Awesome Tips Bucket List Worthy
Canadians aren’t the only ones with an intense love for hockey. Europeans share a fierce passion for the sport – and they’ve got the legendary players and zealous fans to prove it. If you want to experience Canada’s favourite pastime outside of North America, Europe should be at the top of your list. Many of the continent’s most beautiful cities are also home to some of the best teams in the world.
Our team of Flight Network analysts spent months researching various destinations, surveying die-hard hockey fans, and communicating with international hockey organizations. After poring over the data, we created this list showcasing the absolute best hockey towns in Europe. Each destination is ranked by a comprehensive analysis of their hockey team, league, arena, fans and distinct hockey culture.
Not only will you discover the top places to catch a hockey game in Europe, you’ll also uncover some of the continent’s must-visit destinations and lesser-known hidden gems. A few of the top cities from 2017 landed on this list for the second year in a row, along with new and exciting contenders.
Rich in history and brimming with cultural and architectural wonders, Moscow needs no introduction. This sprawling, vibrant capital is a unique juxtaposition of history and modernity that never fails to delight and inspire.
Once we’d taken in the city’s incredible sights, we wanted to experience another of Russia’s time-honoured traditions: hockey!
HC Dynamo Moscow’s list of achievements is dizzying – the team boasts the largest number of awards in the history of the country, with numerous championship titles across national and multinational leagues. Some of the biggest names in hockey played for HC Dynamo Moscow before entering the NHL, including Alexander Ovechkin and Alexei Zhamnov.
The first of its kind in Europe, the brand-new VTB Ice Palace opened its doors in 2015. This massive complex is the heart of hockey in Moscow, boasting three ice rinks and a seating capacity of 12,100.
Sandwiched between Budapest and Vienna, Bratislava is often overlooked in favour of its famous neighbours. Slovakia’s capital city may be small, but it shouldn’t be missed! There’s plenty to see and do here: head to Bratislava Castle for a beautiful birds-eye view of the city, or get lost among the colourful, cobbled old town streets. The best thing about Bratislava? It has classic European architecture and intriguing historic sites without insane crowds and inflated prices.
Established in 1921, HC Slovan Bratislava has nearly 100 years of history behind them. They’ve won eight Slovak championships, one Czechoslovak championship, and they’re the only team to ever win the Spengler Cup three years in a row. A number of HC Slovan Bratislava players have been drafted into the NHL, including Peter Stastny, Vaclav Nedomansky and Zdeno Ciger.
The 10,000-seat Ondrej Nepela Arena is the home of HC Slovan Bratislava. The arena underwent major renovations and reopened in 2011 with a host of impressive features, including state-of-the-art LED scoreboards and one of the most advanced security systems ever built. The passionate, boisterous fans only add to the incredible atmosphere of this venue!
If your idea of a perfect holiday is a picturesque village in the Alps, Davos should be at the top of your list. This city boasts the largest ski resort in Switzerland and, at an elevation of 1,500 metres, it’s the highest city in Europe. Davos lives and breathes winter sports, and its world-class ski facilities make it a fantastic destination for anyone seeking an exciting winter getaway.
Since 1921, HC Davos has been dominating the Swiss leagues. It’s one of the oldest and most successful teams in Swiss hockey history, and their lengthy list of achievements is incredibly impressive. They’ve claimed 31 National League Championship titles and they’ve won the Spengler Cup 15 times. Davos is definitely a hockey town, and its citizens are genuinely devoted to the sport and its tradition.
The Valliant Arena has hosted the Spengler Cup tournament every year since 1923. That type of record is almost unheard of, and its tradition is deeply rooted in Davos’ identity. This 7,080-seat stadium still retains its stunning wooden roof, distinguishing it from almost every other arena on the planet.
Gothenburg is green and friendly with an easy-going attitude. It’s the type of place that makes you think, “I could definitely live here.” Wandering around the city, you’ll notice elegant neoclassical architecture, pristine parks and gleaming canals. There’s a thriving music scene, and the vibrancy of the city seems to be mirrored by its hospitable residents.
Frölunda Indians, Gothenburg’s beloved team, dates back to 1938 and has established itself as one of Sweden’s most popular teams. In 2016, they became dual champions after winning the SHL and Champion’s Hockey League titles within the same year. This powerhouse team is led by Joel Lundqvist, twin brother of New York Ranger’s all-star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Much like Gothenburg, the Scandinavium is beautifully designed, adorned with a sweeping, curved roof and multi-coloured exterior lights. The city is home to 500,000 residents, but their 12,000-seat arena is testament to the fact that Gothenburg is filled with loads of bona fide fans.
This Finnish tourist favourite had an almost rhythmic casualness to it. We wandered around its charming streets lined with shops and inviting cafes, accepting the gracious hospitality offered from friendly locals. When it came time to check out Ilves Tampere – the city’s world-class hockey club – our once laid-back hosts suddenly became as fervent as hardcore Canadian hockey fans!
With the highest number of championship titles in Finland, Tampere has sent players like Jyrki Lumme and Tuukka Rask to the NHL. The Ilves icon, Raimo Helminen, has played the most national team matches in the world, along with six Olympic games.
Tampere holds the only real rivalry in the Finnish league with two local teams: Ilves and Tappara. These two teams are the most successful in Finnish hockey history, having both won the championship 16 times. Locals joke that everyone chooses his/her team in the delivery ward.
Hakamestan Jaahalli comfortably seats up the 7,300 of Ilves Tampere’s enthusiastic fans.
During the Middle Ages, Székesfehérvár was one of the most important cities in Hungary. It’s best known for the unique architecture of Bory Castle, but it also boasts a colourful town centre and picturesque cathedrals. With a rich history and plenty of beautiful baroque buildings to explore, this unassuming Hungarian city managed to keep our tourist appetite satiated. When it comes to hockey, Székesfehérvár kept its promise of being one of the most surprising teams in Europe.
