Address: 5 Kensington Road, Kensington, London SW7 2AN, UK


Time: Varies

Phone: 0207 589 8212, 0845 401 5045

Entry Price: Varies


3200m from Victoria

1150m from Gloucester Rd/South Kensington

After the success of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Prince Albert, husband and consort of Queen Victoria, became keen to build permanent facilities for Arts and Science. He’d put a host of plans together when he died of typhoid in 1861 aged 42.

He was dearly loved by the Queen and arrangements were made for a fitting memorial in Kensington Gardens with a nearby hall built on land purchased with the profits from the exhibition. Whilst a hall in the area was Albert’s idea, his death meant it lacked drive. Henry Cole, one of the Prince’s collaborators at the exhibition took the reins and as he distrusted architects, he gave the job of designing it to Royal Engineers Captain Fowke and Lieutenant Scott. Their design was inspired by Roman amphitheatres.

Cole worked tirelessly to raise funds which despite the original 30,000 building capacity being reduced to 7,000 proved quite a task, but he achieved it and in 1867 Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone. The building was of red brick with a terracotta frieze around the circular top which supported a central glass dome. This had a steelwork frame and was the largest of its kind at the time. The dome was first erected in Manchester as a practice before being transported to London by horse and cart.

The Hall opened in 1871 and the Queen was too overcome to speak. The Prince of Wales said ‘The Queen now declares this hall is now open’.

Since then it has become one of Britain’s most famous venues with over 350 performances a year. These include classical concerts, rock, pop, opera and ballet. World Championship boxing and tennis have taken place and performers have included Rachmaninov, Wagner, Verdi, Elgar, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali. Speakers have included the Queen, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.

Due to its design and, perhaps more importantly, its royal background, this is certainly one of the greater London landmarks.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.