15 best soccer cities in the world

Explore these 15 soccer capitals of the world renowned for their soccer fanaticism, vibrant derbies, and legendary clubs.

Soccer is life! These are the crudely paraphrased words of Dani Rojas, the eternally optimistic Mexican player in “Ted Lasso”, the TV show about an American football coach managing a British soccer team. Well, he’s not wrong. Think pulsating stadiums in Istanbul and Buenos Aires, where the air crackles with rivalry and the ground shakes with the roar of die-hard fans. Picture yourself in the midst of London or Madrid, where football isn't just a game, but a way of life woven into the very fabric of the city. There, every street corner, pub, and park echoes with the tales of legendary matches and iconic players.

With soccer tourism on an ever-upward spiral, now is the time to plan your next trip. Whether traveling in Europe, South America, or the emerging soccer powerhouses of North America, you’re bound to find a place to catch a game, soak up the atmosphere, and see a sight or two while you’re at it. Whether you're a casual observer or a fervent supporter, here are the best soccer cities in the world where you can experience the adrenaline, the passion, and the undying love for the game.

1. London

London is arguably the sporting capital of the world, with Wimbledon’s tennis tournaments, the rugby matches in Twickenham, and their top-performing soccer teams. There are currently seven top-flight football teams — you simply cannot call it “soccer” here — in London, dotted all over the city. For those embarking on a pilgrimage to Ted Lasso’s Richmond in London’s southwest, Brentford FC is just around the corner, with Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge not too far away. Fierce rivals Spurs and Arsenal represent the north of the city, West Ham — who play at London Stadium, built for the 2012 Olympic Games — are the biggest deal in London’s East End, and Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park is in the leafy suburban south. And if you want to explore the pinnacle of English football grounds, head to Wembley, the “Home of Football".

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2. Marseille

With its undulating roof, Olympique de Marseille’s unique Orange Vélodrome is a hyper-modern venue to catch a game during the Ligue 1 season. The old port city of Marseille, meanwhile, is awash with attractions such as the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, or MuCEM, and of course, there’s the historic harbor itself. As for the game, let’s hope Marseille wins when you’re in town. Their fans are passionate, to say the least. Well, that’s what you wanted, right?

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3. Buenos Aires

With one of the most storied footballing rivalries in the world — BA’s Boca Juniors and River Plate — the Argentine capital is a must-visit for any soccer fan looking to experience all the sheer intensity the sport can evoke. Argentina is, after all, home to the renowned football player Lionel Messi. Buenos Aires drips in passion, Tango its heartbeat, and Buenos Aires’ renowned theaters are open year-round for performances. Plus, there’s the beef — the food kind, not the rivalry. That you’ll find in the stadiums, and boy, is it intense.

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4. Munich

A real soccer city, life in Munich revolves around six-time European Cup winners Bayern Munich, who also have a habit of picking up Bundesliga trophies like they’re going out of fashion. Opened in time for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the beautiful Allianz Arena is a gleaming 75,000-capacity stadium worthy of its hosts, while the city itself is famed for its beer halls, historic Bavarian architecture, and ease of access to many of Germany’s most impressive castles.

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5. Bilbao

Bilbao in northern Spain is home to Athletic Bilbao, a team currently excelling on the domestic stage. Basque soccer coaches are having something of a moment, though the city itself remains the region’s real draw. Along with its Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao’s food also draws in visitors, with Basque food tours providing a taste of the region’s storied Pintxo and wine culture. If you aren’t busy touring the Athletic’s San Mamés Stadium the day after a game, take a trip out of the city to see Picasso’s Guernica or the islet of Gaztelugatxe.

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6. Milan

There are two teams in Milan, and they hate each other. Given that fact, it might come as a surprise that Inter Milan and AC Milan both play at the same home stadium, San Siro, a somewhat aging but still beautiful relic of the city’s soccer lore, where over 80,000 Milanese watch these icons lock horns bi-annually. While it might be tricky to secure tickets to the big match, tours of the ground and trophy-laden museum are available throughout the year.

A soccer-mad city in a soccer-mad country, Milan is a must for fans looking to pair a game with sightseeing, with the Duomo, Santa Maria delle Grazie, and Sforza’s Castle just some of Milan's cultural attractions and unmissable landmarks.

