The Royal Opera House is secure in its status as one of the world's great opera houses, pulling in crowds and plaudits while, a few streets away, the London Coliseum's footing is a bit less secure. It's benefited from a massively ambitious 1999 refurb, which extended and opened out its premises to include the restored Floral Hall (an elegant Victorian iron and glass structure) and a new studio space, the Linbury. Subsequent updates have turned the front of house areas around its massive auditorium into gleaming white, luxurious restaurants and bars where opera buffs and balletomanes alike can scoff a cucumber sandwich or two.
There's been a theatre on the ROH's current site since 1728, when audiences flocked to Covent Garden to hear new works by Handel. The current Royal Opera House is its third incarnation; it opened in 1858, with an imposing NeoClassical facade that mimicked the design of its predecessors. Its horseshoe-shaped, 2,256-seater auditorium is one of the West End's largest, and offers a traditional, imposing setting for both operas and ballet spectacles (although the sightlines from the cheap gallery seats might leave you admiring the dance's legs and not much more).
As well as housing The Royal Ballet, the ROH regularly invites visiting companies such as The Bolshoi. Meanwhile the venue’s smaller spaces – Linbury Studio Theatre and Clore Studio – offer a sporadic line-up of experimental and independent dance and music works.
The Royal Opera House is a Grade I-listed building, and with its beautiful modern additions it is a striking Covent Garden landmark. Book in advance for a behind-the-scenes tour, or just drop in for a visit: the foyer spaces, café, restaurant and bar are open to the public every day from 10am.