London Theater Seating Plan Guide
London Theater Seating Plan Guide
This London Theatre district, commonly referred to as Theatreland or West End, attracts tourists and locals alike with its generous offering of no less than 40 theaters. Some of them running the longest-running show in history — Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at the 550-seat St. Martin's Theater since 1952 and others running the latest shows like Pretty Woman, Prince of Egypt, etc.
The London theater district, defined by The Strand to the South, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, and Kingsway to the east, is exemplary of a typical London street — neon signs, brightly reflected in the small puddles on street, flashy billboards announcing the shows’ name and time, and gourmet restaurants to serve the hurrying theater-goers.
The three largest West End theaters are the Coliseum theater, The Apollo Victoria theater, and the London Palladium. Many theater lovers also catch shows at the Off-London theater theaters, like the Battersea Arts theater and Soho House. These are smaller theaters, including many pub theaters, which are registered with the Society of Independent theaters unlike the West End theaters that require a Society Of London theater or SOLT membership.
If you are planning to catch a London theater show, our London Theatre Seating Guide will tell you everything you must know before choosing the perfect seat.
London Theater Seating Guide
The seating arrangements in most London theaters are typically divided into 6 sections - each section with a different view, price, and certain pros and cons. Now let’s look at these theatre sections in more detail.
Just like the Orchestra in other theatres, the Stalls section is closest to the stage. They are on ground, which means they are the front-row seats. No wonder they are the most expensive given they provide a great view. However, those located along the aisle and on the sides are relatively cheaper. The only time you may have a restricted view in the Stalls is if the Circle overhangs, but this generally covers only the top of the stage which is rarely seen. To get the best deal, reserve a seat in rows 6-8 in the stalls as they offer the best views.
The Dress Circle, also known as the Royal Circle is the next tier of seating above the Stalls. The view from here is especially sought after but it’s not recommended for tall people, as legroom could be an issue, particularly in older theaters, such as the theater Royal and Drury Lane. The seats in the middle section usually have the best views of the stage. The Dress Circle is sometimes called the Royal Circle, depending on the theater. The Dress Circle is a very popular seating choice among theater lovers as it combines beautiful views with affordable prices.
The Upper or Grand Circle is the second raised section of a theater located above and behind the Royal Circle. They are located considerably far from the stage and hence, highly affordable. Depending on the layout of the theater, you can manage to catch a remarkable view from the high-up position of your seat. This makes for a tempting combo — cheap seats with a good view. If you’re looking for a budget experience and want to choose between the front seats of Upper Circle and the last rows of Royal Circle, go for the first few rows of Upper Circle.
Some London theaters with a large capacity, such as the Coliseum theater, have an additional section called the Balcony or Gallery, which is right above the Upper Circle. They are generally the smallest section and also the highest from the stage, as is the case of the London Coliseum Balcony. Balcony seats are the cheapest given their distance from the stage. The view from these seats can sometimes be obstructed by the safety bars, especially if they were retrofitted to an old theater. Moreover, there's sometimes a legroom issue, so tall people should avoid sitting here.
The VIP section in a theater is called Boxes or loges. These are small, private seating areas for a limited number of people. They're usually at the front and side of the auditorium, high above stage level. Since this section is removed from the rest of the audience, you can enjoy more privacy here. Although they offer excellent views and the sound is most clear here, these seats are located to the side, so they can sometimes restrict how much of certain sides of the stage you can see.
How To Choose The Best Seats In London Theaters?
Reserving a seat in the Circle is the best option as they offer a panoramic view of the stage. More specifically, the first five to ten rows almost always present some of the best views in the house. The Stalls also offer great views but looking up at the stage throughout may leave you with neck pain. However, people who want to be closer to the action and feel like a part of the show prefer these seats.
The best deal is to book seats in the Royal Circle as they offer excellent views at affordable prices. However, if you are on a budget, you should go for the Upper Circle seats, particularly the first few rows of Upper Circle as they are high up and provide for some great views.
You can buy your tickets at any half-price ticket booths scattered throughout the London theater district. TKTS, located on the south side of Leicester Square, is the most reputable stand and a great place to find last-minute deals. You can also check for last-minute deals on theatre apps and websites like Headout and Stubhub. However, if you want to sit in the Boxes section, reserve your seat in advance.
Since most London theaters were built in the late 19th or early 20th century, the seats are often narrow with scarce legroom. Thus, tall people should avoid booking seats in the Dress Circle and Balcony. For ample legroom, choose an aisle seat so you can spread your legs. Catching a weekday matinee show is also suggested as the theaters would be less crowded.
