This Grade II-listed, art-deco jewel of a building officially opened in July 1878, to provide an entertainment space "especially desirous during inclement days" - not that Blackpool has many of those, of course. The Winter Gardens are vast, occupying 4.9 acres of central Blackpool and made up of 12 venues, including the 3,000 capacity Blackpool Opera House and the grand Empress Ballroom, And it’s only set to get bigger, with a museum and conference centre also planned for the future. The venue has seen many famous faces over the years, from politicians to huge stars like The Beatles. And, if you’re planning on following in their footsteps, rest assured there’s a Premier Inn near the Blackpool Winter Gardens to get your visit off to a great start.
Winter Gardens dome roof
With so many different venues under one roof, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer size of the Winter Gardens. Luckily, we’ve got all the information you need to help you find your way around.
There’s an eclectic mix of theatre shows, musicals, concerts and comedy on offer, with past performers including everyone from Peter Kay to the Pet Shop Boys. Long-running events include Illuminasia - a walk-through light show covering hundreds of square foot in the Olympia exhibition hall - and the Blackpool Dance Festival - held every May in the Empress Ballroom.
There are two main entrances, one on Church Street and one on Coronation Street, opposite the Houndshill Centre. Once inside, the venues are on different levels. On the ground floor you’ll find the Opera House Theatre, Empress Ballroom, Pavilion Theatre, the Arena and the Olympia exhibition hall. Head upstairs to the first floor and you’ll find the Spanish, Renaissance and Baronial Hall.
Although it’s a listed building, the Winter Gardens has made great efforts to ensure all its 12 venues are fully accessible. There are lifts available to take you to all levels, disabled toilets throughout the venue and dedicated wheelchair spaces provided in both the Empress Ballroom and Opera House Theatre. If you’re driving, there are blue badge parking spaces on Adelaide Street, at the back of the Winter Gardens.
Eating and drinking
There are a range of great places to eat and drink at the Winter Gardens, and a raft of options outside the venue too. Here’s our pick of the tastiest. There are bars and cafes throughout, but for coffee, cake or afternoon tea in the most glamorous of art deco surroundings, head to the Mazzei Cafe. The Theatre Bar is a great spot for a gourmet burger, while there are some excellent show and dine deals to be had at the Empress Grill where a three-course meal can be added onto your ticket - expect fine dining and a suitably dramatic decor.
If it’s fish and chips you’re after, you’re in luck, because just around the corner on Topping Street is Yorkshire Fisheries, consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Blackpool. The freshest local catches, cooked to order in a light batter - no wonder it’s always packed full of hungry locals. Another good option nearby is Cedar Square’s Piazza Italia for remarkably authentic Italian fare and vino.
Be on the lookout for the 8ft bronze statue of comedy legends Morecambe and Wise. Unveiled in 2016, the duo were said to have performed in Blackpool over a 1,000 over the course of their careers - and those closest to the pair dubbed the Winter Gardens their ‘spiritual home’. The Eric and Ernie statue is free to view during opening days - you’ll find it under the Dome at the Church Street Entrance.
Getting to Winter Gardens
Being right in the centre of town, the Winter Gardens is very easy to get to, whether by train, car, tram or bus.
Leave the M55 at junction 4, then take the A583 into central Blackpool. The nearest car park is the multi-story facility at the Houndshill Shopping Centre (postcode FY1 4NY) just 150 yards from the Winter Gardens. This is a pay-on-return car-park.
By bus or tram
All bus services pass through Blackpool Town Centre, just minutes from the Winter Gardens. Even the tram can drop you just a five minute walk away. Get off the tram at North Pier then stroll up Church Street.
If you’re arriving by train, Blackpool North Station is just a 10 minute walk away from the Winter Gardens. From the station, walk towards the seafront, turning right onto Abingdon Street then right again when you get to Church Street.