Backing onto Plaza de Oriente, Madrid’s signature opera house took on its present neoclassical form in 1997 and, viewed from Plaza de Isabel II, it’s a fine addition to the central Madrid cityscape; in Plaza de Oriente, however, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the splendour of its surrounds. The 1997 renovations combined the latest in theatre and acoustic technology with a remake of the most splendid of its 19th-century decor.
There are a range of guided and self-guided tours, lasting from 50 minutes to 1¼ hours, including a post-performance nocturnal visit.
For all such modern magnificence, the Teatro Real does not have the most distinguished of histories. The first theatre was built in 1708 on the site of public wash houses. Torn down in 1816, its successor was built in 1850 under the reign of Isabel II, whereafter it burned down and was later blown up in the civil war (when it was used as a powder store, resulting in the inevitable fireworks).