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Tips for buying cheap theatre and musical tickets in London

London is known for its world class theatre production and many are those looking to bag discounted theatre tickets. From discounted theatre tickets for West End shows to hidden gems at one of the city's fringe theatres, find out how to bag cheap London theatre tickets.
Written by Hannah Cornish Edited by Hannah Cornish 16 April 2024
London's Palladium Theatre entrance at night with black cab in the foreground.
The London Palladium. Image courtesy of visitlondon.com/Jon Reid.

Here's how to get your hands on cheap London theatre tickets:

Experience the vibrant energy of London's West End by immersing yourself in exceptional award-winning shows. With iconic productions like Disney's The Lion King and the successful, yet riotous, Mrs. Doubtfire captivating Londoners and travellers alike, along with timeless classics such as the atmospheric Phantom of the Opera and the gripping mystery of The Mousetrap, the choices are endless.

Below, we unveil our top tips for securing tickets at unbeatable prices. Discover how to navigate the bustling theatreland of London and uncover where to find discounted fares for an unforgettable night out.

1. Book tickets online

Are you planning to see a top show on your next trip to London? Then save on London theatre tickets and make sure you get the best seat by booking tickets online in advance. From some of the longest-running West End shows to hit musicals and classic plays, take your pick from the best shows in London.

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2. Find the latest theatre deals

Experience the best of London theatre with the Visit London app—an effortless way to see the finest shows in the city. Secure the latest theatre tickets directly from your smartphone or tablet, ensuring you never miss the best of London theatre scene. Dive into our handpicked selection featuring comedy classics like The Book of Mormon, beloved family favorites such as Frozen, and mesmerizing new sensations like MJ The Musical.

With the Visit London app, not only can you save money unlocking offers and discounts, but you can also guarantee your seats for all the West End's must-see productions. Enjoy unbeatable discounts with Visit London with seasonal offers to see some of the West End world class productions: 

  • Shrek The Musical: After a much-anticipated return to the Eventim Apollo, tickets are now available with up to 40% off bookings until 31 August.
  • Wicked The Musical: Delighting millions with the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West, this iconic production offers a special discount on Fridays, with up to 43% off until 1 June, and witness the magic of Wicked at an unbeatable price.

3. Try for standby tickets and returns

You can also opt to visit the theater's box office directly for the chance to purchase standby tickets. These tickets are typically returns or unsold tickets for the evening's performance, offered at a discounted rate, subject to availability. Simply select the show you wish to attend and queue up at the box office. However, it's wise to have backup choices in mind as standby tickets may sell out quickly.

For specific information on each theatre’s ticket resale policies for same-day performances, it's best to contact them directly. For example, The National Theatre provides standby tickets, which can be acquired in person at their box office just 60 minutes prior to showtime.

4. Be a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe

Two people sit and admire the majestic setting of the Shakespeare Globe amphitheatre.

This summer, delve into some of Shakespeare's finest works up close in the Globe's Yard by purchasing standing tickets—a truly distinctive way to savor the essence of London's Globe Theatre. The Shakespeare's Globe sells 700 standing tickets to each performance for just £5. These offer the best view of the stage, and let you experience the show as a groundling – people who used to pay just a penny to watch a play at the famous theatre in Shakespeare’s day.

While standing tickets may be offered at other theatres, they often relegate you to standing at the back. At The Globe, however, you find yourself front and centre, enjoying a classic theatre experience, a must when visiting London.

5. Go with a group

Take advantage of the discounts offered by many theatres for groups of 10 or more, an ideal opportunity to gather family and friends for an unforgettable night out in the bustling heart of London's West End. To ensure you and your group secure seats together, it's highly recommended to book your tickets in advance. By doing so, you can choose from the best available seats and avoid any last-minute disappointments. 

6. Try fringe theatre

Everyone knows the buzzling streets of the London West End and its many award-winning shows. But did you know that the capital offers a lot more for theatre enthusiasts to explore off West End? Explore some of the capital's smaller venues and more intimate scene for a fraction of the price. Fringe theatres (smaller theatres, pub theatres or those that aren’t in central London) often host local celebrities before they start their UK tours or perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as showcasing new writing. 

