London's oldest theatres in Nostalgic London

1) Theatre Royal Drury Lane

The world’s oldest theatre site in continuous use – this is known to have been a spot for entertainment since 1663 – Theatre Royal Drury Lane is as theatrical as the productions that are put on here. The current building, complete with two ornate royal boxes, first welcomed theatregoers in 1812. An ongoing restoration plans to return the theatre to how it looked in the early 19th century, when it was rebuilt after a fire, but with improved accessibility, an all-day restaurant and roomier seating. An original staircase from 1812 will also be returned to pride of place.

facade of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

2) Theatre Royal Haymarket

A much-loved part of London’s theatre scene since 1720, Theatre Royal Haymarket can count Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II and Oscar Wilde among its former patrons – and Noel Coward, Vivian Leigh and Maggie Smith among the stars who have trod its boards. Rebuilt in 1820, the playhouse and its opulently decorated auditorium is now a protected, Grade I-listed part of the West End.

interior of the Theatre Royal Haymarket

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3) Adelphi Theatre

It’s changed names (and been rebuilt) more than a couple of times over the years, but there’s been a theatre where the Adelphi now sits since 1806. The current building dates from the 1930s. It was designed by architect Ernest Schaufelberg and is peppered with art deco features. Make sure you admire the retro façade and 1930s signage on your way into the foyer.

street sign of the Adelphi Theatre
Elliott Brown

4) Royal Opera House

You might lose track of the onstage action at the Royal Opera House, thanks to the auditorium’s elegant horseshoe-shaped balconies, ornamental plasterwork and gilded decor. The building’s beautiful, classical design has been virtually unchanged since it was rebuilt (for the third time) after a fire in the 1850s. Explore the stunning surroundings by booking tickets to a show, taking a backstage tour or popping by for a drink – the building is open to visitors every day from 10 am. It all feels like stepping out of 21st-century London and into another era entirely.

crystal room at the Royal Opera House

5) Vaudeville Theatre

This stalwart of the West End, with its pretty glazed canopy, has been putting on shows since 1870. It’s been redeveloped a couple of times since, but original features from each period remain, like the fan-shaped decorative ceiling in the auditorium, which has been there since the theatre first opened its doors. The building you find there today mainly dates back to 1926, when the Vaudeville was refurbished to include more seating and a sizeable, rectangle auditorium.

facade of the Vaudeville theatre
Tony Hisgett

6) Savoy Theatre

Gleaming, glittering and really quite distracting when you’re watching a performance here, the interior of the Savoy Theatre is something else. Originally opened in 1881, the theatre is famous for being the first public building in the world to be lit by electricity. 40 years later, the Victorian auditorium was replaced in art deco style. It was that theatrical, mirrored and metallic design from the 1920s that was then later faithfully restored after a fire in the 1990s. So unlike any other modern building, it’s a totally immersive experience.

facade of the Savoy Theatre
Ben Sutherland

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