Over the past four decades of league play, Fehérvár AV19 have managed to rack up an impressive number of achievements. The team won their first championship title in 1981 and then continued to dominate the ice thereafter. A few of their biggest successes include 14 championship titles, six Hungarian Cup titles and two Interliga Championships.
Nicknamed the Devil’s Cauldron, the 3,500-seat Ocskay Gábor Ice Hall is home to the Fehérvár AV19. The hall is named after the legendary Gábor Ocskay, a champion forward in the league who tragically passed away at the age of 33. Serving as a tribute to his honour, this arena is regularly packed with zealous hockey fans cheering on his extraordinary teammates.
I think it’s safe to say Liberec is one of the Czech Republic’s best hidden gems. Situated in Northern Bohemia near the borders of Poland and Germany, this little city definitely gives Prague a run for its money when it comes to stunning architecture. A stroll around the old town is guaranteed to make your jaw drop, especially when you come to the neo-renaissance-style town hall. Liberec is also known for its top-notch winter sports facilities, so if you’re a history buff and an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll love this place.
Bílí Tygři Liberec’s origins can be traced back to the 1950’s, but they started making waves in 2001 after advancing to the top-level league in Czech hockey. They’ve accumulated various awards over the years, but their biggest achievement was during the 2015/2016 season when they won the national championship title.
Hockey is the most important and revered sport in Leberec, and fans are exceptionally proud of their home team. The 7,500-seat Home Credit Arena regularly sells out during game season as energetic fans can’t seem to get enough of the sport.
Forget any pre-conceived notions you have about this city – we can guarantee Minsk is a complete departure from the dated version you’re probably imagining. Contrary to its reputation, the city is progressive and modern – and it’s constantly transforming. While we’d say Minsk is a great city for intrepid travellers or anyone wanting to experience a truly off-the-beaten destination, it’s also a fantastic place for hockey lovers.
This team’s origins date back to 1948, but they were officially founded as HC Dinamo Minsk in 2003. They hold four Belarusian championship titles and the team became a member of the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008.
Minsk Arena can accommodate up to 15,000 spectators, making it the largest full-time arena in use by a KHL team. Fans of HC Dinamo Minsk flock to this massive stadium in droves to cheer on their local team at every game. In fact, HC Dinamo Minsk has the second highest attendance in Europe and the highest attendance in the KHL! There’s no doubt that Belarusians can rival even the most die-hard Canadian hockey fans when it comes to loyalty and enthusiasm.
Helsinki has cemented its reputation as the world design capital; the city is brimming with cutting-edge architecture, trendy boutiques and innovative galleries. Its atmosphere is youthful and exciting, punctuated by chic cafes and a burgeoning foodie scene. And, like every city in Scandinavia, you’re never far from nature. Helsinki is surrounded by more than 300 islands, beaches and pristine forests. You can do anything here, but we ended our visit by watching hockey, of course.
Founded more than 50 years ago, Jokerit Helsinki is known as one of the biggest ice hockey clubs in Europe. Formerly a member of the Finnish Liiga, the team captured six championships between 1973 and 2002 in this league. In 2014, they joined the KHL and became the first Nordic country to join the league. Hockey legend Teemu Selänne (AKA “The Finnish Flash”) first played for Jokerit Helsinki, and he’s now considered the highest scoring Finn in NHL history.
Hartwall Arena, which can seat more than 13,000 fans, is the home turf of Jokerit Helsinki. Since hockey is close to the hearts of many Finns, you’ll find some of the country’s most devoted fans at this arena. If you want to experience an unforgettable game of hockey, Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena should be at the top of your list!
Often referred to as Iceland’s second city, Akureyri is situated in a spectacularly beautiful setting near Eyjafjörður (the country’s longest fjord). It was recently named one of The Guardian’s top destination to visit in 2018, and we can see why! Akureyri also happens to be the hockey capital of Iceland. Yes, this city is small (home to only 18,000 residents) but its reputation as a hockey-loving mecca is gaining momentum and international recognition.
SA Víkingar was established in 1937, long before the town’s hockey rink was built – but that didn’t stop players from taking to the ice. Locals were known to play on frozen ponds and rivers until the late 80’s when the ice rink was constructed. SA Víkingar started competing nationally in 1992 when the Icelandic league was formed, and they’ve claimed a whopping 19 out of 25 championship titles.
Skautahollin a Akureyri may be on the small side, but this tiny city has a massive love of hockey, and their hometown team is the pride and joy of its residents. Akureyri continues to establish itself as a notable contender in the world of European hockey, and they recently hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II.
Toruń is primarily known for two things: famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and traditional Polish gingerbread, but we found hidden gems around every corner. This city has a gorgeous medieval old town, captivating historic sites and a museum where you can bake your own gingerbread. What more can you ask for in a destination?
When it comes to hockey, the city’s passion for the sport is akin to its secret gingerbread recipe: sacred and enduring.
One of the oldest teams on this list, TKH Toruń’s hockey tradition has a long-standing history. Dating back to 1924, the team has undergone many transformations over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed? Their endless love of the sport. In the past decade, Toruń has produced a first-rate team and claimed a national championship title in 2011.
Affectionately known as “Tor-Tor,” the 3,000-seat Toruń Arena is home to team TKH. TKH Torun’s fans of all ages regularly gather here to enjoy a good beer and a great game of hockey.
Spread across a series of islands on the Baltic Sea and Lake Mälaren, Stockholm’s spectacular natural setting makes it one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. From its sprawling green spaces to its immaculately clean streets, its brightly-coloured old town and world-class food, there are so many reasons to love this stylish, regal capital.
Djurgården IF has a reputation as one of the most successful Swedish hockey teams of all time. Their list of accomplishments is lengthy, but highlights include 16 Swedish championship titles and two European Cup wins. It’s no surprise their spirited fans often refer to the team as “the pride of Stockholm.”
