The Best Sports Venues in the World
What makes a sports venue unique? It's up for interpretation.
The distinctive quality could be stunning architecture, tradition, history, crowd environment or game experience. There are plenty of ways to stand out.
But when a fan enters a bucket-list stadium for the first time, the feeling is unmistakable and unforgettable. It's magic.
These sports venues are some of the most magical places in the world, and everyone should experience them at least once.
Madison Square Garden
Venue nicknames: The Garden, MSG
Location: New York, N.Y.
In the heart of perhaps the busiest city in the world lies a beacon of sports history.
Madison Square Garden, commonly referred to as MSG or The Garden, has hosted boxing matches, wrestling events and hundreds upon hundreds of basketball and hockey games.
Whether or not the teams playing are any good, The Garden is an attraction unto itself. That's why it's known as "The World’s Most Famous Arena."
Venue nicknames: Colossus of Saint Ursula
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Azteca opened as a mecca of sorts for North American soccer, with the first natch a showdown of Club América and Torino FC.
Known mostly for its rabid fans — as former U.S. soccer player Landon Donovan can attest after becoming a villain in Mexico— Estadio Azteca provides a palpable atmosphere for any sport, boasting a record attendance of 132,247 for a 1993 boxing match between Julio César Chávez against Greg Haugen.
Over the years, the venue has hosted two World Cups, eight NFL games and concerts featuring the likes of Michael Jackson and U2.
Venue nicknames: The Fens
Location: Boston, Mass.
Easily the most recognizable, if not iconic, baseball stadium in the world, Fenway Park has a rich history and atmosphere unlike any of the other 29 teams in the sport.
The Green Monster in left field is Fenway's most distinguishable trait and now has seats atop it for fans who aren’t afraid of living on the edge.
The Boston Red Sox have spent more than 100 years in the stadium, appearing in some of the most unforgettable games in baseball history.
In recent years, Fenway Park also has played host to NHL and college football bowl games.
Venue nicknames: The Friendly Confines
Location: Chicago, Ill.
Ivy-covered walls, rooftop home runs and bleacher creatures have made Wrigley Field famous in American sports.
A few years younger than Fenway Park, Wrigley has been home for the Cubs since 1914 and is famous for being late to adopt lights. The first twilight game was played in 1943 before lights were installed in 1988.
The park has hosted World Series games, of course, but it also was the home for the Chicago Bears from 1921 to 1970.
Venue nicknames: Jerry World
Location: Arlington, Texas
With an estimated cost of close to $1.5 billion, the lavish and massive home of the Dallas Cowboys is considered a must-visit for any sports fan.
The size is impressive, but the advanced technology and overall cost showcase that no expense was spared in this shrine to America's team.
In addition to NFL games, an NBA All-Star weekend, concerts, college football, and boxing, the venue hosted WrestleMania 32 with a reported attendance of 101,763.
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Madrid, Spain
Home to the richest club in the world of European football, the Bernabéu is a lavish display of Real Madrid's excellence.
A tour of the stadium includes a walk on the field, a trip to the locker room and a walk through an impressive array of displays featuring former great players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane, along with dozens of championship trophies.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
With one of the most picturesque views in sports, the City by the Bay offers a top-notch fan experience at AT&T Park with local food and a view of the water from nearly everywhere in the yard.
Barry Bonds put the place on the map, launching record-setting home runs into McCovey Cove.
The Raiders even have tossed around the idea of using the park as their 2019 residence before they head to Las Vegas.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Liverpool, England
The fans of Liverpool FC chant "You'll Never Walk Alone" throughout the seats of Anfield, as they have done for the past several decades.
The history in those grandstands is clear and evokes an energy and emotion that is rarely seen in sports today.
When new Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group proposed the idea of renovating the 134-year-old grounds, they were surprised by the opposition of LFC purists, and have approached the project with kid gloves.
Venue nicknames: The Clink
Location: Seattle, Wash.
This is all about what NFL (and occasionally MLS) fans refer to as the "12th Man." Seattle fans, and really Northwest sports fans in general, bring an intensity unmatched in other parts of the country.
