Match days in North London are a unique experience. Elegant, chic and sophisticated Islington has a second personality which is all red and white! Locals are joined by Arsenal fans travelling to North London from every corner of the city (and of the world!) on match days to support the Gunners and plan exciting activities around the main event of the day. If you’ve got tickets for a home game, check out our locals’ guide for the perfect day for an Arsenal fan, which obviously ends with a win!
Morning starts with a traditional full English breakfast at one of the old school caffs around Arsenal. Despite gentrification reaching also Blackstock road, there are still some genuine, authentic, cheap and cheerful spots where you don’t risk getting a food poisoning, like The Blackstock Kitchen, Cinnamon Village 2 or Rendezvous. Real fans then walk down to pay homage to the old Arsenal stadium which was home to the Arsenal Football team until 2006.The building was mainly known as the "Highbury Stadium" due to its location and was given the affectionate nickname of the "Home of Football" by the club. The building has now been turned into apartments, but the listed east stand definitely deserves a look with its well preserved beautiful art deco facade.
And make sure you get your outfit right! Blend into the crowd and experience the day like a local, who sure as hell wouldn't be seen in a "uniform" unless they're part of St John's ambulance. Even a kit is a bit dodgy, especially if the person sporting it gets close to a full kit and is above 8yrs old... resulting in qualifying as full kit wanker, e.g.:
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There are two shops on the way that help the real fans with this: The Arsenal Finsbury Park, located just by Finsbury Park Station and The Arsenal, which is right in the basement of the Stadium. These shops are open every day of the week, in case you find them extremely busy or if they ran out of a specific item in your size you can always come back!
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Locals gather around one of the many pubs in the area before and after the match to have a quick pint. But beware! Most places ask for a proof that you are an Arsenal fan, otherwise they won’t let you in! These are the top 5 pubs which are the locals’ favourites to grab a pint in before heading to the stadium to watch the match.
The Coronet: originally a ballroom, this has been converted to a Wetherspoon’s which has a surprisingly good selection of craft beers.
The Bank of Friendship: This independently run, strictly over-21s Highbury pub also doubles up as an intimate music venue and hosts open mic nights. It gets most busy on match days, also thanks to its proximity to the “Home of Football”, it’s known by the locals for the (in)famous Tuesday Club that was held here for many years. In fact, in the old days this was a place where players could socialise in the same places as supporters.
El Comandante: from the outside this looks like a traditional English pub with a Che Guevara picture on the wall which at first looks a bit out of place. However, inside it becomes clear that this is a colourful Cuban bar run and frequented by Arsenal fans.
The Twelve Pins: close to Finsbury Park station, this is the favourite spots for those travelling to London from the North.
The Tollington: This pub is a bit off the beaten path, away from the noise and bustle and famous mostly amongst Arsenal fans from Scandinavia for some reason.
There are plenty of access points to get to the stadium, one is via the bridge from Dayton Park, but to really experience the proper match day vibe, walk up to the ground from Holloway Road or down from Finsbury Park - the streets are lined with burger vans and other football fare so you can pick up any last minute supplies!
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After the match, obviously you should get back to the pub to celebrate! If your stomach is rumbling stop for a quick bite with other Arsenal fans at Piebury Corner or Gunner's Fish Bar for a chippy. Or if you fancy a pub with a screen to see the highlights of the match or catch up with the results of the other matches of the day, then head to the Horatia.