The 10 most important football stadiums in France

France is known as a football nation all over the world and has already claimed several world and European championship titles. We present the 10 most important stadiums in France in international football and in Ligue 1. 

The French national team is one of the best in the world and has produced many a football great. Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema and Zinédine Zidane are just a few of the famous names of France's football stars. Home matches in various championships are mostly played in the 10 most important stadiums in France.

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Stade de France in St Denis (Paris)

The massive Stade de France near Paris is by far the largest stadium in France and the opening and final venue for the Euro 2016 - © Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock
© Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock

With a capacity of around 80,000, the Stade de France is the largest stadium in France and one of the largest sports venues in Europe. The home of the French national football team, the Stade de France was the most important arena at the Euro 2016 as the venue for the opening match and the final.

Construction of the Stade de France for the 1998 Football World Cup

The Stade de France is located in St. Denis, a suburb in the north of Paris, and dates back to the 1998 World Cup. After the decision in 1992 that the World Cup should be held in France, the ground-breaking ceremony took place on 2 May 1995. The costs for the monumental construction project amounted to 407 million euros.

With 81,338 seats, the largest stadium in France was to enhance the entire region in terms of tourism and thus also economically and serve as an attractive eye-catcher between residential and commercial buildings.

The Stade de France opened on 28 January 1998, replacing the Prince's Park in the heart of Paris as the previous national stadium. The first match in the new arena was a friendly between the two football giants France and Spain, which the home team won 1:0.

Football, Rugby and U2 Record Holder

In addition to the French national football team, the Stade de France is also home to the French national rugby union team. The impressive backdrop of the huge stadium is also used for athletics and music events. For example, the attendance record at the Stade de France is not held by a sporting event, but by a concert by the Irish band U2, which was cheered by 93,000 fans in July 2009.

Official website of the Stade de France

Park of the Princes (Parc des Princes) in Paris

The Parc des Princes is home to Paris Saint Germain and is one of the oldest stadiums in France - © PSGMAG.NET CC BY 2.0/Wiki
© PSGMAG.NET CC BY 2.0/Wiki

Before the Stade de France, the Parc des Princes was the home stadium of the French national team. Today, the "Parc des Princes" is the equally famous and acclaimed stadium of the successful football club Paris Saint Germain. At the 2016 European Football Championship in France, the Parc des Princes, around 4km from the Eiffel Tower, was one of 10 venues.

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From the cycling track to the home of Paris Saint Germain

The tradition-rich Parc des Princes was opened in July 1897 as the "Stade vélodrome du Parc des Princes" and is one of the oldest stadiums in France. With a 666m-long racetrack, the arena was originally intended for cycling. Until the demolition of the cycling track in 1967, the Parc des Princes was the finish line of the Tour de France.

The first football match at the Parc des Princes was played in 1899. When it also became the venue for some Coupe de France finals from 1919 onwards, an increase in spectator capacity was soon necessary, which was realised in 1932 with now a total of 45,000 seats. In 1956, the Prinzenpark Stadium was the venue for the first final match in the European Cup of Nations, now known as the Champions League.

The next reconstruction took place almost 40 years later, after which the now 80m-high stadium was reopened on 4 June 1972 with the match between Marseille and Bastia. The stadium, designed by Roger Taillibert, was highly praised for its avant-garde design and won several architectural awards. Only one year after the 90 million conversion, the football club Paris Saint Germain (PSG), successful throughout Europe, moved into the stadium.

National and international significance of the Prinzenpark Stadium

Until the opening of the Stade de France, which holds over 81,000 spectators, in 1998, the Parc des Princes was France's national stadium. This was also the year in which the Parc des Princes almost said goodbye to international football. Champions League finals and other important matches moved to the new Stade de France.

At the 1998 World Cup, six matches of the group phase and the match for third place took place here. For the Euro 2016, the stadium was expanded by another 14,000 seats and now holds 60,000 spectators. The Prinzenpark was the oldest stadium on the Euro 2016 schedule.

In addition to football events, the Parc des Princes also provides a spectacular backdrop for concerts by great French and international musicians. When no events are taking place, a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium is interesting not only for die-hard football fans!

