This summer, the European Football Championship celebrates its 60th birthday, and so, for the first time ever, the event will be held in 12 cities in 12 countries across the continent
Whether or not your country qualified for the tournament, with affordable travel from Kiwi.com, you can get involved in this amazing month of football, no matter where you are.
Rome, Stadio Olimpico
The opening game of the tournament takes place on Friday, 12 June in Rome where Italy take on Turkey. Rome is delightful any time of the year, but at the height of summer with the football-mad Italians in full voice, it could be spectacular.
Its glories are well known: the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon… endless words have been written about these places. The thing about Rome though (and about Italy in general), is how… Italian it all is. No other country in the world lives up to its image in such a glorious fashion. Scooters buzz through a fog of traffic, children kick footballs down tight alleyways, locals share a quick espresso and an animated conversation at a neighborhood coffee stand. You always sense you’re in one of the most alive cities on the planet. It’s a thrill you’ll never quite forget… especially if Italy win.
The famous Stadio Olimpico is home to the big two Roman teams, Roma and Lazio. It was used as the venue for the final of the World Cup in 1990 before being renovated to bring it up to UEFA Elite standard. It’s out in the northwest of the city on the bank of the River Tiber.
Baku, Olympic Stadium
Azerbaijan’s capital has thrust itself into sporting prominence in recent years, what with the city gaining a Formula One race that blasts along the front of the Caspian Sea before winding its way around the castle and back again.
It’s part of a drive to promote Azerbaijan as a tourist destination, and Baku is certainly an interesting city. Almost nowhere in the world does east meet west in such an abrupt way. With its oil riches it can bring to mind Dubai, yet the Old City dates back as far as the 12th century, with additions being made throughout medieval times. It also has a fair smattering of Soviet carbuncles and eyesores, but all of this together produces a city that’s coming to terms with its complicated past and moving forwards at an impressive rate. It’s a long way from the heart of Europe, but that means it’s like no other venue on this list.
The Olympic Stadium was built so that the Azerbaijani national team would have somewhere modern to play, although the Tofiq Bahramov Republican Stadium, their previous home, still stands. The stadium hosted the 2019 Europa League Final in which Chelsea turned Arsenal over 4–1, and it lies on the shores of Boyukshor Lake, on a site which is being developed into a green area, easily accessible by public transport.
Saint Petersburg, Krestovsky Stadium
Traveling to St. Petersburg has been made easier with the launch of a new e-visa, which means you can apply online, and don’t have to pay a consular fee. You can apply for the visa up to four days before traveling, it’s valid for 30 days from the date of issue, and it allows the holder to stay for up to eight days in the city and the surrounding Leningrad region.
All of that makes the football an excellent excuse to visit this grand city. St. Petersburg comes alive in the summer, with the almost endless sunlight of the White Nights meaning all-night parties, outdoor events from swimming to yoga to concerts, and a chance to immerse yourself in Russia and its very individual culture. Explore the museums, take a boat tour of the islands and waterways, or simply walk around admiring the stunning buildings and endless boulevards.
The Krestovsky Stadium sits at the end of Maritime Victory Park (Primorsky Park Pobedy), the largest park in the city. A popular spot with locals, the park contains a boating lake, miles of winding pathways, an amusement park, even a small beach!
Copenhagen, Parken Stadium
Denmark has a history of producing good, solid footballers with the odd absolute diamond appearing now and again. For every Claus Jensen there’s a Michael Laudrup; for every Thomas Gravesen there’s a Christian Eriksen; for every Nicklas Bendtner there’s the Nicklas Bendtner that exists solely in Nicklas Bendtner’s head.
Copenhagen is sort of like that. Solid, stoic, dependable, handsome but with a gilt edge that lends it an air of surprise and delight. It’s an easy city to get around, what with its extensive network of cycle paths and rental bikes, and don’t worry, it’s very flat so you’ll never be in danger of exhausting yourself. It’s a city of classic Scandinavian cool as well, with hip bars and restaurants at every turn.
There are even places like CopenHot, a sort of outdoor spa: a cluster of wooden hot tubs and saunas overlooking the water in the uber-cool Nordhavn neighborhood. Admittedly it is expensive so you’ll have to budget for your food and drink more carefully than a number of other cities on this list, but the fact that you’ll be here in summer means you can also take advantage of the outdoor beer gardens and bars that spill out onto the street after the gray and rain of the winter.
Of all the stadiums being used for Euro 2020, Parken is the most old-school. It consists of four massive stands, steep and close to the pitch, a style that this author absolutely loves. Sure, there are things to be said for retractable roofs, luxury boxes, and swoopy exteriors made of linen and quail’s eggs, but this, to me, is a proper ground. Get a train from Copenhagen’s main station to Østerport (about 6 minutes) and it’s then a 15-minute stroll to the ground.
Amsterdam, Johan Cruyff Arena
Amsterdam is a great place to watch football. The Johan Cruyff Arena, home of Ajax, combines modern facilities with stands that almost spill onto the pitch, creating a decent atmosphere, and the Orange Army that follow the Dutch national team will make every game a massively colorful spectacle.
Despite having its problems with tourists over the years, Amsterdam is still willing to throw its doors open to revelers of all types. The city is, famously, an unusual mixture of elegance and sleaze, with some of Europe’s finest and most venerable buildings and waterways sitting shoulder to shoulder with the neon and alleyways of the Red Light District; an art-loving, bicycling waif by day, and a hard-drinking, dope-smoking party animal by night.
Don’t let all the stereotypes fool you though, this is a city that, although tolerant, multicultural, open and confident, doesn’t look kindly on overly loutish behavior. Tourists are invited to indulge, but can discover there is a growing lack of patience with people making a real nuisance of themselves. Just enjoy yourself!
It’s easy to get to the stadium on public transport. Metro 54 takes about 15 minutes from Amsterdam central station, and drops you at Bijlmer ArenA a couple of minutes’ walk away. Alternatively, Metro 50 connects you with the southern and western parts of the city, such as Amsterdam Zuid station.
Bucharest, Arena Națională
Located in the southeast of Romania is the capital, Bucharest, and it feels like it’s almost the forgotten child of Central / Eastern European capitals. While people crow about the grandeur of cities like Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Sofia, Bucharest is often overlooked. That’s a mistake.
It’s suffered for years from a lack of investment, and this rag-tag sense of disrepair is what gives it its knockabout energy. To some extent, it still lives in the shadow of Ceausescu’s Communist regime and a chaotic transition to capitalism, unlike the relatively smooth process that took place in what was then Czechoslovakia, for example.
Indeed, the thuddingly, spectacularly vulgar monolith of the Palace of Parliament stands as testament to one of Europe’s most megalomaniacal regimes. Locals, on the other hand, want people to see Bucharest for what it is now: Parisian-style coffee shops and art galleries, parks and gardens, and a nightlife scene bordering on the hedonistic. The Lipscani district is home to pubs and clubs supplying everything from low-key acoustic acts to aggressive EDM from early evening ‘til the light of the Romanian dawn.
The National Arena is to the east of the city center in one of the seemingly endless high-rise suburbs. It’s a tasteful, restrained kind of structure, replacing what used to be one of those vast concrete bowls much beloved of old Communist regimes. It’s served by the M1 Metro line, and getting off at either Piața Muncii or Costin Georgian will leave you with a 1,500- meter walk to the stadium.