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Lisbon’s majestic opera house: Our guide to all things Teatro Nacional de São Carlos

  • Find tickets and bookings going for a song from the box office or online
  • Go behind the scenes at Lisbon’s most stunning concert hall
  • What time of year to visit including details of the Festival ao Largo summer festival 

The Teatro Nacional de São Carlos is Lisbon’s stunning neoclassical opera house in Chiado. A hub of music and theatre, opera and dance, this historic venue is a must visit, whether you book seats for a performance or join a back-stage tour to find out more about its fascinating past. We’ve gathered all the info you need to help you plan your visit to the theatre while you’re in Lisbon.

Here's all you need to know ahead of your visit to Teatro Nacional de São Carlos

Here's all you need to know ahead of your visit to Teatro Nacional de São Carlos

History

After the devastating 1755 earthquake destroyed the Tejo Opera House and most of Lisbon, city businessmen commissioned a new building. In 1793, Queen Maria I opened the brand new Teatro Nacional de São Carlos and that 200-year-old building still stands today as the city’s premier spot for classical music.

Designed in the style of the grand concert halls of Italy, the 1,000-seater venue follows the principles of the Italian concert hall in its elliptical shape and five tiers of boxes. This results in impeccable acoustics and is an architecture-lovers’ dream. For the best experience, book a ticket in one of the boxes for a chance to really appreciate the architecture of the whole auditorium.

Location

In Chiado – the heart of historic Lisbon’s – the opera house has its home in one of the most elegant parts of the city, with neoclassical townhouses and pastel facades lining the streets. There are hundreds of bars and restaurants on its doorstep, and the theatre has its fine-dining restaurant and cafe attached. But Belcanto – Lisbon’s best fine-dining two-Michelin starred restaurant named after the Italian operatic singing technique inspired by the theatre – is next door.

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How to book

It’s best to book in advance as this concert hall attracts some of the most renowned and prestigious acts and shows in the world – so tickets often sell out. Book online, by telephone (+351) 213 253 045 or pop into the box office and book in person where you can pick up cheap tickets two hours before the show or buy returned tickets for sold-out events. Tickets for the boxes sell to groups only. Top tip: many people don’t know but there’s a discount for people under 25 and over 65 years old, you just need to present ID.

Make sure you arrive in plenty of time, once a show has started there is no admittance until the first interval.

What to see

There are three spaces used for performances: the theatre, which is the biggest and main space holding grand concerts; the Noble Hall, where you’ll often find recitals and smaller opera readings and the foyer, which hosts chamber concerts and informal gatherings and are often free.

The theatre is the permanent home of the Portuguese Symphonic Orchestra and the Choir of the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos – the only professional choir in Portugal.

For a musical extravaganza, it’s worth timing your visit with the Festival ao Largo, a musical arts festival which takes place every July with all events completely free. It’s a great introduction to choral singing, soaring orchestras and dance, taking place in the theatre and on an outdoor stage – making it accessible to the whole city.

When to go

Whether you’re interested in the theatre’s history or you want to see the theatre in action, there are various ways to visit. The best time to see opera is during the season running from September to June, when the theatre hosts a packed schedule.

In the summer months, during the Festival ao Largo, the theatre builds an outdoor stage in the plaza and hosts free concerts.

During the day, you can join a free English guided tour of the building, even venturing behind the scenes into the wings and backstage to get a real insider view. You’ll learn about the architecture, history and acoustics, or you can choose an artistic tour exploring set design and the creative process, or a technical visit for access the orchestra pit. On the nocturnal tour, see the theatre lit up at night. Whichever you fancy, you need to arrange the tour in advance by emailing the theatre or visiting the box office.

Box office opening hours: Monday to Friday, 1300–1900

Metro: Baixa-Chiado

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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