West End theatre is a common term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of "Theatreland" in and near the West End of London. Along with New York City's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.Put West End Theatre District at the forefront of your travel plans using our London online tour planner.
In 2013, ticket sales reached a record 14.4 million, making West End theatre the largest English-speaking audience in the world. Famous screen actors, British and international alike, frequently appear on the London stage.
Theatre in London flourished after the English Reformation. The first permanent public playhouse, known simply as The Theatre, was constructed in 1576 in Shoreditch by James Burbage. It was soon joined by The Curtain. Both are known to have been used by William Shakespeare's company. In 1599, the timber from The Theatre was moved to Southwark, where it was used in building the Globe Theatre in a new theatre district formed beyond the controls of the City corporation. These theatres were closed in 1642 due to the Puritans who would later influence the interregnum of 1649.
After the Restoration (1660), two companies were licensed to perform, the Duke's Company and the King's Company. Performances were held in converted buildings, such as Lisle's Tennis Court. The first West End theatre, known as Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, was designed by Thomas Killigrew and built on the site of the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It opened on 7 May 1663 and was destroyed by a fire nine years later. It was replaced by a new structure designed by Christopher Wren and renamed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Tours To West End Theatre District
Pub Tour of London's West End: Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and Soho BOOK WITH VIATOR FROM $65
Duration: 3 hours
Pub Crawl of Central London BOOK WITH VIATOR FROM $20
Duration: 7 hours
West End Theatre District Reviews
Some of the buildings are beautiful outside and inside. In the streets, there's lots of movement of people going in and out and discussing what they just saw. The lights and colours of the theatres... more »
Strolling through the West End theatre district is always fun, but doing so during Christmas is much more rewarding as all the streets are beautifully decorated and the atmosphere is very festive... more »
Places to stay near West End Theatre District
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