Attraction: Barcelona Camp Nou Stadium
Attraction Rating: Great
Review by: Tim Sansom
Review: This was the second time that I had visited the Catalan capital but the first time that I had visited a foreign city on my own. The centre piece of the trip was the opportunity to watch FC Barcelona play Granada at Camp Nou. Back in 2011, I had enjoyed the Camp Nou experience.
For a lowly supporter of a second grade English Championship team, I had never seen a stadium were the seats seemed to disappear into the sky. It was a jaw dropping experience, whipping me up into a football frenzy, making me promise myself that I would see a game at Camp Nou. It had taken two years and two months to realise this dream. Would the hype of 2011 match the reality of 2013?
Camp Nou Stadium
The Camp Nou stadium had maintained its lustre during the two years and two months since my stadium experience. Confident that I could survive in a foreign football stadium without making a fool of myself, and uplifted by comments from the locals hoping that I would enjoy the football from their team, I had got myself into a pre-match frenzy of excitement. I just had to tackle the journey to the stadium.
Schooled on the UK experience of packed trains, lost buses closed tube stations due to overcrowding, and police seemingly on every street corner, I found this journey to Camp Nou to be surprisingly hassle free. You can access the stadium via Collblanc and Badel on Metro L5 and wend your way through acres of Spanish flats and small cafes. You can also travel to Maria Cristina and Palau Reial on Metro L3. I took L3 to Maria Cristina and although there were a number of people on the train and in the area around the station, it was not especially busy.
There seemed to be no signs from the station to Camp Nou, and I got to the stadium on my vague memory of the topography of the area, and a park nearby to the stadium. I arrived at Camp Nou with feverish expectation, but found all of the gates to be shut in advance of an official opening time. Getting into the stadium grounds felt like the first people who ran across the Wembley turf to be at the front for the 1985 Live Aid concert.
The Camp Nou is not an oil painting from the outside. The club had cleverly placed posters of Xavi and Messi in areas of particular concrete and grime, providing a welcome photo opportunity for the increasing numbers of delirious international supporters.
The Camp Nou’s magic is strictly contained in the bowl of the stadium and my jaw fell on the floor as I reached my seat. I gabbled a form of English / Spanish to the bemused steward and sat in my seat slightly hyperventilating and taking random photos of empty bucket seats and the FC Barcelona motif that was on the other side of the stadium. The Spanish tower blocks poked out behind the stadium bowl and a rogue pidgeon flew across the stadium seeking a bird’s eye view of the game. Taking pictures and people watching occupied me for many minutes before the game. Time flew by.
Around 71,000 attended this game. There was an expectation amongst most people in the stadium bowl that Barcelona were going to win the game, and as the goals began to go in, Granada began to look like a series of lambs that were waiting for their slaughter.
I love the style of Spanish football and I could sit in my seat in the clouds watching intricate passes and flicks around the pitch away into that Saturday night.
One tourist from England muttered into my ear that there was a lack of atmosphere, and if you had been to the Camp Nou Experience immediately before this game, which schools you to think that every game is played to the background of a Catalan roar, you would have been a bit disappointed. However, I personally enjoyed the match day experience, and after the locals trooped off into the Catalan night, the international visits spent another twenty minutes in the stadium swapping cameras, taking endless photos of each other. It had been a while since 2000 when I had enjoyed the same collective international experience.
Getting away from the ground can blacken any match day experience. After this game, you could crush yourself into the club shop which looked like the first day of the sales. You could have a drink in a faux wooden picnic area reflecting on the game or watch the post match interviews on the TV. You could take even more photos in the increasingly dark Spanish sky, or make your way back into Barcelona. I made my way in a file of people to Palau Reial, shuffled into the station and was back in my hotel in 30 minutes.
It had been an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience which I would recommend for all football fans regardless of their team.