The home field for both the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders gives both teams a decided advantage over visiting teams, even ones that may have more to offer from a talent standpoint. The Seahawks are 41-12 in the last six seasons on their home turf and 29-22-1 on the road, while the Sounders are 64-21-17, compared to a record of 32-48-22 away from the Clink during that span.
A game for either team brings the atmosphere sports fans crave.
Venue nicknames: Twin Spires
Location: Louisville, Ky.
One hundred fifteen acres of racing immortality, Churchill Downs has crowned some of sports' greatest champions sports … with four legs.
The atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby, and plenty of other stakes races, match races, and Breeders' Cups, is a pure party environment.
Rain or shine, fans at Churchill are there to have a good time and see what new champions will cross the finish line.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Venue nicknames: The Cliffs of Doom
Location: Pebble Beach, Calif.
The beautiful scenery of Pebble Beach is the best view in golf. Rafa Cabrera Bello said it best: "Pebble Beach is a course that you play once, and you remember each hole forever."
It has hosted five U.S. Opens, with a sixth on the horizon, and its annual Pro-Am brings out the best on tour and in the celebrity ranks. Who wouldn't want to spend a week at Pebble Beach?
Fans are treated to unbeatable views, and the players tend to be in a great mood playing alongside celebrity counterparts.
Venue nicknames: Death Valley
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Alabama has the championships. Ohio State has the band. But based on firsthand account nothing compares to a Saturday night in Death Valley.
Up and down, visiting players, fans and coaches say Tiger Stadium features the best atmosphere in college football.
A team with varying levels of success in recent years still brings raucous fandom and daunting pregame festivities that leaves opponents shaking.
At a capacity of well over 100,000, Death Valley holds nearly 50 percent of the entire population of Baton Rouge.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Barcelona, Spain
FC Barcelona's passionate fanbase in the Catalan region of Spain provides a unique atmosphere, different from its rival fans in Madrid. While Real fans expect results, Barcelona supporters appreciate the process. That is summed up by the words "Més que un club" ("More than a club") spelled out in the stands.
It doesn't hurt that the team has been blessed with the smoothest player of a generation in Lionel Messi. Even before that, Camp Nou was renowned for its soccer appreciation, hosting World and European Cup matches.
Apart from the beautiful game, Pope John Paul II celebrated mass for a congregation of over 120,000 at Camp Nou in 1982.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: London, England
Standing since nearly the days of the American Civil War, Stamford Bridge is the home pitch for one of the most illustrious clubs in English football: Chelsea FC.
The field has hosted plenty of big-time matches throughout its 141 years of existence and also was the home for the London Monarchs back in the NFL Europe days.
Chelsea is always the main attraction, however, and fans get four unique views depending on which stand they’re seated in.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona
This is all about the 16th hole. What an experience. Whether playing the course or in the stands spectating, the Stadium Hole at TPC Scottsdale boasts itself as the loudest hole in golf. No debate here.
Players either welcome the football-crowd-like atmosphere or detest it, but it provides an interesting challenge either way.
The fans are the event for this one, and it is four days of pure pandemonium.
Phog Allen Fieldhouse
Venue nicknames: The Phog
Location: Lawrence, Kan.
Going to Allen Fieldhouse, fans are reminded where basketball was invented.
Kansas University wasn’t the first place to host a basketball game, but it is where the game took hold.
Jayhawk fans chant in unison prior to tipoff, not unlike a choir of sorts behind the home bench. It is a sight to behold for any sports fan and one of the most stunning experiences in sports.
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Pasadena, Calif.
This stadium is one of the most scenic spots in sports and has housed some of the greatest moments in college football history, starting with the annual Rose Bowl Game.
"The Grandaddy of Them All" has been played every Jan. 1 since 1923 (except when New Year's Day falls on Sunday, and the game is moved to Jan. 2, and in 1942, when the game was moved to Duke in Durham, N.C., due to security concerns after Pearl Harbor).
In 1998, the Rose Bowl became part of the Bowl Championship Series and now is part of the College Football Playoff six-bowl rotation.
The stadium holds 91,000 today, down from its previous 102,000. But some things never change, like the tailgate experience, which remains one of a kind. Fans still gather early in the morning and set up on the lawn parking outside the stadium to prepare for one of the biggest college football games of the year.
