The field of dreams – and the story behind it
It was no coincidence that the 1492-themed Expo 1992 that transformed Seville was sited on La Cartuja, the island that reclines in the Guadalquivir near the city’s historic centre. Exactly 500 years before, Christopher Columbus set out for the New World, his voyage planned here on La Cartuja. Once the Expo pavilions were cleared away, an amusement park, Isla Mágica, was set up and, by the island’s northern tip, Estadio La Cartuja.
Unveiled in 1999 with a friendly between Spain and Croatia, the stadium was central to Seville’s bid to host the Olympics of 2004 – and again in 2008. Multi-purpose, with a running track, this 57,600-capacity arena then staged everything from Madonna to Davis Cup tennis – when occasion demanded.
Porto and Celtic fought out a ding-dong UEFA Cup final here in 2003, which saw a peaceful invasion of Seville by 80,000 Celtic fans. Their award-winning behaviour was even more remarkable considering their 3-2 defeat to José Mourinho’s crew, and the equally frustrating lack of local taxi drivers that evening.
With both Olympic bids having failed, and the city’s rival clubs Betis and Sevilla unwilling to move out of their grounds and share La Cartuja, the stadium became a huge white elephant, dusted down a couple of times a year and ignored by the many families visiting Isla Mágica.
Then came the pandemic. Isolated by definition, with a decent hotel right next door and one close by, La Cartuja came into its own when stadiums in busy, downtown locations – such as the Bernabéu – were forced out of favour. Two Spanish cup finals were duly staged here in April 2021, both involving Athletic Bilbao, whose local government then decided against co-hosting Euro 2020.
For Spain’s national side, La Selección, the city of Seville has always held magical properties, so Andalusians were delighted when Spain’s three group games at Euro 2020 were moved here. Gates had to be limited to around 11,000 – which was 11,000 more than the scattering of officials who witnessed the 6-0 whitewash of Germany here in November 2020.
Once restrictions were dropped, a near capacity crowd of 52,000 crossed the Guadalquivir to see Spain guarantee their place at the Qatar World Cup thanks to a late Morata goal in November 2021.
The arena prepared for another full house at an equally vital qualifier for Euro 2024, against Scotland in October 2023, La Cartuja now assuming the role of national stadium, partly aided by the reconstruction of Real Madrid’s Bernabéu, Seville’s talismanic attributes and the long-term tendency of the Spanish FA to play senior international fixtures across the country.
The most vocal home fans occupy the Gradas Alta and Baja, the Upper and Lower Tiers, of the south end, Gol Sur, sectors 114-120 below and 112-122 above. Passionate Spanish support – this is Seville – is also found at the north end, Gol Norte, between 113 A/B and 119B.
Visiting supporters for international fixtures are allocated the north-east corner alongside, between 121B-225 in the middle tier and 221B-225A above, as well as 121-125 closest to the pitch, although allocation depends on demand. The visits of Sweden and Scotland for vital qualifying fixtures in 2021 and 2023 saw more sectors given over to the away following, and the regular use of this stadium is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The best seats are in the long sidelines East and West, Este and Oeste. For neutral fixtures such as the Spanish Cup final, clubs are allocated an end each.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
The stadium is by Juan Bautista Muñoz (Leonardo da Vinci), one stop from the Américo Vespucci terminus of the circular C1 and C2 bus lines (every 10-15mins).
Running in opposite directions, each calls at Resolana (Barqueta) on the mainland waterfront, and circumvents the city centre to terminate/set off from Prado de San Sebastián, the park south of town.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
For senior international games, you can purchase tickets through the Spanish FA, with prices as low as €15 for restricted view seats. Better ones south or north, Sur/Norte Alta Superior, are €20, lower Baja ones nearer the pitch €30.
A place along the long sideline, Preferencia or Fondo, will cost you around €45-€50, the prime Preferencia Grada Club Central €70.
Supporters of visiting national teams should source tickets through their own FA, while the neutrals keen on seeing the Spanish Cup final here should also try the Spanish FA first for tickets.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
The nearest spot on the mainland to La Cartuga, by la Barqueta bridge, Bar Antojo at Calle Calatrava 44, is an upscale tapas place, where you sit down and savour rather than prop up the counter over a few anchovies. For all that, it’s inexpensive, the wine list extensive.
Once over the bridge, you soon find the Río Terraza nightclub, usually only open on summer weekends. As its name suggests, it’s a terrace spot overlooking the river.
Nearby, attached to the Barceló Sevilla Renacimiento hotel, La Santa María provides another terrace for alfresco drinks, with a superior snack selection.
Closer to the stadium, beside the little tourist train that takes visitors round Alamillo Park, the Kiosco El Naranjal serves as the main pre-match pitstop. A large terrace mainly catering to families with coffee and snacks, it also sells beer and pours a decent gin & tonic.
For major fixtures, particularly the Spanish Cup final, a fan zone is set upon in the park. Within the stadium, on the west side, functional Cafetería de Pablo operates between a gym and a dance centre.