Begun in 1818, the Royal Opera House finally opened its doors in 1850 in time to celebrate the 20th birthday of Queen Isabel II, and it has seen some dramatic moments since. A partial collapse caused its closure in 1925, and an exploding powder keg during the Civil War meant it sat derelict for some 40 years. After extensive renovation, it finally reopened as an opera house in 1997 with Manuel de Falla’s La Vida Breve (Life Is Short). Today, it is one of the world’s finest settings for opera and ballet, with state-of-the-art technical capacity as impressive as its restored 19th-century grandeur. The best way to appreciate it is to attend a performance, of course, but a variety of guided tours are available, in English by request. They range from a general tour (with guide or audio guide) explaining the history, architecture, and workings of the theater—including a peek into the royal box—to more specialized, and expensive, tours dealing with technical and artistic aspects. During productions, you can even arrange to visit backstage once the final curtain has dropped.