If you’re visiting London for a week, a weekend or just a night, then the chances are that you’ve got ‘see a West End show’ somewhere on your to-do list. Millions of people flock to theatreland every year to be entertained and moved by plays or musicals, whether they’re big-name shows or new potential classics.
Should you be heading to the West End in the near future, here’s what you need to know to make your trip a little easier.
Where are London’s theatres?
The term ‘West End’ refers to the entertainment district around Leicester Square and Covent Garden, with the first venue having opened on Drury Lane way back in 1663. It contains roughly 40 venues and is traditionally defined as being bound by The Strand to the south, Oxford Street in the north, Regent Street to the west and Kingsway to the east (although a few theatres do fall outside this geographical reach).
London’s West End is considered alongside New York’s famous Broadway district in terms of the quality of its offerings and as such, numerous famous faces flock to tread the boards here year after year. Celebrities to have honed their craft here over the decades include Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Orlando Bloom, Daryl Hannah, Madonna and Lindsay Lohan, to name but a few – and who knows which fresh stars will be packing their bags for a stint over the coming months.
Getting West End tickets
There are numerous outlets from which you can secure tickets to West End plays, musicals or comedies, although you must be careful and check they are reputable sellers to avoid falling foul of ticket touts.
In advance, you can browse online and check out guides to what’s on before you book if you’re not sure what to see and want an overview of everything. You may be able to get some good deals this way, particularly if you happen to be travelling at times when there are ticket offers on (like some half-term holidays, for example).
Alternatively, you can book West End tickets when you get to London by visiting the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or the theatres’ individual box offices. If you try the former on the day of the performance you want, you might be able to secure excellent discounts.
However, don’t be surprised if tickets for the biggest, best-known musicals are a little more expensive, as they do tend to sell out and there consequently aren’t many seats to fill last-minute.
What to see in London’s West End?
There simply isn’t enough space here to cover what you might like to see while you’re visiting theatreland, as the list of what’s on is endless and ever-changing.
However, you can’t go wrong with one of the long-runners, as their longevity is testament to their excellence and popularity. For example, you could try Les Miserables, which is the longest-running musical in West End history and is sure to have you reaching for a tissue as you see the moving story of convict Jean Valjean, down-on-her-luck Fantine and her daughter Cosette.
If you’d like something a little more cheerful, then you could consider marvelling at the fantastic special effects and costumes in The Lion King or Wicked, both of which are sure to have you singing all the way home.
For great plays, don’t miss The Woman in Black (be prepared to be scared, though) and The Mousetrap, which has been performed continuously since 1952.
Getting to the West End
If you’re staying in the centre of London, you definitely won’t have a problem getting to the West End for your shows, as the area is brilliantly served by public transport. Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Charing Cross underground stations are all within easy walking distance, while numerous buses stop regularly nearby.
Charing Cross mainline railway station is just a few minutes away too, making it ideal if you want to see a show as soon as you arrive in the capital or you happen to be staying a little further out.
Where to stay
Speaking of accommodation, you’ll no doubt be looking for a great hotel if you’re just planning your London theatre break. If this is the case, then you can’t go wrong with the Piccadilly West End London, a stylish boutique property just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus.
Its contemporary yet inviting rooms are loved by our guests, which could be why it’s officially rated five stars by the AA. What’s more, you’ll be able to stroll back to your suite from any West End theatre in a jiffy, making it hugely convenient.
So, what will you see in 2017?