Tourist Information Guide

Visitor's Guide To The National Theatre

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The National Theatre on the Southbank
The National Theatre on the Southbank
As you approach the National Theatre you may not realise that you are in the presence of an institution that has seen the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Judy Dench and Helen Mirren tread its boards. The exposed concrete, stark lines and stacked blocks that make up the exterior of the building are a world away from the flamboyance and extravagance normally associated with important institutions. But that is just it - there is nothing predictable about the National Theatre. The home of the National Theatre Company is as likely to stage a Dr Seuss adaptation as a Shakespeare production. The theatre complex is home to three stages, public foyers for free live music shows, a terrace for outdoor performances and a well-stocked theatre bookshop. Enter the building and you will find yourself in a relaxed and open world - mezzanine floors allow for a high ceiling, there is cushioned seating throughout the foyer area and modern concrete blocks punctuate the space.

On this page you will find details on how to get to the National Theatre, contact details (address, telephone number and official website), photos of the National Theatre, an overview to what to expect at once you get there. You will also find advice on buying tickets and how to find out about events at the National Theatre.

London National Theatre overview: what makes the theatre special

The National Theatre is a theatre space on the Southbank with three theatres. It is often referred to as a 'theatre complex' due to the fact that it houses three theatre spaces: the Olivier (1160 capacity), the Lyttelton (890 capacity) and the Cottesloe (400 capacity). There can be up to six shows on the programme at one time.

The shows that are staged at the theatre include new plays, classic dramas, comedies and musicals. The theatre is known for its inclusive attitude to the arts. Attempts are made to make their shows available to as wide an audience as possible. An example of this is their NT Live campaign that started in 2009 - shows are recorded live and broadcast in cinemas around the world.

It is the home to the National Theatre Company. A theatre company that is attached to a theatre is known as the theatre's 'resident company' - they are a team of at least seven actors who perform in the theatre in a chosen repertoire of plays each season. The theatre company often go 'on tour' allowing you to catch them in other theatres around the country check National Theatre 'On Tour' page for more information.

The National Theatre is a complex that houses bars, restaurants, a theatre bookshop, backstage tours and public foyer areas (where there is sometimes the opportunity to see free music concerts - see the official website link below for more details).

It is free to enter the complex and spend time there - you do not need a ticket for one of the shows. The space is popular with people looking for a quiet place to relax on the Southbank. The public foyer areas have free WiFi and seating so that you can relax and watch the world go by.

How to get theatre tickets

If you want to see a play at the National Theatre, the high calibre of the productions makes it essential that you book your tickets in advance. To book tickets for the National Theatre, you have three options:

Box Office: You can buy tickets at the venue itself. The box office is open every day (see below for the Operating hours - they are the same as for the telephone bookings).

Website: Head to the events sections of the official website (see link below) and book online.

Telephone: You can call the National Theatre and book your tickets over the phone on the number below. The Operating hours of the tickets line are: 

Monday - Friday: 09:30 - 18:00
Saturday: 10:00 - 18:00
Sunday: Closed

National Theatre Booking Line

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3989 5455

Website: Official 'Buy Tickets' page on the National Theatre website

Opening times

The Operating hours of the National Theatre vary depending on what plays are taking place. However, the information desk in the building is open for the following hours:

Monday - Saturday: 10:00 - 23:00
Sunday: Closed

London National Theatre tours

Outside the National Theatre
Outside the National Theatre

If you can't manage to get a ticket for a play (or perhaps you have already seen a play at the National Theatre and are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes), you can get a ticket to the Backstage Tour. Experienced guides will take you around the backstage area of the three theatre spaces. You will be able to see where the props are made, the actors in theatre workshops and get a sense of the atmosphere backstage at the theatre. The tours take place up to six times a day during the week and twice a day at the weekend. For precise details as to times of the tours, prices and how to book a ticket, see the National Theatre Official Website Tours page.

National Theatre shop

The National Theatre is also home to a valuable and popular bookshop - the National Theatre bookshop. If you are a book worm you can while away the hours here, leafing through books relating to theatre and performing arts. To find out more on opening times, contact details and location, see The National Theatre Bookshop Official Website page.

Contact details

National Theatre
Upper Ground
South Bank

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3989 5455

Email: [email protected]
Website: Official National Theatre Website

Closest tube

Tube Tube: Waterloo (Black Line / Northern Line and Brown Line / Bakerloo Line and Grey Line / Jubilee Line and Pink Line / City Line)

On exiting Waterloo tube station you will find yourself in the main Waterloo train station building (to find out more about the train station, see our Guide to Waterloo Train Station in London.

Once you are in the main station building, follow signs for the Southbank. You will leave the building via some stairs. Once you have reached the bottom of the stairs cross the large York Road and keep walking. You will see the Royal Festival Hall in front of you. Walk up the steps that stand to the left of the building. At the top of the steps you will find yourself right at the heart of the Southbank, surrounded by bars, shops and restaurants. Head right and walk down the river side for a couple of minutes. You will see the large National Theatre building on your right.

Restaurants nearby

When you are at the National Theatre you will find yourself surrounded by eating options throughout the Southbank area. Within the building itself there are various options for grabbing a bite to eat: the Mezzanine restaurant, a terrace bar and three small cafes. The Mezzanine restaurant offers Modern European food in sleek surroundings (you should book a table if you want to eat here). The Terrace bar offers views over the city and also has a small bar food menu. The cafes will give you the opportunity to grab a quick snack or a cup of coffee before or after the show. For details of the eateries inside the building, see the Official Food and Drink at the National Theatre page.

It is also worth remembering that along the Thames, in the Southbank area, you will find a wide selection of eating options. There are the likes of Canteen Restaurant, Strada Restaurant, Ping Pong and Giraffe Restaurant.

Also, if you are looking for something a little bit different you can head away from the Southbank area to the surrounding Waterloo streets. Here, rather than chain restaurants, you will find more quirky and independent options. Areas like The Cut and Lower Marsh are vibrant and interesting places to head to for an evening meal. To find out more about Waterloo's dining options, see our Guide to Restaurants in Waterloo.

Parking in the area

The National Theatre has its own car park - driving to the Southbank is a realistic option. To find out more about the parking options, including opening times, location and prices, see the National Theatre Official Website Car Park page.

The National Theatre has played host to exceptional plays that have been staged in London. Three theatre spaces in the building ensure that there should be something playing that takes your fancy. Have a look at the programme prior to your visit and get booked before tickets sell out. If you have a ticket, chances are, you'll have one of the hottest tickets in town.

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