Nature of show - Play/Musical
When booking tickets for a play, you should ideally choose the front-row seats in the Stalls section as plays are intimate and character-driven. On the contrary, the best seats to choose when watching a musical are the ones in the Dress Circle due to the panoramic view they offer.
With Kids/Without Kids
If you are taking children to a show, sitting in the Circle is a great choice as the seats usually have a steep rake, meaning that people’s heads in the rows in front will not generally block their views, and as the whole section is raised up, they will have a great view of the stage.
Finding The Best Seats In West End Theatres
The Dress Circle seats are the best when attending a musical because you will have the entire ensemble in full view. The production is planned in a way that allows the complete utilization of the stage and the performers also move around quite a bit. However, if sitting comfortably in the theater is your biggest factor in choosing the right seats, Stalls have excellent legroom. But the con in choosing the Stalls seats is that it may be difficult to avoid taller audience members who sit in front of you. Thus, a Dress Circle seat for a London Theater musical is recommended due to the view coupled with the price.
Unlike musicals, plays are intimate and the main focus is on the characters rather than the setting and other surrounding factors. Naturally, seats that work great for a musical wouldn't have the same effect for a play. You can choose the first couple of rows in the Stalls section. Being quite close to the stage, these front-row seats allow you to immerse yourself in the actors' performance and make you feel like you are part of the play. Furthermore, you don't have to worry about missing any of the action, which is an important aspect to consider for musicals.
Which London Theatre Seats Have The Best View?
In a majority of the theaters, the Stalls and Dress Circle sections are considered to have the best seats. In Stalls, rows 6-8 provide the best view. However, every theater is different and the number of rows may vary slightly. This would not make a huge difference but it is advisable you check the theater seating plan before booking your tickets. Let’s look at the seating sections that fit the criteria below:
- Value For Money Section - This is the section where you can find seats that are great value for money. The ones that fall into this category are the late-middle rows in the Stalls, middle rows in the Mezzanine, and the first couple of rows in the balcony.
- Best Legroom Seats - Legroom is a recurring issue and this lack of space could be a painful experience. Stalls provide excellent legroom in London Theaters. Also, aisle seats and front-row seats of any section are good choices.
- Best Views of The Stage - Although this depends on a number of factors such as the kind of show, whether it is a play or musical, and the theater itself, generally, the middle-row seats in the Stalls and the front Mezzanine seats offer the best views of the stage.
- Premium Seats - These seats can be found exclusively when booking the tickets. This is because premium seats vary from theater to theater as the theater chooses which seats to be marked premium. They offer the best views and are the most expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions About Theatres in London
Q. What are the best seats in the London Theater?
Generally, Dress Circle or Stalls seats are preferred. However, every theater in the London Theater district is different and choosing a seat also depends on whether you are watching a musical or play.
Q. Which seats are the cheapest in the London Theater?
The cheapest tickets can always be found up in the Upper Circle (Second Mezzanine). However, many theatergoers have noted that these seats are great value for money.
Q. Which are the most expensive seats in London Theater?
Seats in the Stalls sections are the most expensive given their closeness to the stage. Stalls seats also come with excellent legroom.
Q. Is it better to sit in the stalls or dress circle?
Rows 6-8 in the Stalls section are generally considered to offer the best views. The Dress Circle is the next tier of seating above the Stalls. Depending on your budget and availability, you can choose between the Stalls and Dress Circle seats. The experience is said to be similar.
Q. What are premium seats?
Premium seats are the ones chosen by the theater as the best seats. Evidently, they are the most expensive. However, if you are in the cancellation line right before the performance, then you can get a premium seat for a nominal cost.
Q. What is a loge?
Loges are also known as Boxes. This small section is a private seating area for a limited number of people.
Q. When do theatre shows generally start in London?
Most shows start at 7:30pm with a 20-minute interval. Most titles take Sunday off although some family-friendly shows choose Monday as the off day.
Q. What rules should I follow when buying my theater ticket?
Make sure you check the theater seating plan before you buy. As a thumb rule - cheaper the tickets, worser the view of the stage - so you can also use ticket price as a rough guide too.
Q. What should I do if my ticket is double booked?
Double bookings occur when two people book the same seat. When this happens, notify a member of staff, but please be aware that a customer who has bought tickets from the Box Office (and most likely paid far more) will take priority over those who bought their tickets from an approved outside agency.
In such cases, you may be moved to seats that are held back for problems like this. These seats are usually decent and if so, try asking for free drinks for being inconvenienced.
Q. Is it better to sit stage left or right?
“Stage right” and “stage left” indicate the point of view of the performer standing in front of an audience. Their mirror images are “house right” and “house left,” which describe the same directions. Central seats are recommended over seats to the farther left or right.