Here’s the last of my London posts (for now!) I hope you’ve enjoyed them and got some use from them if you’re planning to visit my favourite city!
London is famous for theatre. So famous, in fact, that if you overhear someone saying “It’s opening in the West End” you can be pretty sure they’re talking about London. The oldest part of London is close to the Tower of London, and is always referred to as The City. Outside the old city walls is the rest of London, comprised of several other incorporated cities and boroughs. To the west of the city lies Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Covent Garden and the main theatre district which includes and surrounds these popular spots.
If you go back in time, however, most of the theatres were on the south bank of the Thames, outside the city walls and laws. There are a few there now including the rebuilt Globe, the Royal National Theatre (home of the Royal Shakespeare Company) as well as concert halls and arts centres.
London theatre is more than just the famous musicals. You can get classics, Shakespeare, comedies, and drama as well as cutting edge interpretive theatre. Ballet and Opera are also popular as well as symphonic orchestras. Leicester Square has the big movie theatres but you will most definitely pay well over the average to see a film there!
The most straight forward way of booking tickets to a West End production is to contact the theatre or venue directly, either in person, on the phone or via their website. You can choose your seats from what’s available and pay the going rate. Websites now offer “print at home” tickets which is really convenient as long as you don’t lose them or forget to pack them! There are general theatre booking websites that charge a fee. Some let you choose your seat and some just give you the “best available” which may or may not be “best”. We’ve had a post impede the view a bit but the automatic booking facility didn’t take things like that into account.
Another service that’s hugely popular for discounted day-of-performance tickets is TKTS. There’s a booth on Leicester Square where you line up (queue up) and you can get tickets for lots of the popular shows for a good discount plus a small fee. The group that runs the booth is non-profit and the fee just helps to run the business. There might not be any for the biggest and most popular shows, but it’s always worth looking to see what else is available and you might just discover a new favourite. Their website lists what’s available on the day and gives you prices though you can’t book online. Useful to keep the link handy on your Smartphone, laptop or tablet.
The site does say they book advance tickets for the next couple of days as well. I suppose they might know ahead of time from various theatres if there are tickets available. They may also book some shows at the full price, but never more than the theatre itself sells them for and there’s no booking fee for these ones. The booth opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. just before most shows start (7:30 to 8:00) on Monday through Saturday and from 10.30 to 16.30 on Sunday. They get tickets throughout the day so you may not have to join the queue first thing in the morning. There may be other similar booths and businesses offering discounted tickets but for the most part, they’re not really trustworthy. This business is in a round booth by or with a clock tower. That’s the one you want.
Some of these sites offer discounted tickets and even with a booking fee, that works out pretty well. I have booked tickets from Londontown. com. They do charge a fee and they do the automatic seat allocation. Or at least, they did four years ago when I last used them. We had to pick the tickets up at the theatre about an hour before the start of the show. I prefer printing at home.
In the past, I’ve booked tickets through my travel agent but I found that seems to inflate the price as they add on their fees as well. Sometimes you can book packages with flight, hotel and tickets which may be a good deal. You’d have to price things out and compare. I usually find that booking through the theatre or through a site offering discounts works out better for me but some people prefer to have it all arranged by a travel agent and that’s what works best for them. Londontown.com sometimes offers tickets and restaurant vouchers together which is nice, too.