Paris Saint-Germain’s grounds started out as a velodrome for cycling but quickly became the heart of French football culture. The cycling track is long gone and today the unofficial national stadium hosts rugby and soccer in a nearly 50,000 seat ground. One end, the so-called Kop of Boulogne has gained some notoriety over recent years due to some fans’ association with far-right extremist groups, but the PdP remains one of the great grounds in European soccer.
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San Siro (Milan)
Home to AC Milan and Internazionale, the San Siro is one of Europe’s legendary grounds for a reason: it’s a cauldron of sound and noise with a uniquely Italian flair. The fans are creative and colorful -- their Pacman seat-card display as they played during their UEFA Champions League match vs. Barcelona is a case in point -- and the 80,0000 seater is considered one of Europe’s premier destinations. The only drawback is the field: heavily used, it can sometimes be choppy.
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This flat and seemingly endless Berlin stadium was of the infamous home of the Nazi Olympic Games of 1936. It underwent a major reconstruction, but lost none of its of scope or history: renovations retained the Nazi-era sculptures and it remains both thrilling and creepy. Host to the 2006 World Cup final, it also is the staging ground for the German Cup final and home to Hertha BSC of the Bundesliga.
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Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid)
Real Madrid’s crown jewel of a grounds, the Bernabeu is considered one of the great stadiums in Europe. Smaller than their rivals’ grounds in Catalonia, it is no less imposing and justifiably famous for its passionate fan base. Deep inside is Real Madrid’s massive trophy room, a glass-walled spectacle holding its record 10 European Cups and incomparable 32 La Liga trophies.
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Estadio Alberto J. Armando (Buenos Aires)
Boca’s flat, low stadium in Buenos Aires is formally known as "La Bombonera," but no one calls it that: it’s the “Chocolate Box,” and it’s one of the world’s most magnetic grounds. Boca’s famously wild fans make the entire structure shake with their stomping and chanting for an alternately thrilling and terrifying experience. The Monumental (home to arch-rivals River Plate) may be the national stadium, but La Bombonera is Argentina, defined.
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Camp Nou (Barcelona)
Barcelona’s imposing home ground holds almost 100,000 fans and is a point of Catalonian pride. The largest stadium in Europe, it is also considered one of the grandest and its passionate fans have made Barcelona nearly unbeatable there. The fact that it currently hosts one the best club team on the planet is a draw as well. A must-see.
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The Kop End would get Liverpool’s grounds onto this list alone. Simply put, this single-tiered stand may be the most dynamic fan section in all of England if not Europe. Anfield isn’t as massive as other grounds, but it is one of the most difficult places to play and is considered hallowed ground by soccer fans the world over. One of the greatest moments in all of sport is seeing the players enter the field by passing under the sign that former manager Bill Shankly had installed. It reads, simply: “This is Anfield.”
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Estadio Azteca (Mexico City)
Mexico’s national stadium is a bit shabby, but holding 100,000 screaming fans, it remains one of the great places to see a game. Mexico’s national team is nearly invincible there due to both the crowd and the advantage of playing at altitude. Famously cheap to enter, the Azteca was where Diego Maradona scored his infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup.
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Old Trafford (Manchester)
Manchester United’s hallowed ground is justifiably legendary, with a massive capacity (76,000+) and an electric feel. The noise levels at Old Trafford exceed that of an airplane taking off, and in the days of standing terraces, the Stretford End (West) could hold nearly 20,000 of United’s most passionate fans. Sir Alex Ferguson is the rare figure who has his name on a seating section: the North End is now named for the Red Devils’ legendary gaffer. A must-see for any true soccer fan.
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Estádio do Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro)
Rio’s colossal national stadium is host to one of the greatest national teams on the planet and is used for major Brazilian derbies, such as the battles between Fluminense and Flamengo. Opened for the 1950 World Cup, the bowl has held an astonishing 181,000 fans for a game in the days of standing. A national landmark, it is currently closed for renovations in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, where it will hold around 86,000.