What to expect at the Glyndebourne Festival

What to expect at the Glyndebourne Festival

This quintessential English summer event takes place during May - August within the grounds of an estate owned by the Christie family, in the County of East Sussex, and Glyndebourne is the name of the English country house within the grounds.

A large element of making the most of the event is to leisurely enjoy the grounds with champagne in hand and picnic at the ready.


However, whilst some may say I am a little pessimistic, I like to think more along the lines of a realist when it comes to the English summer weather!

When I attend I enjoy a glass of champagne and a stroll around the grounds before the performance, but I forego the picnic and reserve a table at one of the indoor restaurants instead.

So here are my top tips for making the most out of your Glyndebourne experience:

Getting there:

The traffic is normally fine, unlike some events e.g. Royal Ascot.

Parking is free and on-site. Getting away at the end of the evening can take a little while but it is very well organised.

The nearest train station is Lewes where there are regular shuttle buses to Glyndebourne, which is about 10 minutes away.

A good time to arrive is about 1 – 1.5 hours beforehand, which will give you enough time to enjoy a picnic or a glass of bubbly before curtain up.

What to wear:

The website states that ‘Formal Evening Dress’ is customary but, ladies, this is not as straight forward as it first appears:

A full-length black evening dress will be too much and a cocktail dress is too formal. Remember, you will spend a great deal of time standing on grass so aim for wedge shoes or even decorative ballet flats. The most suitable outfits are summer, flowy dresses, think Coast or Monsoon, paired with a lovely pashmina (it gets chilly in the auditorium).

Many gentlemen dress in Black Tie and some opt for cream jackets. I would normally err against this as there is a chance they could be mistaken for a waiter! However, in this environment they look very nice. Black Tie is not mandatory and some gentleman opt for a linen suit teamed with a panama hat.

Options for dining:

If you decide to have faith in the English summer weather then a picnic is the most appropriate choice for this occasion. If you are comfy sitting on the grass then you simply need to roll up with your picnic blanket and hamper and find a location on the grass area, overlooking the South Downs and resident sheep.

If you prefer a little less damp and a little more comfort then ensure you pre-book a picnic table and enough seating for you and your guests.

For those more sceptical of the English weather then the restaurant dining experience, which occurs in the long interval, is a good option.

There are several restaurants to choose from and pre-booking is essential well in advance.

Check how many intervals there are for the performance you choose. There may be one long dining interval which works well if you have selected a three-course dinner.

If the weather is kind to you this event is absolutely magical.

Photo credit: Glyndebourne