There’s more than history on display at Europe’s best football museums
Football museums are big business. Even the most basic tour and museum visit at FC Barcelona – the Camp Nou Experience, no less – is around €30. Still, if this is the closest the whole family will ever get to Lionel Messi, so be it.
At the opposite end of the scale, at the other end of the Med, at another holiday destination, Chania on Crete, the Greek National Football Museum displays the one-man miscellany of obsessive collector Nikos Flekkas. From the outside, your first impression will be that you’ve stumbled on the Hellenic equivalent of your high-street pound shop.
In between are all kinds of earnest compendiums of club and national histories, leaning ever further toward the interactive and the playful. Increasingly ignored are the original artefacts – Eintracht Frankfurt’s sponge roller, say, pressed into duty before West Germany’s waterlogged semi-final win over Poland in 1974 – for digital beat-the-keeper games kids could easily find at holiday arcades.
Genuinely jaw-dropping rarities do exist, however. As always, tragedy lends any item gravitas. The museum at Red Star Belgrade, where Manchester United’s Busby Babes played their last game before the Munich Air Disaster, would be a case in point. Harry Gregg doesn’t sign the visitors’ book of any old football museum.
Leaving the UK’s museums for a later day, here is our pick of the bunch in Europe, from the slick to the simply priceless:
1 Fc Barcelona
There are various ways to treat the kids to the Camp Nou Experience but the basic tour/museum purchased online is €28, €22 for 6-13 year olds and over-70s. Under-6s get in free. Throw in around €5 for the VR glasses, and that’s around €100 for a family of four. Plus they’ll bombard you with photo opps as you walk round. These days you can’t just buy a museum ticket, it’s plus tour or nothing – so bite the bullet, take in the interactive room, the Messi section, the Cruyff area and trophies the size of Jodrell Bank.
The stadium’s breathtaking of course, but the home dressing room is off-limits. If money’s tight, you can limit your visit to the so-called Sky Visit (10am-2pm only) from the top tier of the stadium, through gate 1, for €15.
For more on FC Barcelona, see here
2 german football museum
The German Football Museum stands almost opposite Dortmund station. The visit starts by escalator that transports you back to 1954. Beside a photo montage from West Germany’s shock victory over Hungary in the rain of Berne, a themed alcove screens a video loop of the match on a television set from the time, commentary (‘Tor! Tor! Tor! Tor!’) provided by the original radio voice of Herbert Zimmerman.
The tour then follows Germany’s 60-year quest for further World Cup and Euro gold. You can even replay the original footage from ‘66 and see the ball not cross the line again and again and again.
The odyssey ends in glory, of course, and Brazil 2014. You’re left with a single dressing-room shot of Basti Schweinsteiger cradling his beer, his mobile and a bandage for his face wound, the World Cup just won. Elsewhere, the women’s team, East Germany, tactics, fan culture, club and cup football, are brought to life with visuals at the forefront. Commentary and captions are in German, but anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the game shouldn’t feel left out. Admission is €17 (€15 online, €14/€12 for under-14s, free under-6s).
Note that the Borusseum, Borussia Dortmund’s own club museum, is also worth a visit, and integral to the club’s Signal Iduna Park.
For more on Dortmund, see here
3 red star belgrade
One of the best in the region, the first-floor Red Star Museum (RS200/€1.70) opens from around 9am on weekdays – simply ask at gate and someone will phone up for Pedja, the friendly, English-speaking enthusiast who shows you round. Most visitors from England head straight to the display on the left as you walk in – a priceless record of the last match played by the Busby Babes here in 1958 before the Munich Air Disaster, a match ticket, a signed postcard by the players and photographs. Note in the visitors’ book, the signature and generous comments of Harry Gregg, the goalkeeper who pulled Bobby Charlton (and others) out of the burning plane.
Elsewhere, the rows and rows of pennants, and shelves and shelves of trophies testify to Red Star’s era as flagship club of Tito’s non-aligned Yugoslavia, fêted around Africa and Asia. Closer to home are ornate cups won in pre- and post-season tournaments in Spain and South America, so massive ‘it was harder to get them home than to win them,’ as Pedja puts it. Pride of place goes to the European Cup won in Bari in 1991.
For more on Red Star Belgrade, see here
4 museo del calcio, florence
It’s set in a pretty house at the FA centre of Coverciano, a 15min walk down viale Duse from the Fiorentina stadium, Stadio Artemio Franchi. An elderly guide/porter takes your €7 (€5 under-14s) then shuffles across to the museum building.
He starts giving you a rapid spiel in Florentine-accented Italian. You’re worrying that you may have to concentrate really hard for the next hour, before he leaves you alone in the first room – alone with the World Cup trophies of 1934 and 1938, alone with Silvio Piola’s boots used to win the latter, signed postcards from the squad… and alone with three floors and several rooms of quite wonderful memorabilia related (mainly) to Italy’s proud campaigns in World Cups, European Championships and Olympic Games tournaments.
One section is dedicated to the great Torino side that perished in the Superga air disaster of 1949. Framed are the effects of defender Aldo Ballarin, shinpads and half-smoked packet of cigarettes, found amid the wreckage.
If you’re after flashy contemporary visuals, this isn’t for you – join the queue for the Juve museum in Turin. The old-school football purist, though, should head to Florence.
Open Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 3pm-7pm, Sat 9am-1pm.
For more on Florence, see here
5 budi ponosan, zagreb
Right by the main square on the corner with Petrinjska, Budi ponosan (‘Be Proud’) (Tue-Sat 10am-8pm) tells the story of Croatian football, from its beginnings to the World Cup final of 2018.
