The world’s most eye-catching theatres

From the Nutcracker ballet to A Christmas Carol, who doesn’t love a festive theatre trip in the winter? Plus, thanks to some impressive architecture and historic locations, often the theatres themselves are just as beautiful as the performances!

As the Christmas season draws near, we set out to discover the most beautiful theatres across the globe by conducting an eye-tracking study – to do this, we used a clever software that tracked how long each participant looked at an image of a theatre to determine the most appealing ones. And now, the results are in.

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The UK’s most beautiful theatres

Our study revealed that the Minack Theatre in Cornwall was the most eye-catching British theatre. Perched on Cornish cliffs overlooking the sea, this wonderful outdoor theatre dates back to the 1930s and hosts thousands of guests throughout the summer and winter.

Next on the rankings is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a staple of the London cityscape. With a complicated history of destruction and reconstruction, the Globe as we know it was opened in 1997 and has since hosted iconic plays by the Bard and other talented playwrights. Participants held their gaze for an average of 4.19 seconds on pictures of this theatre!

The Grand Opera House comes in a close third on the most beautiful theatres ranking. This impressive structure has long been an iconic attraction in Belfast and is the only theatre from Northern Ireland to feature in the top ten. Rounding up the top five are the Wales Millennium Centre in fourth place, and Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in fifth.

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Minack Theatre Minack Theatre
Millennium Centre Millennium Centre
Shakespeare's Globe Shakespeare's Globe

Rank

Theatre

Location

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1

Minack Theatre 

Cornwall 

5.69 

2

Shakespeare's Globe 

London 

4.19 

3

Grand Opera House 

Belfast 

4.11 

4

Wales Millennium Centre 

Cardiff 

3.715 

5

Royal Exchange Theatre 

Manchester 

3.215 

6

Royal Albert Hall 

London 

3.025 

7

London Coliseum 

London 

2.98 

8

Bristol Old Vic 

Bristol 

2.345 

9

Grand Theatre  

Blackpool 

2.16 

10

Glasgow Theatre Royal 

Glasgow  

1.555 

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The UK’s most beautiful theatres – inside

The inside of Shakespeare’s Globe takes the top spot for the most beautiful interior of all UK theatres. The curved architecture with red columns and balconies is indicative of the Globe’s 400-year history and helped make this one of the most visually appealing theatre interiors in our research.

Staying in the capital city, the London Coliseum pipped second place in our rankings. Famous for its domed ceiling, luscious red drapes, and gold detailing decorating the walls, the London Coliseum’s interiors evoke the royal tradition of the theatre. The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester comes in a close third, and anyone who’s seen its incredible interior will understand the appeal!

In fourth place is another London-based theatre with eye-catching interiors - the Royal Albert Hall. Commissioned by Queen Victoria and hosting an array of music icons on its centre stage, the unique dish-like ceiling décor might have contributed to the 3.67 seconds that participants’ eyes lingered on this theatre interior. Last, but certainly not least, the Wales Millennium Centre finishes off the top five most beautiful British theatre interiors.

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Rank

Theatre

Location

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1

Shakespeare's Globe

London 

5.06

2

London Coliseum 

London

4.65 

3

Royal Exchange Theatre

Manchester 

4.16

4

Royal Albert Hall  

London

3.67 

5

Wales Millennium Centre

Cardiff 

3.25

6

Grand Theatre  

Blackpool

2.69 

7

Bristol Old Vic

Bristol 

2.56

8

Grand Opera House 

Belfast

2.06 

9

Theatre Royal

Bath 

1.42

10

Glasgow Theatre Royal 

Glasgow 

1.08 

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The UK’s most beautiful theatres – outside

While there’s plenty to be appreciated from the inside of these theatres, the stunning architecture of their exteriors is also second to none. As the only British open-air theatre on the list, it’s apt that Cornwall’s Minack Theatre takes the top spot for exteriors. In fact, participants of our study were drawn to look at the Minack Theatre longer than any other British theatre on our list, be it outside or in. 

