Top Shows for a Stop Over in London

If you are flying in or out of one of London’s airports you may well find yourself having to stay overnight! Rather than be stuck in an airport hotel all evening, take advantage of the excellent transfers available to and from the centre of London and spice up your stop-over with tickets to one of London’s iconic West End Musicals.

The particular airport you are flying from will dictate, to a certain extent what shows you can easily get to see unless you decide to stay in the centre of town and book a theatre break in London. So before you dive in a book tickets for a particular show, let’s see what the options are.


Gatwick Airport

Transfers from Gatwick to London are courtesy First Capital Connect and the Gatwick Express.

The Express arrives at Victoria Station which is perfect for two of the biggest West End shows: Billy Elliot and Wicked. Billy Elliot is the stage adaptation of the film of a Northern lad who wants to become a dancer. Having won countless awards it is on at the Victoria palace Theatre, just opposite the train station.


The Victoria Palace Theatre opposite Victoria Station
photo Simon Harding


Wicked is the story of the two witches from The Wizard of Oz. It starts when they first meet, long before Dorothy’s fateful arrival and tells the story from their angle: why one became “good” and the other became “wicked” The music is stunning and the story is a lot of fun: see if you can spot the references to the original story as they crop up in the subplot of this musical.

Chose Wicked if you have an early start as it is a shorter show by 15 minutes!

If you come into London on First Capital Connect you will come into town via London Bridge. Here you are out of the main theatre area but you are relatively close to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where you will find an excellent summer season of Shakespearean productions with the odd play from one of his contemporaries thrown in. You can enjoy the experience from one of the wooden benches that surround the stage in thee “circles” or you can stand at the front with the peasants: dirt cheap and the perfect antidote for someone who has just spent 13 hours on a plane and is looking forward to another long journey the next day!

First Capital Connect is also the route in from London Luton Airport so what I’ve said above goes for anyone on a stop-over there too!


Heathrow Airport

The quickest way to get into London from Heathrow is by train to Paddington, but Paddington isn’t close to the theatres: the London Palladium is the closest permanent theatre just about 2 miles away.  Slightly closer is the open air theatre in Regent’s Park, but only slightly and it is only “open” during the summer.

So the simplest way into town is the tube and the Piccadilly Line. This goes through the heart of London’s Theatreland so let’s look at each station as we go.

First is Piccadilly Circus and if you fancy a laugh get off here and catch “The 39 Steps” at the Criterion Theatre. The epic film is portrayed in its entirety by just three actors as they chase across the moors, the Fourth Bridge and through, round and over the Flying Scotsman.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket is just down the road two and that is hosting “One Man, Two Guvnors” which has done so well, both in London and on Broadway.


london theatre breaks
photo Simon Harding


The next stop is Leicester Square. The Wyndham’s Theatre and the Duke of York’s Theatre are literally right above the underground station which makes it very handy for you, although tricky for the actors as they try to compete with the rumbling of trains as they pass below the stage!

At the time of writing The Wyndham’s Theatre is home to the hit comedy “Barking in Essex” starring the Lee Evans and  Sheila Hancock – a comic institution in her own right!

Next on the Piccadilly Line is Covent Garden and if I have talked about musical and comedies so far then surely it is the turn of opera and ballet! Covent Garden is home to the Royal Opera House. Here the very finest singers and dancers ply their trade upon the boards. Tickets are famously expensive for the good seats but sit up with the gods an you don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to experience one of the classic operas… ballet, you’ll be glad to hear is slightly cheaper: I think it is because dancers don’t eat as much as singers!

From Covent Garden the Piccadilly Line leaves Theatreland so do make sure you get off here otherwise you will end up in Cockfosters!

So I hope that next time you have a few hours to kill in London that you think of taking in a show. I’ve only mentioned a few here (there are over 40 theatres in Theatreland) and I have assumed you will be staying by an airport: of course there is nothing to stop you booking a night or two in one of the more central hotels and making a proper short break of your London stopover.

About the author