Djurgården’s home turf is the 8,094-seat Hovet Arena, but high-profile matches and select playoff games are held at Ericsson Globe – which is one of the most unique venues on this list (and on the planet!) Shaped like a large ball, Ericsson Globe is the world’s largest spherical building. It has a seating capacity of 13,850 and it’s considered a prominent symbol for both Stockholm and Sweden.
This amazing Eastern European is home to some of the best historic and scientific museums in the country. The Bashkir State Art Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography are definite must-visits. But don’t be fooled – Ufa’s citizens aren’t only passionate about history and culture. They’re also big fans of hockey… really big! When we asked them about their favourite sport, they had a lot to say.
We’ve interviewed clubs and fans all over the continent, but Ufa residents speak more passionately than most about ice hockey – which is saying a lot. Named after a local hero, Salavat Yulaev Ufa are a force to be reckoned with on the ice. Before the KHL was born in 2007, they were the last team to win the cup in the Russian hockey league. They’ve also won the Continental Cup twice and the Gagarin Cup once. They consider themselves the new capital of hockey in Russia, and if you ever catch a game in Ufa, you’ll see why we wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.
Home to Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the Ufa Arena is a new and modern stadium with a seating capacity of 8,250. Along with an innovative jumbotron, the stadium features a range of cool activities for fans, including hockey demonstrations, training machines and even VR helmets. If you visit the Ufa Arena during a home game, you’ll feel like you’re back in Canada, surrounded by zealous fans while watching one of the best teams in action.
Košice is a mecca of European culture, renown for striking architecture, museums, and a die-hard love of hockey. Awarded the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture in 2013, this Slovakian city is home to a number of incredible sights and a rich history. Košice’s charm and old-world beauty rivals tourist favorites like Paris and Budapest, with a genuine small-town ambience.
Košice’s passion for hockey is engrained in their unique culture, dating back to the 1920’s. Their team, HC Košice, won the Slovakian championship 8 times, along with 2 Czechoslovakia championship titles. Košice has also bred some of the top players in the NHL, including Peter Bondra, Ladislav Nagy and Vincent Lukac.
Built in 2006, Košice Steel Arena is the team’s new training ground. The beautiful and modern 8,347-seat structure hosted the IIHF World Championship in 2011, and it’s slated to host the event again in 2019. Košice is an Eastern European wonder, and their passion for hockey is a bonus for any fan of the sport.
There’s a lot to love about Herning. It’s a great destination for outdoor activities, boutique shopping and modern art. Surprisingly, this small Danish city is home to world-class museums and some of the most renowned contemporary art collections in Europe. Every year, nearly one million people flock to Herning to attend a range of events at MCH, the largest fairs and exhibitions centre in Scandinavia. After visiting, we can completely understand why the city’s slogan is: “where the sky’s the limit!”
Rebranded as Herning Blue Fox in the late 90’s, the team was officially founded 50 years earlier in 1947. They have 16 national championship titles under their belt, which is more than any other ice hockey team in Denmark. For a relatively small city, they also seem to have an endless number of all-star players being drafted into the NHL. Three Herning locals currently play in the National Hockey League: Frederik Andersen (Toronto Maple Leafs), Frans Nielsen (Detroit Red Wings) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (Columbus Blue Jackets).
Herning Blue Fox’s fans pack the 4,000-seat Kvik Arena to cheer on their beloved team every season. The atmosphere is absolutely electric when the crowd watches their amazing hometown team take to the ice.
If you’re a beer fan, you’ll love Pilsen. Pilsen is the birthplace of pilsner beer and it’s also home to one of the world’s oldest breweries: Pilsner Urquell. There’s more to this friendly town than its amazing beer, though. While you’re here, you can explore a number of museums, art galleries, and take in its charming European-style architecture.
HC Plzen’s origins can be traced back to the late 20s, but they really started to make a splash in the 1950s when they made it to the top tier league in Czech hockey. The team has spawned a number of talented players, such as Tuukka Rask, Yaroslav Spacek, and Martin Straka. Their most memorable year was 2013, when they managed to capture the Czech Extraliga Championship. Imagine that afterparty!
With a capacity of 8,236, the Home Monitoring Center is more than capable of housing the team’s passionate and energized fans. During home games – and pretty much every other day – locals will only drink their beloved Plzner Urquell. Their loyalty is truly a testament to Pilsen’s heritage and legacy.
A city steeped in history and grandeur, Vienna ticks all the boxes for a perfect European getaway. Ornate palaces, acclaimed opera houses, world-renowned art galleries and spectacular restaurants are just a few of the many compelling reasons to visit this iconic city. Vienna is often heralded as the capital of classical music, but it’s also the centre of Austrian hockey.
It didn’t take long for the Vienna Capitals to establish themselves as a major contender in Austrian hockey. Founded in 2000, they managed to achieve their first championship title only a few years later in 2005. During the 2017/2018 season, the Capitals claimed another big championship win after a record-breaking 12:0 triple sweep in the playoffs.
Formerly known as Albert Schultz Eishalle, Erste Bank Arena opened in 1995 and underwent major renovations in 2010 to increase the capacity from 4,500 to over 7,000. This innovative venue is the home of the Vienna Capitals and features three ice rinks, a retractable roof and VIP boxes.
Kraków looks like something out of a fairytale; horse-drawn carriages meander along cobbled streets and grand squares give way to striking gothic churches. Beyond the city’s captivating history and enchanting architecture, we discovered plenty of friendly locals, a booming café culture and raucous nightlife. Kraków left a lasting impression on us, and we can guarantee it will have the same effect on you.
Early forms of hockey (also known as bandy) have been played in Poland since the early 1900’s, but KS Cracovia was officially established in 1923. Over the years, the team has claimed 12 national championships, including back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. They’re also the first Polish team to compete in the Champions Hockey League.
Cracovia’s 2,500-seat home arena is named after Adam “Roch” Kowalski, a famous Polish athlete and Olympian. Krakow fans have a reputation for being the most committed fans in the country, so if you ever find yourself on this side of the world, get ready for a thrilling hockey experience you’ll never forget!
