Field of Dreams
Madrid is soccer mad. While it has two passionately supported clubs, Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, it is the latter who usually make the headlines, and almost invariably win the trophies. They have won the Spanish league (La Liga) a record 33 times, and the European Cup, or Champions League, an astonishing 13 times. You’ll see their crown-topped logo all over the city: on TV screens in bars, on advertising hoardings, in expensive official sports shops, and in counterfeit versions offered by pavement hawkers. Real Madrid’s home is the Santiago de Bernabéu stadium, north along the Paseo de la Castellana, a huge concrete cauldron which can hold more than 80,000 fans. You can buy tickets for league matches online from around 45€. Tickets for El Clásico, any game between Real Madrid and their archrivals Barcelona, are much harder to come by and can cost more than 300 euros. More practical for most visitors is a tour of the stadium, during which you can walk on the pitch where legends from Ferenc Puskás to Cristiano Ronaldo have performed, and marvel at the groaning trophy cabinets. Tickets cost 25€ for adults and 18€ for children; check the website for tour times. Avenida de Concha Espina, 1. www.realmadrid.com; tel. 91-398-43-00. Metro: Santiago Bernabéu. Bus: 14, 27, 40, 43, 120, 126, 147, or 150.
Athletics -- Madrid's largest (20,000 capacity) athletic stadium, the Estadio de la Comunidad de Madrid, Av. de Arcantales s/n (tel. 91-720-24-00; Metro: Las Musas; bus: 48), is in the process of expanding fourfold in the coming years (this in spite of the reduced incentive after the city's failure to win the bid to host the 2012 Olympics). Located on the ever-burgeoning eastern edge of the city, it features a variety of athletic events as well as periodic concerts.
Basketball -- Basketball (baloncesto in Spanish) is almost as popular as fútbol all over Spain, and you can watch the sport in several locales throughout the city. The best is the 15,000-capacity Palacio Vistalegre stadium, Calle Utebo 1 (tel. 91-422-07-81; www.palaciovistalegre.com; Metro: Vista Alegre; bus: 34, 35, 118, or 119), situated in the southwestern suburbs and rebuilt in 2000 over the old Plaza de Toros. It's still also a venue for bullfights as well as rock and opera concerts.
Fútbol -- If you're a fan of English-style football (soccer), then the place to go is Santiago Bernabeu, Paseo de la Castellana 144 (tel. 91-229-17-09; www.realmadrid.es; ticket office Mon-Fri 6-9pm; tickets 16€-90€; Metro: Santiago Bernabeu; bus: 27, 40, 126, 147, or 150), Madrid's largest stadium. The total capacity is 75,000 spectators. This is the home of Spain's most successful team Real Madrid, regarded by diehard fanatics as even more important than the Prado or Palacio Real. The team's host of charismatic international stars includes star Cristiano Ronaldo, acquired by the highest sum ever paid for a player's transfer. When no games are in progress, you can visit the stadium as part of an informal tour (check at the ticket office) or simply wander in and have a drink at the cafe (which offers a great view of the pitch). Tickets to events can also be booked by phone (tel. 90-232-43-24) using a credit card (MC, V) and picked up on the day of the match at Gate 14.
The supreme highlight for Spanish soccer came in July 2010 when, for the very first time, the national team won the World Cup in Johannesburg, beating Holland (after extra time) by one goal to none. The celebrations in Madrid lasted over 24 hours and, even by the city's OTT hedonistic standards, had to be seen -- and heard -- to be believed!
The "Other" Madrid Soccer Team -- After decades of being eclipsed by the city's top team Real Madrid, rival Atletico Madrid finally broke loose by winning the European League cup in May 2010. Instead of celebrating in Cibeles, like Real M., it had its own nocturnal shindig beside Neptune's fountain, just down the Paseo del Prado. The team's 57,000 capacity Vicente Calderon stadium (at Paseo Virgen del Puerto 12; Metro: Piramides), set beside the impressively regenerated Manzanares River, will undoubtedly attract a wider public now. For online booking, call tel. 90-226-04-03, or visit www.clubatleticodemadrid.com.
Horseracing -- The Hipódromo Madrid race course, Av. Padre Huidobro, Carretera de La Coruña A6 Km 8 (tel. 91-740-05-40; www.hipodromomadrid.com; 9€, 12€, or 30€ including parking; children 13 and under free; bus: 654, 655, or 658 from Moncloa bus station), also known as La Zarzuela, lies north of the city just past the elite sports complex of Puerta de Hierro. The racetrack is usually only open Sunday from 11am to 2pm, though in summer there are additional races at the same times, as well as occasional night races. The Hipódromo is closed in December. Check directly with the racetrack for relevant timetables during your visit.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.