Does your family love theatre? If so, it's one more reason that you'll love London.
We tried to buy Hamilton tickets when it came to Salt Lake City in 2018, but were unlucky in the lottery. We had just booked our trip to London and Paris, so as soon as I knew that we weren't seeing the show at home, I shopped for tickets in London. Success!
My 14-year-old daughter wanted to see Wicked for years. We had tickets last time it came to Salt Lake City, but then had a family wedding on the same day so we sold them. London was her chance to finally see this fun musical. Conveniently, Wicked's theatre is across the street from Hamilton's theatre. We saw Wicked in the afternoon and Hamilton in the evening.
London theatre tickets are surprisingly affordable. We spent more than $300 for four balcony tickets to Matilda in New York City. We would have spent $400 or more to see Hamilton in Salt Lake City. In London, we spent $110 for four tickets to Wicked and $210 for four tickets to Hamilton. They weren't the best seats, but the price was right. It was a screaming deal for some of the best theatre in the world.
Want to see a show in London's West End? Here's what we learned.
If you're serious about seeing a new and popular show like Hamilton or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, shop for tickets soon after you book your flights. New and popular shows will sell out. The earlier you book, the more ticket options you'll have.
We bought our tickets to Hamilton and Wicked four months before our trip. Here's how.
Visit the Show's Official Website
Find the show's official website by searching “[show name] london official” online. For Hamilton, the official site is https://hamiltonmusical.com/london/. Then follow directions for ticketing information. You'll be directed to Ticketmaster at https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/hamilton to purchase Hamilton tickets.
Pay close attention to ticket details and instructions. Note them on your calendar or master itinerary and review them before you leave home. For Hamilton, we redeemed our tickets by swiping the credit card I used to purchase the tickets. For Wicked, I printed physical tickets at home and brought them with us.
When you visit the official website, you may also find tips for getting discounts on tickets. For example, School of Rock was playing about a block away from our hotel. Its site mentions that you can get same-day tickets at the box office for as little as £20.
Many popular shows, including Hamilton, offer lotteries for deeply discounted tickets. However, your odds are better when you can enter regularly. Get lottery details on official sites.
Visit the Theatre's Official Website
The theatre's official website may also be a good way to get tickets. Wicked's official site directed me to the theatre's box office at https://www.theapollovictoria.com/tickets, so I bought those tickets directly from the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Official sites for theatres may give you additional insider information for finding last-minute tickets. The website for the Apollo Victoria Theatre states that same-day tickets are released at 10 AM and sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
TKTS and Other Discount Outlets
We hoped to find great deals on same-day tickets, and saw a number of outlets advertising deep discounts in Leicester Square. There are countless online outlets. We found ourselves at the TKTS booth one morning, just before it opened. There were lots of shows available, all discounted different amounts. Hamilton and Harry Potter were not on the list.
We picked Les Miserables. The ticket agent recommended that we upgrade our tickets to the £45 seats for an unobstructed view, so we did. After ticket fees and currency conversion, the cost of those four tickets was $241. Remember that our Hamilton tickets cost $210.
Sixty dollars per ticket is not unreasonable for Les Miserables in the West End. We liked our seats and we loved the show. However, it wasn't the dazzling deal we hoped for when we bought last-minute, discounted tickets. We had a similar experience when we recently purchased “discounted” tickets to the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Those cost $350, which underscores how affordable London theatre is.
I would consider using TKTS or another outlet again, but with more realistic expectations. Learn more at https://officiallondontheatre.com/tkts/.
Know Before You Go
Here are a few more tips for enjoying a play in London.
It's fun to dress up for the theatre, but you don't have to. Casual attire is acceptable at London performances.
There are no playbills. Souvenir programs cost around £8-10. These programs are beautiful, in full color and filled with lots of information about the show.
We found leg room to be a problem at some theatres – especially the Victoria Palace where we saw Hamilton. The theatre has been renovated recently, but the seats are packed closely together and the balcony is steep – which brings everyone closer to the stage. I'm large and tall and had so little leg room that I couldn't put my heels on the floor. A woman behind us was so afraid of heights on the steep balcony that she didn't use her seat. Be sure to book an aisle or seats on the main floor if these issues might cause you problems.
Stick around after the show to get your program or other merchandise signed by the cast. Theatre employees can tell you if and where you can do this. We waited after Hamilton. Not all the actors came out to meet fans, but we got autographs from Original London Cast actors who played Angelica, King George III, Hercules Mulligan and some of the Ensemble. They were so nice and I enjoyed chatting with other fans while we waited.
Here are some additional resources to help you find the best show for your family for the best price. Most of these sites sell tickets as well, but I'd compare availability and fees with official sites before you commit.
LondonTheatre.co.uk – London's oldest online resource for theatre lovers. Find a list of all the shows playing in London at https://www.londontheatre.co.uk/whats-on
Visit London – London's official visitor website has lots of tips for seeing the most popular shows and finding cheap tickets. Here are a few good tips: https://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/whats-on/theatre/buying-theatre-tickets
Theatre Etiquette – theatre.london offers sound advice – among other tips – for what to wear, bring and do at the London Theatre. https://theatre.london/theatre-guide/londoners-guide-theatre-etiquette/
Royal Shakespeare Company – Where better than London to introduce your kids to the classics? https://www.rsc.org.uk/
Shakespeare's Globe – Visit or see a play at this replica of William Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre. http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/