West End - The Broadway of London

July 16, 2006

No trip to London is complete without a visit to the West End. It's a lively area of London with as many pubs as theaters, which means your chances of catching a good show are equal to finding an excellent pint of Guinness.  If a glass of red wine is more to your taste, you’re in luck as well.

The West End, also called Theatreland, is an area of central London that includes most of the city’s major theatres. Like New York’s Broadway, theatres in the West End present popular musicals and plays, drawing audiences of about 12 million people a year.

You will recognize many of the shows. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats had the longest run in West End history. It closed in 2002 after 9,000 performances and 21 years. The longest running musical currently is Les Mis?rables which has logged 8,500 performances. These blockbusters tend to grab all the press, but new productions open each year.

A Little History

The theatre district lies in the ancient Roman and Medieval section of London, and is near the tube stops: Covent Garden, Charing Cross, Holborn, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus. Most of the theatres were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the late Victorian or Edwardian architectural styles. They seat anywhere from 400 to 2000 people.

When the West End was first developed, rich Londoners chose to live here as the area was generally free of smoke and soot, compared with other areas. Also, its location near Westminster made it particularly appealing to the well heeled.

Today, along with the theatres, restaurants and shops thrive here making it an entertainment and tourist hub. There’s the Covent Garden area with markets, restaurants and pubs; the shopping district on Oxford, Regent and Bond streets; as well as hotels throughout the district.

Theatres Beyond the West End

A group of government-supported theatres, most of which are not located within the boundaries of the West End area, are still considered part of Theatreland. These include the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Globe Theatre, the Old Vic, and the Royal Court Theatre, among others.

Traveling to London? Let us create a London Theater Package for you.

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