Official website of the Paris Saint Germain football club

Stade Vélodrome in Marseille

The Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, built in 1938, was expanded to become the second largest stadium in France for the Euro 2016 - © Hombrey CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki
© Hombrey CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki

With a spectator stand of almost 67,400 seats, the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille is the second largest stadium in France after the Stade de France in St. Denis. As the home ground of the traditional club Olympique Marseille, it is also the largest stadium in the country that is permanently played by a club.

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Creation for the 1938 World Cup

The history of the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille goes back to 1938. At that time, it was built by the two architects Henri Ploquin and Jean-Pierre Buffi for the World Cup and held 30,000 spectators. It was opened the year before the World Cup, on 13 June 1937.

For the next World Cup in France in 1998, the stadium was extensively renovated and the spectator area doubled. At that time, the cycling track between the pitch and the stands had to be removed, but it still gives the Stade Vélodrome its name.

Expansion for the 2016 European Football Championship

From March 2011, the Stade Vélodrome was enlarged for the 2016 European Championship. Since 2014, the now earthquake-proof arena has had 67,394 seats, all of which were roofed over. An expansion to 80,000 spectator seats was actually planned, but this was ultimately not realised for cost reasons. Nevertheless, the costs exceeded the planned construction budget by around 100 million euros.

The 268 million euro renovation of the Stade Vélodrome was inaugurated by Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin on 16 October 2014. 1 month and 2 days later, two international teams met here for the first time. The match between France and Sweden ended 1:0 for the home team.

Olympique Marseille's home stadium is also used by the French national rugby team as a playing venue - in 2016, some European Championship matches were played for the third time in its history.

Official website of Olympique Marseille

Stade des Lumières (Groupama Stadium) in Lyon

The Stadium of Lights near Lyon is the venue for the 2016 European Football Championship in France and the home stadium of Olympique Lyon and holds almost 60,000 spectators - © TeZeD17 CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki
© TeZeD17 CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki

In Décines-Charpieu, a neighbouring town of the French city of Lyon, the Stade des Lumières was built for the European Football Championship 2016. The "Stadium of Lights" is the third largest stadium in France. The stadium replaces the former Stade de Gerland, which was the home ground of the local football club Olympique Lyon.

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Creation of the Stade des Lumières

The foundation stone for the Stadium of Lights was laid in November 2013, after Lyon was chosen as one of the ten venues for the Euro 2016 football championships in 2009. The idea to build a new stadium emerged as early as 2008, but the final decision was severely delayed by protests from local residents, financial difficulties, administrative hurdles and political discussions.

In addition to the arena, a leisure centre, offices and two hotels are planned for the 400 million euro construction project. The stadium was opened on 26 January 2016 so that a few season matches of the French top league Ligue 1 could be played before the Euro 2016 matches.

In the new stadium, spectators could not only watch six matches of the Euro 2016, but can also cheer for Olympique Lyon on a regular basis. With a capacity of 58,927 seats, the Stadium of Lights offers national and international football fans a breathtaking backdrop.

Since 12 July 2017, the stadium has been known by its new name "Groupama Stadium". For the Paris insurance company, the naming rights are worth up to 7 million euros annually.

Official website of the Stade des Lumières in Lyon

Stadium Municipal in Toulouse

The Stadium Municipal in Toulouse, opened in 1937, was brought up to date for the Euro 2016 football tournament in France - © Caroline Léna Becker CC BY3.0/Wiki
© Caroline Léna Becker CC BY3.0/Wiki

The Stadium Municipal in Toulouse has been generously renovated several times, but its base still dates from 1937. At the time, it was designed by architect Jean Montariol for the 1938 World Cup.

For the 2016 European Football Championship, the stadium was renovated again by mid-2015 and equipped with state-of-the-art technology including video surveillance at a total cost of around 40 million euros.

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The natural turf, which was heavily used by rugby, was replaced by a hybrid turf surface. The Stadium Municipal still has room for only 33,000 spectators. For this reason, only 3 group matches and one final were played at the 2016 European Football Championship.

National and international significance of the Stadium Municipal

The sporting venue is home to FC Toulouse, a football club in the French first division Ligue 1, and was one of the ten venues at the Euro 2016 football tournament in France.

