An opera house is an important and luxurious part of cultural history, reflecting the style of its city and the traditions of its country. Historic iconic buildings of opera houses are never repeated and you will not find two identical opera houses in the world.

The art of opera still makes classical music lovers book flights to Europe to attend the best performances. In European cities, the level of opera has remained at a high level, and the architecture of theatres is still amazing. For all those who love this art form, we offer 10 of the most exquisite and ancient opera houses in Europe.

Hamburg, Germany. Hamburgische Staatsoper (1678)

The creation of the theatre in Hamburg began in 1677 on the initiative of the city government. Hamburg was a city that had not been destroyed by the Thirty Years’ War, so the local burgers had sufficient funds to organise their own opera stage. The theatre, called the “Oper am Gänsemarkt” (Opera at the Goose Market), was built on the site of the goose market and opened on 2 January 1678. Since then, the theatre has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, ceased to exist and was reborn again. On 2 March 1943, a bomb hit the theatre building, completely destroying the auditorium. In 1953, the dismantling of the ruins and new construction began, which was completed in 1955. In 2005, the current theatre building was completed.

England, London. Royal Opera House (1732)

Although this theatre has existed in one form or another since 1732, the current Royal Opera House, which stands in London’s Covent Garden, is the third incarnation of the building, which opened in 1858. The previous two were destroyed by fire. In the early years of its existence, the German-born composer Handel wrote many operas and oratorios specifically for the Royal Opera House, and during the Second World War, the theatre was used as a dance hall, after which it became home to the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House. In recent years, the theatre has hosted some of opera’s greatest stars, including Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland.

Italy, Milan. La Scala Opera House (1778)

One of the most famous opera houses in the world, Milan’s La Scala, was built in 1778 by Italian neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini. The theatre made its debut with Antonio Salieri’s two-act opera Europa Riconosciuta. Throughout its 250-year history, La Scala Theatre has hosted the greatest classical music talents. The La Scala Museum commemorates the opera house’s rich history with exhibitions of costumes, musical instruments, photographs and sets, as well as the Livia Simoni Library, which houses 150,000 volumes of libretti, scores, and periodicals.

Czech Republic, Prague. Estates Theatre (1783)

Founded by the Prague aristocrat Count František Antonín Nostíc Rinek in 1783, the Estates Theatre is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in Europe.  With its stunning white, gold, and blue hall, it is one of the most beautiful. In 1787, the theatre hosted the world premiere of Mozart’s famous Don Giovanni. Later, in 1791, his opera The Mercy of Tito debuted here. Scenes from the Oscar-winning film Amadeus by Czech director Milos Forman were filmed there for authenticity.

Ukraine, Odesa. Odesa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (1810)

The Odesa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is the oldest opera house in Ukraine and one of the oldest in Europe. It was first built in 1810, but in 1873 it was destroyed by fire. In 1887, the Fellner & Helmer company built a modern neo-Baroque opera house in its place. The last renovation of the theatre was completed in 2007. The prestigious hall recreates the French Rococo style. The facade of the opera house is decorated in the Italian Baroque style. In 2023, the Odesa Opera House was added to the UNESCO list.

Poland, Warsaw, Teatr Wielki (1833)

The Grand Theatre of Warsaw (Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera) is a theatre complex with its own opera and ballet company. It is located on the historic Theatre Square in the centre of Warsaw. It was built in 1825-1833 by Antonio Corazzi and inaugurated on 24 February 1833 with Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville. The theatre was completely destroyed by the Germans during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1965. It has two halls – a large one with 1,841 seats and a small one with 200 seats. Opera and ballet performances, concerts and celebrations are held in the theatre.

Austria, Vienna. Vienna State Opera (1869)

First built in 1869, the original Vienna State Opera was almost entirely destroyed, except for the Tea Room, the Schwind Foyer, the main facade, and the grand staircase, during Allied bombings in World War II. Fortunately, the opera house was restored and reopened in 1955 with a performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Today, the Vienna State Opera boasts the world’s most extensive repertoire, with over 300 performances of more than 60 operas and ballets throughout the season from September to June. Every year, it hosts the grand and glamorous Vienna Opera Ball, one of the most prestigious events in the high society of the Austrian capital.

France, Paris. Palais Garnier (1875)

The Palais Garnier in Paris, built between 1861 and 1875 by the French architect Charles Garnier, is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Its beautiful Beaux-Arts exterior, along with the grand facade adorned with busts of great composers such as Rossini, Beethoven, and Mozart, and its splendid copper dome, continue to welcome theatre-goers. Its lavish interior boasts a Neo-Baroque aesthetic and a magnificent horseshoe-shaped auditorium with frescoes depicting scenes from famous operas, created by modernist painter Marc Chagall and unveiled in 1964.

Hungary, Budapest. Hungarian State Opera House (1884)

Designed by renowned architect Miklós Ybl, the stunning Neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest was opened in 1884 and has remained virtually unchanged for over 130 years. Statues of famous Hungarian composers Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt greet visitors at the entrance to the opera house, while the interior reveals its full splendour: a marble-panelled foyer leads to the grand double staircase, often cited as one of the theatre’s most impressive features. Its three majestic floors are adorned with red and gold motifs that reach up to the bronze chandelier and a ceiling painted with frescoes by German-Hungarian artist Károly Lotz.

Romania, Bucharest. Romanian Athenaeum (1888)

The Romanian Athenaeum is a landmark of Bucharest. Its doors opened in 1888. It was designed by French architect Albert Galleron. Renovation to prevent the opera house from falling into disrepair was carried out in 1992. The Romanian government and the Council of Europe Development Bank each allocated 9 million euros for the restoration project. The venue features a small park and a statue of Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu. On the building’s first floor, there is an elegant conference hall. In 2007, the Romanian Athenaeum was listed as a UNESCO European Heritage site. Additionally, it is the main concert hall in Bucharest.

Source: The Gaze