Mancunians are mad about their music, so it’s no wonder the city has some of the best concert venues around. And one of its most prestigious is the iconic Bridgewater Hall. Widely regarded as one of the finest concert halls in the world, Bridgewater Hall is famous for its magnificent 5,500 pipe-organ - a huge blend of wood and burnished metal that dominates the back wall of the auditorium. Besides the magnificent organ, the acoustics here are the stuff of legend. The 2,400-seat auditorium is built on a foundation of gigantic springs and earthquake-proof bearings to prevent outside noise disturbing your musical enjoyment. And, as you’ll learn if you decide to go on a fascinating guided tour of the building, so effective is the sound-proofing that construction workers didn’t even hear the 1996 IRA bomb that broke every window in the city centre.
With such a pristine sound, it’s no surprise that world-class musicians from a wide range of genres flock to play here. Bridgewater Hall hosts over 250 performances a year and it’s not unusual to have Elbow, Kraftwerk and Iron and Wine performing in the same season. But it’s the classical musical programme the venue is best known for. Not one, but three orchestras - the BBC Philharmonic, Hallé and Manchester Camerata - call Bridgewater Hall their home.
If you’re coming to Bridgewater Hall to see a show, booking into a Manchester hotel means you can really make a night of it. The Premier Inn Manchester Central is only a minute’s walk from the iconic venue, and its extra-comfy kingsize Hypnos beds are ready and waiting whenever you want to bring the curtain down on your night out.
Showing a wide range of comedy, family and musical shows, there’s always something worth watching at the Opera House.
West End shows
Along with its sister venue, the Palace Theatre, the Opera House is the place to catch touring productions of shows from the West End. These are often spectacular with huge sets and special effects - and practically identical to what you would see in London. Some shows even premier here before they get to London, such as the Take That musical Never Forget and Ghost.
The Opera House is a great place to listen to music, with shows from tribute acts like Think Floyd, and celebrations of the work of Johnny Cash and the Rat Pack. If tributes aren’t your thing, you may also get lucky and see the real deal - like an Audience with Michael Bolton. It’s also the place in Manchester to watch opera, with magnificent productions of La Traviata and Madame Butterfly recent hits.
Live Peppa Pig shows, David Walliams plays and even child-friendly versions of ballets - there’s plenty of shows aimed firmly at younger audience members. The yearly pantomime is the highlight of the calendar of children’s events, although recent years have not been without controversy after a particularly raucous version of Dick Whittington raised some eyebrows in 2017.
Stunning past performances from the Northern Ballet company here have included the Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet and the Three Musketeers. The Russian State Ballet has also performed recently, with a haunting performance of Swan Lake. So too has the English National ballet who staged The Sleeping Beauty, and gave the opportunity for children to take part in morning workshops.
Get your drink, snack or ice cream delivered to your seat without having to queue, thanks to the theatre’s Ordertorium service. All you have to do is download the Ordertorium app - or just wave your menu in the air!
You’ve booked your Opera House tickets, but what can you expect when you get there?
You’ll find the Opera House at 3 Quay Street, Manchester M3 3HP. To book tickets, call 0844 871 3018 or visit the box office. This is open on performance days, 90 minutes before a matinee performance and two hours before an evening show. The box office closes 15 minutes after the last performance of the day begins.
The Opera House has a seating capacity of 1,920 spread over three levels - the Stalls, Circle and Gallery. There is no restaurant, but each level has its own bar, and the Stalls, the largest section of the theatre, has two. There are toilets available on each level but, as is often the case with older theatres, there aren’t many - expect to queue at busy times.
With space for 800 people, the Stalls offer the best seats in the house, particularly in the front to mid-centre section. Sitting in the mid-front of the 500- capacity Circle can be a great option for large-scale musicals when you want a wide view of the stage. The Gallery is the highest tier. You will be furthest from the stage, but you can get some bargain tickets if you don’t mind taking your glasses.
The Opera House has an infra-red sound enhancement system for those who are hard of hearing - you can borrow headsets for a £10 returnable deposit. If mobility is an issue, the venue recommends you don’t book the rear stalls which are hard to reach. There are two wheelchair space on row B of the circle, and an accessible toilet just outside the front circle entrance.
The Opera House is just on the edge of the Manchester quarter of Spinningfields and this beautiful area is well worth a wander around. Regarded as one of Europe’s most successful urban regeneration projects, it may be a business hub, but there’s also a fantastic selection of luxury fashion brands to browse, public art pieces to peruse - and restaurants and bars to enjoy when you need a breather. There’s also an outdoor cinema that’s great for sunny days.
The Spinningfields area has its fair share of cultural attractions too, being home to the majestic John Rylands Library and the People’s History Museum. Both of these are free to enter.
While you won’t find a restaurant at the Opera House, there are four bars serving a wide range of drinks and snacks. For pre-theatre dining, you’ll have to go further afield - but as you’re in the centre of the city, all of Manchester’s top bars and restaurants await. The only problem is choosing one!
Tapeo & Wine
A stroll from the Opera House, this stunning tapas restaurant looks classy, with its traditional Spanish tiles contrasting with the exposed copper pipework. But it’s not just the decor that wins it such rave reviews. There’s excellent service and a menu crammed with authentic Valencian food. In fact there’s so much to try you’ll want to order it all - and because it’s reasonably priced, you can! Choose smaller plates like the lobster croquettes or go for larger portions, like the chicken and rabbit paella. Treat yourself to a white Rioja from the handpicked wine list - or even be daring and go for a Spanish liquor from the well-stocked bar.
If your night at the opera calls for a top-notch meal beforehand, Tattu is one of the best restaurants in the city. It’s so good that Justin Bieber ate there two nights in a row when he was in the city! This high-end Chinese restaurant has a name (and decor) inspired by tattoos and body art. Inside, it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful with a cherry blossom tree that you can dine underneath. Try a cocktail made with exotic ingredients like chrysanthemum, then it’s on to the food. There’s whole fried sea bass, topped with a fiery Szechuan pepper and Shaoxing wine sauce and the most delicious wild mushroom spring rolls you’ve ever tasted.
You’ll find the Opera House on Quay Street, close to the Peter Street and Deansgate areas of the city.
The nearest car park is the NCP in Spinningfields and the code for your sat nav is M3 3BE. Theatre-goers can get a discounted rate - you just need to validate your parking ticket at the cloakroom.
The Opera House is close to all major city centre bus routes. You can also take the free Metroshuttle bus from Victoria or Piccadilly stations. It stops on Peter Street (Manchester Central) and Quay Street.
The Opera House is handy if you’re arriving by train, as Manchester’s main station, Piccadilly, is just a mile away. Deansgate Station and Oxford Road station are also close by, and both are a 10 minute walk.
Hopping on a tram? The nearest stop to the venue is at St Peter's Square which is a 7-minute walk away. The other option is the Deansgate-Castlefield Metrolink stop, which is around a 10-minute walk away..
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