LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Budapest to host Champions League final

Soccer’s showcase event comes to Hungary in 2026

Three years after the Europa League final, the Puskás Aréna will stage the game’s major occasion

The Champions League final of 2026 will be staged at the Puskás Aréna in Budapest, the first time that Hungary has hosted the most prestigious event in the club game.

Built on the same site as its processor, the Puskás Ferenc Stadion, this 67,000-capacity venue opened in 2019. Since then, it has witnessed the UEFA Super Cup in 2020, the Europa League final in 2023 and four matches at Euro 2020.

Dominating a space of more than 20 hectares in the leafy district of Zugló, just east of Keleti station, the Puskás Aréna is swiftly and easily accessible from the centre of town. This was the location for the original Népstadion, built for the people (nép) by the people, half a century after Budapest had missed out on staging the first Olympics of 1896 and was looking to host in 1920.

Puskás Aréna/Andy Clark

After two world wars and the Communist takeover, eventually Hungary got its national arena. The grand opening came in 1953, on August 20, annual celebration on the Hungarian calendar. The club team of Ferenc Puskás, József Bozsik and other members of the all-dominant Mighty Magyars national XI, Honvéd, gave an exhibition match, beating Spartak Moscow 3-2.

Three months later, these same players, in Hungary shirts, famously beat England 6-3 at Wembley. On May 23, 1954, in the first full international played at the Népstadion, Puskás and company gave England another lesson in football, thrashing them 7-1. The crowd that day was 92,000.

Now, almost exactly 70 years later, Budapest has been selected to host the Champions League final. Certain elements remain from the original Népstadion, which changed its name to the Puskás Ferenc Stadion in 2002.

Puskás Aréna/Andy Clark

Between a selfie spot in signature red and the stadium, a statue park still features the heroic figures from the Socialist era, engaged in sporting or communal activity. This leads to a replica of the imposing tower building, though which Party leaders and VIPs once entered to take their place in the stadium.

Everything else was knocked down in 2016. While the authorities soon scotched the initial plan to keep the stadium’s iconic exterior and build within it, the columns surrounding the new arena echo its golden heritage.

As well as the Champions League final in Budapest, for 2026 UEFA has awarded the Europe League final to Istanbul and Conference League final to Leipzig. This September, it will make a decision on whether to stage the 2027 Champions League Final at the rebuilt San Siro stadium in Milan, pending on developments surrounding the legendary ground