London Drum

Guided tour of the Royal Albert Hall

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Royal Albert Hall Tour
Where? Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, Kensington When? Every day Tours usually run every 30 mins from 10 AM to 4 PM, but they sometimes end earlier because of events in the evening - check your date on their website beforehand Running time? Approx 1 hour Tickets? Adult £18.50; Senior (over-60) £16.50; Child (5-16) £10.50 See royalalberthall.com Not recommended for under-7s. Under-5s are not allowed during Proms season (mid-July to mid-September) Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 9, 10, 52, 70, 360, 452 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is South Kensington Circle District Piccadilly Train fares

Craig’s review… Prince Albert is the guy that King Charles secretly wanted to be when he grew up (he probably had old oil paintings of him hanging on his bedroom wall). But Charles lives in very different times to Queen Victoria's consort which made it all but impossible to follow in his footsteps. Imagine if he suddenly announced that he was going to splurge thirteen million quid on another Great Exhibition -- everyone would immediately start howling about how many more nurses we could hire and how many teachers could have a pay rise. Albert didn't have the hassle of that and thanks to him we ended up with the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal Albert Hall as our reward.

Sadly Prince Albert never got to see the Royal Albert Hall completed because it wasn't even started until six years after he died. It would have been finished sooner but Victoria blew all of the money on the Albert Memorial instead. But I'm getting ahead of myself here... you'll learn all of this on the guided tour.

What I recommend you do is book a time slot on their website and then turn up thirty minutes early so you can have a sit down in their cafe. They've got a couple of proper restaurants inside but I like the little walk-in place next to their box office because I like cafes where you can see the steam coming out of the coffee machine, and hear the clink and clatter of plates and chatter. The tourists are always very well-dressed in here -- everybody always dresses up for the Royal Albert Hall even when it's just a ten-pound talking tour.

Our group today consists of ten middle-aged adults (it's always middle-aged adults when I've been on this tour), and the first part is basically just us getting led around the corridors stopping off at a few pictures and paintings. This part always reminds me of walking round the Enterprise in Star Trek -- do you remember those big curving corridors that just went round and round in a never-ending bend? Walking around the Royal Albert Hall is a lot like that. And while we're being led around this endless curving corridor she tells us all about the building and how they funded it, how they built it, how many people have played here, how many seats they've got, how much it costs to watch something, lots of facts and figures like that, until eventually she pushes open a big double door and leads us into the empty arena...

What a sight. Some concert halls are worth visiting whether there's a show on or not. This building is better than a show. This building is the show. I get the same feeling walking in here that I have when I enter the big ballroom at Buckingham Palace.

Then she sits us down in one of the balcony boxes and tries to deliver her speech over the noise of the sound checks on the stage. They're busy setting up for tonight's show and we're watching them carry the scaffolding poles and pipes and planks around the arena to construct the runners for the cameras. All of the lights and lasers are going off and there are deafening tests and repeated 1-2-3s that make my ears ring.

After that she shows us the Royal Box and Royal Retiring Room, and finishes the tour by taking us up to the big ring that's situated above the balconies (above all of the seats, above absolutely everything except the roof). Most concert venues have their standing room at the front -- the Royal Albert Hall has their's at the top.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy Royal Albert Hall then you might like to visit Barbican Hall (catch a tube from South Kensington to Barbican), Royal Festival Hall (South Kensington to Waterloo) and Royal Opera House (South Kensington to Covent Garden). If you enjoyed this tour of the Royal Albert Hall, then check out my review of a Proms concert

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

tiny How long is the tour?

Craig Hi Tiny, the tour only lasts for sixty minutes. But I always recommend arriving early so you can have a cup of coffee in their restaurant

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