The Park Theatre in Finsbury Park stands as a beacon of artistic excellence, spotlighting both established and emerging playwrights. Immerse themselves in world-class new plays and revivals, championing the voices of tomorrow's theatre. Early endorsements from icons like Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman attest to its promising trajectory as a pillar of theatre production in London. Book your tickets now and see some outstanding plays.

Pleasance Theatre in Islington is great for stand-up, and lots of big names in comedy have graced the stage including Russell Brand, Micky Flanagan and Michael McIntyre.

7. Win the ticket lottery

Pupils climb the school gates during a performance of the musical Matilda in London.

Theatre lotteries offer a chance to purchase tickets to popular shows at a discounted price. The lottery system is designed to make a limited number of tickets available at a reduced rate, making theatre arts accessible to those who may not be able to afford regular-priced tickets. Not all shows participate in the lottery, but many popular productions do. These include well-known West End productions, musicals, plays, and other performances.

Immerse yourself in the world of Matilda The Musical by taking part in the daily lottery which offers a limited number of cheap tickets (enter your details and choose your preferred date on their website, along with a few questions to increase your chances to grab your tickets)

See Moulin Rouge, the stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann's award-winning movie and an all-time favourite. Every Friday discounted tickets are released at midday for performances happening the next week. Tickets are available on a first come first served basis, you can expect those to sell out quickly.

Each participating theatre or production will have its own rules and procedures for the lottery. This information is usually available on the official website of the theatre or the specific show. Winning the lottery is not guaranteed, so it's a good idea to have alternative plans in case you're not selected. See a selection of London's best selling musicals and plan your excursion into London's theatreland today.

8. Book a cheaper performance 

Matinees and weeknight performances offer a fantastic opportunity for theatergoers to enjoy top-quality productions at a more affordable price. Matinees performances are held during daytime, usually in the afternoon. These shows are ideal if you have flexible schedule, a great opportunity enjoy top entertainment during off-peak hours. Theatres often offer discounted tickets for these shows to attract audiences during times when seats might otherwise go unfilled.

The actor playing the role of Raffiki stands on the stage with antelopes jumping at the back of the stage.

Take your pick from some of the most popular shows currently performing on the London West End: 

Preview performances are also help for some of London's top theatre shows. These previews typically unfold before the grand opening night, offering far more than just a glimpse into a dress rehearsal. They provide a captivating opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in the world of theater and witness firsthand the cast and crew honing their skills to perfection before the official premiere.

9. Buy from a reputable source

Visit London collaborates with official sellers to provide tickets at face value. For each show, a seating plan is available to peruse through, making it easy to select the best seat available within each price band.

Many reputable agents have websites offering online booking and this can be a good way to buy theatre tickets, but be careful as touts also operate over the internet. Make sure you buy your tickets from legitimate agents, such as STAR members (The Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers).

Always ask to see the "face value" of the ticket – in other words, the price printed on the ticket – as ticket agents always charge a booking fee which should be no more than 25% of the face value.

If you have any complaints or queries about tickets sold to you, contact the Official London Theatre.

10. Check seating plans for the best available seat

When looking to buy tickets for a theatre show, whether online or at the box office, don't forget to check the seating plan for the best spots. If you're booking online, take a close look to avoid getting a restricted view seat – as those seats are usually cheaper. If  you are buying from the box office, ask to see the seating plan and details on the view from each seat.

This information should be made available to you before you buy, as these are your legal consumer rights. Just take a minute to check out those seats before you commit, and be sure to score the perfect spot to enjoy a night out at the theatre.

11. Visit the London TKTS booth

If you're looking to book last-minute London theatre tickets, visit the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. It offers half-price and discounted theatre tickets on the day of the show, and up to a week in advance.

If you're looking to discover more of London's spectacular theatre shows, check out the latest productions or be dazzled by one of the top musicals in London.