London West End Theatres

No visitor to the capital should miss the opportunity to go to a West End theatre. There are over 50 theatres to choose from in London, twice as many as Broadway! The easiest way to obtain tickets is to buy online or in person, using one of the many ticket agencies scattered around London. You will also find them in hotels, department stores and travel agencies. Be aware that agents can charge up to 30 per cent commission. Also be sure to check the location of the seats before buying. If you are at all unsure about tickets you are being offered, simply don't buy them. The safest option is to buy tickets directly from the theatre box office. You will need to do this a few days in advance to get a good seat. Particularly in summer, when there is big demand for seats at the better shows. If you are on a budget it may also be possible to get last-minute deals direct from the theatre box office - usually early in the morning on the day of the show.

Some of the West End's most popular theatres include:

Criterion Theatre

Criterion Theatre

This small, privately owned, theatre was first opened in 1874 by Victorian entrepreneur Thomas Verity and is  still one of London’s leading theatre venues.

Over the years it has hosted a wide variety of shows, plays and comedies, and is currently hosting John Buchan's gripping murder mystery, "The 39 Steps", winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2007.

Location: 2 Jermyn St, Piccadilly Circus, London, SW1Y 4XA - Tel: 020 7839 8811 - Website


Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Drury Lane 1808London's oldest theatre, set in a lovely Grade I listed Georgian building. Although it has been burnt down and rebuilt several times, there has been a theatre on this site in one form or another since 1663, when Samuel Pepys first came to see its inaugural play.

The theatre has been home to many famous mainstream musicals, such as: Show Boat, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, A Chorus Line and Miss Saigon.

Location: Catherine St, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JF

Palace Theatre

Palace Theatre

Formally the 'Royal English Opera House', this fine red-brick and stone building was built in 1891 by Thomas Edward Collcutt and Richard D’Oyly Carte, who originally intended it to become home of English grand opera.

Today the Palace is host to many popular musicals. It can seat an audience of 1400, spread over four levels: Stalls, Dress Circle, Grand Circle and upper Balcony, with a Bar located on each.

 

Location: Shaftesbury Avenue, London, UK, W1V 5AY
Tel: 0844 482 9676
Website

Other theatres include: Adelphi Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, Ambassadors Theatre, Apollo, Apollo Victoria Theatre, Arts Theatre, Cambridge Theatre, Comedy Theatre, Dominion Theatre, Duchess Theatre, Duke of York's Theatre, Fortune Theatre, Garrick Theatre, Gielgud Theatre, Haymarket, Her Majesty's Theatre, London Palladium, Lyceum Theatre, Lyric Theatre, New London Theatre, Noel Coward Theatre, Novello Theatre, Piccadilly Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Playhouse Theatre, Prince Edward Theatre, Prince of Wales Theatre, Queen's Theatre, Royal Opera House, Savoy Theatre, Shaftesbury Theatre, St Martin's Theatre, Trafalgar Studios, Vaudeville Theatre, Victoria Palace Theatre, Wyndham's Theatre.

The London Theatres website provides a very useful interactive map for locating any theatre in Central London.

London Theater Map
Courtesy of the Society of London Theatre.

Shopping in London's West End

London's West End is a veritable shopping mecca, with streets packed with every kind of retail outlet and catering for a wide range of tastes, from the latest fashion and souvenirs to diamonds and caviar. Although a very busy place, plenty of tranquility and greenery can still be found in its many parks and open spaces.

Bond Street

Actually two streets, Old and New Bond street, developed from late 1600s onwards. Noted for its galleries, art dealers, exclusive shops and the auctioneers Sotheby's.

Burlington Arcade

A regency arcade containing many high-quality shops. Among them is famous tobacconists H. Simmons, founded in 1838. Beadles (England's smallest private police force), recruited from ex-servicemen, ensure that the old rules forbidding singing, running and the carrying of open umbrellas or large parcels are still adhered to. The Beadles, who still wear the old style gold braided top hats and Edwardian frock coats, are very knowledgeable about London and enjoy explaining the sights to visitors.

Christie's

World-famous fine-art auctioneers, founded by James Christie in 1766. The firm moved to its present address in King Street in 1823. The facade of building dates from 1893-4, although rest was reconstructed after the World War II bombings. Experts value items ranging from toys to African masks. Regular auctions and public viewings throughout year.

Covent Garden

One of London's most popular tourist districts and a very lively and pleasant place in which to linger. Street performers regularly entertain in and around the main square, originally laid-out in the 17th-c by Inigo Jones. In the 1970s the Greater London Council restored the old market buildings and made them into a delightful complex of interesting little shops, market stalls and eating places, renaming it 'New Covent Garden'.

