London is home to world-class theatre and a thriving arts scene.
The West End
The West End is the heart of London theatre, attracting leading names from around the world. Shows change continuously but some of the most popular have been running for many years – indeed, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been staged continuously since 1952, Les Misérables has been running since 1985 and The Phantom of The Opera since 1986.
Other popular West End shows include Mamma Mia!, Wicked, The Woman in Black and the spectacular Disney’s The Lion King.
The buildings themselves are often historic and beautiful. The Theatre Royal Drury Lane was established in 1663, with the current building opening in 1812.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The Globe is a reconstruction of an Elizabethan theatre where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed and hosts the bard’s famous works in an outdoor setting. There is also an indoor candlelit space for the winter season showing a range of productions.
The Barbican Centre
One of London’s best examples of brutalist architecture, the Barbican Centre is a fascinating building that divides opinion. Its arts programme is outstanding and its two theatres, concert hall and two art galleries regularly host some of London’s most eclectic and thought-provoking work.
The South Bank
This cultural hub is home to the National Theatre, which has three auditoriums, and a regularly changing programme that presents re-imagined classics and contemporary plays.
The South Bank is also home to the South Bank Centre with a wide variety of events including classical music, talks and dance.
Royal Albert Hall
The impressive dome-shaped Royal Albert Hall, which opened in 1871, hosts everything from classical music, including the famous summer season of the Proms, to pop and opera.
The Royal Opera House
Home to the Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, this grand building in Covent Garden offers a fine programme in a wonderful setting.
Fringe theatre and off-West End
London has many small and intimate venues hosting brilliant productions, which, through critical acclaim, then transfer to the West End. Some of the best include the Lyric Hammersmith, the Young Vic, the Almeida and the Southwark Playhouse.