A visit to London, England is not complete without a stop at one of its many cultural theatres. From the Hackney Empire to the Royal Opera House, London is home to some of the most iconic theatres in the world. Whether you're looking for a traditional opera or ballet performance, a contemporary adaptation of a classic, or a lively atmosphere with bars and restaurants, London has something for everyone. The Hackney Empire is located in East London and is undergoing a revival with new theatrical productions, variety shows, comedies and the beloved British institution, the “panto”.
Built in the “brutalist style”, the Barbican Centre in the City of London contains two theatres, three cinemas and a concert hall. Not only that, but it's also the base of the London Symphony Orchestra and houses a library, shops, a conservatory and art galleries. The National Theatre on the South Bank is effectively four theatres in one. It offers a variety of auditoriums with contemporary adaptations of classics, new plays and musicals.
There are also bars and restaurants throughout the complex for a lively atmosphere. The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English-speaking world and recently underwent a massive remodel that includes a new theatre studio and improved accessibility and sustainability. Guided tours are available and visitors can explore the Georgian Auditorium and historic Coopers' Hall up close. There's also a bar and café for drinks before or during the show. The Royal Opera House was formed as the Covent Garden Opera Company in 1946 inside a building that was built in 1858 and was formerly used as a dance hall.
It's one of Britain's most iconic theatres, known for its traditional opera and ballet performances by the world-famous Royal Opera Company and Royal Ballet, as well as for new works by contemporary composers. A visit to the Royal Opera House is highly recommended and due to its functional nature, no two tours will be alike. Plus, visitors get a 10 percent discount at the store and cafeteria with their ticket. London has some of the best plays and musicals in the world but this cultural district is much more than neon lights and famous faces. Before seeing your London musical, you can visit the London Eye, explore the Tower of London, contemplate Buckingham Palace, board a tour bus through London, ascend The Shard or cruise down the river on a circular cruise through Westminster.
The history of theatre in London dates back to 1660 when Elizabeth I lifted her ban on theatre performances. The Prince of Wales Theatre was built in the 1880s and became known for its Folies Bergère in London until it was rebuilt in 1937. The famous Andrew Lloyd Weber (famous for Cats, Phantom and Le Miz) is also owner of seven London theatres in West End or “Theateland”. The Official Theatre of London is run by the London Theatre Society (SOLT), a non-profit organization that represents the theatre industry. London has something for everyone when it comes to theatre culture. Whether you're looking for traditional opera or ballet performances or something more modern like contemporary adaptations of classics or new works by composers, there's plenty to do in West End. With guided tours available at many theatres plus bars and restaurants throughout many complexes, you'll have easy access to some of Britain's best theatres.