Built in 1873 as North London’s answer to Crystal Palace – the cast-iron and plate-glass structure built in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 and moved the following year to Sydenham Hill in South London – this grand construction sits high on a hill overlooking the city, surrounded by 196 acres of parkland. Don't be fooled into imagining royal connections; ‘Ally Pally’ is a people's palace, used for conferences, exhibitions, festivals and the occasional rock gig and club night.
The building suffered the ignoble fate of burning to the ground only 16 days after opening. Encouraged by attendance figures, however, investors decided to rebuild, and it reopened just two years later. During WWI it housed German prisoners of war and in 1936 it was the scene of the world’s first TV transmission – a variety show called Here’s Looking at You. It burned down again in 1980 but was rebuilt for the third time and reopened in 1988. The original East Court Victorian theatre (1875) with its stage machinery is also now back in use.
Locals come to enjoy the sweeping views from the bar, whizz around the indoor ice-skating rink open year-round and choose veggies at the Sunday farmers' market (10am to 3pm).
The fireworks held here on Bonfire Night are some of the most spectacular in town, lighting up the city skyline.