The Grand Opera House in Northern Ireland takes second place, followed by Shakespeare's Globe in third, the Royal Albert Hall in fourth, and the Royal Exchange Theatre in fifth.

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Rank

Theatre

Location

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1

Minack Theatre 

Cornwall 

5.69 

2

Grand Opera House 

Belfast 

5.49 

3

Shakespeare's Globe 

London 

3.32 

4

Royal Albert Hall 

London 

2.38 

5

Royal Exchange Theatre  

Manchester 

2.27 

6

Bristol Old Vic 

Bristol 

2.13 

7

Glasgow Theatre Royal 

Glasgow  

2.03 

8

Grand Theatre  

Blackpool 

1.63 

9

Theatre Royal 

Bath 

1.41 

10

London Coliseum 

London 

1.31 

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The world’s most beautiful theatres

Whether you’re planning a visit abroad during the Christmas break or next summer, there are some stunning theatres awaiting you around the globe. From unique, gravity-defying architecture to interiors with years of history, these incredible attractions have plenty to offer. Here’s what we discovered about the world’s most beautiful theatres – some of the results may surprise you!

On a winning streak, the Minack Theatre in Cornwall outperformed all others globally and was crowned the most beautiful theatre in the world according to our study, followed by the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The Disney theatre is best known for its unique curved architecture inside and out, which occupies an entire city block. If the sheer size was not eye-catching enough, the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s exterior is made of metal-clad panels that cover the entire curved façade of the building, which clearly drew the eyes of our participants.

Interestingly, the Sydney Opera House failed to catch the eyes of many, not even making it to the top 20 most beautiful theatres in the world. Meanwhile, the Dubai Opera came in third, the Guangzhou Opera House in China was the seventh most beautiful theatre in the world and Belfast’s Grand Opera House closely followed, ranking in eighth place.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus takes its place in the rankings as the ninth most beautiful theatre in the world. Locally known simply as Herodeon, the stone-made Roman theatre held the gaze of study participants for 4.04 seconds on average, and, unsurprisingly, is considered Athens’ most majestic stage. It stands today as a semi-circle orchestra of black and white marble overlooking the city.

The top ten ranking is closed by the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

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Dubai Opera Dubai Opera
Guangzhou Opera House Guangzhou Opera House
Odeon of Herodes Atticus Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Rank

Theatre

Location

Country

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1

Minack Theatre 

Cornwall 

England 

5.69 

2

Walt Disney Concert Hall 

Los Angeles 

USA  

5.03 

3

Dubai Opera 

Dubai 

UAE  

4.71 

4

Fox Theatre 

Detroit 

USA  

4.28 

5

The Winter Garden 

Toronto 

Canada 

4.27 

6

Shakespeare's Globe 

London 

England 

4.19 

7

Guangzhou Opera House 

Guangzhou 

China 

4.15 

8

Grand Opera House 

Belfast 

N. Ireland 

4.11 

9

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 

Athens 

Greece 

4.04 

10

Wales Millennium Centre 

Cardiff 

Wales  

3.715 

11

Gran Teatre del Liceu 

Barcelona  

Spain 

3.58 

12

Semperoper Desden 

Dresden 

Germany  

3.52 

13

Teatro Colon 

Buenos Aires  

Argentina 

3.395 

14

Vienna Operahouse 

Vienna 

Austria 

3.35 

15

Royal Exchange Theatre 

Manchester 

England 

3.215 

16

Palais Garnier  

Paris 

France 

3.2 

17

Royal Albert Hall 

London 

England 

3.025 

18

London Coliseum 

London 

England  

2.98 

19

Tampa Theatre 

Florida  

USA  

2.955 

20

Palacio de Bellas Artes  

Mexico City 

Mexico  

2.9 

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The world’s most beautiful theatres – inside

Nothing beats the magic of walking down a beautiful theatre hall before the show begins, and visitors of the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto Canada know this feeling all too well. The theatre won the hearts of our participants and took the number one spot for the most beautiful theatre interior in the world.