The Toulouse stadium was also the venue for the Football World Cup, which took place in France in 1998. The arena was also of international interest at the 1991, 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups.

Official website of FC Toulouse

Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille

The Stade Pierre Mauroy was opened as the home stadium of OSC Lille in August 2012 and is one of ten venues for the Euro 2016 in France - © Liondartois CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki
© Liondartois CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki

The Euro 2016 was not actually held directly in Lille, but in its suburb Villeneuve-d'Ascq, where the designated stadium Stade Pierre Mauroy is also located.

The construction of the impressive arena was launched on 26 March 2010 after lengthy site discussions, following Lille's appointment as one of the 9 venues for the Euro 2016 in France. The sports venue was designed by the architectural firm Valode & Pistre.

Construction of the Stade Pierre Mauroy for the 2016 European Football Championship

The ceremonial opening of the Stade Pierre Mauroy took place on 17 August 2012. 50,000 fans were seated in the stadium during the European Championship, although the venue can actually hold a total of 50,186 spectators. The first match to be played under the closable roof was a match between the home club Lille OSC and AS Nancy.

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Originally, the stadium was named after its location and was called Stade Borne de l'Espoir. It was only in June 2013, after the death of Pierre Mauroy, the mayor of Lille, after 30 years in office, that the venue was given its current name.

The costs of the hypermodern sports facility amounted to 280 million euros. In return, the Stade Pierre Mauroy is equipped with a number of special technical features. For example, the stadium can be completely covered by a roof measuring 205 by 110 metres. It took two days to assemble the 7,400-tonne roof construction at a height of almost 17 metres. Some rows of seats are also mobile so that the playing area can be enlarged for other sporting events or concerts.

Official website of the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille

Stade de Bordeaux (Matmut Atlantique) in Bordeaux

The new Bordeaux Stadium is the home stadium of Girondins Bordeaux and the venue for five Euro 2016 football matches in France - © PA CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wiki
© PA CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wiki

The impressive Nouveaux Stade de Bordeaux was built especially for the Euro 2016 after Bordeaux was chosen as one of France's 9 Euro cities. Its predecessor, the Stade Chaban-Delmas, has also hosted major international competitions, including the two World Cups in 1938 and 1998.

Construction of the Stade de Bordeaux

At the beginning of 2013, the decision was made to build a new venue in the French city of Bordeaux, which would not only be used as a venue for the 2016 European Championship, but would also become the new home stadium for the local football club Girondins Bordeaux.

The foundation stone for the stadium was laid on 15 April 2013. The Stade de Bordeaux was built with 42,000 spectator seats by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron and cost around 184 million euros.

Despite some delays due to protests from local residents, the construction was completed in April 2015. The sporting inauguration of the Stade de Bordeaux took place on 23 May 2015 with a match between the two French football teams Girondins Bordeaux and HSC Montpelier.

Since September 2015, the name of the stadium has been "Matmut Atlantique", as the naming rights were sold to the French insurance company until 2025. The price of this agreement was not disclosed to the public.

In addition to being the home stadium of Girondins Bordeaux and the venue for Euro 2016, the state-of-the-art Stade de Bordeaux was also the venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, which was also held in France. As a longer pitch is needed for rugby matches, the bottom four rows of the stands can be removed.

The Bordeaux stadium is also used for concerts, shows and other events.

Official website of the Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux

Allianz Riviera in Nice

The Allianz Riviera in Nice was built in just two years and will host the four matches at Euro 2016, France - © Mirasol CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki
© Mirasol CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki

The Allianz Riviera, the magnificent stadium in Nice in the south of France, was one of the youngest stadiums at Euro 2016 and is located in one of the most attractive regions of the entire Euro 2016 venue community. It was only in July 2011 that the ground-breaking ceremony for the sixth largest stadium of the EM took place.

The Allianz Riviera, by the way, not only has a name but also architectural similarities with the famous Allianz Arena in Munich. For the insurance company, the use of the name costs 1.8 million euros every year, which is guaranteed to OGC Nice for nine years. This almost recoups the up to 2 million euros that the football club has to pay for the use of the stadium, depending on the number of spectators.

Construction of the Stade de Nice

The plans for the Allianz Riviera come from the French architectural firm Wilmotte & Associés and were published on 11 October 2010. Jean-Michel Wilmotte himself is named as the architect.

