London is considered the capitol of the world when talking about many things. If there’s one thing that isn’t lacking in London, it’s culture. The best theatres in London are probably some of the most note-worthy ones in Europe as well. The West End is considered to be the hub when talking about theatres, but they’re scattered all over the city. We warned though, tickets in the West End can sometimes be very high, but with that said, they are of the highest production value, with the top actors as well. Keep an eye out for deals on certain shows, because the theatres often sell them at discount prices. The theatre can be a magical place, where the energy of the actors move the audience and send them on an emotional roller coaster, from laughing to crying. Cultural events happen every single day in London, but you really have to experience what it’s like being seated in a legendary theatre like the Old Vic for example. There are some world-class theatres that are small, non-commercial ones too. Here is our list of the best theatres in London, and we hope you enjoy the shows!
The first one on the list is arguably the most historically important theatre in London. Actors first stepped on its stage in 1818, and over the next two centuries it has gained a legendary status in the theatre world. Kevin Spacey, the world famous Hollywood actor, ran the Old Vic for 11 years, before passing the torch forward. Spacey managed to bring the Old Vic back to its former glory, and we sincerely hope it doesn’t lose an ounce of its luster anytime soon.
Visiting address: 103 The Cut, Waterloo Rd, London, SE1 8NB
Even if you haven’t read a single book in your life, you know who William Shakespeare is. His works as an actor, poet, writer, have influenced generation after him, and even today he is thought to be one of the greatest. It was at the Shakespeare’s Globe where some of his first plays were staged. The original building unfortunately burned down in 1613 after an accident on the set, but almost 400 years later the structure was rebuilt almost on the same exact spot. Catching a show can sometimes be difficult, but visitors are always allowed to explore the site.
Visiting address: 21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT
Most critics and theatre experts claim that the National Theatre in London is one of the most influential ones in the world. What’s important for us is that it has been host to some of the finest plays in recent history. All of the shows that make it onto the stage are of high production value. The building in which the theatre resides in is important on its own. It’s thought to be the UK’s finest piece of brutalist architecture. Rufus Norris, the current artistic director, has made the shows more edgy, hence more appealing to the newer generations.
Visiting address: South Bank, London, SE1 9PX
The Young Vic, obviously named, is the Old Vic’s trendy, youthful little brother. It was originally opened in 1970 with the idea of offering the younger generations something different that would appeal to them more. Over the decades the Young Vic has gradually become one of the most influential players in the world. Productions range from the classics, but they also try and keep in line with the spirit that made the Young Vic possible in its beginnings.
Visiting address: 66 The Cut, London, SE1 8LZ
When the Royal Court Theatre opened on the 1950’s, not many people could have imagines that it would turn into such an important London institution. The current artistic director managed to implement her new idea and push the theatre into a more experimental direction. What the RCT currently lacks in influence and talent, it makes up with sheer ambition and potential it’s showing. Be sure to check out their website and see what’s on.
Visiting address: 50-51 Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS
If you think this is the everyday leftfield theatre, you’d be wrong. The Lyric underwent a massive renovation project, and today it’s a place that’s suited for all sorts of media productions. The stage and theatre in the building are 100% original, and they date back to a bygone era, to the Victorian period to be more specific. Their rooftop bar is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat or something to drink before catching a show.
Visiting address: Lyric Square, King Street, London, W6 0QL
The Barbican is unlike anything else in London, and probably in Europe as well. It’s a multi-purpose cultural and art venue. The theatre hall has a capacity to hold more than 1,100 people. A neat fact is that the original theatre was specifically designed for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Theatre lovers and critics often praise the venue for paying attention to details and always trying to put out the highest quality plays.
Visiting address: Silk St, London, EC2Y 8DS
It was during the 1990’s when the Almeida became a big player in the theatre business. Jonathan Kent started running the theatre in the beginning of the ‘90s and it’s thanks to his work that the Almeida turned into the influential institution it is today. In twelve short years the Almeida had a total of fourteen West End transfers. At one point interest in their program was so high that they started implementing a booking system for seats.
Visiting address: Almeida St, Islington, London, N1 1TA
- Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Royal Drury Lane is officially the oldest theatre in London, and it looks absolutely magnificent. Its old-world charm gives a sense of class and luxury. The palatial auditorium is absolutely stunning, and it’s unlike anything else that can be seen in the city. It was Charles II himself who made the order for a theatre to be built. That was in 1662, and today it represent theatre in the best light possible. It has changed little since the 1820s, and it has thankfully survived the air raids during WW2.
Visiting address: Catherine St, London, WC2B 5JF
Wyndham’s began operating in 1899, and over its one hundred years of existence it has become one of London’s most magnificent theatres. The legendary play “The Boy Friend” ran 2078 time, believe it or not. This particular play got so popular that it was transferred to Broadway. In its more recent history, Wyndham’s has premiered shows such as “The Ride Down Mount Morgan” by Arthur Miller, and it’s impossible not to mention the success of “Three Tall Women” by Edward Albee.
Visiting address: Charing Cross Rd, London, WC2H 0DA
Like we’ve said earlier, some of the best shows are found in the West End, and this is exactly where the New London Theatre is located in. It first raised its curtains in 1973, and at the moment it is home to War Horse. It will be showing until March 2016, so that gives you some time to catch it. The ones famous and popular Winter Garden Theatre used to be located in the building, until the mid-1960s. The auditorium has a fairly large capacity of 1024 people.