This placid lakeside town packs a surprising punch: it’s one of Switzerland’s biggest economic powerhouses. Thousands of multinational companies flock to Zug every year because of its low taxes and proximity to Zurich. Despite this, Zug feels like an ordinary Swiss town: it’s laid-back and quiet, boasting beautiful medieval architecture and a maze of charming cobbled streets.
Founded in 1967, EV Zug has been playing in the national league for 30 years. EVZ is one of the top national teams in Switzerland, boasting a championship win in 1998, along with eight semi-finalist placements.
Bossard Arena has a capacity of 7,200 and hosts some of Switzerland’s most enthusiastic fans. The stadium opened its doors in 2010 and has become a fixture in the world of Swiss hockey.
Zurich has a lot to brag about. Switzerland’s largest city has a stunning natural setting, ultra-modern amenities, and it’s regularly recognized as one of the top places to live in the world. If this Swiss city is already on your bucket-list, we’ll give you one more reason to visit: hockey! Europe’s economic hub is also home to one of the best hockey teams on the continent.
Founded in 1930, the ZSC Lions officially adopted their current name in 1997 after the merger of two local teams. They’ve claimed eight national championship titles in the Swiss Hockey League, and they were the 2008-2009 Champion’s Hockey League winners. This victory qualified the Lions to play against The Chicago Blackhawks for the Victoria Cup in 2009. In a shocking turn of events, the Lions defeated the Blackhawks 2-1 and won the cup!
Hallenstadion is nearly as old as Zurich’s hockey franchise, dating back to 1939. This arena has hosted dozens of famous sporting events, such as the Ice Hockey World Championships and the Victoria Cup. This stadium has also welcomed a range of significant public figures, including the Dalai Lama.
Inherently Nordic and undeniably cosmopolitan, Malmö is youthful and diverse. Nearly half the city’s population is under 35 and it has quickly become a hotspot for young creatives and tech start-ups. It’s a place where new and old collide: you’ll find a traditional historic old town along with Scandinavia’s tallest building and the Öresund bridge – a feat of engineering that links the city to Copenhagen.
Founded in 1972, the Malmö Redhawks currently compete in Sweden’s top-tier league. The team had a noteworthy streak of successes in the 90’s, including two national championship titles in 1992 and 1994. After an intense match against HC Dynamo Moscow, they also took home the European Cup in 1993.
The state-of-the-art Malmö Arena features a range of first-rate facilities and has a seating capacity of up to 12,600 people. When fervent Redhawk fans fill the seats, you can literally feel this arena come to life.
Set amongst the stunning Alps, Bolzano Bozen is where north meets south. The city celebrates a blend of contrasting cultures, with both Italian and German influences. From its breathtaking mountain setting to its pristine streets and hilltop vineyards, this Italian gem is a must-visit destination any time of the year.
HC Bolzano Bozen was the most successful team in the history of the Italian A league, boasting 19 championship wins. In 2013, they joined EBEL (the Austrian Hockey League) and went on to win the championship after defeating EC Red Bull Salzburg in the finals. With this unprecedented win, they became the first non-Austrian based club to win the Austrian Championship.
Built in 1994 to host the Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships, Palaonda is the current home of HC Bolzano Bozen. When passionate fans fill this 7,200-seat arena, the stadium takes on a truly magical feeling
Bern’s effortless, laid-back way of life is highlighted by the many places to stop and linger in the city. From its striking fountains to its sheltered markets and its incredible 12th-century architecture, the warmth of this historic city was magnified by its hospitable residents. With their easygoing attitudes, you’d never guess the locals are such die-hard hockey fans!
SC Bern has been around since the 30’s and it’s one of the most prestigious clubs in the country. Their successes are staggering, and they’ve claimed the National League A Championship title fourteen times. SC Bern’s fans are as notorious as they are numerous, which is something you wouldn’t expect considering their mild demeanour.
Last year, Bern’s fans broke historic records, making the PostFinance Arena games the most attended games in Europe. The 17,000-capacity stadium averaged over 16,000 people per game throughout the 2015/2016 season.
Kloten is a tiny municipality with a surprisingly successful hockey team. Less than 20,000 people live in this quaint community near Zurich, so we prepared ourselves for some small-town hockey passion. But when it comes to watching their team play, we didn’t need convincing.
We were impressed to learn that EHC Kloten have four consecutive National League Championship titles under their belt – especially considering the size of this town. To give you some perspective, imagine if a town like Prince Rupert, British Columbia won the Stanley Cup 4 times in 4 years. And that’s exactly why we love this game – it could happen!
The 7,500-seat citadel-inspired SWISS Arena is the home of EHC hockey. The building has been around since the 1950’s, and it’s still considered an important part of Kloten’s architectural history.
Dominated by glass and concrete, Frankfurt is the heart of Germany’s financial and business sector. But there’s more to the city than striking skyscrapers – we found a host of historic and cultural attractions, traditional restaurants and glorious green spaces. In our humble opinion, it’s one of the most dynamic cities in Germany.
Founded in 1991, Löwen Frankfurt have achieved great success over the past 27 years, including a 2004 national league championship title. Using grit and determination, they’ve also moved from the lower divisions of German hockey to the DEL2 league with no signs of slowing down.
Eissporthalle Frankfurt is the city’s famous four-rink arena and has supported its home team since its official opening in 1981. Fans of Löwen Frankfurt are intensely passionate, known for their rowdy demeanor and unique rituals – one of which includes a rubber chicken.
Langnau im Emmental is a postcard perfect town set against a breathtaking landscape. Its surrounding hills are characterized by lush greenery, unspoiled forests and stunning mountain views. Plus, it just so happens to be the sunniest place in Switzerland.
The city’s hockey team, the SCL Tigers, have been an important fixture of the community for decades.
