Most music and event venues don’t need their own information guide, but most events are not held up on Mount Olympus at multi-purpose 10,000-person venues. Alexandra Palace in London, or Ally Pally is it’s affectionately known, is a great event space hosting everything from concerts to sporting events, but the experience benefits from some advance knowledge.
What is Alexandra Palace?
Located in Alexandra Park which is relatively removed from the rest of civilization, Alexandra Palace was built as an entertainment and recreation center over 150 years ago. Conceived as a “Palace for the People,” it is still maintained to house a variety of cultural and entertainment events with a variety of year-round facilities including a skatepark and boating lake.
Getting to Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace is located 45 minutes to an hour out of central London on a hill that overlooks the city. The problem is that all the transportation options to Ally Pally are at the bottom of the hill – a good 15-30 minutes away. The closest train station is the Alexandra Palace station, half a mile away, and the closest tube station is Wood Green, which is a mile away. However, both are conveniently linked to Alexandra Palace by the W3 bus.
If you’re visiting for a concert or event, you’ll pass several stops that seem like they’re right outside the venue, like Alexandra Palace Park and Alexandra Palace Ice Rink. But you should resist the urge to to get off before Palm Court (even if everyone else does), because all the entrances will likely be barricaded except for the Palm Court entrance. This is also where the box office is located if you’re picking up your tickets in person. If doors haven’t opened yet, you will queue outside the venue.
All things considered, getting there is fairly straightforward, especially since most people arrive at the venue at different times. The venue will probably open two to three hours before the event and people will tend to arrive at different times.
The Ally Pally experience
Alexandra Palace is a massive structure and not all of it hosts the night’s musical or theater act or hockey game. The Festival Village before the main hall is a lively food court where you can pre-drink and eat everything from pizza to gyoza before the show. So you can also cut out the long lines at the entrance when you arrive last minute by just going for dinner before the show.
If you need to check a bag or coat for a small fee, you will also need to queue for the cloakroom. Note that the venue is cashless, so you’ll need to bring a card to pay for food, drinks, and the cloakroom.
Concerts and other events are held in the Great Hall of the building, which has a standing capacity of over 10,000 concert-goers. There are a couple of bars and food stalls in the rear of the hall along with toilets. If you want to use a proper toilet, the line for that will be never-ending for most of the night. But they also have portable toilets at the rear of the hall behind the main bar.
And how is a show at the legendary venue? Fun, loud, and crowded. They don’t allow bags larger than A4 at the venue, probably because maximum capacity barely gives you enough room to move, especially when everyone ditches the food hall to catch the main event. It almost feels like the capacity of the venue is determined by the whole building rather than just the Great Hall. If you checked a small enough bag or have a coat, you’re condemning yourself to yet another line on the way out. However, I think I speak for everyone getting slapped around by your parka while you jump around when I say, just check it.
Leaving Alexandra Palace
Ensuring a smooth concert experience at Ally Pally requires having an exit plan. Because when 10,000 people exit the venue at the same time after a sold-out show, the hike back to civilization is going to look like the last night at Coachella. The good thing is that the venue helps provide guidance and organization to what is otherwise a wildly inconvenient experience.
If you want to take the buses back to the train or tube station, you have to exit to the left and line up for the buses at the Palm Court stop. If you try to walk part of the way and catch a bus at one of the other stops, you’ll only see full buses passing you by.
If you exit right, you’ll be funneled into two lines. One for taxis and pick-ups and another for the walking dead who will be lumbering under the night sky for 20-30 minutes. Most people end up taking the trains from the Alexandra Palace station since it’s the closest, but you may also have to wait to board a train. If you decide to take the tube a mile away, there will be fewer people since many will have been weeded out by then, but you’ll also walk an extra 15 minutes.
An alternative to braving the traffic in a taxi or walking down the hill for 30 minutes is to just stay at the venue for a nightcap while it slowly empties. Ally Pally holds afterparties with plenty of booze and DJs at the Phoenix Bar.