With a ton of award-winning plays, performances and musicals, to a royal and Kevin Spacey connection, The Old Vic shouldn't be missed by any theatre fanatic during a visit to London.

Not only is The Old Vic one of the oldest theatres in London and one of the most famous theatres in the world, it's also become known as “The Actors' Theatre” thanks to jump-starting the careers of some of the best actors and actresses in British history.

The theatre now known as The Old Vic first opened in 1818 as the Royal Coburg Theatre, and was designed by architect Rudolph Cabanel. The Old Vic has gone through several refurbishments and name changes throughout its history, and was renamed as the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1833, the Royal Victoria Palace in 1871, and the Royal Victoria Hall in 1880 in honour of Queen Victoria.

Under the direction of Lilian Baylis (who acquired the theatre in 1912 after the death of her aunt, Emma Cons), The Old Vic became known around the world for showcasing countless Shakespearean productions such as Hamlet, Richard II, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Othello, just to name a few.

The Old Vic has also helped catapult the careers of countless successful British actors and actresses, and some of the many famous names who have once performed on its stage include Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson to Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, AlbertIan Mc Finney, Peter O’Toole, and many, many more.

In recent years, The Old Vic has become synonymous with the famed American actor, producer and director Kevin Spacey, who spent 12 years working as the Artistic Director for the theatre between 2003 and 2015. Under his direction, the theatre has put on countless highly-raved about productions such as Cinderella, The Taming Of The Shrew, Dancing at Lughnasa, Kiss Me Kate, and many more.

The Old Vic, Kevin Spacey bow. By Sally Crossthwaite The Old Vic, door. By James Butler
The Old Vic, audience. By Peter Morgan The Old Vic, at night. By Sarah Ackerman The Old Vic, sign. By Ania Mendrek

The Old Vic Highlights

There are several different performances held at The Old Vic throughout the year, and each performance usually runs for about one or two months.

But besides watching an unforgettable and award-winning performance at one of the most prestigious theatres in the world, visitors can now take a tour around The Old Vic with the Stage Door Manager Ned Seago, learn more about the theatre's most famous patrons, and even hear some ghost stories as well.

The tour covers some of the many famous actors and actresses who once worked at the theatre (such as Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey, and Laurence Olivier), and will lead visitors through the backstage areas.

Every December Ned also hosts the theatre's ever-popular Christmas Tour, where visitors can sip on a glass of mulled wine and munch on mince pie after taking a tour around The Old Vic.

Special Tips

  • Make sure you download The Old Vic Bar app before you visit, so you can pre-order your interval and post-show drinks directly from your mobile; (and make sure you take advantage of the 20% discount for your first order as well).
  • Be aware that the Dress Circle and Lilian Baylis Circle sections can only be accessed via steps, and is not recommended for anyone with mobility issues as there is no customer lift.
  • Be aware that the two rows around the edge of the balcony of the Lilian Baylis Circle are benches and can get quite uncomfortable after an hour or so.