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Performance Theatre Tips West End

First-timer’s guide to London Theatre

So, it’s finally here! Your first time in a theatre in London! You’ve got your ticket, and you’re super excited – but what to expect? I noted down a couple of practical points I wish I knew before my first show here! Some of the questions were also inspired by your comments on Facebook and my Instastory in September 2022. Thanks for your participation!

My first time in Royal Albert Hall – just recently! And yes, I went solo 🙂

When and where should I buy my ticket for a show at London Theatre?

As early as possible! Generally, the prices are dynamic: the closer to the performance date and the fewer seats available, the higher prices. Matinees (afternoon performances, usually staring at 14:30) tend to be slightly cheaper than evening performances.

For best prices, check directly the theatre’s website – that’s when you know you’re not charged any additional commission. Some shows offer exclusive discounts available when booking via TodayTix or StageDoor app – so check them as well! If you’re in a rush and want to see a show on the day/the next day, you can just walk-in and speak to someone at the theatre box office, sometimes there’s a chance to purchase a last minute ticket or standing ticket, that’s not available online!

Definitely don’t buy tickets from ticket booths in Leicester Square and area – they usually charge ahefty commission on top of the ticket price (don’t trust when they claim “cheapest West End Tickets Here”).

Is there a dress code in London Theatres?

Generally speaking – no. The rule of thumb is that since the theatre is an artistic space, anything goes (as long as you’re decent). Even the most formal venues, like the Royal Opera House, ask to visit them “fully clothed and with feet covered”. But if you feel like it, go ahead and wear something fancy! It’s all about feeling good and comfortable.

Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Can I bring my luggage with me to the theatre in London?

It depends on the venue. Since the pandemic, many venues shut down their cloakrooms and there’s no assigned space to store a suitcase or large backpack. Generally, it’s best to google: “name of theatre + luggage” and check it beforehand.

In case it’s not possible to store your luggage in the theatre (that’s usually the case), look for alternative storage facilities. A very popular solution in London is Stasher – a platform that lets you place your luggage in one of the hundreds of convenience stores and pay per hour of storage. There are plenty of such points in the West End and nearby main theatres. Click here to find a Stasher point near the theatre you’re going to.

What if I come to the theatre earlier?

Don’t worry. Most venues open doors 1 hour before the performance. Also, EVERY London theatre has a bar or a cafe. Even when there’s very little space, there’s a small window on a wall, selling beer and wine (Jermyn Street Theatre, I’m looking at you!). So grab yourself a drink and sit down to enjoy the local theatre wifi (available in 90% of venues).

But there’s usually no need to come earlier than 15-20 min before the show starts! Just make sure you’re not late, as some venues don’t allow latecomers to enter after the show have started.

Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Can I bring food and drink with me to a theatre in London?

Again, best to check the theatre’s websites. In general, drinks are always allowed – but in plastic cups or bottles. Many theatre bars sell drinks in glass cups but when entering the auditorium you will be asked to pour your drink into a plastic cup offered to you at the ticket check point.

As for food: the general rule is that you should not bring any hot food (cooked food) with you into the auditorium. Some theatres, like Dominion Theatre, are super strict about it and even ask you to dispose of any outside food at the security check. Snacks are usually ok – but please, open the packaging before the show starts to avoid making noise during the show! You can get snacks like candies or nuts at the bar in the theatre, but note that just like in the cinema – they will be a bit more pricey than in a store.

During the intervals, some theatres (especially the West End ones) sell ice cream in individual small cups – and it’s totally fine to eat it in your seat!

Is it ok to go see a show in London solo? Won’t I feel awkward?

Going to see a show solo is a fantastic idea. You’ll have a chance to score yourself a ticket in a nice spot because single available seats are quite common and easily available, even on super popular shows and if purchased last minute. There are tons of people who go to see a show solo (myself included) and it’s just a matter of breaking that mental barrier that makes you feel a bit awkward (it’s only in your head! Nobody will bat an eye at a solo theatregoer once in the venue) – once you overcome it, you’ll have so much fun!

My friend Rachel goes to see a lot of shows solo, but she always makes random friends during intervals or after the show. She’s my favourite example that seeing shows solo can lead to some fun adventures! Give her a follow here.

Zuzanna Chmielewska

Digital Marketer by profession, published travel book author, avid theatre goer and an amateur Malaysia tour guide in my free time. Find me in one of London's theatres, travelling in Asia or cooking and photographing new recipes in my kitchen. I would try anything once (at least!). My theatre blog:



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