Discover Edinburgh Things to Do in Edinburgh Theatres Edinburgh Festival Theatre


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13/29 Nicolson Street,
Edinburgh EH8 9FT

Tel : 0131 529 6000




Established in June 1994, The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is the capital's leading venue for Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet and is undoubtedly the most popular of Edinburgh Theatres. This theatre stages contemporary choreography and dance, international ballet production companies, large-scale musicals and a plethora of one- night concert events.

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The Festival Theatre has experienced and eventful history, changing names and functions over the years. The original building opened its doors to the public in 1892 as the magnificent Empire Palace Theatre, lavishly designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham. The original theatre housed 3000 theatregoers in lavishly ornate surroundings. In 1911, disaster struck as a fire broke out during a performance killing 11 people.

Subsequently, Architects W and T.R Millburn reconstructed the venue re-using and restoring some of the original features. The theatre opened its doors in 1928 as The Empire Theatre and from 1947 -1963; this was a key venue to stage the Edinburgh International Festival from its beginnings. At the very first festival in 1947, The Empire staged all-time classic 'Sleeping Beauty' starring Margot Fonteyn and in the following years, The Old Vic, The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera were regular visitors to this significant Edinburgh theatre.

From 1963 to 1991, The Empire changed its functions and transformed into a bingo hall, however, it served as a temporary theatre for Edinburgh Festivals during this period.

The old Empire Theatre re-opened as The Edinburgh Festival Theatre in June 1994, its third incarnation. The auditorium has a smaller capacity of 1915 seats and has been beautifully restored to its former 1928 glory, featuring an eclectic mix of art nouveau, beaux arts and neo-classicism juxtaposed with an impressive post-modern glass fronted structure. The Festival Theatre in Edinburgh is proud of its heritage and its long-standing tradition of showcasing ballet and opera performances since its Empire days.