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The best Ligue 1 grounds to visit on the French Riviera

The best Ligue 1 grounds to visit on the French Riviera

Whilst France's Ligue 1 is seen by some as one of the weaker of Europe's big 5 leagues, it is undoubtedly a beautiful destination and home to three of the country's top football sides. In this article, we'll explore the history of Monaco, Nice and Marseille.

Our three chosen destinations are served well, with several UK airports operating daily flights to both Nice and Marseille international airports. With a flight time of around 2 hours, it's even possible to do a day trip to your chosen ground, should the airline schedules and kick-off times fall favourably.

AS Monaco - Stade Louis-II

We'll start our trip to the French Riviera with a stop in Monaco. Whilst technically a separate country to France, AS Monaco have played in the French leagues since the 1930s, winning the league an impressive 8 times, the latest of those being in the 2016/2017 season.

Monaco play at the Stade Louis-II, right on the border with France. The ground has existed since 1939, but was completely rebuilt into the unique structure that can be found today. It has a capacity of over 18,500, although sadly Monaco only ever get around 5,000 fans for home matches, with the exception of derbies against Nice or Monaco, the annual visit of Paris St Germain or big European games.

Despite their lack of local support, the club have had a number of legendary players play for them including Yaya Toure, Kylian Mbappe and Thierry Henry.

Monaco of course is famed for its low taxation and legendary casinos. Maybe the promise of free spins is what attracts top talent to the club!

OCG Nice - Allianz Riviera

A few miles to the west of Monaco lies the city of Nice. With a population of 385,000, it is the fifth largest city in France and the home to Olympique Gymnaste Club de Nice, or OGC Nice for short.

The club was founded in 1904 and had its heyday in the 1950s winning 4 Ligue 1 titles between 1951 and 1959, but amazingly none since. The club has also won the Coupe de France on 3 occasions. Their latest silverware was the cup win in 1997, meaning the club has won no major honour this century.

Despite the lack of success on the field, Nice play in the very impressive 36,000 capacity Allianz Riviera. The stadium was opened in 2013 at a cost of €250m. It is located to the north-west of the city, closer to the airport than the city centre, but is well-connected through the city's tram network.

The Allianz Riviera has hosted a number of important matches including 6 games at the 2019 Women's World Cup and 4 matches at Euro 2016 - including England's famous 2-1 defeat to minnows Iceland in the Round of 16.

Famous former Nice players include Patrice Evra, Mario Balotelli and Hugo Lloris.

Marseille - Stade Velodrome

Continue another 200km further west and you'll find the region's biggest and most successful club, Olympique Marseille.

Marseille are the oldest of the three teams on the Riviera, having been founded in 1899. They are also by far the most successful, having won 9 league titles, 10 French cups and 3 league cups. Their 9 league titles make them the 3rd most successful team in French football history behind Saint-Etienne (10) and PSG (11).

OM also have two European titles to their name, winning the old Intertoto Cup in 2005 and the European Cup in 1993, making them the only French team to have ever won the Champions League.

Marseille play at the incredibly impressive Stade Velodrome. Located a couple of miles south east of the city centre, the Velodrome was originally opened in 1937 and has a current capacity of over 67,000. As the name suggests, the Velodrome was originally used for cycling as well as football - a fact that made it unpopular for the football team due to the cycling track around the pitch. As the popularity of cycling fell, the track was replaced with more seats for football, before being completely rebuilt (without the cycling track) in 2014.

As you'd expect for such a big stadium, there has been a rich heritage with numerous important matches hosted there. It has hosted a total of 9 World Cup matches including 2 in 1938 and 7 in 1998, culminating in Brazil's penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands in the semi final. It has also hosted 10 matches at the European Championships in 1960, 1984 and 2016 including France's 2-0 win over Germany in the semi final.

With three famous teams to watch, a very short flight time and some beautiful stadiums, the stadiums on the French Riviera should be on every fans' bucket list.

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