During my recent visit to London, England, I knew that my wife would be busy working during the weekdays, so I made a list of things to see which would not especially interest her. At the top of that list was a visit to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea Football Club play their home games.
Several years ago, when deciding which English Premier League team to support, one of the main deciding factors was location – I knew it was most likely that of all English cities, I would get to visit London someday. This helped to narrow down the options, but after careful consideration, I decided on Chelsea.
Overall, the tour was a great experience!
I arrived at the Stadium and paid the admission of 19 Pounds for the tour, which came to about $33 Canadian. I had about ten minutes before the next tour was set to begin, so I had some time to browse the displays, but not enough time to visit the team museum upstairs. A crowd of about thirty people formed, but I noticed that none of them were wearing any Chelsea apparel.
Our tour began, and our guide was very friendly and funny. He brought us into the stadium, and we proceeded directly to some of the best seats in the house – right by the grass, at mid-field. We sat down and he asked the crowd a few questions – it turned out that I was literally the only Chelsea fan in the group!
The rest of those in attendance were also tourists, from around the world, whose home countries had players who currently play for Chelsea! There were a bunch of Belgians who were fans of striker Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, there were Spaniards who were fans of César Azpilicueta, Cesc Fàbregas, Marcos Alonso, Pedro and Álvaro Morata, and a handful of fans from other countries, who were represented among the Chelsea roster.
This is the moment when I realized how popular Chelsea, and soccer in general is worldwide – these tourists carved time into their London vacation to see the home stadium of a team they don’t even cheer for, just because they’re so proud of their local boys!
We then walked right by one of the corner flags, and got a great view of the field, as the players see it. I felt like Fàbregas, about to take a corner kick!
Next, we toured the backstage portions of the stadium. We started in the press room, where the manager and players hold pre- and post-game press conferences. We all got to have our photos taken, sitting at the press conference desk.
Our tour guide showed us the rest of the press room, including where they keep tea brewed for the journalists! Very English.
We then moved on to the team dressing rooms. We started in the visiting team’s dressing room, which was quite minimalistic. The lighting was very soft and soothing, which our guide told us was done on purpose, to help lull their opponents into a sense of relaxation!
We them moved on to the home team’s dressing room, which was very impressive and brightly-lit by comparison.
We then left the dressing room area, to go back towards the field, but we took a different path this time – we took the route that the players take. We walked to the tunnel, where the teams line up before heading into the pitch.
When we got there, they began playing a song that is familiar to Chelsea fans, The Liquidator by Harry J. & All Stars. This classic ska track is the song that always plays while the players walk out to the field. It made the experience even more exciting! Of course, being the only Chelsea fan in the group, I was probably the only one who understood the significance.
Here’s a video of that moment:
I then got to see the area where the players sit when not playing. I stood in the spot where the managers usually stand during the match, shouting directives at their players.
We then took a walk towards one of the more famous areas of the stadium. I saw this sign along the way:
We soon found ourselves in the Shed End of Stamford Bridge. This is the area where the most rowdy, boisterous fans usually sit (or stand, really). This section had amazing views of the stadium.
Our guide pointed out other areas of interest, including where the visiting fans sit, the section for the players’ families, and the team owner’s box.
At that point, our hour-long tour was basically complete. As with most tourist attractions, we were led into a gift shop. And as a fan of the team, this part was a real treat! The Chelsea FC Megastore is two floors, full of jerseys, casual apparel, and other team gear and souvenirs. I picked up a polo shirt, a necktie, a pair of socks and an enamel pin. I had to make myself stop before doing too much damage!
After the tour, I came upon the stadium’s cafe, which was REALLY cute! There were comfortable booths and tables, with dark wood – it felt like a Panera. There was a cafe/barista area, where you could get hot and cold drinks, pastries, and prepared sandwiches and salads. There was also a hot lunch window, where they served a few “Quick Service” options, including soup, hot sandwiches, pasta and savoury pies.
I ordered myself a cup of tea, as I realized I hadn’t had one in England yet!
As I sat there, I noticed that the cafe was filling with various team and stadium staff – trainers, groundskeepers, the marketing department, etc. They all seemed to know each other, and many of them had regular lunch orders waiting for them.
This was a really fun tour! If I had put aside more time, I would have also visited the team museum, but other than that, I was really happy with how I’d spent my morning.
After that, I went to explore the neighborhood of Notting Hill and the famous Portobello Road market, but that’s a story for another time…
Have you visited Stamford Bridge, or any other team’s stadium when travelling?
Please comment below.