London

The Ultimate Guide to visiting the National Theatre

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4.6 Stars out of 5 based on 1069 Reviewsarrow

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Open: Mon - Sat: 9:30AM to 11:00PM

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Price: £18

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Time Needed: 2,5 hours

Some believe that London’s National Theatre is the greatest theatre in the world, and rightfully so. With four different auditoriums showcasing up to 25 different shows a year, not to mention a strong presence in London’s West End theatre district, the National Theatre (also known as the Royal National Theatre) has become a haven for theatre fanatics from all over the world.

Perched on the South Bank riverside, this massive theatre is also a learning centre which hosts theatre tours throughout the year, and even broadcasts to cinemas all over the world through its National Theatre Live Stream (which also plays free to UK schools).

Besides producing theatre performances and events of the highest calibre, the venue also boasts its own bookshop selling books, playtexts and gifts, as well as three different restaurants, a bar and daytime tours for visitors.

 

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National Theatre Highlights

Regardless of what type of performance you plan on seeing at the National Theatre, you are bound to be graced by some of the best acting, directing and producing on the planet.

Luckily for theatre fanatics, the National Theatre now offers four different tours to choose from:

  • Costume Tours – Where visitors can see how the National Theatre’s costume team prepares the theatre actors and actresses for performances using make-up, wigs, and costumes. During the tour, visitors will be led to the cutting room, wig room and dye shop.
  • Architecture Tours – On these 90-minute tours, visitors can hear more about the architectural design of the theatre, and be led both outside and around the building (not including the auditoriums).
  • Backstage Tours – Where visitors can learn more about the National Theatre’s dress rehearsals, prop preparation and costume making, and even be led to some of the more “unseen” areas of the theatre including the backstage area.
  • Family Tours – Where families can enjoy their own personalized backstage tour of the National Theatre, handle production props and even try on some costumes!

Special Tips

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If you don't have time to see a performance at the theatre, try and take a walk along the Shearling High Level Walkway (which can be accessed through the Dorfman Theatre foyer) and watch staff construct props for the upcoming performances.

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If you don't want to pay for a National Theatre programme, you an always pick up a cast list for free.

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Sometimes the National Theatre hosts performances that are a tad on the experimental side, so make sure you read the reviews of each show beforehand, or choose something that has been running at the theatre for quite some time.

Getting There

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Address

Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX, United Kingdom (See map).

getting there

By Tube

The nearest stations are Waterloo (a six-minute walk away), and Southwark (a nine-minute walk away).

getting there

By Train

The nearest station is Waterloo, which is a six-minute walk away.

getting there

By Bus

You can reach the National Theatre via routes 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 76, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 341 and X68.

Visiting National Theatre

To find out more information about the many events and performances being held at the National Theatre throughout the year, check the main page of their official website.

For more popular productions, you may want to head to the theatre extra early and start waiting in a queue outside the main National Theatre entrance. Be aware that there are different box offices for each theatre – so make sure you’re standing in line for the right one.

The National Theatre has restaurants cafes, bars and even an Espresso Bar located in the building, most of which boast seats which overlook the South Bank.

When to Visit

The National Theatre building is open from:

  • 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Saturday
  • 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. on national holidays

Although there are no performances at the National Theatre on Sundays, the kitchen, bookshop and box office are open from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the Understudy bar is open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There are a variety of ticket options to choose from depending on which performance you choose. However if you want to save money or if you’re on a budget, some of the many discounted tickets to take advantage of are:

  • “Preview” tickets (£15 to £18 per person) for some of the shows’ first performances at the venue
  • “Friday Rush” tickets (£20 per person) which are sold online every Friday at 1 p.m. for the following weeks’ performances.
  • “Travelex Tickets” (£15 per person)
  • Standing Tickets (£5 per person) which are only available for day-time performances after all other tickets have been sold.
  • “General Standby” tickets (£15 per person) which are available from 90 minutes before the performance.
  • “Reduced Standby” tickets (£15 per person) which are available from 45 minutes before a performance.
  • Standby Tickets (costs vary depending on the performance) which are only available just before the performance. These are subject to availability, however, and only available if there are any remaining unsold tickets.
  • The Costume Tours are only available on selected Saturdays at 10 a.m., costing £12.50 per person. For more information visit the National Theatre’s official website.
  • Backstage Tours run from Monday to Saturday and cost £9.50 for adults, and £8.25 for seniors and students.
  • The Architecture Tours are only available on selected dates between two and four times a week, and cost £12.50 per person.
  • The Family Tours last for approximately one hour, and are only available during the school holidays. Tickets cost £9.50 for each adult, and up to three children can go free. Be aware that children under the age of five are not allowed to enter the theatre.

The National Theatre’s car park is open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.

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