I have a confession. I’ve been dreaming of going to Spain for years before I finally took a trip there. But what inspired me to go wasn’t the iconic Sagrada Familia basilica or the famously abstract house at Park Güell. Instead the image I fell in love with and dreamed about seeing was of towering golden balconies bathed in a soft glow of light dotted with rows of rich red seats. I wanted to see the Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House in Barcelona.
The Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of the largest opera houses in all of Europe. Its doors opened in April of 1847 on Barcelona’s La Rambla street, now a popular touristy destination. The theater has since burned down and been rebuilt twice, most recently in 1994. It seats 2,292 people throughout six levels in a horseshoe-like shape, a typical Italian-style theater that maximizes acoustics (but minimizes some visibility).
The modest facade of the building, one of the few remaining features from the original 1847 building, disguises the stunning size and amazing beauty of the theater within it. But even my first step inside blew me away; the Liceu’s lobby opens with a striking staircase contrasted with a black and white checkered floor and seafoam-colored walls.
The theater itself is even more amazing. Intricate gold details cover every surface, juxtaposed with thousands of red seats.
Surrounding the theater are other rooms, equally as beautiful. The Hall of Mirrors was my favorite. On the day I toured Liceu the room was set up for a small piano concert. On the night of the opera, the room was used as a bar where we drank Cava during intermissions.
On our last night in Barcelona, I saw my first Russian opera at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. I was surprised how fitting the Russian language is for opera (although I was thankful for the English supertitles on the chair in front of me, like at the Met in New York City). The production, however, was stale and awkward.
Even though I dreamed of The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona for months before I arrived in Spain (I even had my opera tickets before I booked my flight!), there was nothing like actually being inside the opera house. That view—that moment—is one that I will never forget.
Touring Liceu :: Even if you don’t plan to see an opera, taking a tour of Liceu is worth it. Guided tours are offered Monday-Friday at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. in Catalan, Spanish, French and English for 14€ and last 50 minutes. Express tours, lasting 20 minutes, are offered Monday-Sunday in Spanish, French and English for 6€. Tickets for both tours are available day-of at the ticket office. Or take a virtual tour online here.
Productions at Liceu :: Operas, ballets and concerts all take place at Liceu. The opera season runs September-July. I had tickets months in advance so I’m not sure what the availability is for last minute tickets. Prices vary per opera and range from 8,50€-220€ but make sure you check the seat’s visibility before purchasing (not all have direct views of the stage).