Founded in 1946, the SCL Tigers have played in Switzerland’s top hockey level for 20 years. The last time they won a national championship was in 1973, but that doesn’t stop their loyal fans from cheering them on every season. On average, 5,700 spectators pack into their modestly-sized arena every game.
Ilfis Stadium is a 6,000-seat arena and home of the Tigers. The recently renovated ice rink and stadium grounds have even more appeal to their fans, and it continues to be an integral part of the community and everyday life in Langnau.
Situated on the bank of Weser River, Bremerhaven’s port town charm has undeniable romantic appeal. Beyond the modern architecture and bustling shipyard, we found quiet waterfront promenades, fantastic seafood restaurants and fascinating museums. When it came time to check out the local hockey team, this maritime city didn’t disappoint.
The Fischtown Penguins joined the DEL2 league in 2000, and celebrated German championship wins in 2002 and 2014. Despite various challenges, the team managed to fight its way into the first division of the German league in 2016 – an achievement that was celebrated by thousands of their loyal, passionate fans.
The official home of the Penguins, Bremerhaven’s arena holds up to 4,600 people. With the teams’ recent induction to the highest level in German hockey, there’s never been a better time to catch a game in Bremerhaven. If you want to watch first-rate hockey alongside some of the country’s most enthusiastic fans, this is place to do it!
Biel Bienne is the country’s largest bilingual city, known as Biel to its German speaking residents and as Bienne to French speakers. Biel’s old town facades retain an 18th and 19th-century style, with traces of medieval architecture. There’s so much to see in this beautiful region: you can explore Lake Biel and St. Peter’s island by boat, discover nearby vineyards, hike through the imposing Twannbach gorge or bike through “Grosses Moos” – also known as the vegetable garden of Switzerland.
For a charming Swiss town, their hockey team packs quite a punch. With 3 NLA and 5 NLB championship wins, EHC Biel is one of the country’s top teams. Their fans are aggressively loyal, and they’re known to cheer for their team in two languages.
EHC’s home turf is the newly-built Tissot Arena, Switzerland’s first multiplex stadium. When this 6,500-seat arena is packed with hockey fans, you can feel the building come alive.
Freiburg is a university town situated at the foot of the Black Forest. Characterized by medieval gabled houses and cobbled lanes, the city has a charming storybook appeal. Beyond Freiburg’s small-town warmth, we discovered a remarkably rowdy bar scene and raucous nightlife. You might say the adult and the kid in us had a great time here.
EHC Freiburg’s long-standing tradition revolves around its awesome hockey arena, which provides the ultimate home team advantage. Apparently, visiting teams find this arena to be “too cold and too loud.” Whether that’s true or not, EHC Freiburg won all 21 of their regular season games in 2011/2012 and claimed the championship title in 2014.
This 5,800-seat Franz Siegel Arena stands as a symbol of classic hockey with its quirks, unique personality and all of its davoted fans. Wayne Gretzky is a big fan of this stadium and once said, “Franz Siegel Hall reminds me of a hockey movie from the 1940’s. It would be a fantastic place to make a movie.”
Nestled in the far north of Swedish Lapland, Kiruna is a small mining town and home to a few popular ski resorts. It’s a great base to further explore the region, offering a range of hiking trails and winter activities.
Kiruna is also the birthplace of Swedish legend Börje Salming, so we made sure to catch a local hockey game during our visit.
Founded in 1988, Kiruna IF currently play in Division 1, which is the third level of ice hockey in Sweden. In 2014, the team attracted international media coverage when they decided to play the 2014-2015 season in rainbow-coloured jerseys to support the LGBT community and equal rights movement. Afterward, they officially became the first LGBT-certified sports club in Sweden.
With a capacity of 4,050, Kiruna IF’s spirted fans regularly fill Lombiahallen to cheer on their home team.
Known as the city of Velvet and Silk, Krefeld is a bustling metropolis near Düsseldorf. We were impressed with its medieval architecture and various historic sites, especially the Castle of Linn. Krefeld’s local hockey team is one of the best in Germany, which is quite an achievement.
The team was founded in 1936, and officially rebranded as the Penguins in the nineties. They claimed their first championship title in the fifties, and then again as the Penguins in 2003. Needless to say, the Penguins are definite contenders in any league. Plus, a place that produces players like all-star defenseman Christian Ernhoff shouldn’t be underestimated!
The aptly named Konig (Kings) Palace Arena is an important fixture in Krefeld. Passionate fans regularly pack this 9,000-seat stadium, and it’s one of the must-see hockey venues in northern Germany.
Characterized by medieval architecture and an inlet of modernized boroughs in city centre, Linkoping is home to a host of museums and shopping centres. After exploring the city, we decided to stop by the Saab Center to check out the local team.
Team LHC is a purely offensive team, which is something we haven’t seen since the eighties. If anyone deserves to go all the way, it’s this team. Their top-level club has reached the finals several times, but they have yet to claim a championship title.
The Saab center is basically the equivalent of HC Linkoping’s church. With a capacity of 8,500, the arena hosts their huge following for some pretty electrifying ice hockey.
Gjøvik isn’t quite like the other destinations on this list – it’s a tiny Norwegian town with a young hockey team. If you’re wondering why we chose to include it, I’ll give you one good reason: it has one of the most unique hockey arenas in the world. Located 120 metres underground, Gjøvik Olympic Cavern Hall is the world’s largest subterranean auditorium. The venue cost NOK 134.6 million (roughly $22 million) and was carved into the side of a mountain using 170 tons of dynamite!
We had a great time exploring the city’s nooks and crannies, but this arena served as an impressive focal point throughout our stay.
Founded in 1990, the Gjøvik Mammuts are one of the top runners in Norway’s first division hockey league. This young team is a delight to watch, and the unique venue where they play adds an exceptional ambiance.
Construction for the 5,500-capacity arena began in 1991 and it officially opened two years later in 1993. The hall’s modern design incorporates specific elements and materials to reflect Norwegian culture and Scandinavian folklore, making it one of the most distinctive arenas on the planet.
