The Ultimate Guide to Theatre & Shows in London

London Theatre & Shows


London has been a destination for theatre-goers since as far back as the early 1800s, and many tourists venture to London for the sole reason of watching a performance in one of London’s classic theatres.

But perhaps more importantly, London’s theatre scene has become a staple in the city’s identity thanks to London’s illuminating West End theatre district, (often coined as “Theatreland”), and it is often said that one hasn’t truly visited London without seeing a classic theatre performance in London’s West End.

Strolling through the streets of London’s West End district, visitors will be flooded with visuals of different posters and billboards advertising various shows throughout the area. Not only that, all you have to do is go inside a London Underground station to see hundreds of posters of classical theatre performances lining the walls of the station. From musicals, classic recreations, stand-up comedies, children’s theatre, circus performances, opera shows and dance performances, no show genre goes untouched in London’s thriving theatre scene.

If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of what the London theatre scene is all about during your next trip to the English capital, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Where to watch a theatre performance in London

No doubt about it: When it comes to all the neighbourhoods in London, no area does London’s theatre scene better than the West End. (Generally speaking, London’s “Theatreland” stretches from Piccadilly Circus to Somerset House, and from Covent Garden to Trafalgar Square). So when it comes to finding a classic theatre venue in London’s West End, all you have to do is walk from one area to the other; (yes, it’s really that easy).

Theatre venues like Shakespeare’s GlobeThe Old Vic, the Barbican Centre, the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre are considered by many to be the top theatres in London. But the highly-rated theatre venues don’t just stop there.

The Young Vic is also a favourite for theatre lovers, as here you can discover some of the best up-and-coming talents in the industry. Others venues rated highly among theatre-goers include The Savoy Theatre and the Adelphi Theatre (both located on The Strand), the Apollo Victoria Theatre (near Victoria station), the Dominion Theatre (on Tottenham Court Road) and the Novello Theatre (in Aldwych).

There’s also a cluster of highly–rated theatres in the heart of London’s West End district, such as the Prince Of Wales Theatre and the Prince Edward Theatre (both on Old Compton Street) and the nearby Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Theatre, Queen’s Theatre and The Lyric Theatre (all on Shaftesbury Avenue).

The notoriously haunted Theatre Royal Drury Lane (on Catherine Street) is also worth a visit (if you have the guts for it…) and of course, watching a performance in Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre is a must during the summer months.

How to book tickets to see a theatre performance in London

One easy and hassle-free way to book tickets is to head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Square, which offer a variety of discount and/or full-price tickets for each and every theatre in London.

The TKTS booth is located near the clock tower building, and is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.

You could also purchase your tickets at each theatre’s box office which are usually open from 10 a.m. until about 30 minutes before the beginning of the evening show. There is no booking fee when you book your tickets through a box office, although if you book your tickets by phone them you may be charged a small booking fee.

Also, be very vary of purchasing your tickets from any third-party seller, as they can sometimes charge well over the initial cost of each ticket, not to mention some aren’t even reputable.

Planning your visit to a theatre in London

If you purchased your tickets either by phone or on the internet, it may be a good idea to collect your tickets at the theatre’s box office a few days before the date of the performance. If you can’t, then try to arrive as early as possible (or at least 30 minutes before the start of the show) on the day of the performance, as sometimes visitors will have to wait in a queue for lengthy periods of time to collect their tickets.

Although some theatre-goers like to dress-up in fancy clothes for performances, there is no official dress code when watching a show at a London theatre.

Please be advised that you will not be allowed to bring any drinks or snacks with you inside the theatre (although refreshments are available to purchase before the performance starts, or during each interval). You will also not be allowed to take any photos or record any videos during the performance as well.

Special tips

  • If you’re a student, make sure you take advantage of cheap, discounted tickets at theatre venues like the Royal Court, the Southbank Centre and The Royal Opera House.
  • Some theatres like the Barbican CentreThe Old Vic, The Young Vic, the National Theatre and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre also have great deals for theatre-goers under the age of 30.
  • If you plan on parking your car in a car park while you watch a theatre performance, make sure you sign up for the half-price Theatreland Parking Scheme which is offered by Q-Park. In order to do this, all you have to do is validate your car park ticket at the theatre, and the car park machine will automatically charge you half the price of a normal parking fee.