London’s Theatreland is as world-famous as Broadway in New York and we have some of the best theatres in the world – to the tune of almost 16 million tickets sold in 2018! After a great day out seeing London’s incredible tourist sights, there’s nothing better than dinner and a show.
‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’ said Jaques to Duke Senior in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ and that’s no more true than it is in London’s Theatreland.
Here’s our guide to the top 10 theatres in London. They are all close to the Rathbone so you don’t have far to go to see some of the best shows and musicals in the world!
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
One of the world’s great theatres and the oldest theatre site in London still in use, the Theatre Royal has been entertaining the world since 1663 and it was here that the public first heard Rule Britannia and the National Anthem. The Theatre Royal stage was also where King Charles II first encountered Nell Gwynne in 1665 and the stunning Grade I listed building is the fourth on the site.
Recent productions have included A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, Miss Saigon and Shrek: The Musical .Show me on a map
The London Palladium
The theatre, opened on Boxing Day 1910, is perhaps most famous for the Royal Variety Performance and Sunday Night at the London Palladium hosted by light entertainment royalty Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck.
Over the years, shows have included The King & I with Yul Brynner, Singin’ in the Rain with Tommy Steele and Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular performance of Oliver!Show me on a map
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is a stunningly grand, colonnaded building in the heart of Covent Garden with a magnificent horseshoe-shaped auditorium and world-class acoustics. Although the current building is ostensibly new, the Opera House has been present here since 1732 and seats almost 2,300 people over four tiers of boxes and balconies.
Not only is it home to the Royal Opera, it is home to the Royal Ballet and every one of the world’s most famous dancers have performed here including Prima ballerina assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Carlos Acosta and Rudolf Nureyev.Show me on a map
Prince of Wales Theatre
Opened in January 1884 and rebuilt in an Art-Deco style 1937 by Robert Cromie, the Prince of Wales Theatre is in the heart of Leicester Square and is a traditional three-tier space seating a little over 1,100 people.
Lilly Langtry, reputed to be the first ‘society’ lady to tread the boards, debuted here in 1885 in Princess George and over the years it has been known as one of London’s premier venues for comedy and variety revues and has hosted British comedy royalty like Frankie Howerd, Morecambe & Wise, Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, Norman Wisdom and Benny Hill.Show me on a map
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Rathbone, the Dominion was once the site of the St Giles’ Leper Hospital founded in 1101 by Matilda, Queen of Henry I. It was a brewery for around 160 years until construction of the theatre started in 1928, opening a year later.
The Royal Variety Performance was home here in the 1990s and recent musicals included Grease, Scrooge and Beauty and the Beast. The star of the Dominion since 2002 has been the Ben Elton masterpiece We Will Rock You which closed in 2014.Show me on a map
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Her Majesty’s has played host to some of the most famous theatrical productions ever staged, including the original production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Noel Coward’s Bitter Sweet as well as Paint Your Wagon, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.
There have been four theatres on the site and save for the Theatre Royal, it’s the longest standing theatre site in London opening in 1705 as The Queen’s. On the accession of King George I in 1714 it was renamed The King’s and presumably when Charles ascends to the throne it will change to His Majesty’s.Show me on a map
Prince Edward Theatre
The Prince Edward (named after the then Prince of Wales who had a brief stint as King Edward VIII and reverted back to the Duke of Windsor after abdication) opened in 1930. It has been a theatre, a cinema and a servicemen’s club but in 1978 it was reverted back to a theatre and opened with Evita.
It seats just over 1,600 and recent productions have included Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.Show me on a map
Formerly known as The Queen’s, the Sondheim Theatre opened in 1907 and its ornate, Edwardian auditorium is one of the finest examples in London’s Theatreland. It was originally designed as a pair of theatres (along with the adjacent Gielgud) by theatre architect WGR Sprague. It suffered a direct hit during World War II but was rebuilt with the designers managing to retain the stunning interior.
Since April 2004, the theatre has hosted arguably the most famous musical production of all time, Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables. It played for 18 years at the Palace Theatre before transferring here and remains as hot a ticket in London as it’s possible to get!Show me on a map
The Savoy Theatre has been hosting notable theatre productions and shows since it opened in 1881, when theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte commissioned the building of a new theatre to host the original comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan. The Grade II-listed theatre was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity.
In recent years the stage has hosted works by Noel Coward, Tom Stoppard and William Shakespeare but it’s mostly known today for musicals. Legally Blonde played here, as did the Take That musical Never Forget.Show me on a map
The Cambridge is on the south side of Covent Garden and is one of the youngest but most elegant of London’s theatres. Opened in 1930, the interior was designed by Russian-born architect Serge Chermayeff with bronze friezes by sculptor Anthony Gibbons Grinling.
Since 2011, the incredibly popular musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book Matilda has been playing with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and past highlights include Grease (1996-99), Jerry Springer – The Opera (2003-05) and Chicago (2006-11).Show me on a map