Whether you prefer the ballet or the opera, Shakespeare or Broadway, there's nothing quite like witnessing live theater. And these extraordinary theaters around the world add an extra layer of magic to live performances. Here are 10 beautiful theaters you don't want to miss on your travels.
Winter Garden, Canada
The botanical dreamscape that dominates Toronto’s Winter Garden was originally built in 1913 and restored in 1987 — after it was closed for more than 50 years. The branches woven into the ceiling and the watercolor artwork covering the walls were meant to invoke the vaudeville spirit, and that spirit lives on long after the decline of the oft-forgotten art form. The flora cascading from the ceiling transforms the space into a truly unique theatrical experience. Directly below the Winter Garden is the ornate Elgin Theater, which makes the complex the last operating double-decker theater in the world.
Teatro La Fenice, Italy
The Teatro La Fenice in Venice is a landmark of Italian theater and the history of Italian opera as a whole. Originally built in 1755, the theater still stands in all its glory and hosts a number of operas, ballets, and theatrical performances. Its name, which translates to “The Phoenix,” could not be more apropos — the theater has fallen victim to fire a total of three times over the course of its history, most recently in 1996. Despite mixed reviews on the newest iteration, the grandeur of La Fenice is undeniable.
Konzerthaus Berlin, Germany
This theater-turned-concert hall in the heart of Berlin was designed in 1818 by the famous Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel — it's one of the many timeless marks he left on German architecture. Built to replace a former theater that burned down on the site in 1817, the hall served as a center for political events during the Prussian era and was rebuilt as a concert hall following extensive damage during World War II. Today, the Konzerthaus Berlin is considered one of the best acoustical performance spaces in the world, and hosts an orchestra as well as many operas and theatrical performances throughout the year.
Central City Opera House, Colorado
Built by Welsh and Cornish miners back in 1878, this opera house was abandoned when the mining industry in Central City, Colorado, dwindled away. But following its restoration by volunteers in 1932, it now reigns as the fifth-oldest opera house in the nation. Formed on strong musical traditions brought by founders from their homelands, and designed by one of Denver’s premier architects at the time, the Central City Opera House has hosted summer festivals ever since its reopening. Names of prominent Colorado pioneers, performers, and supporters of the arts are even etched into some of the seats.
Minack Theatre, England
A tiny stage perched on dramatic cliffs, the Minack Theatre in Cornwall originally opened in 1932 when the lady who owned the land, Rowena Cade, decided that it would be a picturesque spot to put on theatrical performances. The theater hosted performances each summer, while Rowena worked each winter making improvements to its infrastructure and design. Minack Theatre is now open for a full performance season each summer, and traveling theater companies from the United Kingdom and the U.S. put on cliffside plays with the beautiful backdrop of Porthcurno Bay.
Bolshoi Theatre, Russia
The world-famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy can trace its roots to this grand Moscow theater, first built in 1776 with the permission of Catherine the Great. The performances it has hosted over the years have left an indelible impact on the history of performing arts in Russia — so much so that Bolshoi Theatre has become a symbol of the country's artistry. The building has undergone several extensive renovations and additions in its time, lending to the three different architectural styles present. The Bolshoi has hosted many historic premieres in Russia, including operas by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
Tampa Theatre, Florida
As soon as you set foot in the Tampa Theatre, you're surrounded by a fantasy land of a Mediterranean courtyard under glittering stars. Designed in 1926 as a movie palace (one of the many large, elaborately decorated movie theaters of the time), the theater was saved from demolition by a dedicated community in love with its unique personality. Audience members can continue to surround themselves with the romance of flowers, statues, and a beautiful night sky while watching films and live performances.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Greece
This open-air theater built into the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens has been around since roughly 160 CE. Although it was built in Greece, the amphitheater is distinctly Roman in architecture since it was built during the reign of the Roman Empire. Seated on one of the marble benches today, it’s easy to imagine yourself as an audience member in ancient times. Today, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus hosts some of the world’s most popular performers, as well as festival performances, ballets, operas, and theatrical productions.
Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico
The unique jigsaw of various turn-of-the-century architectural styles makes the Palacio de Bellas Artes one of the most strikingly beautiful buildings in all of Mexico City. The inside of the hall is covered in murals from various artists, while both the facade and interior are adorned with delicate sculptures. The stained glass “curtain” along one wall creates a stunningly unique ambiance in the theater. Not one to discriminate in architectural style or artistic genre, the Palacio has played host to performances and exhibitions in music, dance, theatre, opera, literature, painting, sculpture, and photography.
This floating open-air theater on the surface of Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria, has transformed into a series of magnificent stages each summer since 1946. Constructed in the aftermath of World War II, the Seebühne plays hosts to grand operas performed on wildly creative and memorable sets. From a massive open book looked over by a partially submerged skeleton to a Chinese castle with rows of clay soldiers marching into the water, each set is uniquely tailored to its production. The performances are part of the Bregenz Festival, which takes place every summer in July and August.