Edinburgh is famous for its gorgeous gothic and medieval architecture, potent whisky, striking hilltop castle, and colourful locals. Whatever brings you to the intoxicating cityscape that is Scotland’s capital, we can guarantee you’ll leave wanting more. We spent the day exploring the city’s hidden nooks and crannies and discovered exactly why Edinburgh is often dubbed one of the best destinations on the continent. And we squeezed in a good game of hockey, too.
Although The Capitals aren’t a contending team yet, their fan base is loyal, passionate and solid. They may be underdogs, but they have a fearless spirit and they’re willing to take on heavy hitters in their league.
With less than 4,000 seats, Murrayfield Ice Rink somehow manages to feel like a stadium twice its size. Locals regularly pack the seats to watch their team battle on the ice during home games.
Esbjerg is a little rough around the edges, but this port town is chock full of grit and character. We found its eclectic atmosphere to be more than a welcome surprise! The city’s hockey team, the Esbjerg Energy, are definitely aptly named.
A member of Denmark’s top-tier league, the Esbjerg Energy are new, aggressive and exciting to watch. They’ve been continually improving over the past 10 years, and they managed to claim the DHL Championship title in 2016.
Granly Arena has been a fixture in the city since the mid-seventies. It seats 4,200 of Esbjerg’s loudest and proudest hockey fans, and their energy is almost palpable during home games.
In terms of architecture, Kazan is a complete contrast compared to most major Russian cities. The Ottoman influence on this historic city isn’t subtle, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. With so much diversity, culture and a surprising blend of architectural styles, we found Kazan to be almost hypnotic. But hockey? There’s nothing divergent about hockey culture in this city.
Kazan is the self-proclaimed hockey capital of Russia. That title has definite merit behind it – the Ak Bars were the first winners of the KHL Gagarin Cup, and their continued success has ignited the flames of hockey fever across the country over the past decade.
Ak Bars Kazan’s home is the TatNeft Arena. The massive stadium is only ten years old and can seat up to 10,000 hockey fans. Apart from hockey, the arena also holds the TatNeft Cup, an annual kickboxing championship.
With a strong cycling culture and hundreds of parks and playgrounds, Odense truly lives by its motto, “to play is to live.” This Danish gem is also the birthplace of famous fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen, which seems fitting given the city’s storybook-style streets.
Founded in 1978, the Odense Bulldogs currently play in the premier league in Danish hockey. This relentless team was promoted to the top league in 1991 and they’ve been fighting for a championship title ever since.
Ret & Råd Fyn Arena (also known as Odense Isstadion) is the home ice of the Odense Bulldogs. Whenever the team play here, they’re met with unwavering support from their enthusiastic fans.
Located in northeast Spain near the French border, Jaca is a predominantly industrial town. However, once you head into the city centre, you’ll find a bevy of architectural wonders and historic sites, including the 16th-century Jaca citadel.
With 13 championship wins, Club Hielo Jaca holds more league titles than any other Spanish team. They currently play in Spain’s professional league, and they’ve competed in various tournaments across Europe – including 12 editions of the Intercontinental Cup.
Home of Club Hielo Jaca, the 2,000-seat Ice Pavilion of Jaca was built in 2007 to host the European Youth Olympic Festival.
It’s no wonder so many people are drawn to Budapest. From thermal baths to iconic ruin bars, this buzzing capital offers an incredible array of world-class attractions. The striking neo-gothic Parliament building, Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion are only a few of the countless sites that make Budapest a bucket-list destination. However, you might not realize that Budapest is also one of the biggest up-and-coming hockey cities in Europe.
Founded in 2001, the Budapest Stars were welcomed into the capital city with open arms. They’re part of the growing Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation and have quickly become a major draw to the Budapest Icecenter.
The Budapest – Koriközpont Arena currently serves as the home rink the Budapest Stars. This rink was the only indoor rink in the capital city for years, and it also hosts various smaller Hungarian hockey clubs.
The Tüskecsarnok/Spike Hall arena recently opened in 2014, offering another venue for Hungarian hockey fans and international visitors to join in on the action.
Like many German towns, Landshut boasts a beautiful blend of classic Bavarian and gothic-style architecture. We didn’t linger too long in this stopover town, but it wasn’t for lack of character. Before we had to move on, we visited Landshut Stadium for some action on the ice.
Landshut seems to be an all-star factory for Germany hockey players. The town is responsible for talented players like Gerd Truntschka and Erich Kühnhackl, as well as NHL veterans Marco Strum and Christoph Schubert. EV Landshut are stepping up their game each year, and they’re an amazing team to watch.
The Eisstadion am Gutenbergweg arena opened its doors 1957 and has been a landmark for European ice hockey for more than 50 years.
Located on the banks of Norway’s largest lake, Hamar is home to one of the most impressive museums in the country: Hedmark Museum. Beyond the city’s fascinating history and natural surroundings, Hamar is one of Scandinavia’s biggest up-and-coming hockey cities.
After the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Hamar locals were inspired to form a hockey club in their town, and Storhamar Hockey was born. Since its founding in 1957, the team has become one of the top teams in Norway with 6 playoff wins and 8 league championship titles under their belt.
CC Amfi, also known as “The Northern Light Hall,” is the home arena of Storhamar Hockey. It seems as though everyone is an avid hockey fan in this town; CC Amfi regularly accommodates an average of 5,000 people at every home game – which is impressive considering the population of Hamar is only 30,000!
Known as the gateway to the Bavarian Forest, Deggendorf boasts a beautiful natural setting, surrounded by verdant mountains and valleys. This easygoing city has a fantastic mix of natural and urban attractions, including striking baroque churches and incredible hiking trails just outside the city.
Deggendorfer SC were founded in 1973 and currently compete in Germany’s premiere hockey league. The team has achieved a number of notable successes over the years, including the following: German Oberliga Champions in 1979, German Regional League Champions in 1990, and German Junior Champions in 2002.