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Photo: Cornfield948

7. Miami

Miami, the Magic City, is now a soccer town, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami making a name for itself in MLS. With Lionel Messi as the star attraction, the team can only grow in popularity and stature in a city renowned for its buzzing nightlife, busy bayside, and balmy weather. There are myriad options for sports fans, from Inter Miami games at Chase Stadium to Miami Heat basketball games at Kaseya Center. Plus with water sports, beaches, wildlife encounters in the Everglades, and delicious food to try in Miami, this city is an excellent choice for a vacation that has it all.

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photo: Ryan Brookes

8. Paris

Calling all Paris Saint-Germain fans in one of the best soccer cities in the world! One of the best things to do in Paris as a soccer fan is to visit the Parc des Princes Stadium, most recently host to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. Take a behind-the-scenes tour for a premium all-access pass to the stadium, trophy room, and virtual reality exhibition. And don’t worry if you’re traveling with a group — the tour has something for everyone.

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9. Istanbul

One of the most fun things to do in Istanbul for soccer fans is to attend a game. Any meeting of Istanbul’s Big Three (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray) is a mind-blowing assault of the senses that any true soccer fan needs to experience. The stands are packed with unbridled passion as fans shatter noise records. A 2011 meeting between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe clocked an ear-ringing 131 decibels, which was then a world record for the loudest roar in a sports stadium. Best bring your earplugs.

10. Barcelona

Nobody needs an excuse to visit the sun-soaked city of Barcelona — especially fans of the Beautiful Game. The Catalonian city has long been established as a soccer wonderland thanks to the tika-taka on display at Camp Nou. Once you’ve had your fill of tapas and other delightful Catalan food, head straight to the stadium and learn about the likes of Messi, Ronaldinho, and Cruyff as you tour the largest stadium in Europe and the club’s interactive museum.

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11. Manchester

Two great teams, one truly great city. Life in England’s northern powerhouse of Manchester revolves around a couple of soccer giants, Manchester United and Manchester City. Head to the Etihad or Old Trafford to watch the world’s best in action or indulge in England’s rich history at the National Football Museum. You can even enjoy a soccer-themed meal at Cafe Football, which is located just a stone’s throw from United’s famed stadium.

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12. Dortmund

While most destinations on this list house some of soccer’s fiercest inner-city derbies, Dortmund is a one-team city of epic proportions. No city in the world gets behind their team like the locals of Dortmund, so it’s easy to see why a trip to the Westfalenstadion (especially the Yellow Wall) is near the top of every soccer fan’s bucket list. Like Manchester, Dortmund is home to a national soccer museum, which is a great place to get your geekery on.

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13. Rio de Janeiro

Rio lives for soccer. Some would even argue that Rio is the soccer capital of the world. Every street corner, patch of grass, and sun-soaked beach is treated as mini Maracanã by locals of all ages. The real Maracanã stadium, perhaps soccer’s holiest cathedral, is more than just home to the Brazilian national team. It’s a stadium steeped in history, and you can experience the captivating stories of this iconic stadium with a behind-the-scenes tour.

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14. Lisbon

The people of Lisbon agree on plenty: pastéis de nata are some of the best things to eat in Lisbon, their native city is the prettiest of them all, and Cristiano Ronaldo is the best soccer player in the world. In fact, thanks to Ronaldo’s popularity, skills, and work ethic, Lisbon has become one of the best soccer cities, with shops selling soccer jerseys everywhere. However, one thing that divides the people of Lisbon is the matter of which football team is the best: Benfica vs. Sporting (Ronaldo played for Sporting). It’s a rivalry that defines life in the Portuguese capital and one that you can get to know better with a stadium of the tour Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica or the Estadio José Alvalade.

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15. Madrid

You can’t have a rundown of the world’s greatest soccer cities without mentioning Spain’s capital city. Home to both Real and Atlético, Madrid is a city that has defined the game for over 100 years. Head to the Bernabeu to see Real’s ridiculous amount of trophies, including 13 Champions League titles. Or if you fancy something a little more modern, check out the Wanda Metropolitano Atlético’s state-of-the-art stadium.

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