Bristol Hippodrome best seats stalls and across the auditorium – Finding good seats to suit you
When Frank Matcham designed The Bristol Hippodrome for Oswald Stoll, he excelled himself at making sure the sight lines throughout the entire auditorium were excellent. This is a theatre that you can sit almost anywhere and still see everything.
Backstage Bristol receives many messages across social media about show opinions, getting cheap tickets, what to watch and where to sit – especially at The Bristol Hippodrome. So, here’s our opinion about tickets and seating.
As with all large theatres, the prices for the seats increase dramatically the better the view you get. But this doesn’t mean that the cheaper seats are so much worse. You can get a good idea about how good the central view will be from their booking website which reduces their seat prices the further back you get and the further to the side you sit.
Ticket prices fluctuate wildly per show and per performance during a show’s run. I’ve recently bought an ATG TheatreCard Classic, which starts at £35. This means you get advance booking for shows, pay no transaction fees or booking fees, benefit from a discount on drinks before the auditorium opens as well as other offers. I’ve found it’s something that’s been worthwhile getting if you go to the Bristol Hippodrome frequently.
Other ways you can pick up cheaper tickets is to look out for a touring production’s special offers in advance. This might include daily lotteries which you can find out about by signing up for mailing lists to shows or following them on social media. In London, there are ticket apps such as Today Tix, which can get you into shows last minute very cheaply.
Previews tend to be cheaper, as do opening nights. Midweek matinees are a good shout for best seats at a cheaper price. With some large touring productions, a Wednesday midweek or Thursday or Friday matinee can be as good as half price on top seats. The quality of the show does not reduce simply because it’s a matinee. Otherwise, go for side seats in the auditorium or further back from the stage. The view is just as good.
If you really want to see a show that’s popular like Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera or Lion King, don’t delay in getting tickets, because the best seats and the cheapest seats go quickly.
The Stalls is the entire ground floor of the auditorium seating. The front of the stalls can sometimes restrict the view of what happens at the back of the stage, but this isn’t a massive issue if you like to be up close to the action. It can be really loud at the front sides because of the location of speakers and sound equipment, especially for pantomimes. This means it can be worth taking hearing protection if you have sensitive hearing. If you are struggling during a show, ask front of house staff for ear plugs.
In the front row in some performances, you may find leg room restricted by barriers erected to protect the audience from the orchestra pit.
A is no longer the front row for all shows. There is now an AA row in front and an AAA row in front again. They won’t be present for all performances, but the closer to the stage you get the more you will have to look up throughout the show. Some West End touring productions have really high set floors which can add further height to the stage.
With opera, the front rows can be removed as far back as G Row because of the size of the orchestra. If you need to see surtitles during opera, check with the box office if you will be able to see them from the seat you are buying. Usually, the surtitles will be above the stage, but companies such as the Welsh National Opera will position additional surtitle equipment further back in the stalls ,so those sitting under the overhang of the Grand Circle will also be able to read them if necessary.
The best seats in The Stalls are off the centre gangway from around Row J to Row L. This is reflected in the premium pricing. But generally, The Stalls features excellent views from everywhere. Once you hit the back third of The Stalls, you find the overhang of the Grand Circle starts to obscure the top of the stage so you will miss any action which takes place at the top. This isn’t an issue for most shows.
If you have long legs or find being boxed in by people in front of you difficult, Row P from seat 32 – 43 is behind the wheelchair access platform and does not have a row of seats in front of them.
Otherwise, aisle seats are the best bet. The new Stalls seating has slightly improved legroom by making the back of the new seats flat rather than curved. But this can make them a bit backachey at times.
If you have Access requirements, it’s always best to talk directly to the box office staff at The Bristol Hippodrome. The ATG tickets helpline can be really useful at booking tickets, but you won’t get the knowledge of those who actually work in the theatre.
For all mobility access requirements, the Stalls will always be the best place to sit with the seats on the left hand of the auditorium facing the stage. There is an Access door on Denmark Street that will bring you directly into the auditorium avoiding the foyer steps, busy environment and queues.
If you need an aisle seat, Row X, Y and Z can only be access from the centre gangway.
The Stalls steps are not steep and are fairly easy to navigate. There is a lift for wheelchair users to access the back boxes and a wheelchair ramp where needed. There will be a member of staff on the access side of the theatre at all times during the performance. The access door opens half an hour before the performance starts and it’s best to get there for as soon as it opens to benefit from all the time you need to get settled rather than rushed and stressed at the last minute.
Some productions will be signed, audio described and captioned. In these cases, sitting in very specific parts of the auditorium will be beneficial and it’s best to discuss seating requirements when booking tickets.
The Grand Circle is the middle tier of the auditorium. Row A has an exceptional view but has arguably the worst legroom per price in the entire auditorium. The overhang of the Upper Circle quickly cuts away the top of the stage as you sit further back, again this is not usually an issue. Potentially, the Grand Circle doesn’t quite have the same comfort of The Stalls and definitely not the same amount of legroom.
Grand Circle steps, particularly in the two inner aisle can be challenging for people with mobility issues. Sometimes when the incoming or outgoing is very busy, the stairs leading to and from the Grand Circle can create a bottle neck. It may be best to wait until most people have left the auditorium before leaving.
The Upper Circle is sometimes called The Gods. The view up here is excellent, but it is very high up and requires climbing quite a few stairs. The seats are padded benches with a low back rest, no arm rest and an easy ability to keep kicking the unprotected backside of the person sat in front of you. There isn’t a lot of legroom and it can get very hot and snug in the summer months.
A bonus of the Upper Circle is that the seats tend to be cheaper so you can see more shows for the same amount of money as a premium Stalls seat.
B Row is sold as restricted view because the safety rail falls in the eye-line. Row A has appalling legroom. The slip seats – the very side seats aren’t often in use, but can be extremely cheap. These have zero legroom and you will spend the whole show leaning forwards and looking to the side.
The steps down the two inner aisle of the Upper Circle are particularly steep and can be difficult for people with mobility issues, vertigo or difficulties with their vision because it feels really dark on the top floor.
If you hate being amongst crowds of people but need the ticket price of the Upper Circle, our recommendations are J54, K 52 or K0.
The Side Boxes offer a brilliant view of the auditorium, better so than the actual stage, so these are usually sold as restricted view. Don’t be too quick to discount these. Although you may miss things that happen in the extreme corner of the set, often, the restricted view is not as bad as you might think. There are steps to reach them, but they can be excellent for people with neurodiverse conditions such as autism who might need space around them.
The worst thing about the Side Boxes is that the seats are conference chairs. They’re not the most comfortable and you will be end up quite close to the people next to you if you want to catch all the action. This results in a significant amount of lost legroom because you will have to pull your chair up close to the edge of the box. This will be a lean to watch place to sit.
The side boxes are ideal if you struggle with large crowds of people, annoying people or misophonia triggered by people loudly masticating their theatre treats.
The Back Boxes are great for families that like to be more contained or for disabled patrons. You do miss the top of the proscenium arch due to the overhang of the Grand Circle. Often, this won’t be a problem unless it’s a show like Wicked, Mary Poppins or Phantom of the Opera, which features action right at the top of the stage.
ATG phoneline can be really good at booking tickets, but you cannot beat the local knowledge of the Bristol Hippodrome box office staff who are very knowledgeable about the theatre.