The London Coliseum: What You Need To Know
Opened in 1904 as the London Coliseum of Varieties, the London Coliseum is one of London's most impressive venues. Designed by Frank Matcham to house 2,359 seats, it remains London's largest theatre. Now home of the English National Opera, it also hosts a variety of dance and theatrical productions. The London Coliseum is committed to making opera accessible, with no formal dress code.
Where to eat
The American Bar is the easy option when seeing a show at the Coliseum, as it's in the basement of the building. Set in an atmospheric space, the restaurant usually opens two hours before the show for starters and mains courses, then diners can return at the interval for dessert and coffee. A set menu starts from £16 for two courses, £21 for three.
Barrafina is located a two-minute walk from the theatre on Adelaide Street. There is no set menu and no reservations, but the restaurant opens at 5pm serving brilliant Spanish tapas and wine at a relaxed bar.
The Portrait Restaurant is located at the top of the National Portrait Gallery, a one-minute walk from the theatre. They serve a pre-theatre menu on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 5.30pm and 6.30pm, with two courses for £22 and three for £25. The real draw here is the view, which stretches down from Trafalgar Square to the House of Parliament and the London Eye, so make sure you ask for a table by the window.
Bancone is the latest opening in response to the insatiable London appetite for pasta. With three dining counters (bancone means counter in Italian) where you can watch the chefs at work, the food is exceptional and very well priced. Silk Handkerchiefs with Walnut Butter and Confit Egg Yolk is their most Instagrammed dish, but is also one of their most delicious. Open all day from midday until 11pm.
Where to drink
Terroirs is a gorgeous and atmospheric little French wine bar located a two-minute walk from the London Coliseum on King William IV Street. Their wine list is extensive and staff are incredibly knowledgeable and happy to advise. Food is also excellent, particularly the cheese and charcuterie boards.
The Rooftop is a little-known bar on the roof of the Trafalgar Hotel on Trafalgar Square, a four-minute walk from the theatre. Booking is advised as space is fairly limited, but staff will try to get you seated and the views and the cocktails are excellent. Best in the summer, although they provide heaters and blankets when it's cooler too.
Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour is a unique and fun place to have a few drinks on St Martin's Lane, a two-minute walk from the theatre. Located above Mr Fogg's Tavern, it boasts a menu of over 200 gins. Based on a traditional Victorian gin palace and filled with eccentric memorabilia, staff are dressed in Victorian garb and are always up for mischief. Booking essential.
The London Coliseum runs a scheme for first-time opera goers called Opera Undressed, where tickets are just £20, plus booking fee. Tickets include a pre-performance talk and a gin and tonic with the cast after the show.
Access All Arias is an excellent scheme where full-time students or those aged 16-29 can get tickets for just £30 in the stalls, £20 in the dress circle and £10 in the upper circle, plus booking fee.
Under-18s can attend any Friday, Saturday or opening night performances for free.
Secret Seat is a brilliant scheme where audiences can book an unallocated seat and will be guaranteed a seat worth £50 or more.
Tickets to ENO operas start from £10, plus booking fee.
The London Coliseum also runs an access scheme, which gives audiences with a disability or health condition the ability to buy half-price tickets to most shows.
Location and transport
Set just off Trafalgar Square, the London Coliseum is very easy to get to.
The theatre is a 20-minute walk from Waterloo station or a two-minute walk from Charing Cross, served by National Rail, the Bakerloo and Northern Tube lines, or a seven-minute walk from Embankment, served by the District and Circle, Northern and Bakerloo Tube lines.
3, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 24, 29, 53, 88, 91, 139, 159, 176 all stop nearby.
There are plenty of bike racks on St Martin's Lane and May's Court.
Pay and display parking is available nearby. Free street parking nearby is available after 6.30pm. Use the brilliant app AppyParking to check street rules.
London Coliseum visitors also receive a 50% discount after 12pm and for up to four hours at the following Q-Park car parks: Chinatown; Pimlico; Soho; Park Lane/Marble Arch; Trafalgar; Oxford Street; Burlington; Leicester Square.
There are adapted unisex toilets on four out of five levels of the London Coliseum: basement, stalls, dress circle and balcony.
There are two wheelchair spaces in the stalls and dress circle and four wheelchair space in the stalls boxes. There are transfer seats: four in the dress circle and six in the balcony.
There are two lifts - including one in the main foyer - which provide access to most levels of the auditorium and to all bars and restaurants.
Guide dogs and assistance dogs are welcome inside the auditorium, although the theatre will also look after your guide or assistance dog during the show. They will also provide your dog with a water bowl and can take them for walks during the show if you choose.
While you're there...
The ENO offers a frequent guided tour of the amazing spaces within the London Coliseum. Tickets are only £10 and tours usually run at 11am. They include explorations of the front-of-house areas, but also the warren of corridors and staircases backstage and sometimes under the stage itself. The history of the building is truly fascinating and guides are very knowledgeable.
St Martin's Lane
Phone 020 7845 9300
Photo Credit: Karla Gowlett