The end of summer in Europe may mark the last of sunny beach days and long balmy nights, but for some, it signals the start of something even more fun – soccer season (or football for the purists!). Whether it’s always been your goal to watch the beautiful game live, or you’re in town and want to experience this sporting spectacle – just for kicks, here are our tips for the most unmissable matches of the European leagues. With a few extra ideas thrown in for what to do while you’re there.

Manchester United v Liverpool, The English Premier League, England

The EPL (or just Premier League to the locals) is the top level of the English football league system, contested by 20 clubs around the country between August to May. It is the most-watched sports league in the world – broadcast to a potential TV audience of 4.7 billion people – and has spawned some of the biggest teams in the world, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United – a unit full of former players, like David Beckham, who went on to become brands unto themselves! Although any opportunity to immerse yourself among parochial fans is a good idea, the best matches to catch are the annual derbies between Man United and one of its arch-rivals. The matchups between the original Mancunian team and its new-money club counterpart (Man City) is a relatively recent contest for neighbourhood bragging rights, while the historically-held and bitter duels between the Red Devils and the Reds (Liverpool) always bring an enthralling atmosphere to iconic Old Trafford or Anfield Stadiums.

See:

MANCHESTER:
The Museum of Science and Industry; Manchester Art Gallery; Manchester Town Hall; HOME cultural centre; Northern Quarter; Chetham’s Library; Victoria Baths

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LIVERPOOL:
Tate Liverpool; Merseyside Maritime Museum; Cavern Club; The Beatles Story; St Johns Beacon; Casbah Coffee Club; Pier Head

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Barcelona v Real Madrid, La Liga, Spain

The popularity of Spain’s top professional football division for men (La Liga) is unsurprising given the quality of games it showcases. Here it’s all about high-energy pass-and-possession play, unbelievable goals, and endless controversy! The famous ‘El Clasico’ refers to any contest between Real Madrid and Barcelona. With a combined dominance in European soccer (Barcelona have won 5 UEFA Champions League Titles, Madrid holds the record with 13) and a long list of legends who have played for each club (including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane) you are always guaranteed a contest when two of La Liga’s biggest teams meet. Regardless of the side that you opt to support, the 100 million fans – by conservative estimates – who tune in globally, will agree that there are no greater footballing battles than the ones that go down in Camp Nou (Barcelona’s stadium) or Santiago Bernabeu (Real Madrid’s home ground).

See:

BARCELONA:
Sagrada Familia; Casa Batllo; Park Guell; La Rambla; Montjuic Castle; La Barceloneta; La Boqueria

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MADRID:
Plaza Mayor; Royal Palace; Retiro Park; Puerta del Sol; Gran Via; The Rastro; Sobrino de Botin

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Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, Germany

With an average attendance of 43,302 per game, the Bundesliga is the most followed football league in Europe. And the wildly successful German national football team (having won four World Cups) owes much of its triumph to the quality of players that have cut their teeth (and showcased their headers) in their country’s domestic competition. Although the Bundesliga has also been a happy hunting ground for international athletes from around the world, (including Aussies like Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse) the biggest stars in German football are the local football teams. With a fierce rivalry stemming from their long history, close geography and status as Bundesliga powerhouses, the ‘revierderby’ between Dortmund and Schalke or the Bavarian-based clashes between Bayern Munich and FC Nuremberg are probably the most famous. But fleeting fans with a mere passing interest will probably prefer ‘Der Klassiker’ (The Classic) battle between Dortmund and Bayern Munich – Germany’s most successful team.

See:

DORTMUND:
Westfalenpark; Florianturm; Dortmunder U; Museum Ostwall; Alter Markt; Westenhellweg; Wasserschloss Haus Rodenberg

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MUNICH:
Marienplatz; Theatinerkirche; Hofbrauhaus; West Park; Glyptothek museum; Nymphenburg Palace; Viktualienmarkt

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A.C. Milan v Inter Milan, Serie A, Italy

Google ‘World Cup Italian dive 2006’ and you’ll understand why the Azzurri still ruffle a few feathers among Aussie football fanatics. But there’s no denying that the good people that gave the world pizza and pasta, also serve up some superb soccer games. The ‘Derby Della Madonnina’ – aka Milan Derby – is one of the most well-known rivalries in world football and refers to the battle between the two local (highly successful) forces based in Milan. While the players share a stadium (San Siro) and a few squad members (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo have, at different times, all pulled on a jersey for both sides) they do not have much else in common – with Inter seen to represent the bourgeoisie and AC the club of the working class. Matches have historically been accompanied by heated displays of hooliganism. And while today, this trend may have been swapped for slightly friendlier banter, the battle for city supremacy remains a quintessential experience in Italy’s Fashion Capital.

See:

Il Duomo; Castello Sforzesco; Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie; Parco Sempione; Milano Centrale Railway Station; 10 Corso Como

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Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique de Marseille, Ligue 1, France

The French have developed a reputation for all things chic (reference: 191,912 users who currently follow the ‘How to Dress Like a Parisian’ board on Pinterest!). But any stereotypes of simple style and understated elegance are quickly thrown out of the Eiffel Towered-window when French football teams Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille go head-to-head in the local derby known as ‘Le Classique’. Here, the supporters are loud and proud, with the clash between the two most popular clubs in the country rooted in historical, cultural and social importance that makes it more than just a game. Those who score tickets to a match (which this season will include Kylian Mbappe Lottin playing for PSG and Florian Thauvin for Marseille) may prefer to sit as a neutral viewer… With security measures regularly implemented to avoid confrontations between fans, it takes balls to pick a side! Regardless of the outcome, you are almost always guaranteed a performance that will have you cheering ‘Vive La France’.

See:

PARIS:
Eiffel tower; Arc de Triomphe; Jardin des Tuileries; Louvre; Sacre Couer; Place de la Bastille; Moulin Rogue

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MARSEILLE:
Corniche Kennedy; Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde; Le Vieux Port; Parc Borely; Palais Longchamps – Musée des Beaux Arts; Les Calanques; Chateau d’If

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SL Benfica v FC Porto, Primeira Liga, Portugal

An extra-time strike sealed Portugal’s first-ever European Championship (over France) in 2016, but the country’s domestic competition has been producing champions for years. With famous graduates of the Portuguese football league system including Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria and Diego Costa, it could hardly be considered unexpected that this small unassuming nation along the Iberian Peninsula offers an abundance of opportunities to catch a big football match live. And with most travellers traversing through the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, the ‘Big Three’ (the nickname of the three most successful sports clubs in Portugal) ensure access to an enthralling game is never far. While there is some antagonism between SL Benfica and Sporting CP (the local teams of Lisbon), the biggest rivalry actually exists between SL Benfica and FC Porto, from Porto. Between the three of them, this trio generally end up sharing the top spots in their contention for the Primeira Liga title.

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LISBON:
Belem Tower; Jeronimos Monastery; Sao Roque Church; Sao Jorge Castle; Alfama; Baixa; Bairro Alto

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PORTO:
Livraria Lello; Piolho Cafe; Igreja do Carmo; Graham’s Port Lodge Wine Cellar; Foz do Douro; Palacio da Bolsa; Torre dos Clerigos

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