Something Europe has no shortage of is prestigious sporting events, making the diverse and stunning continent a must visit for every sports fan. It doesn't matter which contests you love the most, Europe will showcase the best of those while also showing the discerning traveler things they have never seen before.
Join hundreds of thousands of fans in the biggest stadiums the world has ever seen, cram into smaller venues displaying elite athletic talent and artistry, or fall somewhere in between and you will never be disappointed in Europe. The toughest decision is where to start, so here are ten events that should be on your bucket list right now.
10 Barcelona Or Madrid For El Classico
Barcelona and Madrid have faced off in one of the fiercest rivalries in sports every year since 1929 and each time it is a unique spectacle in its own right. Drawing crowds of close to 100,000 at either Camp Nou or Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, this is a contest that every sports fan has to experience in person at least once.
To give you an idea of how tight this duel is, the two sides have met a total of 242 times across all competitions and Barcelona hold the narrowest of leads, 96-95 with 51 draws recorded. No matter which home game you go to, prepare to feel the goosebumps that only a stadium full of passionate supporters can generate.
9 French Open In Paris
Held at the world-renowned Stade Roland Garros in Paris, this is the premier clay court tennis championship in the world and the second of the four major Grand Slam tournaments.
As the only one of the Slams to take place on clay, it is an essential itinerary item for sports tourists, especially given it is held in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Commencing in the early days of May and concluding in early June, it falls at the perfect time for a trip to France and the lengthy Grand Slam format provides countless fixtures from which to choose.
8 Tour De France
This grueling bicycle race takes place over several stages throughout France with occasional jaunts into neighboring countries and is the absolute pinnacle in two-wheeled racing. It has featured on the calendar since 1903 and only grows in strength with each passing year.
Fans can line the streets of iconic French villages to cheer on the riders and even ride the different stages themselves either before or after the professionals take to the course. One of the most well-known sporting events worldwide, the Tour de France transcends cycling and is a must-experience for all sports fans.
7 Calcio Fiorentino In Italy
Also known as Calcio Storico, or ‘historic football’, this an early and barbaric sport that originated in 16th-century Italy. Once a huge game in its own right, the rules are believed to have blossomed in Florence as a rival to the Roman sport of harpastum, another violent ball game that often resulted in injuries and even death.
Today, three matches of Clacio Fiorentino are played each year in Piazza Santa Croce during the third week of June, with each quarter of the city represented by a team. Don’t be alarmed by the brutal nature of the contest that allows such moves as head-butting, elbowing and choking, there is a gentlemanly side as well thanks to a ruling that no more than one player at a time can attack an opponent. This is an event that is definitely better to enjoy from the stands than on the field of play.
6 Russian Bandy Super League Final
Bandy is a version of ice hockey that many deem to be the national sport of Russia and the Super League is its top division. Taking plenty of inspiration from football, halves are 45 minutes and 11 players take to the ice for each side.
Each season takes place between November and March, culminating in a final where the top qualifying teams play to be crowned the champions of Russia. This is a unique sporting event with limited crowd capacity so sports tourists wanting to try something a little different will not be disappointed should they be able to score a ticket to a Bandy Super League Final.
5 Lisbon Marathon
Run since 1986 in Lisbon, Portugal, this marathon draws participants and viewers from all over the world. It is a predominantly flat and wonderfully scenic route featuring live music along the course culminating in a huge concert at the finish line.
With many sports tourists ticking off prestigious marathons such as Boston and London, the Lisbon Marathon is one of the most visually stunning and well worth the effort to cross off the road race bucket list. For those wanting an even greater challenge than covering 42km, the course record is 2:07:30, so you better get training!
4 EuroLeague Basketball Finals
The EuroLeague is the top-tier European professional basketball club competition, with teams competing from all over the continent to claim the title of champions. The attendance numbers are second only to the NBA in the United States when it comes to basketball, but the passion and excitement of fans could well be the equal of the league’s big brother across the Atlantic.
Real Madrid currently hold the most titles with 10, but CSKA Moscow, Panathinaikos and others are hot on their heels, desperate to dethrone the Spanish champions and take their spot on top. Follow along as the season progresses and book your spot at the final to see some world class basketball and experience some of the best indoor sports Europe has to offer.
3 Lords In England
Known simply as ‘The Home of Cricket’, Lords is a venue that should make the to-do list of every sports fan in the world. Able to host a modest 28,000 fans, tickets to fixtures here are always in high demand, raising the level of prestige to the stratosphere.
Celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2014, a one-of-a-kind cricket match was played featuring some of the greatest players to ever grace the arena. You won’t have to wait for another celebration such as this however thanks to the English cricket team playing games here every summer and local sides turning out on the hallowed turf week in week out.
Don’t miss the sports museum within its historic walls either, it is the oldest of its kind in the world and an experience within an experience for the gushing sports fan.
2 St Andrews, Scotland
From the ‘Home of Cricket’ to the ‘Home of Golf’. St Andrew’s Links in Fife, Scotland is one of the oldest courses in the world, hosting events since the 15th Century.
Today it is made up of seven open-to-the-public courses including the most famous and revered of all, the Old Course. St Andrews is also home to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, one of the most prestigious golf clubs worldwide and one of the rule-making authorities for the sport.
Such is the history and wonder of this golfing paradise, one cannot call themselves a true sports tourist until they have struggled to get an errant tee shot out of a sand trap while the brutal Scottish wind lashes them for their error.
1 Monaco Grand Prix
Since it’s inclusion on the Grand Prix circuit in 1929, the Monaco installment of the most prestigious automobile race on the planet oozes glamour and demands respect.
Flying through the narrow streets, tight corners and sudden elevation changes, it is widely regarded as one of the most mentally and physically demanding tracks in Formula One. Join the chorus of 200,000 spectators cheering over the roar of finely-tuned engines as you tick off one of the most glamorous sporting events in the world.