Maracanã

As a football fan, I’ve been on a lot of stadium tours, but none have given me chills like I had walking onto the field at Estádio do Maracanã. This historic stadium in football-crazy Rio de Janeiro is the Mecca of football. I’ve been on BETTER stadium tours in more beautiful stadiums, but none in a place as significant as Maracanã.

Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Estádio do Maracanã

The official name of Maracanã is Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho. It was built for the 1950 World Cup and hosted the final, in which Brazil lost to Uruguay 2-1. The attendance to that match was just under 200,000, but after a recent refurbishment, the stadium now holds a mere 78,838. It hosts matches every week of the year for Rio-based clubs and will also hold the 2014 World Cup Final and several other World Cup games.

Tours are available at the stadium every day but end earlier on match days. The cheapest way to get to Maracanã is by metro. There’s a stop just outside the stadium and a footbridge that ends near the gate for tour tickets. You can buy tickets on the official website for guided tours, but it’s better just to head to the stadium and get them in person. At the gate, you can choose a solo tour or guided tour. I paid BRA$20 for a solo tour and an extra BRA$10 for an audio guide. It was well worth it and I was able to take my time and enjoy the atmosphere a little longer than with the guided tours. Guided tours are the exact same price as the solo tour plus headset.

The tour begins in the lobby with an introduction to the stadium and a few legends of Maracanã – a statue of Zico, the ball and net used for Pelé’s 1000th goal, and a bust and footprint of Garrincha.

Zico statue at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Zico statue

Ball from Pelé's 1000th goal at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ball from Pelé’s 1000th goal

Garrincha's footprint at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Garrincha’s footprint

Also in the lobby is a chair used during a visit to a football match by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968 and a pulpit from Pope John Paul II’s mass at the stadium in 1980.

Queen Elizabeth's chair and Pope John Paul II's pulpit at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Queen Elizabeth’s chair and Pope John Paul II’s pulpit

Next is a trip up to the 5th level and the press area. This provides one of the most stunning views of the stadium and a look at where reporters sit to watch the games.

View from the press area at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View from the press area

Press area at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Press area

Then it’s down to the 3rd level to see the VIP lounge. Former players, distinguished guests, club officials, and other celebrities all rub elbows here during big games.

VIP Level at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

VIP Level

View from the VIP Level at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View from the VIP Level

I wasn’t supposed to enter the luxury suites as part of a self-guided tour, but I did and I got in a little trouble for it. Here’s the picture I got before security escorted me out.

Luxury box at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Luxury box

The tour got better from there. I was able to enter the locker room used by the Brazilian national football team, or Seleção Brasileira. The uniforms of the team were hung up neatly in each locker.

Brazilian national team locker room at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilian national team locker room

Brazilian national team locker room at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilian national team locker room

I also got to see the bathroom and the small room where the team warms up before games.

Brazilian national team locker room at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilian national team locker room

Warmup room at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Warmup room

From there, I followed the tunnel the players use to walk out onto the field. This is where the goosebumps started.

Players' tunnel at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Players’ tunnel

I had a chance to sit on the visiting team bench and got a player’s view of the field. I sat for a while and took it all in. Some of the greatest players in the world have played on the pitch in front of me and sat on the bench I was sitting on.

Visitors' bench at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Visitors’ bench

View from the visitors' bench at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

View from the visitors’ bench

The tour ended through the surprisingly small press room where players and coaches address the media. I have to think there is a larger one somewhere in the stadium.

Press room at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Press room

Even if you aren’t a football fan, a visit to Maracanã is something that helps a visitor to Rio de Janeiro better understand Brazilian life and culture. To many in this country and city, football is life or death, and victory is the only option.

World Cup Champions monument for 1958 & 1962 at Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

World Cup Champions monument for 1958 & 1962

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