The best places to watch a play in London showcase some of the world’s most iconic musicals and theatrical performances. With dozens of world-class venues lighting up dedicated districts like the West End, there’s no shortage of venues to explore when it comes to enjoying both new and old stage productions.

    London’s theatrical history dates back to the 16th century, with prestigious playwrights like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe composing timeless plays that remain famous to this day. You can discover a wealth of modern shows that are bound to make you laugh and cry. Visit one of these renowned London theatres and concert venues if you want to discover what makes plays so special.

    1

    Phoenix Theatre

    A performance space dedicated to Italian cultural history

    The Phoenix Theatre first opened in 1930, taking over the site of a former factory and music hall with an extravagant design that pays tribute to Italian theatre traditions. Featuring a towering neoclassical facade, visitors will find Italianate accents everywhere they look inside, with golden engravings, red seats, and sculptured wooden doors.

    The Phoenix Theatre is one of the most unique stages in London’s West End. It has hosted a range of hit musical productions over the years, including Bend it Like Beckham: The Musical, Come from Away and Blood Brothers, which ran for 21 years here.

    Location: Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0JP, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)333 009 6690

    Map

    photo by MrsEllacott (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    London Palladium

    A heritage-listed theatre hosting compelling musicals

    Opened in 1910, the London Palladium is admired for its massive scale and storied history. Situated in the Oxford Circus area, the 2,286 capacity is regularly sold-out for compelling musicals like The Sound of Music, Cats, and The Wind in the Willows. There are also frequent major live music performances, with stars like Madonna, Damon Albarn and Harry Connick Jr. taking to the stage.

    As one of London’s most beloved structures, the London Palladium has remained largely unchanged since becoming heritage-listed by the city in 1960. With the widely televised Royal Variety Performance perhaps the most popular annual event on the venue's schedule, this incredibly entertaining charity showcase has run non-stop at the London Palladium since 1928.

    Location: 8 Argyll St, London W1F 7TF, UK

    Map

    photo by Linda Hartley (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Palace Theatre

    Experience the best of the West End

    The Palace Theatre opened in 1891 as a grand addition to London's West End. Designed by renowned English architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, who also planned impressive Victorian-era buildings such as the Imperial Institute and the Savoy Hotel, the Palace Theatre was created to showcase opera.

    However, it was only a few years later that the interior was converted into a stellar music hall, making it a great destination for plays, musicals and film screenings. After acclaimed composer and theatrical producer Andrew Lloyd Webber bought the theatre in 1983, the Palace Theatre has housed sold-out shows like Les Misérables, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

    Location: 113 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 5AY, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)207 434 0088

    Map

    photo by Matt May (CC BY 2.0) modified

    4

    Royal Opera House

    Enjoy high-class performances

    The Royal Opera House is a popular theatre where you'll find plays, operas and ballet performances by some of the most critically acclaimed performers in the world. You'll find numerous productions performed every year with many centred around particular holidays. While both the building and the performances tend to elicit images of high society and historical opulence, the theatre itself is quite welcoming towards people from all walks of life. No dress code is required other than wearing what you find to be comfortable within reasonable standards of decency. You'll find this theatre just a short walk east of Covent Garden station.

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    Location: Bow St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)2072 401200

    Map
    5

    Lyceum Theatre

    See the home of The Lion King at this historic theatre

    Opened in 1772, the Lyceum Theatre’s 250-year history has been marked by numerous closures and redevelopments. But throughout this complex past, it has continued to host just about every influential English playwright, from David Garrick to Sir Henry Irving. Despite undergoing 10 more years of disuse as recently as 1996, the theatre has since been wonderfully restored to host grand theatre productions.

    The most successful show at the Lyceum Theatre is undoubtedly The Lion King, which has been watched by millions of people during its run, which started in 1999. With visitors packing the 2,100-seat theatre every night, it’s no wonder the Lyceum Theatre is one of the best places to watch a play in London.

