Many visitors in London venture to Covent Garden to shop, dine or watch street performers in the dazzling Covent Garden Piazza. But opera, ballet and classical music lovers head to Covent Garden for one reason and one reason only: To see a performance at the Royal Opera House.
Built in 1858, the current Royal Opera House is actually the third to be built at its location on Bow Street, as both of the previous theatres were destroyed by fires in 1808 and 1856.
The original venue was constructed in 1732 (when it was known as the Theatre Royal), and was originally designed to be a playhouse. However, over the years the venue expanded into the world-renowned arts venue that it is known as today, and has attracted some of the biggest names in classical and opera music.
Royal Opera House Highlights
Immediately upon entering the Covent Garden Piazza, visitors will be greeted with the massive iron and glass structure known as The Paul Hamlyn Hall (or “The Floral Hall”) which has direct access to the main opera building. This area also boasts a champagne bar and restaurant, so concertgoers can sip on a glass of champagne or have a quick meal before watching a performance.
Besides being blown away by a ballet, opera or orchestra performance, visitors can also choose from two different tours if they want to learn more about this fascinating London venue:
- The Backstage Tour – (1.5 hours) which includes visits to both the backstage and Front of House areas as the actors prepare for the evening performances. The tour also covers the history of the venue, its current productions, and may even include the rare opportunity to see the Royal Ballet in a classroom (however this is not always guaranteed).
- The Velvet, Gilt and Glamour Tour (45 minutes) where visitors can learn more about the venue's architecture and history, and even hear stories from some of the many famous opera singers who once performed at the Royal Opera House. Visitors will also be led to the Royal Retiring Room, which is still used by members of the royal family today.
- The seats on the third level balcony are said to have the best sound quality.
- If you plan on having a drink or a meal before, after or during the interval of a performance, make sure you pre-book your table beforehand to avoid any hassle of waiting around for service (especially during the busier periods).
- Be sure to download the ROH Bars app so you can pre-order your drinks and snacks before or after each performance, or during the interval.