Hockey is more than just a game in Deggendorf – it’s deeply engrained in local residents’ lives – and their fierce enthusiasm is apparent at every game. Exuberant fans regularly fill the 2,790-seat Deggendorf Ice Stadium to watch their beloved team take to the ice
Technically, this entry includes two cities: Haparanda and Tornio – twin cities situated between Sweden and Finland in a borderless region. They share a joint downtown area without any border formalities, but they each have their own time zone and their own language. Not only are these cities completely off-the-beaten path, they also boast one of the most unique settings for a hockey game in Europe!
Both towns have hockey teams: Tornion IHC play in Division II in Finnish hockey, and Haparanda Asplöven HC compete in the third tier of Sweden’s hockey league. Local fans are especially proud of Jesse Puljujärvi, a Tornion IHC player that has recently been drafted into the NHL by the Edmonton Oilers.
In Haparanda/Tornio, it’s entirely possible to watch a hockey game in two countries at once! One of their outdoor arenas sits between the two cities on the frozen River Tornio, and the rink’s centre line doubles as the international border. In 2016, this arena hosted a friendly match called “Legends on Ice,” featuring renowned players like Esa Tikkanen and Raimo Helminen.
This unassuming Swedish town is full of surprises; it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2014, it’s home to a thriving culinary scene, and it hosts a roster of first-rate festivals and events year-round. Umeå residents are youthful and spirited, and they have a deep love for sports of all kinds – especially hockey!
Since the team’s founding in 1970, Björklöven have been bouncing between the SHL and Allsvenskan (Sweden’s top-tier and second-tier leagues). They were on fire during the 80’s and achieved one of their biggest wins in 1987: the Swedish championship title. Björklöven are also recognized for their dedication to the community – they work with women’s and youth teams to help mentor the city’s next generation of hockey players.
A3 Arena is the city’s largest arena and the home of Björklöven. The team’s fans are extremely passionate and loyal, and the atmosphere is incredible when they pack the 5,400-seat arena. Most home games sell out completely, so the A3 Arena is set to undergo a major renovation this year to accommodate even more zealous fans.
When it comes to stunning mountain views and enthusiastic hockey fans, Innsbruck has both in spades. Nestled in the Alps, the city’s superb natural setting affords breathtaking views from every vantage point. Whether you’re after world-class skiing or scenic hiking, Innsbruck definitely won’t disappoint.
HC Innsbruck (also known as The Sharks) have been playing in the top-tier league of Austrian hockey since the 2000-2001 season. The team has managed to reach the semi-finals on multiple occasions over the years, and their loyal fans are always there to cheer them on.
The 8,000-seat Tiroler Wasserkraft Arena is HC Innsbruck’s home turf. This venue is located within the OlympiaWorld complex, which has hosted some of the best athletes in the world at a range of events, including the Winter Olympic Games in 1964 and 1976.
Known as the business and cultural centre of Latvia’s Vidzeme region, Valmiera is growing as quickly as the city’s passion for hockey. This delightful Baltic city may be small, but its hockey traditions are as robust as the people who call Valmiera home.
Valmiera HK was formed in 1989 by a group of the city’s biggest hockey enthusiasts. Since their founding, they’ve claimed a Latvian championship title and they’re responsible for producing more than a few national team players. Valmiera HK is also an important fixture in the community, and locals are making a valiant effort to ensure students have a shot at becoming first-rate athletes in the future.
Valmiera HK have been playing at the Vidzeme Olympic Centre since 2005. This arena may be on the small side, but faithful fans regularly fill the seats to offer their unwavering support to Valmiera HK players
Everyone seems to agree that Ljubljana is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. Slovenia’s vibrant and fast-growing capital is characterized by pastel-coloured buildings, pristine riverfront promenades, and a multitude of green spaces. The entire historic centre is pedestrianized and the city is recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable destinations.
HK Olimpija was originally formed to support and educate young hockey players, but it’s now regarded as one of the best hockey teams in Slovenia. The club was founded in 2004 and they’ve been competing in the Alps Hockey League since the 2017-2018 season.
Home of HK Olimpija, Tivoli Hall has been an integral part of Ljubljana for more than 50 years. This state-of-the-art 4,000-seat arena has also hosted a range of major sporting events over the years, including the Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships.
Set against a sapphire-hued lake and surrounded by towering mountains, Lucerne’s magnificent scenery is undoubtedly captivating. Tourists flock to the city for its incredibly beauty, but there’s so much more to discover – from its world-class music scene to its significant historic landmarks.
After its founding in 1998, HC Luzern quickly rose to the second league of Swiss hockey – where they currently compete.
The team’s home turf is at the Regional Ice Centre Lucerne, which can accommodate up to 5,200 of HC Luzern’s most loyal fans.
Our visit to Saratov was a quaint and relaxing experience. The old merchant streets are lined with lively shopping districts, bustling restaurants and unique locally-owned shops. The city’s architecture has an Eastern European flair, which really sets it apart.
For more than 50 years, Kristall Saratov has been one of the top teams in Russia’s Volga region. Early in its career, the team consistently won gold, silver and bronze in the Soviet Hockey Championships.
The 6,100-seat Kristall Sports Palace was originally built in 1969 and received a facelift in 2014.
The town in Lower Saxony seems to have as many stories as there are people living there. Walking around the city’s man-made canals, old mills, and classic brick buildings, we discovered an unspoiled energy that added to the overall historic feel.
EC Nordhorn’s history is as rich as their namesake city. The team was founded in the late 70’s and eventually rose to the country’s top-tier league. After a string of financial issues, the team folded and was eventually reborn as EC Nordhorn in 2015. Locals speak fondly of their team and the whole town is invested in the success of their hockey club.
The 3,500-seat Ice Sports Hall Nordhorn is home to the team and their dedicated fans. Since the return of EC Nordhorn, the stadium is helping to give new hope to the future of hockey in the region.
