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How To Get To The Emirates To Watch Arsenal

I’ve often come across people making their first trip to the Emirates for a match, who tell me that they will be driving to the ground and “finding somewhere to park” nearby.

In reply I point out that there is precious little chance of doing that given the restrictions in the area, but then I get a look as if to say, “Oh local restrictions don’t bother me”.

It is that worldly-wise look that suggests that timid folk like myself might be trapped into obeying petty regulations, but they’ve been around a bit, and know what’s what. Besides, I have had it said, everyone knows that traffic wardens don’t work weekends and evenings.

Well, actually, they do and my advice remains, don’t try and drive close to the ground. It is in the midst of a residential area in a city of 8 million people, with 60,000 extra folk flooding into the area for a game. If you park illegally then at best your car might be damaged deliberately or accidentally by the passing crowd, or towed away by the authorities (which not only means that you pay a huge fine, but also you have a long journey and wait to get it back).

So what to do if you are travelling to see an Arsenal home game by car?

First a word of warning. If the last time you did this was for a match at Highbury, do remember that the old ground had 38,000 crowds, this one has 60,000 crowds. It really does make a difference – and that is without all the new parking restrictions and road closures.

But still, want to get to Arsenal. How is it done? Here are some answers.

One of the most obvious things to do if you want to use your car is to drive to a tube station that has a car park. There are a lot of them around and they are detailed on http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/tubestationcarparks/. Some of them do get crowded and some have problems after a match with too many people trying to get out at once, but they can solve your problems if you are arriving early and not in a rush to leave.

My own regular station is Finchley Central which has a large car park – you take the train to Archway and then walk down Holloway Road. The only problem is that the walk along Holloway Road is a couple of miles – although there are buses every few minutes. (It is harder to get a bus back at the end of the game).

Failing that for my journeys in from the north I have used Arnos Grove (but do get there before 1.30pm). And just to be clear, there are no station car parks at the underground stations around Arsenal.

The one problem with the underground is that Transport for London insist on shutting down various parts of the system at different times for repairs, so it is worth checking with their advance notices of disruptions to the system on http://www.tfl.gov.uk/. The fact that Arsenal are playing at home doesn’t seem to bother them – they’ll still shut the line and leave the football following public to sort it out for themselves.

Incidentally, if you come to London more than once or twice a year, get yourself an Oyster card. You put a bit of money into the card and can then walk through the barriers which take money out of your card each time. It is cheaper than tickets and a lot faster. Apply on line.

But back to the journey.  You are coming in by underground. Which station do you want?

Arsenal is the obvious, (it is the station that sits opposite the old Highbury ground), and although it gets very crowded after a match it still only takes about 10 minutes to queue up and get on a train. Just don’t use it if you get claustrophobic in tunnels – the exit is a long tunnel, and before and after a game it is packed with people.

Holloway Road station is actually closer to the new ground, but trains going north from Kings Cross / St Pancras don’t stop there in the build up to a match. However trains coming south from Cockfosters and Arnos Grove do stop there. After the game, you can’t use the station to get on a train at all. (The reason is the access to the platforms which is very difficult if there are crowds).

Highbury and Islington station on the Victoria Line, is about 10 minutes walk from the ground – but again like Arsenal station it can get crowded.

Alternatively, going north from the ground there is Finsbury Park station, which also gives access to the London Overground system and once again it gets crowded after a match. Worse, although roads like St Thomas’ are shut to traffic around the time of a match, the police often shut them to pedestrians as well, meaning you have to wait while they allow crowds to clear. But even so you should be in the station within about 15 or 20 minutes.

And although I’ve stressed the crowdedness and the waits, the situation really only lasts about 15 minutes. Go and have a drink in one of the bars (they stay open after the game) or go and visit the Armoury store (which really is quite large) and then make your way to the Underground, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. The crowds have gone, the police have packed up, and you can just stroll along and get on the train of your choice.

Next there are the overground trains. Finsbury Park mentioned above is an Overground station (not a main line station that runs trains to other cities), as is Drayton Park. But Drayton Park is shut on match days, again because of worries about its out of date safety features.

If you are coming to the ground by train to one of the main London terminals, (Waterloo, Euston, Victoria, Paddington etc) the simplest thing to do is to use the Underground to get you to Kings Cross / St Pancras and then either take the Piccadilly Line to Arsenal (the signs on the Underground say Piccadilly East Bound – and you will need a train headed for Arnos Grove or Cockfosters).
Incidentally if you are coming via Eurostar you end up at St Pancras station, which gives you the easiest transfer of all. Just follow the “Underground” signs and go to Arsenal or Highbury and Islington, as you wish.

On alighting at Arsenal follow the tunnels up from the trains, turn right at the daylight, and follow the crowds – you can’t miss the ground. It’s huge.

That Piccadilly Line trip is a slightly longer journey than the alternative (see below) but the alternative does have a longer and slightly more confusing walk.

This alternative from Kings Cross St Pancras is to take the Victoria Line north to Highbury and Islington. On leaving the station turn left. You’ll then have to cross the main road and turn right – by which time you should be following the crowds. If you can’t work it out just keep walking to Holloway Road station, then cross the road and the ground is just a couple of streets away.

Lastly there is the issue of food and drink. Arsenal do sell food and drink inside the ground, although it is pricey, and not especially wonderful. But there are not many queues before the game (although half time is fairly horrendous).

However there are many pubs and cheap eateries around the ground – including of course the take away burger bars and fish and chip shops.

My own current favourite pub is the Coronet at 338-346 Holloway Road, within about 3 minutes walk of the ground. It is huge (an old cinema) and does food (but get there early if you want to sit) and is packed with Arsenal fans so the atmosphere is good. It is easy to fall into conversation with people there – most are very friendly indeed, especially if you say it is your first time at the ground. But it is, of course, for Arsenal fans only.

But there are many many other pubs etc, and if you want somewhere with a bit of space just venture further north along Holloway Road and you’ll find plenty within a short walk that are less crowded.

If you are making your first trip to the Emirates, have fun, and try and get there early. It makes life a lot easier. And if you can avoid having to rush off at the end, that will give you a more enjoyable day out too.

***IMPORTANT RELATED READING*** Be sure to also read Jacko’s other excellent posts on getting Arsenal ticketsThe Gooner News Guide To Buying Tickets To Watch The Arsenal, where you will read about all the information regarding all the major options for purchasing Arsenal tickets; then in addition, you can check out The Gooner News Guide – Part 2 – Info For Regional And International Supporters, where you will obtain all the other info for those wishing to attend Arsenal games from regional or international fanclubs and organizations.

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