Not even three years later, on 22 September 2013, the stadium could already be opened (nevertheless two and a half months later than planned). However, at a price that almost doubled the initial calculation, because instead of 166 million as planned, the construction costs of the Nice Stadium amounted to 243 million euros.

Normally, the Allianz Riviera seats 35,000 spectators, but if necessary, the auditorium can be increased by another 10,000 seats. However, this is only the case for non-football events, such as concerts.

The first match was played by the still-home football club OGC Nice, with a 4-0 victory over FC Valenciennes.

Official website of the Allianz Riviera in Nice

Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne

The Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne dates back to the early 1930s and will be the venue for four matches at Euro 2016, France - © KevFB CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki
© KevFB CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki

The Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne in the north of France dates back to the early 1930s. The Stade Geoffroy Guichard was named after the founder of the casino group and donor of the land on which the stadium was built.

Ground was broken for the construction of the stadium in 1930 and only one year later, on 13 September 1931, the arena was opened. The first match was held four days later. This makes the stadium the second oldest venue after the Parc des Princes in Paris that was on the 2016 European Football Championship schedule.

Initially, the downright puny arena held only 1,800 fans in one stand, but it was steadily expanded until a record 47,747 spectators were reached in May 1985. The crowds were reached at that time by the quarter-final of the Coup de France between St. Étienne and Lille.

However, this can no longer be broken, because for the 1998 World Cup, the Stade Geoffroy Guichard was reduced again to a capacity of around 35,600 spectators. Since then, the football-only stadium has only seats and no standing room.

Reconstruction for the 2016 European Football Championship

From May 2011 to the end of 2014, the stadium was rebuilt again, already in preparation for the European Football Championship, which was held in ten cities in France in 2016. The architectural firm Chaix & Morel et associeés was entrusted with the 200 million contract to make the Stade Geoffroy Guichard fit for the European Championship. The roof was completely modernised and additional stands now hold a total of 42,000 fans.

Official website of the Stade Geoffrey Guichard in Saint-Étienne

Stade Bollaert Delelis in Lens

The Stade Bolleart Delelis in the city of Lens is one of the three oldest stadiums at the European Football Championship in France, having opened in 1933 - © Liondartois CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki
© Liondartois CC BY-SA4.0/Wiki

The Stade Bollaert Delelis in Lens was opened on 18 June 1933. This makes the arena the third oldest stadium to be included in the Euro 2016 schedule, after the venerable Parc des Princes in Paris and the Stade Geoffroy Guichard in Saint-Étienne.

A curious fact: the stadium seats over 41,000 spectators - that's a good 4,000 more than the entire population of the city of Lens. Just like the Louvre Lens, the branch of the famous Louvre art museum in Paris, the European Football Championship should help the city to boost its economy.

The Stade Bollaert Delelis, designed by architect Gustave Spriet, was only given its double name in 2012, after the death of André Delelis, the mayor of Lens. Previously, the venue was only named after Felix Bollaert, the chairman of the Lens mining company, who commissioned the stadium in 1931. The groundbreaking ceremony took place just one year later, in 1932.

Reconstruction for the European Football Championship 2016

Originally, the stands of the Stade Bollaert Delelis offered space for around 50,000 spectators. This was to be reduced to 41,800 grandstand seats for the Euro 2016 and so the arena underwent extensive renovation from January 2014.

The Stade Bollaert Delelis still has one special feature: The "fan curve" is not actually a curve here, because it is not located behind one of the goals, as is usual in most stadiums, but along the touchline.

The costs for this building project amount to about 78 million euros. As its financing was still unclear, the renovation work started almost a year later than planned. Until December 2015, RC Lens, the home team of the Stade Bollaert Delelis, was therefore forced to switch to the stadium in the magnificent city of Amiens and the Stade de France in Paris for their matches in France's first division.

The local rugby team was also relocated from its home stadium for the duration of the reconstruction. In 1999 and 2007, the Stade Bollaert Delelis hosted the Rugby World Cup.

After the 1984 European Football Championship and the 1998 World Cup, the stadium in Lens now also served as the venue for the 2016 European Championship.

Official website of RC Lens


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