A Guide to Visiting The Historic Grand Opera House Belfast

Grand Opera House Belfast
Photos via Grand Opera House Belfast

The Grand Opera House Belfast has been an imposing city centre landmark since 1895.

Surviving WW2, local bombings and even the threat of demolition, this magnificent restored building now offers a full program of entertainment and fascinating behind-the-scenes tours.

In the guide below, you’ll discover everything from the Grand Opera House Belfast tour and how much it costs to what you’ll see while you’re there.

Some quick need-to-knows about the Grand Opera House Belfast

Although a visit to Grand Opera House Belfast is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location 

The main entrance is on on Great Victoria Street and the stage door is on Glengall Street. It’s a 5-minute walk from Belfast City Hall, a 25-minute walk from Crumlin Road Gaol and a 20-minute walk from the Botanic Gardens.

2. Opening hours

Box Office opening hours are 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday. The Opera House Box Office is also open during show times which vary according to the performance schedule.

3. The tour

Guided tours led by staff provide an insight into the theatre’s history. Go backstage, admire the magnificent restored auditorium, see photos and interactive exhibits in the Heritage Exhibition. Tickets cost £9.50 and can be booked online.

History of the Grand Opera House Belfast  

The Grand Opera House is one of Belfast’s iconic buildings. Designed by Frank Matcham, it was constructed on the site of Ginnett’s Circus and opened in 1895.

It has a magnificent auditorium, said to be one of the best surviving examples of oriental-style theatre architecture.

Reflecting the popular variety programs it hosted, it was renamed “Palace of Varieties” in 1904 but quickly reverted to its original name. Famous performers included Gracie Fields and Will Fyffe.

WW2 and Closure

During WW2 it became a Repertory Theatre with a Gala Performance attended by Eisenhower, Montgomery and Alanbrooke to mark the end of the war.

Between 1961 and 1972 it reverted to a cinema owned by Rank Organisation but closed during The Troubles. It was damaged by bombs on several occasions, mainly when the Europa Hotel was targeted.

Threatened with demolition, the building was purchased by the Arts Council and became a Listed Building in 1974.

21st century

The Grand Opera House Trust undertook renovations in 2006, adding a Baby Grand Performance Space, extending foyers and improving disabled access.

The Hippodrome Restaurant was added on the third floor along with a ground floor bistro which later closed.

Today the Grand Opera House Belfast hosts drama, musicals, comedy, opera and educational events as well as behind-the-scenes tours.

Things to do at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Grand Opera House Belfast
Photos via Grand Opera House Belfast

One of the reasons that a visit to Grand Opera House Belfast is well worth it is due to the wealth of history that the building boasts.

Below, you’ll find info on the theatre tours, the Heritage Exhibition and the various events that take place throughout the year.

1. The Heritage Exhibition 

Completed in 2021 with funding from the National Lottery, the Heritage Exhibition showcases the theatre’s history from construction to present day.

Learn about the architect, Frank Matcham, see photos of famous past performers, and enjoy the collection of memorabilia in the Stalls Foyer, Grand Circle Foyer and Bar.

Gods Foyer has a timeline and interactive exhibits allowing you to virtually go backstage and gossip in the dressing rooms! Admission is including with a Guided Tour.

2. Theatre Tours

The best way to take in this magnificent building and its history is on a guided tour. Led by knowledgeable theatre staff, tours last for 45 minutes with a further 30 minutes before the tour to browse the Heritage Exhibition.

Go behind the scenes, learn the colourful history of the restored theatre and meet past performers such as Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell and Charlie Chaplin.

Shorter Theatre Tours for families are available with stories aimed at 6-12 year-olds. Tickets cost £9.50 and can be booked online in advance.

3. Events 

Performances and events at Belfast’s Grand Opera House have something for every age, budget and taste. From Broadway musicals to modern classics, each season includes a wide variety of performances. Family events include annual pantomimes.

Register as a Bronze Friend to be first to get information about new shows. As a perk, you can book seats 48 hours ahead of general public availability.

Things to do near the Grand Opera House Belfast

One of the beauties of a visit here is that it’s a short walk away from many of the best things to do in Belfast.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Grand Opera House Belfast (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Belfast City Hall (5-minute walk)

Belfast City Hall
Photo left: Rob44. Photo right: Stephen Barnes (Shutterstock)

Belfast City Hall is one of the city’s grandest public buildings. Free guided tours are available. It stands in the Titanic Memorial Gardens with many monuments of famous Belfast citizens. It also hosts the Belfast Christmas Markets.

2. St George’s Market (11-minute walk)

st george's market
Photos via St George’s Market Belfast on Facebook

The lively St George’s Market is open Fridays through Sundays. As well as tasty food and live entertainment, you’ll find stalls selling fresh produce, baked goods, cheese, clothing, handmade crafts, jewellery and antiques.

3. Peace Wall Belfast (25-minute walk)

belfast peace wall guide
Photos via Google Maps

Constructed during the Troubles, the towering barriers of the Belfast Peace Wall divides the Falls Road and the Shankill Road. It’s home to some of the better-known Belfast murals and it’s best visited on a Black Cab Tour.

4. Food and drink

food in belfast
Photos via Maggie Mays Cafe on Facebook

There’s countless great restaurants in Belfast, regardless of where you fancy a bottomless brunch or some of the best coffee in Belfast, there’s something to tickle most tastebuds. There’s also lots of pubs in Belfast.

FAQs about visiting Grand Opera House Belfast

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from how big is the Grand Opera House Belfast to how to find out what’s on.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Grand Opera House Belfast worth visiting?

Yes! The tours here are well worth doing as the building is home to a wealth of history.

How do you know what’s on at the Opera House in Belfast?

Visit their official website for the most up-to-date info on the events taking place.

How much are the theatre tours of the Opera House in Belfast?

Shorter Theatre Tours for families are available with stories aimed at 6-12 year-olds. Tickets cost £9.50 and can be booked online in advance.

Elisha is a freelance writer, content creator and blogger and her work can be read in Lonely Planet, Remote Lands and Matador Network. You’ll usually find her travelling in offbeat places or hiking wherever there are mountains; always with a camera in hand.

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