Unlike the US, where sporting passions are divided more or less equally among a range of pursuits, one sport in Britain clearly dominates the national conversation: football (don’t say ‘soccer’ unless you want to flag yourself as a tourist). The capital currently boasts six teams in the Barclays Premier League. If you prefer your sport with a beer in hand, there are plenty of bars where you can sit and enjoy the game on a big screen. If you want to catch a live game at the home of a big team like Arsenal, be sure to book ahead. Most top clashes are sell-outs, with many seats already pre-sold to season ticket holders. As in the rest of the country, London’s football teams are located away from the center in residential areas, but can be easily reached with a short tube or train journey from central London stations. Suit up in your team jersey and tuck in to one of these top sports venues.
North London’s finest play at the state-of-the-art, 60,000 capacity Emirates stadium that opened in 2006. The area is well served by public transport: Arsenal and Highbury & Islington tube stations are the most convenient. The team has been coached by wily Frenchman Arsène Wenger since 1996, an eternity in football terms.
Fulham Football Club
Unlike the shiny Emirates arena, Fulham’s Craven Cottage is a typical Victorian-era stadium, perfectly situated on the banks of the Thames. Be sure to stop for a pre-match pint at The Crabtree on Rainville Road, and after the game, wander down the river for a few more in the bars overlooking Hammersmith Bridge.
The Lemon Tree
Good cask beer and a variety of wines make this a popular Covent Garden pub off the beaten track. Unlike traditional sports bars, The Lemon Tree offers a playful Thai menu (sesame and prawn toasts; curry and coconut-fried fish). The recently refurbished spot has a number of large screen televisions, typically screening the most important matches: phone in advance to check what’s on.
Combine a visit to this lively riverside bar with a trip to the Tower of London or the medieval streets of the Old City. In addition to huge screens, the bar offers a great view across the river of the new Shard skyscraper. Don’t try it for a Saturday game though—it is only open Monday through Friday.
If central London’s crowded bars aren’t your thing, head for the hipster zone of Shoreditch and Bar Kick. A lengthy Happy Hour, matches screened in 3D, and (like its sister bar, Café Kick in Clerkenwell) a number of table-football for recreating those special moments, makes Bar Kick a top spot for sports fans. Just don’t ask to join in on a Foosball match: local Londoners won’t understand!