The lights may technically be out at London theaters, but the district has turned to the small screen, allowing you to stream musicals, plays, and cabarets from home. Stay entertained—and keep local performers in business—with recommendations from an actor and tour guide who knows the West End best.
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London
Anyone wandering Covent Garden can admire the classical-style pillared facade of the opera house. The exterior can also be seen in passing on sightseeing tours of central London, both on bike and on foot.
To explore the interior of the ROH, travelers have two options. Book a ticket to a performance in the 2,256-seat auditorium or join a guided tour. Backstage tours last 75 minutes and showcase front of house as well as behind the scenes; participants may even get to see Royal Ballet dancers in class. The 45-minute Velvet, Gilt, and Glamour tour focuses on the architecture and history of the theater.
Things to Know Before You Go
The ROH is a must-see for culture vultures.
No dress code is enforced, so wear whatever is comfortable.
Avoid bringing large bags to the venue as security restrictions apply.
The opera house has two bars and three restaurants, including a champagne bar and restaurant in the spectacular glass-vaulted Paul Hamlyn Hall (formerly Floral Hall).
The ROH is wheelchair accessible, and 19 spaces are available for wheelchair users in the main auditorium.
How to Get There
The ROH is situated on Bow Street in central London and is best accessed by public transport. Take the Piccadilly tube line to Covent Garden station, or one of many city buses that stop at the nearby Aldwych Theatre.
When to Get There
Tours are very popular so book well in advance to ensure a spot. Performance ticket holders should arrive about 30 minutes before curtain; latecomers are not permitted to enter until a suitable break in the performance.
The History of London’s Royal Opera House
Fires destroyed the original ROH and its replacement in the 19th century. Though today’s facade, foyer, and auditorium date from 1858, much of the rest of the complex is the result of an extensive reconstruction project that took place in the late 1990s. A claim to fame of the opera house: In 1839, it became the first indoor theater in the world to use limelight, a kind of spotlight created by adding lime to a flame produced by an oxyhydrogen blowpipe, creating a very bright white light.
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