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Half price! Official theatre ticket booth TKTS in Leicester Square
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.
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.
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.
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 hardly any shows will have a performance on a Sunday, though this is a situation that potentially may change in the near future.
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.
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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.
When you purchase a theatre ticket, normally the best way to buy if you can is direct in person from the theatre, but for most people this is impractical. It is not generally possible to purchase tickets direct online from the theatre as there are no e-tickets. Tickets are sold through agents of one kind or another. You can either collect the tickets or have them mailed to you.
When you purchase a theatre ticket you should be made aware of the face value. This is the normal price of the ticket if you bought it direct at the theatre. Agents will normally charge you more than the face value, this is their commission and/or mailing fee. If there is an offer you will pay less than the face value of the ticket.
Unofficial: theatre ticket kiosk
Around Leicester Square in the heart of the theatre district are a number of kiosks selling 'last-minute' discounted tickets with unsold seats for that evening.
The fact that tickets are being made available at the discount outlets means that the theatre thinks they would otherwise be unsold. Don't expect the major shows, which are often sold out night after night, to be made available at discount. Offers are also best for midweek shows when demand is less too.
The official half price discount office (TKTS) should be your first port of call. It is on the south side of Leicester Square itself (pictured top right) and is hard to miss.
TKTS is the theatre ticket booth offering half price and discount theatre tickets in Leicester Square. You can pick up a real bargain for many of London's top West End shows for hit musicals, comedies, dramas and dance. TKTS have a we site where you can see the kind of shows currently available.
TKTS is the official half price and discount theatre ticket booth in London operated by Society of London Theatre. With 30 years' experience, you can purchase tickets at TKTS with confidence and from friendly, experienced staff. There are several other kiosks like that all around Leicester Square.
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.
For domestic UK people travelling into London for a show it's often a tight thing to make the last train out of London termini. Staying overnight is thus very attractive, also giving you the time to have a drink or something to 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. Show and Stay is one of the main providers of London hotel and theatre bundles (click banner below). There is a large choice of hotels from the most frugal to 5 star luxury.
The providers who put together the hotel and theatre packages are consolidators that buy up allocations of all the hit shows. You can often get access to dates in this way at short notice when other channels have sold out a long time previously.