Date of birth: 10 April 1867.

Building: gold and red 19th-century rococo with a flying-saucer of a dome.

Brief history: built in memory of Prince Albert, with funds from both the Great Exhibition and the public. Seats were sold at pounds 100 each on a 999 year lease. A pair of stall seats today will set you back pounds 24,000. A whole box was on sale last year for more than a quarter of a million. During a soundcheck in 1871, an echo was discovered. Various adjustments have been made (mostly in vain) to solve the building's age-old acoustic problem: in 1874 the velarium was lowered; in 1942 additional curtains were added and in 1969 "fibreglass acoustic diffusers" (ie the upside- down mushrooms) were installed. The composer Beecham is reported to have said: "the Albert Hall has 100 uses but music is not one of them."

Uses: varied. Everything from the overdressed and overblown Proms, to Eric Clapton's annual visit, to circuses, to Christmas carols, to Remembrance Sunday concerts, to the bizarre Poetry Olympics.

Recommended seats: there are, therefore, no "best" seats. For vision, take a box in the lowest circle; for audibility, the stalls.

Strange but true: in recent years on 2 Nov, between 1 and 2am, there have been sightings of the ghosts of two ladies in Victorian dress, chattering and giggling, passing through the doors of the kitchens. In 1990 Jasper Carrott was said to have shared the stage with a ghostly heckler.

Current event: Cirque du Soleil's Alegria, a high-octane circus, nightly to 25 Jan (not Mon). Tickets pounds 23.50-pounds 45. All bookings on 0171 589 8212.

Where to meet: there's a bar on every floor. Wine pounds 2.50 per glass.

Transport: South Kensington tube or buses 9, 22, 49 and 52. Liz Spiers