The emphasis is on these recent triumphs but you can still pick out newspaper reports from the early 1990s when the newly independent country was forming its first national side, with details of famous players through the ages.
Although in a prominent location – with a Dinamo Zagreb store next door – the space isn’t big enough to cover much more. Admission is free, and it’s well worth a look around.
Open Tue-Sat 10am-6pm
For more on Zagreb, see here.
6 Cr7 museum, funchal
Pelé? No museum. Maradona? Nada. Cristiano Ronaldo is, of course, a case apart. CR7, as he is branded, duly opened a museum to himself and his achievements in December 2013, when he was 28. For a determined young boy who grew up in poverty on Madeira, an island nearer to Casablanca than it is to mainland Portugal, this is an incredible story, and one told through trophies.
Such was the wealth of silverware filling up the space that the CR7 Museum had to move from the sidestreet of Rua Princesa D Amélia to prominent new premises overlooking Funchal’s harbourfront on Avenida Sá Carneiro.
Outside, a statue shows Ronaldo in arms-spread celebratory mode – perhaps a little more lifelike than the controversial bust unveiled outside the airport also named after him in Funchal. The Golden Boots and Ballons d’Or speak for themselves – the interactive timeline is a nice feature. It’s a modest admission fee – let’s face it, CR7 doesn’t need the escudos.
Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm
For more on Funchal, see here
7 real Madrid
Much like the Camp Nou Experience over in Barcelona, at Real Madrid’s Bernabéu it’s tour and museum only. Given the current major reconstruction going on at the stadium, prices have been reduced to €15, €12 online, but there’s not much tour going on either, just a chance to see inside the stadium for a selfie or two.
In the museum, players past and present come to life on an 11-metre screen. The interactive features even stretch to placing you on the team bus and making the journey from the training ground to the hallowed stadium. This is also atrophy rooms with a serious wow factor – 14 European Cups/Champions League trophies, as many as Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich put together.
Open Mon-Sat 9.30am to 7pm, Sun 10am-6.30pm
For more on Real Madrid, see here
At Benfica’s legendary Estádio da Luz, you have the choice of a visit to the museum (€8), take the stadium tour (€10) or enjoy both (€14). The tour of the stadium can be done at your own pace. You’re encouraged to download the app but struggle to keep up with real-time visiting – and it has too many virtual aspects to it anyway.
In no doubt, though, are the knowledge and friendliness of the guides who wait for you at specific points around the stadium. (There’s even one or two Sporting fans among them!) The tour includes full access to the stands, the pitch and away dressing room – the home one is reserved for Benfica players only – but you can get pitchside. Braver visitors can meet the club mascot eagle. The interactive stuff is also fun.
As for the museum, you could spend hours here delving into their forensic history of one of the decorated clubs in Europe. As soon as you walk through the doors, you know you are in the midst of greatness. Dazzling silverware is everywhere to be seen, not least in the entrance which celebrates the R3conquis7a, the club’s record 37th title. The Eusébio section is fascinating and one aspect of virtual reality and hologram that really work.
Open daily 9am-8pm
For more on Benfica, see here
9 fc Porto
A signature blue star guides you around the contemporary Museu Futebol Clube do Porto. Trophies centrepiece the collection, the glittering European Cup of 1987 and Champions League from 2004, of course, but also the lesser-known Arsenal Cup dating back to 1948. Weighing 250kg (!), half of which is solid silver, it’s a shade smaller than Santi Cazorla and marks the club’s 3-2 victory over the Gunners during a post-season tour.
Perhaps influenced by the installation depicting the Archie Gemmill run at the Scottish FA Museum at Hampden, an entire area is dedicated to the Rabah Madjer backheel from 1987. Another display is a replica of the dressing room in Seville where Mourinho rallied his team before the 2003 UEFA Cup Final. With museum admission set at €12 and the stadium tour + museum €15 (over-65s €10-€12, 5-12s €8-€10), most go for the full monty and have a good look around the Estádio do Dragão.
Open Museum Mon 2.30pm-7pm, Tue-Sun 10am-7pm. Stadium tours (not match days) Mon on the hour from 3pm, last tour 6pm, Tue-Sun on the hour from 11am, last tour 6pm.
For more on FC Porto, see here
10 greek football museum, chania
Birthplace of Nana Mouskouri, Chania has long been overshadowed by Heraklion where soccer on Crete is concerned, top-flight returnees OFI the first name that springs to most people’s minds when talk turns to watching a game on Greece’s largest island.
But behind an unassuming façade on downtown Tsouderon, near Chania city market, is the third most reviewed museum in all of history-rich Greece on tripadvisor. It may be way behind the Acropolis in terms of visits, but the Greek National Football Museum welcomes many a foreign visitor, the kind you often see at random football grounds in European holiday destinations.
Once you enter, you are not only greeted by some 1,800 exhibits but also by the infectious enthusiasm of museum founder/collator Nikos Flekkas. Crammed into a relatively small space are more than 1,000 Greek jerseys and 300 foreign ones, many of them shirt swaps. English visitors can not only admire the one that David Beckham wore when he launched that free-kick in the last minute of stoppage time in 2001 – they can also try it on.
Pride of place goes to Euro 2004, and the complete collection of shirts of Greece’s winning team, plus the signed match ball from the final. The game also features on a video loop of tournament finals playing in the background.
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 9am-3pm. Admission €10
For more on the museum, see here