still has a few more tricks up its sleeve: not only does it have a spectacular official merchandise store, but there’s a really nice restaurant too, overlooking the pitch and with a wide-ranging menu (rice dishes, hamburgers and so on). Although the Real Café Bernabéu really only starts to liven up in the evenings, as it has become the after-work meeting place of choice for executives based in the local area. The stadium boasts yet another restaurant, Puerta 57, with similar views over the hallowed turf. It specialises in serving traditional Spanish cooking, with a heavy emphasis on seafood (it has its own tanks).
Football fans are sure to know that Atlético de Madrid also has its own museum, in the Vicente Calderón Stadium near Madrid Río, as does the Spanish national team, in Las Rozas on the outskirts of the city. Nacho, who is now an all-white supporter through and through, wants to tick these off so he can compare. But that’ll be another story.