We’ve highlighted ten of the best football cities around the world that are known for their passion for the beautiful game. They are in no particular order, but are all great places to take in some football for different reasons and each offer unique experiences. Featured are destinations for some of the best football trips in Europe, Mexico and South America.
10 of the best football cities in the world
Truth be told, Dortmund isn’t one of the world’s great travel destinations but the experience of taking in a match at Westfalenstadion is a must for any hardcore footy fan. The enormous single tier Südtribüne (South Bank) is the largest terrace in European football with 24,000 packing it on matchdays and creating the famous Yellow Wall, which generates an incredible atmosphere.
British supporters, who long for the days of standing at games, arrive in their thousands to experience it and it is certainly one of the continent’s growing football tourism destinations. The on-field action isn’t bad either with Borussia usually playing an attacking brand of football that usually produces plenty of goals. With the likes of Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Köln and Borussia Monchengladbach not far away, you might even be able to squeeze two games into your trip.
Buenos Aires is the city with the most professional football clubs in the world and to say the sport is taken very seriously here, would be an enormous understatement. 15 of the 28 teams in the 2023 Argentine Primera División are based in Greater Buenos Aires with Boca Juniors and River Plate the most famous within the city itself.
River fans may think otherwise but a trip to La Bombonera in the colourful working class district of La Boca is a real highlight. It is one of the iconic football stadiums and produces an incredible matchday atmosphere. For the ultimate South American football experience, make sure you’re in town for the Superclásico when River Plate and Boca Juniors meet in perhaps the biggest local derby in world football.
Forget London, Liverpool or Manchester, British football’s most passionate supporters can be found north of the border in Glasgow, one of the biggest and best European football cities. Scottish football may have fallen on hard times relative to the super wealth of the dominant English Premier League, but you can still find a quite unique experience on Old Firm derby day in Glasgow.
Rangers against Celtic is unquestionably the biggest rivalry in British football with deep political and religious divides providing a sometimes ugly under-current. Glasgow is a city that lives and breathes football and it’s another city that avid soccer fans from anywhere in the world need to tick off their list.
Anyone backpacking Mexico or on a short break in the country, will want to try to make it to a Liga Mx game or better still a match of the Mexican national team at the giant Estadio Azteca which has hosted two World Cup Finals. Mexico, along with the USA and Canada, will also play host to the 2026 World Cup when Mexico City will again host some matches.
Mexico is the country with the most professional football clubs, with twice as many as any other nation on the planet. Therefore there are lots of passionate football cities in Mexico, but unsurprisingly it’s the capital that is home to the most clubs and some of the largest. América have won the most Mexican league titles and reside at the Azteca which they share with rivals Cruz Azul. Meanwhile UNAM are another major power, playing at the 72,000 capacity Olímpico Universitario across town.
The Istanbul football experience is unlike anything else in Europe. Fans often arrive and start unveiling flags, flares, banners and chanting as much as 3 hours early with the atmosphere reaching boiling point by kick-off. The city is home to three major clubs in the shape of Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahçe, who play on the Asian side of the city at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. There are a host of smaller teams too so you can often fit in more than one match on any given weekend during the season.
Traditionally Galatasaray against Fener is the biggest rivalry in Turkish football but the 3 clubs tend to dominate the domestic game and all are regulars in European competitions. Visiting fans and teams at Galatasaray’s old Ali Sami Yen Stadium used to be welcomed with ‘Welcome to Hell’ banners and although all the clubs now have new modern stadiums, Istanbul is still widely regarded as having the most intimidating atmospheres in European football. A visit is not for the faint-hearted, but Istanbul certainly ranks amongst the best European football trips.
Rio de Janeiro may be the first city that springs to mind when you put the words football and Brazil together. However the São Paulo clubs are traditionally the more successful and even the Campeonato Paulista (São Paulo State Championship), which precedes the Brazilian Serie A, is an incredibly tough competition. Brazilian clubs play an enormous amount of football which only very briefly pauses for a few weeks around Christmas and with so many clubs, you won’t find it hard to find a match to attend in the city.
The National Football Museum is also an excellent stop for anyone visiting São Paulo and is located at Pacaembu Stadium. Corinthians, São Paulo FC and Palmeiras are the biggest teams but if you head 35 miles out of town to the coast, you find Santos, which acts like a conveyor belt of the world’s best footballers with the likes of Pele and Neymar having risen through the club’s academy.
If you’re researching Premier League football breaks, you will struggle to beat London, certainly not in terms of choice. The British capital will have seven clubs in the 2023/24 Premier League. They are spread around the capital with Chelsea, Fulham and Brentford in West London while Arsenal and Tottenham contest the famous North London derby. Over in the East there’s West Ham who played at the 2012 Olympic Stadium and down South you’ve got Crystal Palace who arguably boast the best atmosphere in the capital at the noisy Selhurst Park.
There is also Wembley Stadium, located in the North of the capital and an iconic venue in its own right. The largest stadium in England, Wembley hosts major cup finals and the England national team. It will also host the 2024 UEFA Champions League Final and is expected to host the Final of Euro 2028. Aside from the football, there’s of course plenty to see and do in London, one of the world’s most visited cities.
Hamburger SV might be the city’s most successful club with a bigger stadium and more regular Bundesliga action but it is Hamburg’s other club, FC St. Pauli that is of most interest for many visitors. Over the decades, they have developed a real cult following and despite only playing in the 2nd tier of German football, St. Pauli boast fans from all over the world.
The matchday experience is more akin to a rock concert with metal music greeting the teams and a crowd that is a little bit punk-rock. The club is very left-wing and supporters pride themselves as being strong opponents to racism, sexism, fascism and homophobia. The Millerntor-Stadion is far from Europe’s biggest or most impressive football stadium, but if you’re looking for something a bit different, consider paying St. Pauli a visit.
Seville is perhaps a surprise inclusion but anyone who has taken in a game at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan or Estadio Benito Villamarín will testify to the fact that attending a game of football in the city is a special experience. It is the only city in Spain outside the capital to have two Primera Division clubs that both regularly attract crowds of over 30,000.
If you’re in town for the Seville derby between Sevilla FC and Real Betis, you will experience Spanish football at its fiercest but regular match days are also pretty lively affairs at both clubs. Another interesting facet to football in the Andalusian capital can be the kick-off times which are sometimes as late as 10:00 p.m. to avoid the heat in what is mainland Europe’s hottest city. Seville is a great spot for anyone travelling around Spain and if you like football, be sure to try and fit in a match.
Rio de Janeiro
Last but by no means least Rio de Janeiro makes it in as one of the best cities around the world for watching soccer. The iconic Maracanã hosted the World Cup final in 2014 and hosts domestic action virtually every week throughout the year with Flamengo and Fluminese playing most of their home games at the ground.
In Rio though, you don’t even need to be at a stadium to take in skillful footy action. Just head to the Copacabana beach or indeed any of the beaches that circle this amazing city and it won’t be long before you encounter a game of beach soccer and witness locals demonstrating the slickest of skills.
This look at some of the best football breaks was last updated in July 2023.