London’s Theatreland is home to some of the most iconic musicals ever written. Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Disney’s The Lion King, We Will Rock You, Mamma Mia!,Wicked and Billy Elliot, to name but a few. The names of many of the theatres are just as famous: The London Palladium, Lyceum, the Savoy and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. But where is “Theatreland”? Where are all these theatres and where should you stay if you want to visit official london theatre on a break?
A general idea is that “Theatreland” is a rather wonky square with corners at The Aldwych, Haymarket, Oxford Circus and the far end of Shaftesbury Avenue which takes about 40 minutes to walk across, or slightly longer if you’ve just enjoyed a pre-theatre dinner!
So the areas of note are Covent Garden, Soho, China Town and Leicester Square or otherwise “the West End” – WC2 and W1 if we are talking postcodes, although the ground rent (and probably some arcane by-law about actors and actresses “about” in hours of darkness) in Mayfair prohibits the presence of a theatre there!
Also, because of the excellent Apollo Victoria and Victoria Palace theatres, currently hosting Wicked and Billy Elliot, you can also add to this list, Victoria, or at least a small area just outside Victoria train, bus and tube station!
So if you are coming to town for the express reason of seeing a show, these are the areas to look in if you want to stay nearby.
Of course London’s underground system makes much of London easy to get to and from – it may be just as easy to hop on the Piccadilly Line or the Victoria line and travel a couple of stops than it would be to walk the 15 minutes to your hotel. But London’s West End doesn’t only boast the pick of the theatres, but shops, restaurants and many famous London attractions which should tempt visitors not to travel too far from Eros’s gaze!
The undisputed kings of West End accommodation are the Radisson Blu Edwardian group. This small group hotels offer a choice of mid to high-end four star hotels plus the 5 star Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel (which is situated on the South Eastern corner of Leicester Square). The hotel names all start with Radisson Blu Edwardian so they are easily recognisable.
Other remarkable 4 star hotels include the Kingsway Hall between Holborn and Covent Garden, The Strand Palace Hotel on the Strand and the Guoman Charing Cross above Charing Cross railway station. In these three hotels there is probably no better example of the range that the term “4 star” covers. The opulent Guoman hotel, pushing the boundaries of 5 star accommodation, the famous Strand Palace Hotel working hard to raise its game beyond its 3 star origins and the Kingsway Hall, a modern and stylish space converted from an old cinema.
If bargain basement is your scene then you can go really low in London, but the savings you get beyond 3 star are really only worth it once you hit the “hostel” standard of accommodation. But as most of these are a tube journey away, and the 3 star hotels in similar areas (Bayswater and Kensington for example) are just as cheap and offer a much better standard of accommodation the benefits are marginal… but I wibble!
Within Theatreland the Travelodge Covent Garden is probably as low as I would go – it’s a bog standard Travelodge. Not one of those Travelodges that makes you pleasantly surprised, but a Travelodge which does exactly as you’d expect!
A very good option in the three star range is the St Giles Hotel just behind the Dominion Theatre at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. A great position, it also benefits from having a huge YMCA gym, pool and sports facility in its basement. Fitness junkies on a trip to London would do well to book in here as it is only £5 a day membership for guests (although I have always found a day’s shopping on nearby Oxford Street all the exercise I need!)
But Theatreland comes into its own when you talk about 5 star hotels. The Ritz, The Savoy, Waldorf Hilton and the Le Merdien are the hotels we all think of when we think of London and they are perfect for someone on a theatre break: at least someone on a theatre break with a seriously large budget – although, having said that, the le Meridien is a remarkably good deal when you compare it to the others. Their opulence, exquisite furnishings, excellent service and the feeling that you are experiencing a piece of history all combine to make for an unforgettable break.
Of course the Savoy boasts both an hotel and a theatre making for the perfect ticket/accommodation package!
More modern 5 star hotels also worth consideration include ME London, just by the Novello, Lyceum and Aldwych Theatres, boasting room types called Vibe, Mode, Energy and Chic and a destination rooftop bar with views over London and the Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton just round the corner from the London Palladium. This building really was a courthouse and a clever refurbishment made sure it kept some of the original features.
And that sums up London hotels; a mixture of the traditional and the modern. As Theatreland is spread over quite a large area it is useful to work out which show you would like to see and then look for nearby hotels but using London’s underground or one of its famous red buses it is relatively easy to hop from one end of town to the other.
Tip: if you absolutely have to be within a few hundred yards of your chosen theatre, using the booking system at http://www.theatrebreaks.co.uk
Simon Harding has been promoting culturally-inspired travel for over 30 years. He now runs a suite of sites including Theatre Breaks, Edinburgh Breaks and Royal Breaks