6 Spectacular Theaters in Europe (By Rail)
Theaters are powerful places. And I’m not talking about movie theaters with booming surround sound and comfortable leather seats. I’m talking about the kind with stages, effortless acoustics, actors and actresses, live performances, and, at least when it comes to many in Europe, ornate interiors and dramatic façades. There are dozens of incredible theaters in Europe that you can easily reach by train. Here are a few stages worth going out of your way for, whether there’s a live performance or not.
Theaters in Europe
1. The Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus – Düsseldorf, Germany
This German theater dates back to 1818. It was originally a gift from King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, and he presented it to the people of Düsseldorf as a fairly elaborate gift. A modern theater replaced much of the original in the late 1960s, but it stands on the same site. The new design was chosen in a German competition, and it’s an impressive attraction in its own right.
More information: www.dhaus.de (in German)
How to get to Düsseldorf by train: Düsseldorf is in western Germany. There are easy train connections to the main station from the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. There are also regular trains from throughout Germany.
2. Salle Richelieu – Paris, France
The Salle Richelieu, also called La Comédie Française, was built way back in the late 1600s. Like other theaters in Europe, this beautiful location offers throwbacks to an altogether different era. Inside there’s even a grand staircase lined with busts of key players from the theater’s past. Other items include paintings, artifacts, sculptures, and objects relevant to the history of French theater, making this a living museum.
More information: www.comedie-francaise.fr (in French)
How to get to Paris by train: Paris is a major rail hub with regular trains throughout France and the rest of Europe. Trains arrive at one of eight stations depending on the destination of departure.
3. Palais Garnier – Paris, France
If you’ve read or seen the Phantom of the Opera, you might remember Palais Garnier as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s famous novel. In its day (the mid-1800s), it was the most expensive building in Paris. This is opulence is still present both inside and out. The interior is all about ornate light fixtures, artworks, and even bronze busts, which turn this into one of Paris’s most intriguing attractions.
More information: www.operadeparis.fr
How to get to Paris by train: There are regular trains to Paris’ eight railway stations from within France and beyond. The closest train station to Palais Garnier is Gare Saint-Lazare, which is a 10-minute walk away.
4. Baroque Castle Theatre – Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
The Castle Theatre in the Czech city of Cesky Krumlov is a baroque marvel. It also still houses some of its original equipment and features from the mid-1700s. The setting is as elaborate and theatrical as anyone could wish for. A visit here is an experience in itself, even in the absence of a live performance.
More information: www.castle.ckrumlov.cz
How to get to Cesky Krumlov by train: There are regular trains to Cesky Krumlov from Prague, which take approximately 90 minutes.
5. Great Theatre – Epidaurus, Greece
There’s a somewhat understated grandeur to Greece’s Great Theatre. This has everything to do with the fact that it dates back to 340 BC. It may lack the frills, glitz, and glamour of many you’ll find elsewhere in Europe, but spend some time here and you’ll start to see an ancient marvel come to life. Although it’s more of a historical relic than an established venue these days, the roofless theater mixes perfectly with the natural surroundings. It’s not hard to imagine an ancient performance with ornate costumes, detailed sets, and theatrical rituals captivating a packed crowd.
More information: www.epidavros.gr
How to get to Epidaurus by train: The closest train station to Epidaurus is in Nafplio. Trains from Athens take approximately 2.5 hours. From there, regular buses run to the town of Epidaurus.
6. National Theatre – Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is not short of grand buildings and important monuments, and the National Theatre is no exception. The initial concept and design dates back to 1844, but the building has seen several additions and upgrades over the years. As such, it’s as unique and dramatic outside as it is inside. Even if you don’t get to go in, a walk past the exterior is a worthy inclusion on any Prague itinerary.
More information: www.narodni-divadlo.cz
How to get to Prague by train: Prague is a major rail hub in the Czech Republic, with regular trains from throughout the country. There are also direct trains from major European hubs.
Europe’s culture and history is evident throughout the continent. Most centers have churches, monuments, and other buildings that reflect this. But there’s something magical about walking through the doors of one of these classic theaters in Europe. It will cement your travel memories of any extended Eurail journey.