Losing out on the top spot by just one millisecond is the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Designed by Canadian American architect Frank Gehry, the inside of the theatre is marked by curved walls and ceilings, along with abundant cedar, oak and Douglas-fir. If that wasn’t enough, a unique 6,134-pipe organ is the centrepiece of the auditorium, nicknamed ‘French fries’. 

British staples like Shakespeare’s Globe and London Coliseum take spot three and four in the leader board of the world’s most beautiful theatre interiors, while number five is claimed by the Fox Theatre in Detroit. In 1987 the Fox Theatre went through an 18-month, $12-million restoration to restore it to its original glory, and less than two years later the Fox Theatre was designated a National Historic Landmark - its beauty and splendour remain to this day.

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Rank

Theatre

Location

Country

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1 

The Winter Garden 

Toronto 

Canada 

5.76 

2 

Walt Disney Concert Hall 

Los Angeles 

USA  

5.75 

3 

Shakespeare's Globe 

London 

England 

5.06 

4 

London Coliseum 

London 

England  

4.65 

5 

Fox Theatre 

Detroit 

USA  

4.49 

6 

Guangzhou Opera House 

Guangzhou 

China 

4.48 

7 

Royal Exchange Theatre 

Manchester 

England 

4.16 

8 

Tampa Theatre 

Florida  

USA  

4.05 

9 

Gran Teatre del Liceu 

Barcelona  

Spain 

3.85 

10 

Teatro Colon 

Buenos Aires  

Argentina 

3.72 

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The world’s most beautiful theatres – outside

When it comes to the world’s most beautiful theatres as seen from the outside, The Dubai Opera House outperformed all other theatres in our list, with its unique leaning architecture and large floor-to-ceiling windows offering a glimpse of the wonders held inside.

Number two in the rankings is the Grand Opera House. With brick laden exteriors and impressive cast stone along with a gold leafed statue of Mercury, the Northern Irish theatre is the delight of onlookers. Finishing the world’s top three most beautiful theatre exteriors is the Minack Theatre, holding the gaze of participants for 5.69 seconds on average. The seaside theatre is followed by the Semperoper Dresden in Germany, a city icon in the historic Old Town.  

Last to finish the top five is the Vienna Operahouse. Home to one of the best opera houses in the world, tourists who find themselves in Vienna will enjoy a stroll around the building that is as striking by day as it is by night.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall Walt Disney Concert Hall
Royal Albert Hall Royal Albert Hall
Palais Garnier Palais Garnier

Rank

Theatre

Location

Country

Av. fixation length (seconds)

1 

Dubai Opera 

Dubai 

UAE  

6.29 

2 

Grand Opera House 

Belfast 

N. Ireland 

6.16 

3 

Minack Theatre 

Cornwall 

England 

5.69 

4 

Semperoper Desden 

Dresden 

Germany  

5.39 

5 

Vienna Operahouse 

Vienna 

Austria 

5.05 

6 

Walt Disney Concert Hall  

Los Angeles 

USA  

4.31 

7 

Wales Millennium Centre 

Cardiff 

Wales 

4.18 

8 

Fox Theatre 

Detroit 

USA  

4.07 

9 

Odeon of Herodes Atticus 

Athens 

Greece 

4.04 

10 

Guangzhou Opera House 

Guangzhou 

China 

3.82 

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Methodology:   

36 world famous theatres from around the globe were compiled using desk research.

To conduct the research, a sample of 35 people were shown a series of images of the inside and outside of different theatres. By using eye-tracking software, the average length of time people spent looking at different theatres (average fixation time) was recorded. The average fixation time for the inside and outside of theatres was combined and averaged to give each theatre an overall score. For open-air/outdoor theatres, the average fixation time for the image of the outside of the building (which also shows the inside) was used.

Data collected from the study was used to rank the theatres from around the world, in order of the most eye-catching, and therefore most beautiful.