A historic landmark and a functioning modern-day venue at once, the National Theatre, located along London’s South Bank, is one of England’s most renowned performing arts centers. It’s been a mainstay of the city’s thriving theater scene since it opened in 1963.
The National Theatre’s concrete façade looms over the Thames waterfront, making it an unmistakable—if a bit plain—sight to behold during a walking or biking tour of the neighborhood or a Thames River sightseeing cruise. Visitors can go it solo by catching a show at one of the three auditoriums (Olivier, Lyttelton, Dorfman), soak in the free exhibitions, peek backstage along the Sherling Backstage Walkway, or hang out in the Lyttelton Lounge. Those wanting to learn more can join one of the guided National Theatre tours, which include architecture tours, costume tours, and backstage tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Entrance to the theater, the Lyttelton Lounge, and the Sherling Backstage Walkway is free.
- Free Wi-Fi is available on-site and there are charging stations in the Lyttelton Lounge.
- A selection of bars, cafés, and restaurants are located on-site.
- The theater is fully wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
The National Theatre is located on the Thames waterfront in London’s South Bank, and it’s easily reached from the Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee, and Waterloo & City lines) or the Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle, District, and Northern lines) tube stations, both set across the Thames via a pedestrian bridge). The theater has its own car park, although fees apply and drivers must also pay the London congestion charge.
When to Get There
Head to the National Theatre at night to watch a performance; the imposing building is most impressive after dark, when it’s dramatically illuminated. Or, spend an afternoon touring the property and plan to stay for lunch.
Watching a Show at the National Theatre
The National Theatre’s ever-changing lineup includes more than 20 new productions each year; past hits include West End favorites such as War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; classics like Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest; and contemporary musicals like Wonder.land.