National Theatre, courtesy of Wikipedia

Anyone who loves theatre should visit London at least once in their life. The city is one of the traditional heartlands of this centuries-old form of live entertainment, and at any given time there are myriad performances going on at venues across the city, in iconic West End theatre halls like the London Palladium through to fringe events in dingy pubs.

Indeed there is lots more to be discovered outside the West End. London has some wonderful repertory theatres, producing work that is bolder and less commercial.  The National Theatre (see photo above) is one example.  As it’s subsidised, they’re free to present high quality work that might not appeal to a wide audience.  The Globe is another repertory theatre, in a very interesting building – a faithful reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan theatre.  It produces modern plays as well as the Bard’s classics.  The most successful productions from the repertory theatres sometimes transfer to the stages of the West End.The modern, reconstructed Globe Theatre, courtesy of Wikipedia

Apart from this, London also has a thriving fringe theatre scene.  The venues are often found outside the city centre and are much smaller, sometimes black box studios or rooms above pubs.  There, you can be shocked or surprised by experimental plays and provocative new writing.  Prices are much lower than in the West End, and, again, the most successful ones can be picked up by the big theatres.  On the fringe, you get to see the cutting edge shows before anyone else.

Many of these smaller theatres take part in schemes to give younr people discounted or free tickets (see London Theatre Tickets Cheap for more info). There are several venues dedicated to work for children, like the Polka Theatre and the Little Angel Theatre.  They put on superb shows that can be enjoyed by all the family.  So you really ought to be able to find something to suit everyone!

London Theatre Hotels

The heart of theatreland in London is Leicester Square.  If you stay around here, you’ll be right in the middle of the action.  You will also find the Society of London Theatre’s half price ticket booth in Leicester Square, where you can get some good bargains.  Covent Garden, with its famous market, is just nearby.  One of the highlights around there is the Royal Opera House, home of the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet.  These stations are right in the middle of the West End and within walking distance of most of the big venues.  There are lots of 4 and 5 star hotels in this area including St Martins Lane (*****) and the Best Western Premier Shaftesbury Hotel (****).  Another accommodation option near these theatres is the SACO London – Covent Garden Apartments.

Interior of St Martin's Lane Hotel

On the south bank of the Thames, there is an arts quarter stretching from the Globe at Southwark Bridge, to the National Theatre and all the way down to the Royal Festival Hall at Hungerford Bridge.  There is a lovely pedestrian walkway along the river, populated in summer by a range of musicians and street performers.  A bit further south, past Waterloo Station, you have the Young Vic and the Old Vic.  If you’re planning to visit these, you should know that this isn’t the most attractive area for tourists to stay and there aren’t many hotels.  You’d be better to choose one on the north side of the river, around Embankment or Temple tube stations.  These are closer to other amenities like shops, restaurants and bars, and there is easy access over footbridges to the South Bank.  You could try the Thistle Charing Cross (****), Swissotel London the Howard (*****) or the Strand Palace Hotel (***).

Exterior view of the Thistle Charing Cross Hotel

If you’re planning to get out and about to see some fringe theatre, you might like to stay around Earl’s Court.  The Finborough, one of the most acclaimed venues in this category, is nearby.  If you want to catch some of the big shows as well, there is easy access into the West End on the Piccadilly Line.  In the other direction, you can get off at Hammersmith, where you’ve got the Riverside Studios, with a programme of experimental and foreign theatre, the Hammersmith Apollo for gigs and stand up, and the Lyric Hammersmith with its unusual mix of original drama, music and comedy. There is more of a mix of accommodation around Earl’s Court.  You could try the Mowbray Court Hotel (**), the Lord Kensington Hotel (***) or Twenty Nevern Square Hotel and Restaurant (****).

Four-poster bed in the Twenty Nevern Square Hotel