Hey all! I love visiting exotic new places, but I also love being a tourist in Lisbon and I got the opportunity to visit the more hidden areas of the stadium of the soccer club that I support, Sport Lisboa and Benfica, for free due to the Open House Lisbon 2016 innitiative. Come find out!
Some info about the club and the stadium. Sport Lisboa and Benfica was founded in 1904. They have won 35 National Leagues (three time consecutive champions now) and 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, among many other titles. 47% of Portuguese citizens claim to be supporters of the club and, with all my family being a supporter, I couldn’t run away =D They had an old stadium in the same location that held 120,000 people inside and lasted from 1954 to 2003, time when the new stadium was built in time for the Euro2004. This stadium was conceived by the Australian architect Damon Lavelle and it’s quite controversial because the outside is mainly unpainted concrete. I like it actually and wanted to know more, and that’s the purpose of Open House Lisboa, to make the city architectural landmarks more accessible to the general public.
I arrived very early, 45 minutes before the start of the tour, because only 30 persons were allowed in. I totally understand why because there are some areas that are accessible only through lifts and the guide has to put his accreditation every time for the group to go in. With a large group lots of lift rides would be needed and the delay would grow a lot. I just wished that they could have made more than two tours during the day because lots of people that arrived later than me had to be sent away. So if next year you plan to go, arrive 1 hour to 45 minutes early to make sure you get a place!
Now starting the tour, we start by seeing the model of the Benfica training academy in Seixal and then go to the VIP area which has a corporate area that can function as a meeting room. Finally, we got to sit on the VIP seats, so comfy! Just as a curiosity, the chair number 13 is reserved for the President of the opponent team, since it is the number of bad luck.
Afterwards we go up in the elevator to one of the highest areas, the press area. Here we could see the booths where the journalists are following the game. This part takes a bit long because even though the group was small, several elevator runs are needed.
After going so high in the stadium, we then go down to the lowest floor to check the changing room. We cannot enter the room of Benfica but we went to the room for the opponent team. Despite this, for the purposes of the tour, they have the shirts of Benfica players. We could see the massage booths and the showers but we had to keep away because the showers are automatic and my new camera could get an unwanted shower =D
The next stop is the Press Conference room. The room has capacity, in the configuration that we saw, for 100 press staff members, but the room can be expanded, in larger events like the Champions League final that took place there in 2014, to accomodate 300 members.
The next part is quite fun. You get to walk the corridor the teams walk to get in the pitch! I felt like a footballer for a bit. Then we can walk besides the grass but not step on it not to danage it. After walking a bit, we reached the area where the eagles (the symbol of Benfica) are. While I don’t agree with the spectacle in the beginning of every match, where eagle Vitória makes a descent down to the center of the pitch, it’s quite impressive to see these prey birds live.
Finally the visit is concluded by going up to the area for people with mobility issues. After this, we exit right in front of the statue of Eusébio. Eusébio da Silva Ferreira was a Portuguese player born in Mozambique that is the greatest player of Benfica history thus far. He helped Benfica win 11 national championships and 1 European Champions Cup, while for the Portuguese team he reached a 3rd place at the World Championship of 1966, where he was the best scorer. He died at the age of 71 in 2014 and his body is in the National Pantheon, being the first sportsman granted with this honor.
This was a very nice chance to get to know better the Stadium from inside! I know that in the morning visit there were even Croatian fans visiting. Of course you can be in Lisbon next year to visit the Stadium for free if it is featured in Open House 2017, but if you are coming to Lisbon and want to visit, the visits take part every day, from 10a.m. to 7p.m., every 15 minutes and cost 10€. In match days there are no visits.
Did you get to go to Open House Lisbon 2016? If yes, what did you visit? Last year I visited Palácio da Ajuda, that I still have to write about, and unfortunately I couldn’t go to other visits this year but I plan to go to a new place every year. The Open House Worldwide innitiative happens in a number of cities and you can check which cities still have weekends happening in 2016 to plan your trip around it. Now I’m pissed that I’ll be in Oslo just one month before Open House happens there, sigh. But at least I’ll be there in just one month from now, yay!
Do you like football/soccer? If yes, do you like to visit stadiums for the architecture and atmosphere? What are your favorite stadiums?
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