One of the most remarkable aspects of London’s cultural scene are the city theatre and music venues. No music lover should visit London and miss live concert in one of its great music halls or a show on magnificent stage. From classical concerts and theatre shows, to ballet; from contemporary music gigs to the most hot fringe performances – London is the place where the whole beautiful diversity of styles and events can be found. Don’t hesitate a minute longer, put your formal clothes on, take a taxi and visit some of these inspiring stages.
In our list are 12 of the biggest, most popular and most visited theatre and music venues in London.
Royal Opera House
Address: Covent Garden / Bow Street London WC2E 9DD
The Royal Opera House is home of the Royal Orchestra, The Royal Ballet and of course, the Opera. Although the most of the performances are musical we decided to include the Opera House here, because of its high level ballet shows. Almost half of the events in their cultural calendar are ballet spectacles. This world class stage combines traditions, heritage and imagination into new interpretations of ballet as art genre.
If you decide to visit the Royal Ballet you can choose between at least 10 ongoing shows through all seasons. But don’t let yourself be misled – you will not see outdated classical performances, even the traditional spectacles are reimagined to satisfy the swanky Londoners taste. Also new and modern ballet play are held in the Opera House.
The Old Vic
Address: Waterloo Road and The Cut, London SE1 8NB
The Old Vic stands as a theatre way back since the 1818 in Waterloo. It has long and dramatic history as a drama theatre. Today the venue attracts people from all over the world to see both modern and adapted classic plays. But The Old Vic is tempting not only for visitors, but for some of the best creative talents. Looking back in the years, acting starts like Peter O’Toole, Judi Dench, Albert Finney and Maggie Smith were starring on Old Vic’s stage.
In 2003 Kevin Spacey became artistic director and put new power and live into the theatre. Today artistic director is again a popular name – the British dramatist and director Matthew Warchus. Don’t miss Old Vic’s big stage and beautiful hall and when you go there don’t forget to have a drink or a snack in Penny bar or Mark’s bar.
The Young Vic
Address: 66 The Cut, Waterloo, SE1 8LZ
Again on The Cut stands The Young Vic, another great performance venue. Initially part of the The Old Vic’s Trust, the small theatre became independent in 1974. The theatre was founded in a breeze-block building with the intention to be temporary, but eventually it stood for the years. Young Vic’s idea always was to bring in front classic plays, held in innovative manner and modern productions. The initial intent was to create high performance theatre, but in informal and simple surrounding. Young Vic also has its fame -well known actors like Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren starred in its plays.
Today Young Vic has three auditoriums in three building. The main auditorium can bear up to 420 people and the others are smaller. Young Vic is a place where you can actually feel the performance in its intimate, rough, industrial hall. The theatre is associated with young bold directors and actors, who choose Young Vic to experiment.
Visit Young Vic and as their policy says “sit anywhere”. Checkout WHAT’S ON.
Address: St. Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES
London Coliseum in home of the London National Opera and Ballet and it’s the biggest theatre stage in London. It is located in the city center, very close to the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. It has rich Edwardian interior and It is considered as one of the masterpieces of its architect. The Coliseum puts on stage classical shows- operas, ballets and musicals- you can see world famous spectacles like Tristan and Isolde, Giselle, Madam Butterfly, Swan Lake. The Coliseum was built as a luxurious theatre and it kept its traditions. In just one month the theatre keeps up to 20 different shows, something is happening every day. This big complex also has restaurant and 5 bars, where you can sit and relax before the show.
Be sure to see all performances in WHAT’S ON section.
Address: 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
Shakespeare’s Globe is truly a living memory from the 16th century. The open air theater is built in 1599 by the playing company to which Shakespeare belonged. Placed on the south bank of the river it stands for more than 400 years. Today it is fully reconstructed, to discover the atmosphere of the theatre’s golden age, when Shakespeare plays were staged. The building suffered many disasters and today’s look is work of the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who rebuilt the Globe. It will be extraordinary experience to watch a play in an authentic surrounding.
The reconstruction is considered as very realistic and you will find the true beauty of the classical plays, performed in open air. The open space holds performances between May and October, but it can also be visited with Tour ticket. Another smaller building is added to the open air theatre – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse- small indoor space lit by candle light. Don’t miss the Exhibition when you visit this theatre, to learn about the Globe’s history and about Shakespeare himself.
Take a look WHAT’S ON now.
Address: 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD
Southwark Playhouse is modern fringe theatre, very small, but also very interesting to visit. It was placed under the arches of London Bridge Station, opened in 1993 and 2012 it moved to another location near Elephant & Castle. Southwark Playhouse has its fame of young spirited pioneer in the theatre business. Since it first opened, this venue always turned to young actors, directors and musicians, leading them through the path of semi-professional theatre career. Many of them are today true professionals.
What you can watch at Southwark Playhouse? Adaptations of classical plays, new scenarios, musicals, all seen through the eyes of people fallen in love with theatre. You can also see open production of the theatre’s young youth led company. Southwark Playhouse is for people tired of traditional plays and boring performance.