In addition, the UCLA Bruins play their home football games here, and the multipurpose stadium has hosted five Super Bowls, two FIFA World Cup Finals (men's and women's), concerts and more.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Venue nicknames: Camden Yards
Location: Baltimore, Md.
Truly the first of its kind, Camden Yards broke the mold for baseball stadiums. Despite venues such as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, few other stadiums featured any iconic imagery or landmarks unique to the location.
When the park opened in 1992, the Orioles started a trend that became the inspiration for downtown skylines and historical monuments. The backdrop of the brick wall in right field is distinct and its signature.
The site of Cal Ripken's record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game and a litany of other big moments made Camden Yards unmistakable. When baseball fans see the aerial view, there's no place like it.
Melbourne Cricket Ground
Venue nicknames: The G
Location: East Melbourne, Australia
This may rub some Yankee and Red Sox fans the wrong way, but you won't find a venue with more history than The G.
It hosted the first test cricket match (1877), the first one-day international cricket match (1970), Australia's first international lacrosse match (1907) and the match with the highest first-class cricket score (1926).
It also was the first in a string of technological advances, including the first all-color cricket scoreboard with instant replay.
The venue also hosts soccer, international rules football and rugby matches, along with concerts and cultural events.
Venue nicknames: The Horseshoe
Location: Columbus, Ohio
With one of the most iconic stadium in college football, Ohio State games are a sight to behold at The Horseshoe. The attraction, apart from its size, is the Buckeye band, which touts one of the most in-sync and well-choreographed ensembles in the country.
Dotting the I in the band formation has become a tradition and honor itself, with former players, presidents and celebrities.
Not to mention the Buckeyes are perennial College Football Playoff contenders.
Venue nicknames: Soccer City, The Calabash
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Playing host to the 2010 World Cup, First National Bank Stadium, commonly referred to as FNB Stadium, showcased the venue in spectacular fashion.
In historical terms, FNBs biggest moment has almost nothing to do with sports. In 1990, Nelson Mandela gave his first speech following his release from prison. Fittingly, it served as the site of his memorial service in December 2013.
Stade Olympique (Olympic Stadium)
Venue nicknames: The Big O
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Constructed as the main venue for the 1976 Olympics and appropriately named, Olympic Stadium is the largest by seating capacity in Canada. Its nickname comes not only from its official title, but also as an ode to its shape.
Its incorporation into the base of the Montreal Tower creates a beautiful synergy between the two and gives it a distinguishing characteristic unlike any other in the world.
The former home to the Montreal Expos before their departure, it currently does not have a permanent resident, hosting the occasional Canadian Football or Major League Soccer game.
Beijing National Aquatics Center
Venue nicknames: Water Cube
Location: Beijing, China
This is all about the design. Built to house the swimming competitions at the 2008 Olympics, the Water Cube is a marvel of creativity and innovation.
Its outer walls are based on the Weaire–Phelan structure, designed to mimic the natural pattern of bubbles in soap lather.
There were 25 world records set in that particular Olympic pool, suggesting the design aided in the speed of the swimmers.
It is now reopened as a water park, featuring slides, a wave pool and a spa.
Arthur Ashe Stadium
Venue nicknames: N/A
Location: Queens, N.Y.
The intensity, the drama and the excitement of a marquee tennis match is hard to beat, which is what makes Arthur Ashe Stadium so special.
Host of the U.S. Open each year, the New York crowd brings its own unique sports fandom to the venue.
Its namesake was the winner of the first Open in which professionals could compete and is a fitting example of modern tennis, carrying with it the legacy of past greats.
Venue nicknames: The Frozen Tundra, Titletown USA
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin
The only reason to visit Green Bay (apart from the cheese) is to cross off an item on every football fan's bucket list.
Lambeau Field is where the game of football took hold, at least in the Super Bowl era, as the Packers were the first true dynasty. This is evidenced in having their coach's name on the NFL's championship trophy.
Fans toss snow into the freezing cold air when the Packers score in the winter months, and it is a sight to behold for even the most warm-weather creatures. It is packed with tradition.