Forbes Travel Guide will unveil its first London Star Awards on April 25. Check back to find out which hotels and spas won the coveted Four- and Five-Star awards.
April 17 marked 125 years since the establishment of the Football League, the first professional soccer league in the world. Soccer is now the most popular sport on the planet by a country mile, and the top division of English football, the Premier League, is the most watched anywhere, with a global television audience of almost five billion. And while a Robin van Persie-led Manchester United club clinched its 20th Premier League title on Monday, many visitors to London are still keen to catch a live game during their stay. Here’s our guide to seeing soccer in the British capital as action continues over the final month of the season.
Which Teams to See
Along with Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, London is one of the great cities of British football — and every weekend during the season it parades the talents of some of the world’s best players. The most successful London team over the last few years has been Chelsea, who are currently champions of Europe, but in the years preceding their oligarch-fueled dominance, the top dog was undoubtedly Arsenal. This season though, their north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur (aka “Spurs”) are making just as strong a case for London’s most exciting team. Elsewhere in the Premier League you’ll find the grand old clubs West Ham United and Fulham, along with the see-them-before-they’re-relegated Queens Park Rangers.
When to See Them
League matches traditionally occur on Saturday afternoons, at 3 p.m., and teams alternate between playing one weekend at home and another away. However, in recent years the weekend fixtures have been extended to include early and late kick-offs on Saturdays, one or more games on Sunday and even the occasional game on a Monday. You’ll also often find cup competitions like the Champions League and the Europa League taking place in the middle of the week — Tuesday through Thursday.
How to Buy Tickets
If you want to see a big game at any of London’s Premier League clubs, you will need to reserve far in advance — in fact, usually on the day tickets are released to the general public. Tickets for matches against lower-ranked teams should be a little easier to come across — Chelsea welcomes a so-so Swansea City on April 28 while Tottenham takes on less-than-glamorous Southampton at home on May 4 — though you may still be surprised how rapidly Arsenal can offload 60,000-plus tickets to a game against a relegation struggler.
If you can’t secure tickets for a Premier League game, don’t worry — you can always head to a nearby pub to watch the game on the big screen. Just double-check to make sure everybody isn’t waving blue-and-white Millwall scarves before you start cheering on similarly colored Chelsea. We highly recommend the sleek Carlsberg Sports Bar in Leicester Square as a chic central option, or the traditional The Regent in Balham for real local flavor. Alternatively, if the bar scene appears a bit too clamorous, why not enjoy some less glossy lower-league action? There are eight other London clubs currently nestled within the three divisions of the Football League, so whether you want to see Crystal Palace at the 26,309-seat Selhurst Park, or AFC Wimbledon at the 4,850-seater Kingsmeadow, you’re spoiled for ways to catch football fever.
Photos Courtesy of Nikada