A guide to… The O2, London
London’s The O2 arena, at first, seems like a daunting place. As one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the United Kingdom, as well as the arena with the second highest capacity in the country (at 20,000, coming just behind the Manchester Arena at 21,000), you’d be forgiven for expecting to be slightly overwhelmed by the vastness of The O2 during your first visit.
Luckily, and a little surprisingly, it’s actually by far one of London’s most convenient and accessible venues – a necessity, perhaps, considering the size of the shows and crowds in attendance. Read on for everything you need to know about The O2.
What’s it all about?
The iconic venue, with its recognisable white dome shape and yellow spikes, is London’s busiest entertainment venue. The huge arena plays hosts to everything entrainment, from music’s biggest world tours to well-known sporting occasions.
The O2 originally started life as the Millennium Dome in 1999, which celebrated the start of the third millennium. In 2007, The O2 opened its doors as we now know it. The first concert was by Bon Jovi, and it’s carried on rocking ever since.
How do you get to The O2 arena?
Getting there is a breeze – The O2, located in Greenwich, is slightly out of the way, but it’s not lacking in travel connections.
The Jubilee Line, which passes straight through Central London, stops at North Greenwich, which is a mere thirty-second walk from the entrance of the arena. A multitude of bus routes stop at that same station (you want to be getting the 188 if you’re coming from the middle of London itself).
If you’re after a more scenic route, the Thames Clippers go direct every thirty minutes from the London Eye straight to The O2, starting from three hours before the event. Cabs are an option, too, and the station has a taxi rank, though considering The O2 is some way out of Central London, don’t expect a cheap fare.
Once you’re inside, getting around couldn’t be easier. There’s only one entrance and it’s hard to miss. Just inside the doors, there are a couple of maps detailing the layout of the whole arena. The entrance hall is the place to be for cash machines, merchandise, the box office and, ultimately, heading into the inner arena itself.
Why visit The O2?
Aside from attracting the biggest names in music, sport and entertainment, The O2 might well be the best venue in London for pre-gig stuff to do. There are countless restaurants, everything from Nando’s to Gaucho, and the arena also has its own cinema and bowling alley.
It’s actually worth just wandering around the place and soaking up the atmosphere if you’re at a loss for something to do, though be warned – the outer path around the arena isn’t completely circular, so be prepared for some backtracking.
What’s the view like at The O2 arena?
The arena itself is pretty huge, but, fear not – there aren’t really any areas in the arena with poor views. The floor area does occasionally have a seated system, rather than standing general admission, and views towards the back of the floor tend not to be the best.
If you think the gig you’re going to is going to be seated, and you want to be down on the arena floor, try to book in advance. That said, even during full-seated gigs, people get up out of their seats and push further towards the barrier, so don’t worry if your seats aren’t the best.
If you’re lucky enough, there’s also a VIP seating area with a private bar just above the stage and numerous boxes scattered around the arena where you can have a private party.
FOOD & AMENITIES.
Food choices are in abundance at The O2. Restaurants and swanky bars can be found on the ground floor. Most places don’t take bookings during show days, so head down earlier if you want to eat beforehand.
If you don’t fancy a sit-down meal, you’ve still got a range of food and drink vendors to choose from. The upper levels are littered with bars and some fantastic food stalls. Just don’t expect a bargain, especially when it comes to booze – you’re going to be paying over £4.90 for a pint or, in some cases, a 330ml bottle. If you want to drink, you might be better off in one of the bars downstairs.
How do I get tickets for gigs?
The best way to get tickets for events at The O2 is to sign up to O2 Rewards if you’re on the O2 network. Signing up will grant you access to exclusive presales, which means you can get tickets ahead of the event’s public on sale (usually 48 hours before).
Anything to do after?
Once the show’s over, you can use your ticket to get free entry to Brooklyn Bowl downstairs for The O2’s official after party (for a bit of food, partying or even bowling). The arena’s early curfew means most shows have an early finish, too, so there’s no rush to get anywhere since the tube doesn’t stop running until after midnight, and the 188 bus back into London runs all night.
This is worth keeping in mind considering the lack of exits to the arena means congestion starts to seriously build up at the end of a show. If you’re in the thick of it, don’t expect to be making that walk from The O2 entrance to the station in thirty seconds.
So after the show, take your time – some restaurants and most of the bars downstairs will still be open – and travel back into London later on. Let the crowds do their thing and go have a drink or ten. It’ll be a relaxing way to end what hopefully will have turned out to be a surprisingly relaxing gig experience.
For the explorer in you. If you ever wondered how cool it would be to see a 360 view of London, The O2 might be able to help you out. You can now harness up and climb across The O2, where you will take in the breath-taking views of surrounding Greenwich and learn about the sights of London from your climb guide.