LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Valladolid

Spain’s windy city, just blown in from the Segunda

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

The capital of Spain before Madrid, and the city where Christopher Columbus lived out his last days, the provincial capital of Valladolid echoes the Golden Age. Its profile in football terms, though, was somewhat more modest until the arrival of one of the greatest figures in the modern game.

Brazilian World Cup hero Ronaldo, a star at both Barcelona and Real Madrid, bought a majority holding in flagship club Real Valladolid in 2018. Though relegated three seasons later, the Blanquivioletas bounced right back up in 2022. 

Until then, creditable league campaigns, even forays in Europe,  marked the 1980s and 1990s, with a Spanish Cup final appearance in 1989. Real’s golden age came to an end in 2014, with relegation to the Segunda.

Zenit Hotel Imperial/Harvey Holtom

Valladolid play at the Estadio José Zorrilla in the uninviting, windy western outskirts of town. Given the lack of local rivalry, and the popularity of Valladolid RAC rugby team, consecutive Spanish champions, top-level football has had to be a hardy flower to flourish in these parts. Crowds average fewer than 20,000, in a stadium of 26,500 capacity.

Built for the 1982 World Cup, the José Zorrilla hosted matches involving France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait, though group winners England stayed in Bilbao. This was where Kuwaiti Sheikh al-Sabah famously intervened to resume play after a controversial goal for France, later disallowed. Eight years later, his heroics would cost him dearly in the Gulf War.

The original José Zorrilla, where Real were based from 1940, was right in town, by the River Pusuerga, in today’s Paseo Zorrilla where El Corte Inglés department store now stands. Before then Real, formed in 1928 from a merger of Real Unión Deportiva and Club Deportivo Español, played beside the bullring. This 4,000-capacity ground, owned by the local bullfighting society, was the former home of Real Unión.

Welcome to Valladolid/Harvey Holtom

Of the founder clubs, Real Unión were the strongest, winning the regional Castile & León Cup in 1927 and claiming runners-up spots the years before and after. With Real Unión in red and white, and Deportivo Español in blue, the newly formed Real Valladolid adopted the colours of violet and white: Las Blanquivioletas or, more popularly, Pucela, a historic nickname for the city itself, its origins tentatively linked to Joan of Arc.

After hitting purple (violet?) patches at various points of the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s, Real Valladolid lingered in the lower reaches of La Liga or upper half of the Segunda. Ten years later, Spain’s bid to co-host the World Cup 2018, that included a revamping of the Estadio José Zorrilla, was rejected. Unfortunately, it wasn’t featured on a provisional list of venues proposed by Spain for the joint bid with Portugal to host the tournament in 2030.

The main positive development in the region has been the rise of previous unknowns Ponferradina, representing another historic town in Castile & León, Ponferrada. Finishing on equal points and goal difference with sixth-placed Las Palmas in 2013, La Ponfe just missed out on a play-off shot at the top flight on their head-to-head record. Ponferradina weren’t too far off in 2021 and 2022, either. Purpose-built for football in 2000, their Estadio El Toralín has hosted a handful of under-21 internationals.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Valladolid has its own airport 10km (six miles) north-west of town, used almost exclusively for internal flights – though there have been budget links with the UK. A Linecar bus (€3, every 90mins, 30min journey time) runs to the bus station in town. A taxi (+34 983 207 755) to town has a fixed fee of €22.

City transport consists of buses run by Auvasa. A single ticket is €1.30.

Madrid-Barajas Airport is 220km (136 miles) away. A local train (line C1, €2.40, 11min journey time) runs from terminal T4 to Madrid-Chamartín station. From Chamartín, the AVE train takes 1hr to Valladolid and costs around €35, with cheaper deals the sooner you book. Alternatively, an ALSA bus runs from T4 to Valladolid (every 1-3hrs, €16, 3hr journey time).

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Drinking and dining are focused on the downtown area near the Cathedral and Plaza Mayor. Near both is the best sports bar in town, La Brújula (Plaza de los Arces 1), with a wall dedicated to Real Valladolid. It opens from mid-afternoon.

Of the pub variety are the Dublin Bay (Calle Especería 9), El Buzón Pub Inglés (Calle San Lorenzo 3), both showing live games, and the more music-focused Molly Malone’s (Plaza Poniente 5).

There’s a real football atmosphere at Peruvian-run Ancón (Calle Acera de Recoletos 23), with Andean specialities on the menu. The Bar Pedro (Calle del Conde de Ribadeo/Calle del León) also fills for big TV matches. Nearby late-opening La Despensa (Calle del León 5) is also a meeting spot for local fans.

Convenient for the No.8 bus to the stadium, the Café Molinero (Calle María de Molina 22) exudes retro elegance. For old-school atmosphere, the Sabor Taurino echoes the time when Valladolid was attached to the nearby bullfighting society, and now offers a huge, hearty, meaty menu at under €10 for lunch and dinner.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the stadium and city centre

The Valladolid Tourist Office has a database of hotels in town.

The stadium is out of town, with few attractions around it, although if need be you’ll find functional three-star TRYP Valladolid Sofía Parquesol behind the Carrefour hypermarket.

Options abound downtown, where the three-star Hotel Meliá Olid is a solid choice. Under the same umbrella, the Meliá Recoletos Boutique Hotel is nicer and closer to the AVE and bus stations. Even closer, and cheaper, is the nearby Boutique Hotel Lasa. The Enara is another boutique choice, with a spectacular lounge.

The Zenit Hotel Imperial is set by the main square in a converted 16th-century building. Round the corner, the Hostal París is a steal for the price and location – it’s also opposite the Dublin Bay pub.

By the Cathedral on Calle Nuñez de Arce are the elegant Atrio (No.5, +34 983 150 050) and three-star Hotel Apartamentos Catedral (No.11, +34 983 298 811), both a snip if you book through Hoteles Valladolid. The cheapest lodging in town is probably the Pensión Zamora (Calle de Arribas 14, +34 983 303 052).