Stefan and Anna had it on their bucket list to watch some of the best…
Groundhopping at Atlético Madrid
Seeing a soccer game at La Liga’s Atlético Madrid combines great football with all that is wonderful about traveling in Spain. So let’s see what it’s like groundhopping at the Wanda Metropolitano.
I saw Atleti play a La Liga game against Valencia in 2022, using some of the Atlético Madrid tickets we sell through Groundhopper Guides, and I found it to be a completely different experience from the glamor of Real Madrid or the local, community vibe at Rayo Vallecano. An Atlético Madrid game combines a big-time feeling with a convenient, modern stadium and a passionate fanbase — all in an amazing city with lovely weather and great good.
About Atlético Madrid
Atlético Madrid, known as the Colchoneros, or matthress makers, for their traditional red and white shirts, are, seen from the outside, the no. 2 team in Madrid and no. 3 in Spain, also falling behind Barcelona in trophies won and international fame. But they have European silverware in their cabinet, and when I was there they were the defending La Liga champions. So they are undoubtedly one of the big clubs in Europe.
For much more about Atlético Madrid, including their history, rivals and traditions, check out our Groundhopper Guide to Atlético Madrid.
Wanda Metropolitano, Atlético Madrid‘s Stadium
The name of their modern 68,000-seat home comes from two sources: Metropolitano refers to the stadium which was the club’s home from 1923 to 1966, when they moved to the Estadio Vicente Calderón. When that needed to be replaced or upgraded, they massive renovated this pre-existing stadium, which had been built and transformed for, and through, a few bids to host the Olympics and other competitions. The club moved into it in 2017.
Wanda is a real estate firm that sponsors the stadium.
It’s a nice, comfortable place with good sight lines and, certainly when I was there, a pretty good atmosphere despite not being full.
Game Day Tips at Atlético Madrid‘s Wanda Metropolitano
Unlike the Vicente Calderón, the Wanda Metropolitano is more on the edge of town, out to the east and fairly close to the airport. It’s also next to a motorway and near a neighborhood which is perfectly safe and fine, just not necessarily charming or worth a visit on its own. It is, however, easy to reach, as there is a station on the city’s excellent Metro rail service located practically underneath the stadium, and it is well large enough for the purpose of handling big crowds.
For pregame food and drink, there are some food carts that set up out the stadium. These are mainly the usual burgers, etc., as well as the typically Spanish ones filled with chips and nuts and bottled water. Also, somewhat shocking to this American: A Taco Bell!
There are also a couple of fancy-looking restaurants that are actually part of the stadium, but I didn’t check them out. The food inside the stadium looks very much the standard stadium fare; the Spanish version of this is actually worse than in England.
There really isn’t a lot by the stadium, either, besides a few bars and restaurants. Also, so you’ll know, pregame activities in Spain are less pub- and beer-related than those in England, one of many differences between watching soccer in Spain and England. Anyway, to take best advantage of the food and drinks near the stadium, you should actually get off at the Metro station just before the stadium, which is Las Musas. It’s a short walk from there.
Otherwise, I mean, it’s Madrid: Go and get some tapas or something before the game, which is probably kicking off at 9 p.m. anyway.
Buying Atlético Madrid Tickets
The club sells tickets, or entradas in Spanish, on their website, and while I haven’t looked into it much, I would imagine that with 69,000 seats, there are generally some available unless they are playing Barcelona or Real Madrid.
If you are having trouble getting in, we at Groundhopper Guides are official resellers of Atlético Madrid tickets and hospitality. I was using some of those, in the lower tier central package, and they were excellent, as you can see from my pictures and video.
My Game: Atlético Madrid vs Valencia
By the time I went to a game at Atlético, I had already seen a snoozefest at Real Madrid — ironically also against Valencia. Nothing against the 13-time European champions. It’s just that the Bernabeu was under renovation when I was there; Real destroyed them, 4-1; their fans are perhaps a little jaded; and the country was on limited attendance due to Covid-19. So that one wasn’t much for excitement. My game at Rayo Vallecano, however, was sublime, with great atmosphere and really cool, local community feeling to it.
Atlético is something else entirely. It feels out of town, in the same sense that West Ham’s London Stadium home feels a bit removed from central London. And the stadium is large and modern, like the one at Arsenal. But it’s also a proper big club with a large fanbase.
On the Metro heading out, I was struck by how different the Spanish football crowd is from the British one. The trains weren’t overly full, and the crowd didn’t seem too rowdy or anything. Of course, Atlético-Valencia isn’t a big rivalry or anything, like the Seville Derby I paid a visit to. I hopped off the train at Las Musas and wondered around a bit. There’s a little of this and a little of that: the local tapas bar, the takeout places, a couple of “gastro” places, but the vibe was pretty chill. With a 9 pm kickoff, the temperature was in comfortable winter-jacket-can-cap range.
I settled into my seat and found myself surrounded by college students from Texas, which was a hoot since I went to college there myself. And, keeping on the American theme, Valencia quickly took a lead through a goal by Yunus Musah, an American! Valencia then went and got another one, after which I found myself really missing the away fans I take for granted in England. Maybe it was Covid, or maybe a 9 pm kickoff plus a nearly 250-mile trip discouraged them. Anyway, it was quiet as quiet gets at halftime with the hosts down, 2-0.
If that wasn’t weird enough, around the hour mark, Atlético took off their wunderkid attacker, João Félix, for a defender! The crowd didn’t like that one at all, but it seemed very Atleti to me; despite the evening so far, they hang their hat on defending at the Metropolitano.
Five minutes later, the hosts scored, showing again what fans know. And after that, well, enjoy the highlights:
And here is my view of the winning goal celebration:
So it turned out to be an extraordinary night for me, and my Texas neighbors, at the Wanda Metropolitano. While they aren’t as “big” a club at Real Madrid, nor as old-fashioned as Rayo Vallecano, Atlético Madrid offer the groundhopper an easy, impressive and entertaining day or night out, with big-time football in a really nice and easy-to-reach stadium. Highly recommended, all around!
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