Although it has held well over 100,000 spectators, such as for the seminal European Cup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960, Hampden has a current capacity of 52,000. In September 2014 it was chosen as one of 13 venues for Euro 2020.
Built by the Queen’s Park club in 1903, it is set in Mount Florida, south Glasgow, near the rail station of the same name.
Inevitably, Glaswegian engineer Archibald Leitch was the brains behind its construction. For half a century, Hampden Park, home of the then mighty Queen’s Park club – regular winners of the Scottish Cup in the late 1800s – was the world’s largest football ground.
Also venue for cup finals and internationals, Hampden staged many a fiery encounter between Scotland and England. One particular match, in April 1937, attracted 149,400 spectators – the all-time record for any game in Europe. The famous Hampden Roar, a thundering, communal din, was said to audible a mile away. It put the fear of God into any opposition, ideally those in England shirts.
It wasn’t just about noise or numbers: 130,000 might have been in attendance, but the European Cup Final staged here in 1960 is best known for being one of the finest displays of football ever seen, exhibited by Real Madrid in the last of their five consecutive European Cup wins, a 7-3 masterclass against Eintracht Frankfurt.
By the time the European Cup semi-final of 1970 between Celtic and Leeds United was drawing 136,505 (the all-time European record between clubs), Hampden was beginning to crumble.
A €4.5million refurbishment in the early 1980s helped rectify matters, if reduce the capacity to just over 74,000. The second phase of renovation (one which nearly bankrupted the Scottish FA, whose headquarters are situated here) was completed in time for the Scottish Cup Final of 1999. Real Madrid, in particular Zinédine Zidane, gave another memorable display of footballing brilliance here in the Champions League Final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.
Hampden, an Olympic 2012 football venue, then hosted the Commonwealth Games of 2014, closing the ground to football until early 2015. The stadium found its voice again in September 2015 when a full house of 51,000 saw Scotland take on world champions Germany for a Euro 2016 qualifier.
The arena is divided simply into stands named after the points of the compass: the two-tiered main South one contains restaurant, Astroturf warm-up areas for the players, six dressing rooms, a sports injury clinic and 126 executive boxes. Its glass-fronted floors also contain the recommendable Scottish Football Museum.
Behind the goals, in the days when it was almost a given that they would meet in any final, Celtic were usually allocated the East Stand, Rangers the West.
Alongside, like the Mini Estadi at the Nou Camp, Lesser Hampden is used by Queen’s Park for youth and reserve games.
The easiest way to reach Hampden is to take the outer circle rail line from Glasgow Central to Mount Florida. From there it’s a ten-minute walk up Somerville Drive.
The Scottish FA first sell tickets for full internationals to members of the Scotland Supporters Club. For under-21 and junior games, tickets are usually sold on the day.
For Queen’s Park games, it’s an across-the-board £12 price, £2 under-16s and concessions.
Between the main doors and the reception area, the Hampden Shop (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm) sells Scotland merchandise from yesteryear (notably 1967) and the modern day.
Tour & Museum
The combined tour and Scottish Football Museum, the Hampden Experience is one of the most worthwhile of those offered at Europe’s major stadia. For £9/£4.50 (£6/£3 for either museum or tour alone), visitors are taken round the historic arena, hearing the Hampden Roar down the tunnel before climbing the stairs to admire the Scottish Cup.
Dry-humoured tour guide David even goes into the history of the changing rooms, Celtic allocated the so-called unlucky East ones, having pitched up from the east end of town. You can also test your footballing prowess with the Hampden Hotshots game. The museum has a regularly changing exhibition agenda to complement the permanent one.
Among the souvenirs and assorted memorabilia, video films and posters, you’ll find a huge reconstruction of the famous slalom goal by Archie Gemmill against Holland at the 1978 World Cup. Look out, too, for an Iranian shirt from the same tournament.
There’s a section of fence from Hamilton Crescent, Partick, home of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, where the world’s first international football match took place, between Scotland and England in 1872.
All in all, there are 2,500 exhibits on display in 14 galleries. With varying times on match days, the museum opens Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 11am-5pm. The adjoining Costa café is also themed, with a tasteful history of the Scottish game covering the walls.
Many Scotland fans meet in pubs along Victoria Road, nearer to Queen’s Park station, such as the traditional Queen’s Park Café (No.530), in business since 1898.
At 708 Pollokshaws Road, Heraghty’s is preferred by Celtic fans before a big final, the nearby Regent Bar by those of the blue persuasion.
Easily the best pub option in the Queen’s Park vicinity is the low-key Hampden (58 Albert Road). Occupying a quiet street corner some 10min walk from the stadium, this age-old landmark displays classic Scotland memorabilia, including photo line-ups from 1880 and 1929, and shots of a relaxed Denis Law in training.
Within a short walk of Hampden, the estimable Clockwork Beer Company takes advantage of its location to welcome fans without colours. TV sports are broadcast, complementing a full menu and microbrewed beers.
Nearer still, the Florida Park (318 Battlefield Road) is a standard old local with karaoke the big attraction.