There's no way you'll miss the Criterion theatre - its distinctive vibrant blue stained glass art deco signage juts out into Piccadilly Circus. The building is a classic breath of fresh air amongst the neon adverts and fast food joints in the square - a reminder of another era. Step inside the theatre and you will feel like you've stepped back in time - the walls are covered in traditional pub style mottled mirrors and the ornate pink-walled theatre is rumoured to have been described as `the inside of a wedding cake'.
On this page you will find an overview to the theatre along with how to get to the Criterion. We also provide contact details (address, telephone number and official website), photographs of the venue, a guide to how to find out what shows are on, ticketing advice and listings for cafes and restaurants close to the Criterion Theatre.
The Criterion Theatre first began its life as a theatre (having previously been a public house) in 1874, showing Henry Byron's 'An American Lady'. Ever since it has maintained a reputation as one of the best theatres in the London. During the Second World War the theatre was requisitioned by the BBC. The fact that the theatre space is underground meant that it was safe from the blitz and was a place where people could come to see light entertainment. After the Second World War the theatre became renowned as a place to see avant-garde works such as Samuel Beckett's "Waiting For Godot". The building itself is a place of beauty - with a lavishly painted roof, crushed red velvet throughout and seating to suit all budgets.
A small theatre venue that seats only 600 people - allowing you to enjoy the intimacy of the venue and feel that you are right up close to the actors in stage.
It sits directly on Piccadilly Circus - a famous landmark at the centre of London, so when you are heading to the venue you will be able to visit other tourist attractions in the area. You can also enjoy the lively atmosphere of the square before and after the show.
It offers an alternative to all other West End theatres in terms of stage times. The evening show starts at 20:00 (rather than the usual 19:30), giving you that little bit of extra time to have some dinner, do some more sight-seeing or shopping before making your way to the show.
The theatre tends not to sell out of tickets before the day of the show, making it an option if you are in town and fancy seeing a show but don't have tickets yet.
The theatre is fully air conditioned, making it a good option for the summer performances.
If you have access issues, make sure that you don't book stalls, book the upper circle (this is different to normal theatres, as the theatre is in the basement of the building).
If you want to see a play at the Criterion Theatre, it is best to buy a ticket in advance. However, it is also possible to buy them on the day of your visit. To book tickets for the Southbank Criterion Theatre, you have a number of options:
Box Office: If you buy tickets from the venue directly they will give you advice on where to sit for the best views etc - staff there have specialist knowledge that the below options will not have.
Website: Head to the official website - here you will find information on what show is playing at the theatre during the time of your visit. Click on the name of the show and this will bring you through to an option to book tickets. Click on the 'book tickets' option and you will be taken through to a booking website where you will be able to buy tickets.
Ticket offices: Most of the West End shows offer tickets in ticket booths that are located in and around Leicester Square. This can often offer an affordable way to buy cheap last minute tickets. For a complete guide to buying tickets from the booths (including advice on avoiding the pitfalls of illegitimate ticket sales companies), see our Guide to the Official Ticket Booth in Leicester Square.
The bars at the theatre accept cash only, so make sure you bring cash with you.
The Operating hours of the Criterion Theatre will vary depending on what time the shows finish. It is best to call the theatre directly (see details below) of check the official website for the opening times during your visit.
Tel: +44 (0) 87 0060 2313
Website: Official Criterion Theatre Website
Tube: Piccadilly Circus (Blue Line / Piccadilly Line and Brown Line / Bakerloo Line)
When you leave the Piccadilly Circus tube station you will find yourself right in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. Simply look to your right if you are facing the centre of the square and you will see the Criterion Theatre directly in front of you.
Once you are at Criterion theatre you will find yourself right at the heart of an area to grab some food. The most apt restaurant to visit would be the Criterion Restaurant, which is right next door. This restaurant is famous for being opulent and lavish. You can come here to sit in glamorous surroundings and eat everything from lobster to steak. To find out everything you need to know about eating out at the Criterion restaurant (including information on how to book a table, location, contact details and what the menu is like, see our Complete Guide to the Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly Circus.
If you would like something slightly more laid back or more affordable, you will find a selection of restaurants in the area surrounding the hotel. Less than five minutes' walk from the theatre there is everything from a McDonalds to Pizza Express or Wagamamas. For a guide to what to expect when you are eating out in the area, including details on how to find out where the best restaurants are located, a map of the different options in the area and links to more detailed review, see our Guide to Restaurants in Piccadilly Circus.
It is worth remembering that some of London's most interesting restaurants can be found close to the Criterion theatre, if you venture into neighbouring area. The Criterion theatre is located in Piccadilly Circus - from Piccadilly Circus you can walk to Soho in less than five minutes. Soho is known for its high calibre of restaurants. Here you will find everything from Michelin starred institutions to tiny noodle bars to busy pizzerias. For a guide to what to expect from the eateries in Soho, see our Guide to restaurants in Soho.
The Criterion Theatre does not have its own car park. However, within easy walking distance of the Criterion theatre you will find a number of car park options. It is important to remember that there is often a lot of traffic in London and that parking prices can often be expensive. This means that if you are heading into the centre of London it is advisable to take public transport. However, if you do need to bring a car on your visit to the theatre, you can find out more about the parking options on the Official Criterion theatre website parking page.
Remember on leaving the theatre that you are in a lively area of London. This means that once the show is finished there is no need to head straight home - perhaps your night is only just beginning. In the streets surrounding the theatre you will find a host of bars and clubs to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. If you would like to find out more about the nightlife options in the area, see our Guide to Bars and Clubs in Piccadilly Circus.
The Criterion Theatre is a classic old London venue. It sits at the very heart of the city It is worth remembering that the theatre is affiliated with a glamorous restaurant- the Criterion (see above for more details). So, whilst booking your tickets, maybe you should decide to make a night of it and book a table for pre- or post-theatre dinner too.