Barcelona FC Camp Nou Experience
In this post, brought to you in a collaboration with FC Barcelona, we introduce you to the Camp Nou Experience, a behind the scenes stadium tour that is the highlight of any football lover’s visit to Barcelona. It might just be the bribe you need to persuade the hubby and kids to take you for that long weekend in Catalonia. If you go along you might even become a fan yourself.
Football crazy… or not
Are you football crazy, football mad? What about your kids? Have you ever toured behind the scenes of a football stadium? I hadn’t and frankly had little interest until I found myself checking out player’s shirts in Manchester United’s dressing rooms before running down the player’s tunnel with a Cup Final crowd roaring me on. It changed my view of football.
You really don’t need to be a football crazy or know anything about football to tour a football stadium. You just need a little imagination to tune into the human stories that chant and cheer and roar through the seemingly silent stands. While true fans may treasure stories of trophies, tactics and team dressing room gossip, non-believers like me can still enjoy putting themselves in the place of a player or embracing the strange facts and fiction of this glorious game. I can still tell you how many pies fans eat on a match day and how bright the light is when you exit the tunnel into the stadium. It’s like going into heaven, which is probably how the young players feel about a match – aware that at any point in the next ninety minutes it could all descend into a muddy hell.
More than a Club
If a football stadium is a theatre of life; a stage on which dreams and disappointments play out, then Barcelona is the ultimate auditorium. Because football isn’t a sport in this Catalonian city. It’s a passion, an obsession, a tourist industry and perhaps even a national identity. It comes as no surprise when I find out that Barcelona’s motto is ‘More than a Club.’ Imogen Hall travelled to Barcelona recently with her husband, to watch his team play the Catalan Gods in Camp Nou. She tells me a visit is more than just a visit to a stadium; it’s a kind of pilgrimage.
“Visiting Camp Nou to watch a match is like stepping into a different world for 90 minutes. It’s huge with room for 99,000 fans. It may be concrete and slightly crumbling but FC Barcelona is ‘mes que un club’ – more than a club. It is a symbol of the Catalan people, so Camp Nou is sacred ground. And what it does have is the most amazing atmosphere, the sense that whatever game you are watching you are involved in a little bit of sporting history: because Barca has a special place in the world of football and Camp Nou knows it.”
Imogen says there isn’t much food choice in the stadium on match days but that’s not a problem in Barcelona, a city with a great food culture. Check this out for some ideas from locals on pre or post match eating.
Barcelona’s other stadium
Barcelona has reinvented itself since the 1980’s, helped by the 1992 Olympics which spawned new beaches, harbours and a dizzying array of sporting sites. It is a city that embraces the foreign tourist. And then sells them tickets to a match. Often to see their own team annihilated by one of the most successful teams in the world.
The home of Barca football team is one of the biggest stadiums on the globe. Gaudi’s stadium of religion that took a lifetime and more to build may compete with it as a site of tourist pilgrimage but it can’t compete on numbers, especially when there’s a home match. The FC Barcelona Museum (included in the tour) is the most visited attraction in the whole of Catalonia. It had over 1.5m visitors in 2014, beating the Dalí Museum in Figueres, Picasso Museum in Barcelona and popular attractions like Tibidabo. Football trumps art some would say. But not here, where people say football is art.
A tour through football history
Regular tours at FC Barcelona are self guided and take several hours. You can view pretty much everything in the building from the locker rooms to the Director’s boxes. Some visitors go back time and time again, as 18 year old Tom from South Cumbria tells me.
“It’s an amazing tour – so amazing I’ve done it four times! You really get to feel the atmosphere of the ground and how impressive the stadium is in the tour.”
If you pay for the audio tour (available in English and other languages) you get an added education in Catalan history and a sense of how the club became so big and famous across Europe and the world. As Tom’s brother Laurie explains, the tour is not just for Barca fans.
“It’s fascinating to learn about the history of the club and I was very impressed with all the trophies the team has won over the years. Anyone who loves football has got to visit the Camp Nou!”
There are plenty of opportunities to have your picture taken with your favourite players, although not the real ones. To come within a few hundred metres of them you’ll need to go to a match. Amongst the cheering masses. I ask Tom if it’s worth paying out for a game if you don’t support Barca? He confirms it is, even just to feel the buzz.
“Watching a match is something else – an awesome experience.”
Fan for a day
Visiting the museum and tour is one thing, watching a match will take your experience to the next level, as a fan for the day. With almost 100,000 seats and a reputation for an electric atmosphere the stadium can give you an experience you won’t get anywhere else in the world. Tickets are released a month before a game and you can buy them online and show the PDF of your booking at the gate or even use electronic ticketing on your mobile phone (also available for Camp Nou Experience stadium tours). People say every seat in the stadium gives a good view. Go early and absorb the atmosphere. Start a Mexican wave. Who knows you might even get to like football.
Camp Nou Experience Museum and Tour is situated at FC Barcelona, about half an hour’s drive or by public transport from central Barcelona. Check this page for how to get there.
The museum and tour are open every day except New Years and Christmas Day although access may be restricted on match days so do check that out. This is a very busy attraction. For a less frantic experience, try arriving before 11am or after 4pm.
Tickets cost 23€ for adults, 18€ for children (6-13), under 6’s free (check website for latest prices). Audioguides are 5€ extra. You can rent a real human guide for a more personal experience, at additional cost. VIP tours are also available with exclusive access to additional areas but at additional cost.
There’s also a monthly Instagram #CampNouExperience Competition running in which you could win an official FCB shirt if your photo of the tour gets voted as the month’s favourite. You can see the current entries here.
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in a collaboration with FC Barcelona to help promote their Camp Nou Experience behind the scenes tours. The words are all our own, apart from those of the fans we spoke to who shared their opinions of the tour with us so we could share them with you here.