What you need to know about Royal Festival Hall:
Royal Festival Hall is an iconic 2,500 seat concert hall that forms part of London’s Southbank Centre. The other buildings included in the group are the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. It is one of the top venues in the world for the performance of classical music. Concerts, dance, talks and other performances are staged at the venue.
Along with the striking auditorium, the complex also includes The Clore Ballroom, the Poetry Library, a variety of bar and dining spaces and an area known as the Spirit Level. Here, visitors can locate the Blue, White and Yellow Rooms, which are often used for smaller performances (for example, poetry readings) or business/social events.
The Royal Festival Hall opened in 1951. It was built as part of the Festival of Britain, an event staged to lift the spirits of the British people following the Second World War. The building was painted white to stand out from the blackened city behind it. Its construction also meant that London now had a new major concert hall. The city had been without one since 1941, when an incendiary bomb destroyed the Queen’s Hall. Clement Attlee laid the foundation stone. Impressively, the building was opened only 18 months after the project began. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended its celebratory opening concert.
A landmark moments in the history of the Royal Festival Hall came in 1983. The Greater London Council ruled the building should operate on an open foyer policy. This means non-ticket holders can access the foyer areas of the venue throughout the day. These spaces include shops, bars and spaces used for free concerts and other entertainment.
From 2005 – 2007, the Royal Festival Hall was closed for extensive refurbishment works. The renovations cost approximately £95 million. Many believe that the renovations significantly improved the acoustics of the hall, which had been criticised in the past by audiences and performers.
In 2010, the venue launched WOW, the Women of the World festival. The event has become the largest women’s festival in the world, with events held across five continents.
Top facts about Royal Festival Hall:
- The Royal Festival Hall is nicknamed the People’s Palace. The venue is sometimes also referred to as London’s third opera house after the Royal Opera House and the London Coliseum.
- The Royal Festival Hall is the home of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
- In 1981, the Royal Festival Hall became a Grade I listed building. It was the first post-war building to earn this status.
- One of the most notable features of the Royal Festival Hall is the monumental organ. Completed in 1954, the instrument has nearly 8,000 pipes. It was out of action and removed for nine years, but returned to the hall in 2014.
Key information about Royal Festival Hall:
Tube: The closest tube station is Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines), which is a five minute walk to the venue. Alternately, use Embankment (District, Circle, Bakerloo and Northern lines) and walk cross the bridge to the Southbank. This should take you 10-15 minutes.
Train: The closest train station is Waterloo (South West Trains). It is a short five minute walk, but please leave plenty of time for making your way through the station.
Bus: Bus number RV1 stops on Belvedere Road, which is less than a minute’s walk from the venue.
Bus numbers 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 243, 521, N1, N68, N171 and N343 stop on Waterloo Bridge, which is a two minute walk from the venue.
Bus numbers 76, 77, 211, 341, 381, 507, N381, N76 and RV1 stop on York Road, which is a five minute walk from the venue.
To plan your journey in more detail, please visit the Transport for London website.
Parking: The closest car park is at the National Theatre. Blue Badge holders visiting the Southbank Centre can park here for free. Alternately, there is a multi-storey car park on Cornwall Road or a drop-off point for taxis on the slip road outside the Southbank Centre Square. The venue recommends using public transport where possible.
Royal Festival Hall and the Southbank Centre are fully wheelchair accessible.
Accessible toilets are available on every level of the Royal Festival Hall.
A sound enhancement system is available. If you want to use the equipment, please contact the Ticket Office.
Working dogs are welcome in all areas of the Southbank Centre, including Royal Festival Hall.
Assistance is available for blind and visually impaired visitors, plus visitors with any other access needs, such as help with queuing.
The Southbank Centre runs its own access scheme. To find out more and to register, please click here.
To discuss all access requirements and to book tickets, please contact the Southbank Centre on 020 3879 9555.
Royal Festival Hall offers discounts for visitors with specific seating requirements and for carers accompanying a visitor with access needs. Please join the access scheme or contact the box office on the number provided above for more details.
Royal Festival Hall schedules BSL-interpreted performances, speech-to-text transcription, audio description, captioning and pre-event touch tours. They are also introducing an increased number of relaxed performances. To find out more about upcoming access performances, please contact the box office or join the access scheme.
There are a huge number of dining options at the Southbank Centre, ranging from family friendly restaurants to chic cocktail bars. On the outside of the venue along the Southbank, there’s a selection of chain food outlets (Eat, Las Iguanas, Le Pain Quotidien, Strada, Yo! Sushi, Wagamama, Giraffe etc.) They also frequently have pop up street vendors such as the Wahaca Southbank Experiment and the SNOG frozen yoghurt bus.
Inside the Royal Festival Hall you’ll find the Riverside Terrace Café. Open 10am – 10:30pm, the café serves coffee and cake throughout the day, plus homemade soups and stews. There’s free WiFi available and you can enjoy a splendid view across the Southbank whilst you eat.
For more formal dining and cocktails, try the iconic Skylon restaurant. Named after the spaceship-like structure that was built for the 1951 Festival of Britain on the same site, Skylon serves contemporary British cuisine and food from the grill. Diners can enjoy stunning views of the London skyline as they eat.
For drinks, options include the attractive Central Bar. It’s open 11am – 10:30pm Monday – Saturday and 12noon – 10:30pm on Sundays. The bar is well stocked with a large variety of soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits. It holds the honour of being one of the longest bars in London. There are also smaller bars on every level of the hall.