In the first part we took a look on the Best Theatre Venues in London. And as there is no such place elsewhere in the world like London, which offer wider variety of music live events, let’s see the Best Music Venues in London.
O2 Academy Brixton
Address: 211 Stockwell Road, SW9 9SL
O2 Academy in Brixton is world known venue. With its 5000 capacity space it is one of the biggest music halls in London. O2 was built to be a cinema, but through the years it hosted major rock stars like The Sex Pistols and The Smiths. In O2 you can see gigs in every genre, from metal and rock to pop, indie and alternative. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that names like Madonna, Massive Attack, The Clash, The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails and Iron Maiden played there.
O2’s taste to rock and alternative music is quite tangible, even though today programs are very variable in genre style. The hall is respected because of its raked standing area, which gives good vision to everybody, even to the people in the back.
Checkout WHAT’S ON and don’t miss your favorite musician playing in the huge O2 hall.
Address: 1A Camden High Street, NW1 6NR
This music venue in Camden is favorite for music stars since the 70’s. Before it became KOKO, at first was built as a theatre, where Charlie Chaplin performed. The venue changed its purpose many times, it was cinema, later-punk venue to welcome all punk rising bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. In the 80’s it was renamed to Camden Palace, when Madonna took her first show in UK.
So finally in 2004 KOKO was born, after a multi-million refurbishment. And with such a glamourous history, you wouldn’t be surprised that bands and artist like Prince, Queens of the Stone Age, Kasabian, Kristina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse performed there. The venue is not very big, but quite enough to satisfy fans. They have early shows, both week and weekend acts, club NME shows and of course bar with a roof terrace to have drink.
Checkout their WHAT’S ON page.
Address: Compton Terrace, Islington, N1 2UN
The Union Chapel in Islington is unique breathtaking space for music and prayer. Working as a church and music venue it offers great memorable experience. The interior of a gothic cathedral, with its bare stone walls and octagonal roof plan with arches, combined with astonishing acoustic sound, creates the perfect symbiosis for both performers and visitors. Union Chapel is preferred for jazz shows and since 2006 it is host to the annual Little Noise Sessions.
Inside you will find the organ, instrument involved within a modern project, a new reading of the organ’s purpose. The Union Chapel also is shelter for the homeless, developing a range of services aiming to help people in need. This venue was elected for the Best Live Music Venue in London by the readers of Time Out magazine in 2012. The Union Chapel has interesting versatile program- organ shows, concerts, comedies, even films and readings.
After the Sunday services are coming the events – see their calendar in WHAT’S ON page.
Address: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS
A lot can be said about the Barbican Centre, a multicultural arts performing center, one of its kind and the largest in Europe. It was built for an enormous amount of money, by the City of London Corporation, as a gift to the city. At this moment The City of London Corp. is the thirds biggest funder of arts in the UK. The great complex is home of the London and BBC Symphony Orchestra, it also has 3 cinemas, theatre, exhibition halls, library, bars and restaurants. Great place not only for music, but for full cultural experience.
Today Barbican Centre is the leading classic music venue in UK. Except classical music played by the large orchestra, you can also see and hear jazz, folk and popular world music there. The Barbican Hall has capacity of nearly 2000 seats. And not only the music features deserve you attention – the building is built in Brutalist style- raw, concrete, multilevel construction, which drives controversial opinions. The music hall went through acoustic re-engineering, to improve the sound control and echo.
To see what musical events are coming, take a look on WHAT’S ON section.
Address: Kensington Gore, SW7 2AP
Royal Albert Hall is one of the most treasured venues in London. Since its opening in 1871 by Queen Victoria to present days, Royal Albert Hall collects world famous artists inside its walls. From classical music, pop, blues and rock to ballet, film screenings and award ceremonies Royal Albert Hall is crown jewel in London’s live venues.
The Hall has many awards and holds The Proms every summer – eight week orchestral classical music concerts. For many musician is true honor to play in Royal Albert Hall. Some of them are Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney – stood on the stage.And not only the sound and fame make this venue unique, it is well known for its design and architecture. The building has the form of an ellipse, with wide glass dome and mosaic decoration makes the hall majestic.
Checkout current shows in WHAT’S ON.
Address: Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH
We finish our list with probably the greatest venue in London, which will remain in world’s modern musical history as the most popular live show space-Roundhouse in Camden. The building was born in 1947 built as a railroad house, to service locomotives. Roundhouse became arts venue in the 60’s and since then emerging talents seek this stage for expression. In those controversial years there played Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. So Later came the punk years and The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie and The Police brought even more fame to the hall.
The lack of funding in the later years led to closing of the venue. Roundhouse was re-opened in 2006 after a huge reconstruction. Since then the venue was host to the BBC Electric Proms and the iTunes Festival. Also the stunning gigs of Jay-Z and Gorillaz will remain in the history. Today various shows can be seen in Roundhouse, circus performances, spoken word, installations, theatre plays and of course a lot of live music. Roundhouse assures stage for many festivals as well. They also have 4 bars and one main space bar, to have a drink without missing the action.
See their calendar in WHAT’S ON page.