London's premier opera and ballet venue was designed in 1858 by E.M. Barry, son of Sir Charles, the House of Commons architect, and is the third theater on the site. The first theater opened in 1732 and burned down in 1808; the second opened a year later, only to succumb to fire in 1856. The entire building, which has been given a spectacular overhaul, retains the magic of the grand Victorian theater (but is now more accessible). The glass-and-steel Floral Hall is the
most wonderful feature; you can wander around and drink in (literally, in the foyer café) the interior. The same is true of the Amphitheatre Bar and Piazza concourse, where you can have lunch while looking out at a splendid panorama across the city. There are free lunchtime chamber concerts and lectures, as well as tea dances and occasional free jazz concerts, which go a long way to making this venue a great space for the common people.