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London is world famous for its 'West End' shows and for many people the theatre is the main reason for a visit. The number of shows in London are many covering musicals, comedy, plays and classics and are spread across London.
Theatre breaks are increasingly popular. By booking a complete break you can choose from a great selection of top London hotels and get the very best deals. Top current shows include 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child', 'Back to the Future: the Musical', 'Wicked' and 'Sister Act'. And there are plenty more top West End shows to choose from too!
The mainstream commercial theatre is centred in the West End around the Covent Garden and Leicester Square area, although top-selling shows can be far from the immediate area. The top shows tend to be musicals. The current favourites that everyone wants to see are sold out weeks, sometimes months ahead, especially for popular weekend shows.
There are now many packages available that offer a range of London hotels combined with tickets to all the latest top London shows. In addition to making the booking process super smooth for you, these packages tend to be money-saving too, compared with booking separately.
If you live outside London it can be a tight thing to make the last train out of London after a show has finished. By booking a hotel you can make your theatre visit into a weekend break, and have the time for something to drink or eat in a more leisurely and relaxed way.
You can even get packages that combine hotel, theatre tickets and the rail journey in one money-saving package. Holiday Extras is one of the main providers of London hotel and theatre bundles (click banner below). There is a large choice of hotels from comfortable and low-cost to 5-star luxury.
The other advantage to booking with one of these providers is that they often get access to dates at short notice that you couldn't get buying individually.
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Whether buying in person from a ticket office in London or ahead of your show online, we cover what you need to know.
More about the location of London's West End theatres, when London's West End shows run plus public transport information to the theatres.
If you turn up in person to the ticket kiosk in Leicester square you can get half price tickets for on the day shows from the official half price discount office (TKTS).
With this method you can potentially get the cheapest ticket prices - but you have to look for them. If the date is not far in the future your cheap tickets choices will probably be limited this way: often the headline price can refer to single seats (and they obviously won't be the best seats!) so you will need to be flexible on dates and try to book ahead if you wish to go as a couple or group.
The advantage to booking online as opposed to over the phone is that you can see the seating plan, which tickets are available and how much each seat will cost you.
There are dozens of third party websites selling tickets to all the latest top London musicals and shows. The main thing you need to be aware of is the face value of the ticket you are purchasing (this is the normal price of the ticket if you bought it direct at the theatre.) You will normally pay a bit more than the face value, which is the agent's commission and/or mailing fee. However, it is also possible to pay less than the face value of the ticket, as there are some bargains to be had when the agent wants to sell their remaining tickets.
Ticket offers are usually available for midweek performances but there are also discounts available on Saturday matinee performances depending on the show.
STAR are the Society Of Ticket Agents and Retailers and are there to protect your rights as a ticket purchaser.
Reputable third party websites for theatre tickets will abide by the rights set down by STAR.
You need to check opening hours of individual box offices before turning up.
It is also possible to order tickets over the phone by ringing the individual theatre direct in most cases.
You can have tickets arranged to be be posted to you (usually for a fee) or in many cases, pre-purchased tickets can be arranged for collection at the theatre’s box office an hour before the show starts.
Discounts are sometimes made available for people such as groups, students, youth, seniors, Job-seekers Allowance claimants, and registered disabled.
There is also a good night bus network that will get you to all the main hotel districts if you want to eat or drink afterwards or visit a nightclub. If you get a cab make sure it's a proper licensed cab. Only London's famous black cabs are allowed to solicit for business.
At the moment only a few shows run on a Sunday, however you will find more on Sundays when you book a break, which can be flexible for the number of days to suit you (below).
Nearly all shows start between 7.30 and 8pm and a typical show will last between 2 hours 15 minutes and three hours. When you leave the theatre you will typically have an hour before the last Underground train runs.
Many shows have matinée performances in the early afternoon, typically around 2.30pm one or two days a week. Ticket prices will be cheaper at the matinée performances.
The popular commercial theatre is centred in the West End district of London and is centred around Covent Garden and Leicester Square.
Musicals are the most popular format for this market.
However, there are theatres all over central London, especially the serious and arty shows.
The Royal Festival Hall on the south side of the river is one of the largest venues, not that far from the Globe Theatre with performances of Shakespeare.
Sadler's Wells Theatre, near Islington, is London's premier dance theatre and the Barbican Centre nearby has all kinds of performances.
The West End theatres are also spread out far beyond their heart around Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Two major theatres are next to Victoria Station, quite a long distance from Leicester Square.
A popular way to get heavily discounted theatre tickets in London is to visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (originally known as ‘The Half Price Ticket Booth’). The tickets available are for shows on the day - so you need to be flexible!
TKTS London is the only not-for-profit ticket booth run by the Society of London Theatre. There are lots of other 'imitation' booths selling 'last-minute' discounted tickets with unsold seats for that evening around Leicester Square, but TKTS is the original. TKTS is on the south side of Leicester Square itself (pictured right) and is hard to miss.
The types of show with tickets available are unlikely to be the major shows, which are often sold out night after night. However you can pick up a real bargain for many of London's top West End shows for hit musicals, comedies, dramas and dance. Your best likelihood of a discount is also best for midweek shows when demand is less.
It's worth also checking out the normal prices of seats for the shows you are interested in. You will find that there are a large range of prices for every show depending on the position of the seat in the theatre. Often it is the more expensive seats which are made available at the discount kiosks and it might be cheaper to buy a normal price cheap seat to a discounted expensive seat.
If there is a particular show you want to see then book in advance. Don't gamble on the off chance that you'll pick up something cheap on the day. As said before the very popular shows are sold out well in advance.
See the official TKTS website for more information.