The Barbican

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What you need to know about The Barbican:

The Barbican is the largest arts, cultural and conference venue in Europe. Located in the City of London, the venue is owned, founded and primarily funded by the City of London Corporation.

The multi-purpose venue is mainly used for classical and contemporary music, theatre, dance, film, visual art and fashion exhibitions. The large complex is made up of a number of different buildings including:

The Barbican Concert Hall  (seats 1943 visitors)

The Barbican Theatre (seats 1154 visitors across four levels)

The Pit Theatre (studio space that seats 164 visitors)

Silk Street Theatre (also used by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama)

Barbican Film (made up of three cinema screens)

Barbican Library (the City of London’s leading public lending library; technically not part of the Barbican Centre, but it is on the same site)

The Conservatory (a hidden oasis full of tropical plants and exotic species of fish)

Plus: Three restaurants, numerous bar areas, seven conference halls, two exhibition halls and several other smaller spaces for performances or exhibitions.

The Barbican is one of the most significant pieces of Brutalist architecture in not just London, but arguably the world. Like the National Theatre, it’s a love-it-or-loath-it building, with some people thinking it’s an eyesore and others declaring it a modern masterpiece. Either way, there’s no denying its ambition and impressive scale.

Chamberlin, Powell and Bon designed the venue to completely regenerate an area of London devastated by the Second World War. It took more than a decade to build. Queen Elizabeth II opened it in 1982, and it is now a Grade II listed building.

The Barbican Theatre was built to be the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Stratford-based company were involved in designing the space, but the relationship between the two organisations hasn’t been entirely plain sailing. In 2002, the RSC left the venue and didn’t return until 2013 when they announced a three-year run of Shakespeare’s history plays.

Along with the RSC performances, its theatre programme is a mixture of contemporary theatre and dance with an emphasis on international companies. The Pit is used for shows by emerging artists and smaller companies. If you have little ones, keep an eye out for the innovative children’s shows that also occasionally pop up on The Barbican’s calendar.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon is the Managing Director.

Top facts about The Barbican:

  1. Over 1.1 million people visit The Barbican each year.
  2. The London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are based at in the Concert Hall.
  3. The Barbican Theatre regularly commissions new works from its Artistic Associates: Boy Blue Entertainment, Cheek by Jowl, Michael Clark Company and Deborah Warner.

Key information about The Barbican:

Transport:

Tube: The closest tube stations are Barbican (Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City), St Paul’s (Central) and Moorgate (Circle, Metropolitan, Northern, Hammersmith & City). All are within easy walking distance of the venue.

Train: The closest train station is Moorgate. Alternately use Liverpool Street, or Farringdon.

Bus: Bus number 153 travels directly past the venue along Chiswell Street. To find alternatives and to plan your journey in more detail please visit the Transport for London website.

Parking: The Barbican Centre has onsite car parks. Visitors can access them via Sik Street or via the Beech Street tunnel. Car Parks are open 24 hours a day and you can pay on the day or pre-book online. Blue Badge parking is available for free to members of the Barbican’s Access Scheme. Wider access bays are available in car parks 3 and 5. For more information click here.

Accessibility info:

The Barbican is fully committed to accessibility. In 2013 the venue achieved silver level in the Attitude is Everything Charter of Best Practice. The charter aims to improve Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music.

A detailed Access Guide for The Barbican is available. This contains a guide to wheelchair spaces, arrangements for working dogs and also detailed access plans for all areas of the complex.

The Barbican runs its own Access Membership scheme. Members can register their access requirements with the venue to make future bookings easier and to receive information in alternative formats. More information.

The entire Barbican complex is wheelchair accessible and there are ramps and lifts fitted throughout all of its buildings.

Accessible toilets are available throughout The Barbican. There is also a Changing Places facility in the Beech Street Cinema complex for the use of severely disabled people.

Self-propelling wheelchairs are available to borrow from the venue. Please contact the Access team to discuss this in advance.

Monthly audio guides to events at the Barbican Centre are available to listen to.

Large print guides are also available.

To discuss all access requirements, please contact the Access team on 020 7382 7348 or email [email protected]. To book tickets, please contact the box office on 020 7638 8891 or email [email protected].

Accessibility discount?

Members of the Access Membership Scheme may be entitled to discounts. Please contact the box office or Access team to find out more.

Access performances:

The Barbican schedules audio described, captioned and also relaxed film screenings.

The Barbican schedules audio described, captioned, relaxed and also BSL-interpreted live performances in the theatre.

Facilities:

The Barbican has a number of different restaurants and cafes for visitors. These include:

Barbican Kitchen: Located on the ground floor, Barbican Kitchen specialises in handmade pizzas cooked in a handmade oven. Enjoy a few slices with a selection of the Kitchen’s freshly made salads. The family-friendly environment also offers kids-eat-free options.

Bonfire: If you’re not in the mood for pizza, head up to Level One for an American-inspired menu at Bonfire. Gourmet-style burgers, fries and cob salads are on the menu, and you can wash it all down with a classic milkshake or craft beer. 

Osteria: For something a bit fancier, The Barbican is also home to Osteria, a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Anthony Demetre. The Italian-inspired menu is complemented by the best of the region’s cocktails, particularly Negronis and Bellinis. It’s been voted one of the top 10 Italian Restaurants in London. The best news is that if you’re seeing a performance, Osteria offers a pre-theatre menu, an Aperitivo Hour and Italian Afternoon Tea.

There’s also two café/restaurants run by chain eateries Benugo and Côte Brasserie. Both offer affordable lunch and dinner options, plus coffees and snacks, including crepes at Benugo.

The Barbican has bars on every level, so there’s plenty of options for getting a drink pre-show or during the interval. Options available include the Martini Bar, which was set up to serve visitors attending a James Bond exhibition in 2012 but proved so successful they’ve continued it ever since. Look out for themed cocktails, as they like to match their drinks to their current exhibitions on occasion.

Free WiFi is available in the foyer areas.

For more information visit The Barbican’s website