Gijón is located in northern Spain on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea, meaning you can go straight from the hockey rink to the beach. This gritty city has industrial roots, but it’s undergone a major facelift in recent years. You’ll find manicured parks, cultural attractions, and a lively drinking scene.
Gijón’s hockey club is unique compared to the other entries on this list for a few reasons: it’s a roller hockey club and it’s a women’s team. With over 20 years of history, Hostelcur Gijón has claimed 5 European Cups, 2 OK League Championships, and 2 Queen Cups. It’s no surprise they’re currently known as the best female team in Europe!
Mata-Jove Sports Pavilion is the home arena of Hostelcur Gijón. Along with roller hockey, the stadium has regulatory fields for handball, indoor football, basketball and volleyball.
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly city full of character and culture, Sofia is a fantastic choice. From its ancient Roman ruins to its magnificent golden-domed cathedrals, this underrated city continually surprised us throughout our stay. This Balkan capital is often overlooked, but we think it’s well worth a visit – especially if you prefer off-the-beaten path destinations.
Part of the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation, HC CSKA Sofia was founded in 1964. They dominated the rink from 1964 to 1987 and claimed every Bulgarian Cup title during that time. While recent years haven’t been quite as successful for the team, they managed to land a second-place finish in 2009.
One of two major complexes in the city, the Sofia Winter Sports Palace boasts two ice rinks and a seating capacity of 4,600.
Distinctly sophisticated yet rough around the edges, Lyon is a hotspot for nightlife, shopping and gourmet cuisine. This dynamic city is known as an industrial and commercial powerhouse, but it also offers a surprising array of outstanding historic and cultural attractions.
Considering they were formed only 21 years ago, The Lions are an impressive team. They currently play in Ligue Magnus, the premier league in French hockey and one of the top leagues in Europe.
Since opening its doors in 1969, Patinoire Charlemagne has hosted a range of international competitions, including the European Championships of Figure Skating. The 4,500-seat stadium is a testament to the city’s love of ice sports and their local hockey team.
Paisley isn’t your typical tourist town. But what the city lacks in attractions, it makes up for in history and stories. During the 19th-century, the city was a fixture of the weaving industry and became famous for its paisley shawls.
The Paisley Pirates were formed in 1946 and have won a host of local and national awards. They’ve claimed two Scottish Championship titles over the past five seasons, and they won the Scottish Cup in 2016. We were most impressed by the local residents’ commitment to the team – the organization is run entirely by volunteers.
The 4,000-seat Braehead Arena is home of the Paisley Pirates. Fans flock to this stadium to support their team at home games, but the venue hosts a variety of events year-round.
Děčín is small Czech city near the German border, situated on the banks of the Elbe River. The city has a number of notable historic landmarks, including the 18th-century Děčín Castle, which sits atop a craggy cliff overlooking the city. Along with a rich history, Děčín also has a deep love for hockey.
HC Děčín’s beginnings can be traced back to 1945 when it was founded under a different name. This underdog team showcased unbridled determination and grit during the 2012/2013 season when they fought their way to the final round of the playoffs.
Děčín Ice Stadium was built in 1969 and can accommodate up to 5,100 of HC Děčín’s dedicated fans. The arena also regularly hosts the city’s hometown hero and former NHL player, Petr Tenkrat.
Chekhov isn’t the birthplace famous playwright Anton Chekhov, but it was named in his honour. Along with Chekhov-related monuments and attractions, the city has a range of fascinating museums to explore. While it may be known for its literary sights, Chekhov also has a booming hockey scene.
Founded in 2015, Zvezda Chekhov currently play in the Supreme Hockey League, where they’re a farm team of the Kontinental Hockey League’s CSKA Moscow. Boris Mironov, former NHL Chicago Blackhawks player, was recently announced as the team’s new head coach.
The Vityaz Sports Palace opened in 2004 and has since been awarded several distinctions, including “the best sports centre of the year” and “the best ice palace of RF.” The stadium underwent major renovations in 2007/2008, increasing the capacity to 3,300 and adding state-of-the-art video, audio and lighting equipment. With friendly staff and an unparalleled atmosphere, this is a must-visit venue for any hardcore hockey fan.
Seamlessly blending modern and medieval, Tallinn left us wanting more. Its cascade of cultural attractions constantly swept us off our feet, so it’s hard to imagine this vibrant city being overlooked as a travel destination. After a day spent exploring its old town, we were ready to check out the local hockey talent.
Founded in 2010, HC Viking Tallinn are very much still in their infancy as a team. However, this hasn’t stopped them from claiming two championship titles in the Master League.
Built in 2014, Tondiraba Ice Hall is younger than the team itself. With all the essential features of an international stadium, it can accommodate up to 7,700 fans for home games and local and international sporting events.
Lithuania’s cool capital city is becoming increasingly popular – and for good reason. This Baltic gem has the largest baroque old town in Europe, captivating historic sites, and bewitching medieval architecture. Tourist numbers are increasing every year, so the time to visit is now.
Vilnius has two hockey teams: Geležinis Vilkas Vilnius and Hockey Punks Vilnius. They were founded in 2004 and 2008, making them two of the newest hockey teams in Europe.
Hockey Punks Vilnius play at the Akropolis Arena, while Geležinis Vilkas Vilnius’ home ice is at Pramogu Arena. In 2002, Pramogu Arena was nominated as the best sports venue in the country, and the stadium often hosts a variety of national and international events.
Although we had to instate a cut-off for the best teams, we wanted to recognize a few great up-and-coming and established hockey federations.
The Spanish Ice Sports Federation has been a valued member of the IIHF since 1923 and maintains a number of awards across all categories in Division II. They have 18 arenas and a large pool of talented players in 25 teams throughout Spain.
The sheer enthusiasm of Kyrgyz locals is fuelling the growth and popularity of hockey in Kyrgyzstan. This federation became a member of the IIHF in 2011, and, with the support of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, continues to develop at an astonishing rate.