Theatreland: The heart of London theatre
According to the Society of London Theatre, over 18 million tickets were purchased for performances across all London theatres in 2017. In particular, audience numbers have grown immensely across larger venues in what is colloquially known as “Theatreland”, with an estimated one in four tourists going to the theatre when they are in central London. Find out all about Theatreland with our guide to the area, packed with information about the area which acts as a beating heart of London theatre.
All about Theatreland
What is Theatreland?
“Theatreland”, otherwise known as the West End is an area in central London, famous for being the home of many theatres in the city. The area is steeped in history but is currently a fashionable area for theatre fans to catch the latest show or to splurge on a shopping spree.
The district is popular with tourists from around the world, with new shows and events regularly opening.
Where is Theatreland?
The exact geographical boundaries of Theatreland have not been mapped out.
According to Borough of Westminster, Theatreland clusters around six areas in Westminster and Camden. Between them, the six areas are home to many theatres, shops and landmarks. The six areas also referred to as “street precincts” are:
- St Martins Lane
- Charing Cross Road
- Covent Garden
- The Strand
- Shaftesbury Avenue
- Covent Garden North
How can I get to Theatreland?
The main tube stations serving the area known as Theatreland are Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, all next to each other on the Piccadilly line.
Charing Cross is also near to theatres including the Adelphi Theatre, the Savoy Theatre and the Vaudeville Theatre.
Travelling to Theatreland couldn’t be easier with our guide to getting around the London Underground.
How long has Theatreland been around for?
Although the term “West End” has been used by Londoners from as early as 1534, nobody knows exactly how long the area has been around for.
Theatreland began to emerge during the 18th century, when venues such as the Theatre Royal Haymarket (1720), the Royal Opera House (1732) opened. As the area developed, it began to develop a reputation for prominent theatre. In the 19th century, writers like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw helped build the status, with their texts being performed to well-off audiences for many years.
Now, the area is known as a home of world-class entertainment, with internationally renowned actors and world premieres regularly appearing across stages throughout Theatreland and the surrounding areas.
How many people visit the area each year?
London welcomes over 19 million tourists a year, with many seeking to go to the West End and visit iconic British landmarks in the area including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. Across the last five years, over 90 million tickets were sold for an incredible show calendar filled with over 200,000 performances in the city.
I want to see more than theatres, what can I do?
Theatreland is part of London; one of the cosmopolitan capitals of the world. Just off of Leicester Square is Chinatown, a part of London that’s booming with restaurants, souvenirs and businesses offering a variety of Chinese products.
The Mall is a famous road joining Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace and is the pinnacle of numerous parades and events during the year.
It’s also a short walk to the River Thames and the Southbank, home to street performers, seasonal events and a wonderful atmosphere 365 days a year.
Are there any interesting stories from Theatreland?
One of the first shows in the areas was the classic puppet show Punch and Judy. The lovable puppets were first recorded on 9th May 1662, officially recognised as Punch’s birthday.
Opening in 1978, those looking for the latest theatre merchandise would flock to Dress Circle in Covent Garden. The shop closed down in 2013 but the store still operates online.
Did you know that there are more theatres in the West End than on Broadway? There are 47 theatres in the West End but only 42 theatres on Broadway.
Lots of ghosts are said to haunt Theatreland. Find out even more about spooky happenings and creepy goings-on in our article.
Does this mean the only theatres in London are in Theatreland?
While there may be lots of theatres in and around the midsts of Theatreland, there are plenty more outside of this small area. Venues such as the Young Vic, Old Vic and the National Theatre are home to award-winning shows throughout the year. There have been many occasions where shows transfer to the West End after a successful first run, so it may be worth expanding your horizon outside of the glistening lights of Theatreland before you book a show.
Further afield, smaller performance spaces such as the Courtyard Theatre, Pleasance Theatre and Southwark Playhouse are great for catching high-quality musicals, plays and performances as a cheaper alternative.