During the 16th-c the area was actually the garden of a convent, belonging to Westminster Abbey, from which its name is derived. The two principal market buildings are the Central Market and Piazza (circa 1830) and the Flower Market Building (1872). The latter houses the Theatre Museum and the London Transport Museum, where all kinds of vintage London busses and trains are on display.

Mayfair

London's wealthiest area, marked by fashionable shops and restaurants, large office blocks and luxurious fiats and apartments. Much of the original 18th century layout of streets and squares remains, though modern buildings are more prominent today.

Oxford Street

London's most famous shopping street stretches from Marble Arch to St Giles Circus. Stores mingle with established fruit stalls and shops for souvenirs and fashion. Selfridges neoclassical department store, founded 1908, has an impressive food hall.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is a busy crossroads where Piccadilly intersects Regent Street. The name is believed to come from pickadille, a kind of neckwear worn 200 years ago and sold in the area.

Dazzling neon signs make this junction the focal point of the West End. Clubs and hotels line the old Piccadilly highway out to western suburbs. Along which you will find 'Fortnum and Mason' department store, renowned for its culinary wonders.

Piccadilly's famous Eros statue, was erected as memorial to Lord Shaftesbury in 1893.

Regent Street

This broad shopping street that was originally designed as the approach to Carlton House, where the Prince Regent once lived.

Bow-fronted windows display a broad array of quality goods in the Royal Opera Arcade, designed by John Nash in 1818, in a classical style. It was made 'Royal' by Queen Victoria who bought her riding skirts there.

Soho

Once notorious for sex shops and strip shows during the 70s & 80s, the area (loosely defined as being bounded by Shaftesbury Avenue, Regent Street, Oxford Street and Wardour Street) is now quite respectable. It probably got its name from the Anglo French hunting cry 'So-Ho', in the days when people hunted here.

Lately the area has become increasingly identified with London's Chinatown, which occupies the area south of Shaftesbury Avenue, with ornamental gateways, pagoda style telephone boxes and grocery stores selling exotic foodstuffs. Gerrard Street, at its heart, is the focus of the best Chinese cuisine.

Picturesque Soho square is home to Bloomsbury publishers, best known for the Harry Potter books. Founded in 1986, the square has pleasantly laid-out gardens, centred around a statue of Charles II.

The Bairds's House on Frith Street (not open to the public), is where the Scottish inventor James Logie Baird developed the forerunner of television in 1926.

Sotheby's

World-renowned fine-art auctioneers. Founded 1744 as book auctioneers by bookseller and auctioneer Samuel Baker. First Sotheby, Baker's nephew John, joined firm in 1776. Large variety of antiques sold at regular sales throughout the year.

Woburn Walk

Delightful little L-shaped street of Regency shops, constructed 1822. Black-and-white bow fronted windows as pristine as the day they were put in and balconies filled with geraniums. The eastern pavement was built well above road to protect shop fronts from fast-moving carriages. A plaque at Number 5 indicates that the Irish poet W.B. Yeats lodged there.

Popular Pubs in London's West End

The Harp - National Pub of the Year

The Harp, Covent Garden, London

One of London's best pubs and recently voted London's first National Pub of the Year by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). Located in the heart of Covent Garden, it is a small friendly pub with a great atmosphere. It serves a wide variety of real ales, real ciders and perry. The Harp also serves food and has been given many awards, including one for its specialty local British sausages, cooked on the premises.

Location: 47 Chandos Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4HS. Website

Parks and Open Spaces in London's West End

Lincoln's Inn Fields

Spacious square with lawns, footpaths and shady trees. Bounded on three sides by terraced rows of 18th and 19th century houses. On the fourth side is the red-brick buildings of Lincoln's Inn. Anthony Babington was hung, drawn and quartered here in 1586, for plotting to overthrow Elizabeth I. Also a pavilion in the middle, has a floor plaque marking the site of the beheading of William Lord Russell in 1683 for plotting to assassinate Charles II.

Trafalgar Square

Laid out in 1841 with playful fountains, bronze lions and Britain's posthumous tribute to Nelson, for his victory at Trafalgar in 1805. His grand statue dominates the square, perched on top of its 170 ft (56 m) column.


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Please note that the above information was accurate at the time this page was last updated. This information is subject to change at any time (opening times in particular), therefore if you plan on visiting any of the above attractions, please check the owner's website first or phone them for the latest details.

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