The Stadion Narodowy was built by the Polish State at a staggering cost of half a billion euros – but it’s not every day that your country stages the European Championships. Poland’s National Stadium was also chosen to host the Europa League Final of 2015.
To its credit, after staging five games for Euro 2012, including the opening match and semi-final between Germany and Italy, the National Stadium became accessible to all. Open every day from 7am, not match days but from 5am (!) in summer, this 58,000-capacity arena hosts all manners of tours and activities, as well as family brunches in the Business Club and all manner of recreational options (skateboarding, skipping, cycling) in the Municipal Park. There are even hammocks.
If any event-built stadium was an example to all in terms of public use after the fact, it’s this one. And events haven’t just included the Euros (or Poland’s subsequent World Cup 2014 qualification match with England, controversially rained off). Madonna, Metallica and global climate conferences have made use of this impressive venue overlooking the Vistula river, with the 2015 Europa League Final to follow.
Fashioned in the form of a Polish flag waving in the wind, the red-and-white exterior brightens the grey landscape from the windows of trains passing over the river to and from nearby Centralna station. This is a world away from the Warsaw of the Communist and immediate post-Communist era. This was the site of the 10th Anniversary Stadium, the Stadion Dziesieciolecia, the comfort-free, 100,000-capacity bowl built to commemorate the coming to power of the Communist Party. After prestigious but limited use from the mid-1950s onwards, it last staged a major event in 1983, the homecoming rally of Pope John Paul II.
For decades afterwards, the Stadion X-lecia held a continuous major event, a vast market for junk and pirated goods. If anything typified the chaos and corruption of post-’89 Poland, it was this, the Jarmark Europa.
Though no trace remains of the old stadium or market, the heroic statues outside the main entrance hark back to simpler times. Instigated in 2008, the new National Stadium towers for eight storeys over its abandoned predecessor by some 70 metres at its highest point.
Its retractable roof, so criticised when the 2012 game with England was postponed until the following day, can only be opened or closed in dry weather. Scheduled to be unveiled in the summer of 2011, the National Stadium was fully completed in February 2012.
Arranged in two tiers, seating is arranged into sectors G1-G36 above (G9-G12 and G27-G30 behind goals) and D1-D10, D11-20, and the prime sideline seats of V1-V5 and C1-C4 below. D4-D7 and D14-D17 are behind the goals. Away fans enter through gate 10 on ulica Siwca, the other side of the ground from Rondo Waszyngtona, to sectors G9-G11. Warszawa Stadion train stop is on that side.
The Stadion Narodowy metro station is on line 2, three stops from central Swietokrzyska. It connects with the existing regional train station of the same name, set between Warszawa Powisle and Wschodnia. Centralna/Srodmiescie are one further along from Powisle. The stations are on the north-west side of the stadium, near ulica Siwca.
The main transport hub is on the south-east side, Rondo Waszyngtona, on the main road over Poniatowskiego Bridge, directly down from Centralna and Centrum metro along Jerozolimskie. Trams 7, 8, 9, 22, 24 and 25 serve the route, five stops from Centralna (Dw.Centralny).
For international games, visiting fans should organise tickets through their own FA. They are usually allocated sectors G9-G11 through gate 10. Tickets can also be bought through viagogo.
The stadium lay on a number of themed tours every day – though not on international matches, or the days either side. These start from the basic Viewing Point (10zl) with VIP areas and player-only zones accessible on the Exclusive Tour (25zl). More specialised (and expensive) tours are Polish-only. A full schedule is provided on the stadium website.
Alcohol is not sold at Polish football matches and the National Stadium is no exception. The Galerie café and Business Lounge do open on non-match days, local families encouraged to come for Sunday brunches.
The main string of bars and restaurants is down from the Rondo Waszyngtona along gentrified Francuska. The first one you come to, Wstep Wolny, with its Warsaw mural, offers quality contemporary dishes but is hardly a classic pre-match spot. You’ll find Polish martinis, though, and two dozen other cocktails.
Further down, Repubblica Italiana, opened before Euro 2012, is a quality Italian. Named after its address, Francuska 30 is a bistro-type spot that sells beer and has a terrace. Nearby Prosta Historia is more upscale, with quality burgers – but no beer. Opposite, Café Baobab offers Senegalese specialities, sandwiches and smoothies – but, again, no booze.
Further away, but at least unpretentious, Efes Kebab deals in Turkish beer and all forms of grilled meats.