London is compared to New York City for a variety of reasons, but it’s definitely true for the theatre scene. London’s West End is home to shows for every type of theatre-goer, from the super popular musicals and Disney shows to super new and innovative plays in small theatres. I have been incredibly lucky to have seen 33 shows so far in my time here in London, but it has also been a lot of work, strategizing, and learning how to get into so many theatres with a strict Study Abroad budget. Here are some of my top tips for seeing the most (and best) theatre in London for the least amount of money.
- TodayTix: Download this app! One of the easiest ways to get great seats to London musicals and plays is through a process called “rush tickets”. TodayTix is the easiest way to do this. On the app, you can unlock rush tickets on the day of the show, most often for £20 or £25. I personally have had great experience getting good seats with this process as well—it’s never just the back row! These rush tickets are usually random seats that don’t get sold or tickets that have been returned last minute. One of my favourite rush experiences was getting two second row tickets (that were originally priced at around £180) to Hairspray. The only downsides of this method is that you can usually only get two tickets so it's harder to go with a bigger group, and it is harder to plan a night out when you can only get the tickets on the day of the show. Plus, the biggest musicals that are super popular and well sold (like Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera) do not offer this option, but it’s a super convenient way to see tons of other shows!
- Lottery: Some super popular shows like Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child do not offer rush tickets (since usually every performance is sold out), but they do offer a lottery system which you can enter for a chance to win access to discounted tickets (maybe £10 or £20)—they release a limited number of these tickets usually once a week. I’ll be honest—I’ve never won lottery tickets and it is not a likely way to get to see these shows, but it’s been totally worth it to enter the lottery every week I’ve been here. It’s so easy!
- OfficialLondonTheatre.com and TKTS: This website is probably the most official and popular way to buy tickets online other than directly through each theatre’s own website. I used this site to buy tickets if I wanted them far in advance, or sometimes they offer same-day discounts (known as TKTS). I think the best part about OfficialLondonTheatre is that it’s a great way to see the main productions that are happening (or going to happen soon) in London, so it helps you be aware of your options and know what's playing. I most certainly have this website open in a tab on my computer at all times…
- Theatre-Specific Websites: It is worth checking out the official theatre websites when buying tickets to make sure that they are not more expensive through 3rd-party sellers. Usually, the tickets aren't cheaper directly through the theatre, but it’s also worth checking out to see if the theatre offers any student discounts or other types of concessions (the British term usually used for discounts). It is not uncommon for smaller theatres to offer discounts for 16-25 year-olds. If you see a National Theatre play or musical, check out their website for that offer.
- In Person at the Box Office: This method is by far the most inconvenient, but can be incredibly rewarding. I strongly recommend walking around the West End/Soho area if you have a free morning/afternoon and visiting different box offices. I actually found this fun, especially in my first weeks in London, because it was a great way to explore such a fun part of London. I would just walk in to different box offices and ask “Do you have any day seats or student discounts for tonight's show?” (“day seats” is another common phrase that means the same thing as rush tickets—cheap seats sold on the same day as the performance). It’s always interesting to see what each different box office decides to do with the remaining tickets - sometimes they are stubborn and will still only sell them at full price, but sometimes they practically give them away. I did this for the musical Matilda and scored a £5 ticket!
The truth is, London is home to some of the greatest theatre in the world, so even if you aren’t super interested in theatre (that would be hard to believe if you’ve read this far…) I still urge you to see a show on the West End. There is truly something for everyone, and, come on, you just can’t come to London without seeing a show here!
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<p>Hi! I'm Sam and I'm from Denver, Colorado. I'm a junior at CU Boulder studying Musical Theatre and Computer Science. I love spending my time adventuring in the great outdoors, singing and playing piano, learning new languages, hanging out with friends, watching movies, and traveling as often as I can!</p>