Royal Albert Hall Tours
One of the most famous concert venues in the entire world, the Royal Albert Hall sits in the west of London, on Kensington Gore in South Kensington. Opened to the public in 1871, the Hall quickly became one of the most high-profile musical venues in the country, hosting more than 350 events every year. Having played host to some of the biggest names in music through its’ 150-year career, the Royal Albert Hall is a must-visit for music lovers coming to London.
How to Get to Royal Albert Hall
The closest London Underground stations are Knightsbridge (Piccadilly line) and South Kensington (Circle, District + Piccadilly lines). The Hall can also be reached by bus routes: 9, 10, 52, 70, 360, 452. We recommend using this Google map link for directions to Royal Albert Hall from anywhere in the London area. Be sure to read our post on tips for navigating the London Underground.
Royal Albert Hall is located near several other London attractions, including Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, the Natural History Museum and several other sites. For more details on what you could pair with your visit to the Hall, consult our self-guided tour of Kensington and Hyde Park.
Royal Albert Hall Tours and Visitor Information
Throughout the year, as various different events and performances are held inside the Hall, visitors can book tickets online at www.royalalberthall.com/tickets
For those wanting to visit the Hall, not as an audience spectator but as a tourist, the Hall is open for tours and exhibitions throughout the year. Guided tours are available to be booked via the Royal Albert Hall website. Known os the Public Grand Tours, tours are led by highly-skilled guides who take visitors throughout the building including into the auditorium, the Queen’s Private suites and the Galleries. Tours last around an hour.
During the BBC Proms season (18th July to 13th September, 2014) the tour focuses heavily on the history of the Proms tour and visitors are taken to the same areas of the building as in the standard guided-tour.
Prices: Child – £5.25 Adult – £12.25 Concessions – £10.25 –
- 2 for 1 travel deal – through Oct 31, 2015, tours of Royal Albert Hall are part of the 2 for 1 travel deal. Click the link for more information on this deal.
- London Pass – admission to the tour is included in the London Pass.
- Discounts – check out Budget Guide to London, where we list our suggestions for discount sites that may have discounts for tours of the Hall
Notes: Children under 5 are not permitted on tours during BBC Proms Season. Afternoon Tea can be added to your tour for a charge. Groups of over 15 can pre-book private tours as well as Behind the Scenes Tours.
Randomly throughout the year, exhibitions will run at the Royal Albert Hall. These exhibitions are free for those who are attending a performance, or free to the general public on open days which will be detailed in advance on the Albert Hall website.
The hall boasts six restaurants and 14 bars. These can be visited in accordance with opening hours and individual visitation access
After the success of the Great Exhibition in 1851 (a pinnacle of Victorian imperialism, the Great Exhibition was a showcase of wonders from all over the world, held in Hyde Park), Prince Albert – who was responsible for the Great Exhibition – proposed that a permanent venue should be built nearby to serve the continuing education and enlightenment of Victorian society. A series of buildings in the area were planned – becoming known as Albertopolis. Unfortunately, Albert died before his vision was realised and the Albert Memorial was added to the plans to commemorate the man who had begun the scheme of building education-centric structures in the Kensington area.
Victoria signed the Royal Charter to found the Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences on the 20th of May in 1867. The Hall was designed by civil engineers Major-General Henry Y.D. Scott and Captain Francis Fowke. The two engineers had been influenced by ancient amphitheatres and was built to contest with the Cirque d’Hiver, a structure in Paris that was seen as the design for the engineers to now outdo. Actually Built by Lucas Brothers, the Hall is comprised mainly of Fareham Red brick and terra cotta, giving it the well-known rustic colouring.
Building was finished and official opening took place on the 29th March 1871. At the grand opening, Queen Victoria was too overcome with emotion to speak, leaving the duty of a welcoming speech to her eldest son, Edward, the Prince of Wales. A concert to celebrate the opening followed the speech and it quickly became apparent that the Hall had serious acoustic problems, including a severe echo. Word rapidly spread that the Hall had acoustic difficulties and it became said that the Royal Albert Hall was “the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice.” The problem of the echo was not, in fact, solved until 1969 when a group of large fibreglass discus were installed below the ceiling.
Renovation and Restoration
Between 1996 and 2004 the Hall underwent a serious programme of redevelopment. A £20 million grant was given to the Hall to complete various necessary tasks including: improving ventilation, adding more bars and restaurants, improved seating, modernising the backstage areas, creating a new box office, and creating better technical facilities. Most of the renovation done was based internally which means the outside of the building has changed but a little from its’ original design.
The renovation also included a major rebuilding of the original great organ inside the Hall. Built by Henry Williams in 1871, then rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1924 AND 1923, the organ was rebuilt yet again by Mander Organs between 2002 and 2004. Today, the organ is the second largest pipe organ in the British Isles, boasting 9,997 pipes!
The Hall has played host to numerous musical acts throughout the decade as well as being used as somewhat of a showroom and an exhibition space. The first concert held here was on the 1st of May 1871 and was Arthur Sullivan’s On Shore and Sea. Since then the Hall has seen poetry recitals, rock concerts, motor shows, ballet and opera, circus shows and sporting events, Cirque du Soleil performances, wrestling (including the first sumo wrestling tournament to be held in London!), as well as being used for filming by people such as Alfred Hitchcock.
Perhaps most famously of all, the BBC Promenade Concerts (“The Proms”), an eight-week summer season of daily classical music concerts, has been held in the Hall since 1942. Annnually the Classic Brit Awards are held in the Hall as is the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance. Imperial College London, the Royal College of Art as well as Kingston University have used the Hall for their graduation ceremonies and the Hall has also hosted numerous film premiers: Skyfall and Titanic 3D being just a couple.
The original plan for the building was for it to be named The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences. However, the name was changed by Queen Victoria as a dedication to her late husband, Prince Albert. She made the name change on the laying of the foundation stone and although today it is commonly referred to as the Royal Albert Hall, the full name of the venue is the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences.
Facts and Figures
- Major Axes: 83m (272ft)
- Minor Axes: 72m (236ft)
- Dome Height: 41m (135ft)
- Capacity: Up to 9,000 although modern safety restrictions place it at a firm 5,544
- Mosaic Frieze: Running along the outside of the building depicting “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences”
Inscription: 12in letters running around the dome of the Hall read: This hall was erected for the advancement of the arts and sciences and works of industry of all nations in fulfilment with the intention of Albert Prince Consort. The site was purchased with the proceeds of the Great Exhibition of the year MDCCCLI. The first stone of the Hall was laid by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on the twentieth day of May MDCCCLXVII and it was opened by Her Majesty the Twenty Ninth of March in the year MDCCCLXXI. Thine O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty. For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine. The wise and their works are in the hand of God. Glory by to God on high and on earth peace.