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Beer supplies have long been stockpiled; ticket prices are going through the roof; hostels in Vienna, Basel and across Austria and Switzerland are preparing themselves for the onslaught of football fans… Euro 2008 is almost upon us!
And you don’t have to have tickets for any of the matches to enjoy the big match atmosphere this summer. As is the case whenever a big sporting event comes around, backpackers in the region will invariably end up filling out the bars and joining in the general carnival mood!
Stadium: Ersnt Happel Stadium (Out to the east of the city on Meiereistrasse)
Big matches: Austria’s final qualifying game (on 16th June), against deadly local rivals, Germany, should be a heated affair. And then, of course, there’s the final, which takes on 29th June.
Pre/post-match drinks: The whole of Vienna’s Innere Stadt (center) will be turned upside-down by a combination of visiting fans and boisterous locals. Then there are always two Viennese drinking institutions to try out: the cave-like taverns known as keller, and the heurigen (courtyard bars).
A cheap bite to eat: Just to the north of the University of Vienna (get off at Schottentor metro) are the studenty bars and restaurants surrounding Universitatsstr. Across town, meanwhile, Burgstrasse is another good value fuel stop between the match and the long, long night ahead!
Other footballing destinations: Salzburg and Innsbruck are the places to head for to catch Greece, Sweden, Russia and perennial underachievers, Spain. Klagenfurt, meanwhile, will host the rest of Austria’s group games.
Escape the football: Slip away from the crowds and the general football mayhem, and head out to the west of the city for a day’s strolling through the Vienna Woods.
Curious Austrian fact: It’s not funny or clever(!), but just outside Salzburg lies the small town of Fucking. (It’s pronounced ‘Fooking’, though!)
Stadium: St. Jakob Park (Down to the southeast of the city on Gellertstrasse)
Big matches:As well as being home to all Switzerland’s group matches (including their final game against Portugal on 15th June), St. Jakob Park also hosts two quarter finals and one of the semis.
Pre/post-match drinks: As is the case throughout Austria and Switzerland, normally respectable Basel will be hit by a tidal wave of partying football fans. As such, on match days, there’ll be plenty of places to choose from on and around Barfuesserplatz (not far from St. Jakob Park) and, on the other side of the Rhine, in hip Kleinbasel.
A cheap bite to eat: Again, Kleinbasel is probably your best bet for a quick snack. The area is home to the city’s sizeable Turkish population and, for a bite on the run, few things can beat that football fans’ staple: the kebab!
Escape the football: Take a break from the footie and explore the city’s beautiful cathedral, the Basel Munster. Alternatively, Basel also has a wealth of great museums to explore, particularly the Kunstmuseum Basel and the eccentric Museum Jean Tinguely.
Curious Swiss fact: Once the football draws to a close, the Swiss town of Chur gears itself up for another epic battle: the Alpine Beard Contest!