What you need to know about Royal Opera House:
London’s Royal Opera House is the home of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera. Situated on one side of Covent Garden piazza, the venue is one of the most visually stunning in the capital.
The current Royal Opera House opened in 1858. E. M. Barry designed the building. It followed two previous theatres on the same site, both of which were devastated by fires in 1808 and 1856. The building first took the Royal Opera House name in 1892.
In 1997, the building underwent significant redevelopment and renovation works. These were completed in December 1999 and included the complete rebuilding of the Floral Hall, where visitors today can marvel at its awe-inspiring architecture whilst enjoying some pre-theatre dining. In autumn 2015, Royal Opera House began the Open Up project, another period of renovations aimed at improving access from Covent Garden and dramatically improving the ground floor spaces.
The Royal Opera was established in 1946, although operas had been performed at the venue before then. They are one of the most renowned companies in the world and perform a mixture of their own productions, plus a large number of co-productions with other international opera houses. Their average programme includes a combination of new works, plus revivals of previous hits.
The Royal Ballet started life as the Vic-Wells Ballet, a company founded by Dame Ninette de Valois. In 1931, the company took up residence at Sadler’s Wells. They performed both there and at The Old Vic. In 1946, they moved to the Royal Opera House. In 1956, they took the name The Royal Ballet. The company’s programme combines the classics of the repertoire (i.e. the Tchaikovsky ballets) with works by Founder Choreographer Frederick Ashton, innovative modern works by Kenneth MacMillan and brand new pieces by choreographers including Christopher Wheeldon (Artistic Associate for the Royal Ballet) and Wayne McGregor (Residence Choreographer for the Royal Ballet). Some of the best dancers in the world dance with the Royal Ballet. Their athleticism, skill and commitment are nothing short of breath-taking.
If you’re trying to see a sold out show at the Royal Opera House, there are a couple of options. the venue runs a Friday Rush, where 49 tickets are made available online for all main-stage performances, including those that are sold out. They also broadcast selected shows to cinemas across the country, and run the BP Big Screens. These stream live broadcasts to screens situated in public spaces, where you can watch for free. We advise bringing a brolly and a picnic.
Top facts about Royal Opera House:
- In its early years, the theatre had close links with the composer George Frideric Handel. Several of his operas and oratorios received their premieres at the venue.
- During the First World War, the Royal Opera House became a furniture repository. In the Second World War it became a Mecca Dance Hall.
- Each year Royal Opera House takes part in World Ballet Day. Viewers across the globe can watch a live stream of behind-the-scenes footage from five of the world’s leading ballet companies.
Key information about Royal Opera House:
Tube: The closest tube station is Covent Garden (Piccadilly line), which is a five minute walk to the venue. Alternatively, use Leicester Square (Piccadilly and Northern lines) or Holborn (Central and Northern lines).
Train: Charing Cross train station on The Strand is served by Southeastern trains and is just over 10 minutes walk from the venue.
Bus: Bus numbers 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 68, 76, 87, 91, 168, 171, 176, 188, 501, 505, 521 and also X68 all go to the Aldwych, which is near the theatre. To plan your journey in more detail, please visit the Transport for London website.
West End Q-Park car parks can be found at:
Chinatown – 20 Newport Place, WC2H 7PR
Soho – Poland Street, W1F 7NQ
Trafalgar Square – Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS
Leicester Square – Whitcomb Street, WC2H 7DT
Q-Park offers discounted parking for ticket-holders visiting participating West End theatres. Royal Opera House is part of the Q-Park Theatreland Parking Scheme.
West End NCP car parks can be found at:
Shaftesbury – Selkirk House, Museum Street, WC1A 1JR
Covent Garden – Parker Street, WC2B 5NT
The closest car park to the theatre is: Q-Park Chinatown.
There are orange badge spaces in the streets surrounding the theatre, but again these are likely to get taken quickly.
Royal Opera House runs its own ROH Access Membership. You can read more about it and register here.
Signing up for a membership entitles visitors to access discounts, personalised assistance when booking, personalised seat allocation (subject to availability), and season guides mailed to you in your preferred format (audio CD, large print or standard).
Membership also entitles you to a unique access number to use when booking access tickets online.
Royal Opera House is wheelchair accessible. There are up to 19 spaces available for wheelchairs in the auditorium, in the Stalls, Circle, Grand Tier, Balcony and Upper Amphitheatre. One wheelchair space and companion space is available in the Friday Rush ticket allocation each week.
It is also possible to borrow a wheelchair for the duration of your visit to the Royal Opera House. Please book this in advance with the access line.
Four accessible toilets are available in the building.
Working dogs are welcome in all areas of the building. You can either arrange to have a seat with adequate space for your dog or for a member of staff to dog-sit during the performance.
The main auditorium and Linbury Studio are fitted with a Trantec radio system. Visitors can borrow a set of headphones and special receiver from the Front of House Duty Manager in the Main Entrance foyer. Alternatively, if you already have a hearing aid you can borrow an induction collar to use with the ‘T’ position of the hearing aid.
Large print cast lists and synopses are available on the day of the performance from the Duty House Manager’s desk in the main foyer.
To discuss all access requirements and to book tickets, please phone the access team on 020 7304 4000 or email [email protected].
Signing up for the Royal Opera House Access Membership entitles BSL users to reduced price tickets for interpreted performances, plus reduced price tickets for Members receiving disability-related state benefits. Discounts are also available for one companion, if you need someone to accompany you. Please contact the access line via the details provided above to book these.
The ROH schedules BSL interpreted performances and relaxed performances. Please visit their website or call the access line for more information on the future scheduling of these.
They also run Audio-Introduced Performances, which provide a detailed synopsis of the work about to be shown via headphones before the start of the show and during the intervals.
Royal Opera House boasts a number of dining areas that can be booked in advance. These include the Amphitheatre Restaurant and Terrace, which serves a changing à la carte menu of seasonal specialities. During the warmer weather, guests can take advantage of the outside area and enjoy views across Covent Garden.
The other option for dining is the Paul Hamlyn Hall Balconies Restaurant. Set in the beautiful Paul Hamlyn Hall, which was once part of the Covent Garden flower market, this is surely one of the most visually stunning dining venues. As an extra special touch they often match their menus to the production being performed. So expect dramatic and big flavours to accompany your tragic opera, and some festive favourites to go with the annual outing of The Nutcracker.
The Paul Hamlyn Hall also includes their famous champagne bar, where guests can snack on smoked salmon and enjoy a glass of classic fizz before the show starts. They also have a bar menu available for those without reservations, but be warned that it does get busy.
Another option for eating is the Crush Room. Sumptuously decorated in deep red and cream, the Crush Room allows diners to make the most of the Royal Opera House’s stunning interior. Their menu includes a selection of classic cold dishes including potted mackerel. In the best tradition of theatre dining, guests can return at the interval for pudding.
If you’re looking for something more informal, the Royal Opera House also has a number of bars on each level for visitors to buy drinks and snacks before the show and during the interval. Dodge the queue by downloading and using the ROH’s app that allows ticket holders to pre-order drinks and snacks, including sandwiches and nibbles, before they even arrive at the theatre.