    Location: 21 Wellington St, London WC2E 7RQ, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)333 009 6690

    Map

    photo by Paul the Archivist (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    Apollo Theatre

    Delve into West End history by seeing a show at this first-rate venue

    The Apollo Theatre is definitely one of the most iconic theatres to open in London’s West End district. Established in 1901, it was the 4th theatre to be constructed on the famous Shaftesbury Avenue. Named after the Greek god of the arts, the theatre was designed by British architect Lewen Sharp, who conceived the 4-level auditorium with classic Renaissance touches.

    Having hosted many of the most significant plays and musical theatre productions to arrive in London, the Apollo Theatre’s 775-seat capacity is often filled night after night. In recent times, the Apollo Theatre has presented Richard II, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

    Location: Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7EZ, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)330 333 4809

    Map

    photo by Tom Morris (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    7

    Sondheim Theatre

    Experience the best of musical theatre on this beloved stage

    Sondheim Theatre, formerly the Queen's Theatre, has long been considered a top destination for theatre productions in London. Since opening to the public in 1907, the theatre has remained one of the most popular nights out in the West End, presenting an enviable selection of performances.

    Although the Sondheim Theatre's architecture remains impressive, it has changed considerably over the years. After the building was struck by a bomb during World War II, the facade and lobby areas had to be entirely rebuilt. However, the ornate interior is simply stunning, making it an excellent place to see productions like The Hobbit, Les Misérables, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    Location: 51 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6BA, UK

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    photo by Robin Webster (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    8

    Lyric Theatre

    Enjoy excellent plays in this Renaissance-inspired venue

    The Lyric Theatre is the oldest original theatre on the much-loved Shaftesbury Avenue. It dates back to 1888 and recognised as the second theatre built on this famous strip. Featuring a striking Renaissance design developed by architect C. J. Phipps, who also built the Savoy Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre, this performing arts venue has retained much of its 19th-century charm.

    If you’re planning on catching a musical production in London, the Lyric Theatre is a wonderful choice. With an illustrious collection of shows to grace its stage, the last few years have seen the likes of Cabaret, Thriller – Live, and The Night of the Iguana entertain audiences throughout an extensive run of shows.

    Location: 29 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7ES, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)207 494 5841

    Map

    photo by Andy Roberts (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Vaudeville Theatre

    A prominent London theatre with 19th-century fixtures

    The Vaudeville Theatre is found on the Strand, a famous shopping and cultural thoroughfare that passes through Westminster. It has stood since 1870, making it one of the area’s major landmarks. This is a popular destination for anyone looking to experience world-class musical and stage performances.

    Today, the Vaudeville Theatre still retains many of its original features, including fascinating stage mechanisms such as thunder drums and lightning sheets. With redevelopments reducing the theatre's capacity to just 690 seats, don't be surprised to find the headline performances sold out weeks in advance.

    Location: 404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)330 333 4814

    Map

    photo by MrsEllacott (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Apollo Victoria Theatre

    An art deco space hosting iconic musicals for decades

    The Apollo Victoria Theatre was first conceived as a cinema when it opened in 1930. But this prestigious art deco space has since become best-known for its long-running musical performances since the 1980s. With enough seats for 2,300 people, a series of modifications have been made over the years to keep this popular live performance stage up to date.

    In terms of musicals, many of the shows seen at the Apollo Victoria Theatre have run for several years. For example, Starlight Express debuted in 1984 and ran for 18 consecutive years, while the likes of Wicked, Bombay Dreams, and Saturday Night Fever also held thousands of performances.

    Location: 17 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1LG, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)333 009 6690

    Map

    photo by Gryffindor (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    11

    Adelphi Theatre

    Discover a wealth of theatre history at this classic venue

    The Adelphi Theatre has long remained a hit with music, comedy and stage performance lovers, having stayed in constant operation since 1806. With the structure rebuilt several times over the last 200 years, this splendid art deco space can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

    There have been countless melodramas, adaptations and pantomimes performed in the theatre, but it’s presently used for some of the world’s favourite musical productions. In 1997, Chicago premiered at the Adelphi Theatre and ran for over 8 years, while Sweeney Todd, Waitress, The Bodyguard and Kinky Boots have also kept audiences entertained.

    Location: Strand, London WC2R 0NS, UK

    Map
    Hudson Brown | Contributing Writer

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