Visiting address: Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PW
Originally called the Moy’s Music Hall, the Victoria Palace Theatre hasn’t changed much at all in the past 110 years. Some parts have underwent restauration projects, but it has kept all of its beauty. Once a person sees the theatre’s marble columns, shiny floors, it’s difficult not feeling grand and important. The biggest and most popular productions that ran here include High Society, Grease, and My Girl.
Visiting address: Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5EA
As far as pub-theatres go, there’s not a more worthy one than The Old Red Lion. It’s based in Islington, and we reckon that tourists will have the best time here. Where else will you find a good ale and a good show in the same place? Charlie Hanson originally came up with the idea in 1979, but today the pub-theatre mostly delves into experimental drama. This is the only time drama and tension is welcome in a pub! It makes it onto the list because of its charming vibe, but it cannot compare to actual theatres.
Visiting address: 418 St John St, London, EC1V 4NJ
When it comes to fringe productions the BAC is arguably one of the most important ones in the city of London. This all in one arts center is located in the West End and its significance should never be downplayed. Inside the building there’s a theatre, but there are also studios and other facilities and gallery spaces where all sorts of cultural events takes place. Comedy stand-ups sometimes take place here as well.
Visiting address: Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN
On a site that belonged to the King’s Head Inn, in 1702 the stunning Haymarket Theatre was built and it has a history unlike any other theatre in the city. This place has seen stampedes which resulted in serious injuries and deaths, bloody riots, and even ran into some censorship issues. However, among all of this, it was home to some massive hits too. Once upon a time it used to be the most progressive drama institutions, seeing as they were the first ones to introduce matinees in 1873.
Visiting address: Haymarket, London, SW1Y 4HT
Situated above a wildly popular pub on Battersea Road is the Theatre 503. Its original name was the Grace Theatre, but it was changed to its current name in 2002. Most people see it as something of a fringe venue, seeing as they are often hosts to charity fundraisers. It’s a classy and fancy place where the regular everyday Joe can take a break from it all.
Visiting address: 503 Battersea Road, London, SW11 3BW
Based in the highly circulated Piccadilly Street, for most it would be easy to miss the small entrance to the Criterion Theatre. But if you fancy theatre plays, this one certainly has to be one that you should visit. It originally opened in 1974, and one of the first dramas to play here was Waiting for Godot. But that really put this theatre on the map were the raunchy and dirty comedies. A little bit if fluff features girls showing their bare legs, and at the same it caused outrage in certain circles.
Visiting address: 218-223 Piccadilly Circus, London, W1V 9LB
When in the city of London, there’s probably not a nicer place to really experience the roaring sounds and intense drama than at the English National Opera. Just one look at the building itself and you’ll be blown away. You don’t have to be an architecture fan to appreciate such beauty. The performances that take place here are world-class, and we don’t expect anything less of them. A beautiful night about in London can’t be complete without witnessing an opera here.
Visiting address: St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4ES
This Edwardian addition to the list was home to a couple of massive hits. Probably the most notorious play was Hair, mostly because of the amount of nudity in it. Unfortunately during one particular play, the ceiling collapsed which forced the play to end, after almost 2000 runs. A neat fact is that Fred Astaire and Adele made their premier appearances right here in the Shaftesbury Theatre. Critics and guests alike only have the best memories from Shaftesbury.
Visiting address: 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8DP
The original idea was that the Aldwych Theatre and the Novello worked together in unison. The world-class Waldorf hotel is right in between these two venues. The Aldwych is probably most known for being home to the Royal Shakespeare Company for 22 years. We can’t talk about the Aldwych without mentioning some of the greatest plays that ran here, such as Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf and Private Lives from Noel Coward.
Visiting address: Aldwych, Covent Garden, WC2B 4LD
It’s thanks to places like the Bush Theatre that young and creative people can showcase their works. The Bush Theatre is known to accept very heavy and deep playwrights, and it’s not uncommon for some of them to be very dark and disturbing. The venue is small, but despite that the Bush Theatre manages to hold on to amazing talents such as Simon Callow and Alan Rickman, who are both regulars here. With the new art director in charge since 2012, the theatre is showing no sign of chancing its future policies and philosophies.
Visiting address: 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ
This London theatre has been around for almost fifty years, but it was in 2003 when they moved to this location into a custom designed building. From time to time they do revivals of the greatest classics, but they’ve mostly made a name for themselves for being an innovative force in the theatre circles. The whole ethos of the theatre revolves around motivating new young minds to create fresh works. Brian Friel, and Phillip Ridley both began their careers here.
Visiting address: Eton Avenue, London, NW3 3EU
If you like dancing and musicals, the Peacock theatre is probably the most established one in this field. The repertoire here is always changing, and it’s exactly what is expected of such an institution. Whether it’s mainstream classics, or weird underground productions, the Peacock has no fears of exploring it all. During the Christmas holidays it’s a wildly popular venue for families, as The Snowman keeps pulling in crowds year after year.
Visiting address: Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT
The art deco styled theatre first raised its curtains in 1881. The building was completely financed by a single individual, Richard D’Oyly Carte. It was meant to become an opera house but for plenty of reasons it just didn’t reach the success that was expected. It was only in the mid-1950s when the theatre started attracting more people into the auditorium.
Visiting address: Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 0ET
The Jackson Lane Theatre is situated in a grade II listed building which is actually a church. While theatre plays are its main attraction, it’s essentially a multi-purpose arts venue. Cabarets, drama, circus performances all take place here. For people interested, the Jackson Lane Theatre holds regular classes for people interested in dancing, drama, and even Thai Chi lessons.
Visiting address: 269 Archway Road, London, N6 5AA