The morning after the match we awoke to glorious sunshine and an excited feeling in the pit of our bellies. A very unfamiliar excited feeling, for me, at least. You see, we were about to embark on the Real Madrid stadium tour. The thought of spending hours tramping around a football ground wouldn’t ordinarily fill me with joy, but after seeing the mighty Madrid in action I couldn’t wait!
Oh Real, what have you done to me?
Our first stop was the uber-impressive Adidas club shop. Set over multiple floors this is a seriously slick lesson in branding. We searched for mementos to take back for football loving family members and, at one stage, I even found myself feeling quite disappointed that they didn’t have a replica shirt in my size!
Erm, if someone could please find the real Sam and return her, that would be appreciated.
If you go the day after a match (like we did) expect to queue at the ticket office (and try to avoid the loitering beggars). To be honest the queue moved fairly quickly and before we knew it we were off up one of the corner towers on a series of escalators until we reached, what can only be described, as a serious vantage point. Make no mistake, the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is huge and there’s no better place to appreciate its size (it has a capacity of 84,454) than from up top.
From there it’s off to the museum, where there are so many trophies that you actually get a bit blase after a while, and instead of appreciating the team’s talent and achievements, you start thinking yeah, yeah, yada, yada another trophy – how awful is that? But seriously there is so much bling. Make sure you take in stand-out pieces though: the FIFA Club of the Century award, the Ballon D’or which was awarded to Di Stefano (if, like me, you’re painfully unaware of who this is spend some time watching the film about him in the section of the museum dedicated to him. I assure you will be suitably impressed by his talents) and the Trofeos Singulares cabinet, which is as bizarre as it is blingy.
Sliverware is interspersed with iconic memorabilia, like the boots Zidane wore when he scored that goal at Hampden Park in the Champions League final back in 2002. There’s also a fantastic bank of TV screens showing highlights from the clubs history and its amazingly talented players. Loiter a while and soak up the atmosphere. There’s something enchantingabout hearing dozens of Spanish football fans (of all ages) excidetely exclaiming “Raul, Raul” every time the legend appears on screen. Some of the displays are more interesting than others, but even I (as a non-footbally type) only found myself bored once and only for about two minutes. Impressive!
There’s trophy cabinets for Real Madrid’s Basketball team too, because being good at one sport apparently isn’t enough. And, if you like those – let’s Photoshop you in with this player/trophy/randomly related football object and sell it to you in the gift shop later – type things. You’re in luck as there’s stacks of those too.
After the museum it’s back out into the stadium, walking around the lower tiers of seating to the V-VIP area. Seriously, we thought our padded seats were comfy until we saw these super-luxe cream bad boys. Then there’s the VIP room, where I couldn’t help but imagine a host of Tanya’s and Chardonnay’s (or whatever the equivalent Spanish names would be) gossiping whilst their men played kick about.
Then it’s back into the bowels of the stadium for a look at the dressing rooms. Yes, they’re nice – the photos of each player on their respective locker is a great touch – but they’re nothing special. It seems no matter how big the club, a sports changing room is a sports changing room. I loved silly things, like seeing the white board with projector nestled in the corner of the dressing rooms and imagining Jose scribbling erratically over match footage at half-time during the previous night’s match.
Exit the dressing rooms and you get to take a walk up the tunnel, emerging in the dug out. Doing a Jose impression here is mandatory. As is having a bit of a rest – gosh, those seats are comfy!
Once your legs are rested head back inside to the away team’s dressing room (much the same as the home one, but without the photos on the lockers, presumably that would put the away team at some kind of psychological disadvantage), then continue to the humongous press room (more Jose impressions) before exiting through the mah-housive Adidas gift shop.
To be honest, I’ve been sucked in by Real Madrid. Whether it’s just a holiday romance, or something more, I don’t know. But I’ve come away as a fan. That said, even if you’re not, there’s still something tremendously interesting about seeing the inner workings of one of the world’s biggest and wealthiest football clubs. And if you work in marketing and want a lesson in branding? It’s a must see! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in Madrid.
Admission to Tour Bernabeu was €19 each when we visited. Check the website for more details and opening hours.
Find out more about my Madrid trip in these posts:
Part 1: Our Journey to Madrid
Part 2: My Unexpected Madrid Haul – Part One: Beauty Products
Part 3: My Unexpected Madrid Haul – Part Two: Clothing
Part 4: Madrid: The Reason For Our Trip – Real Madrid Vs Real BetisPart 5: The Real Madrid VIP Experience
Read my review of the Lonely Planet Guide to Madrid here