Enjoying London's Theatreland

by Simon Harding

Over one fifth of all visitors to London will see a show when they come to visit. Of course, for some, the theatre is just another one of the many highlights that visitors enjoy here, but many will come to London specifically to see a particular show.

These 'super fans' not only travel the length of the country, but come from all around the world to London's Theatreland and, to make sure their trip goes to plan, there are a variety of things that they do to guarantee a short break that is memorable for all the right reasons.

Luxury is all about being relaxed and the biggest enemy of relaxation is Old Father Time. So make sure you do everything with time to spare!

Where is it

Theatreland is a rather messy sandwich in between Oxford Street and The Strand. With the crust being Regent Street and the slice, Kingsway. It takes 40 minutes to walk across even if you do know your way, so don't get stuck on Oxford Street if you need to be in Covent Garden!

When is it

Most people book a theatre break at the weekend with a show on a Friday or Saturday night.

Friday nights can be cheaper but, unless you can get into town early, you are going to have a rush to check in, go up, settle down, dress up, go down, get out, go in, order, drink up, eat up, pay up, get in and sit down before curtain up at 19:30 - which is when most shows start.

So I would say the very latest you want to arrive in London is 15:30 on the day of the show, to leave you time to do the above in a relaxed manner.

Where to stay

Try and choose a hotel within a mile of Theatreland and preferably the same side of Theatreland as the theatre you are going to, so that you do not spend the whole weekend in a cab or underground.

If you arrive so early that the hotel has not got your room ready (ie before 14:00) then leave your bags and go out for an explore, but don't wander too far: remember that you still have to go up, settle down, dress up, go down, get out, go in, order, drink up, eat up, pay up, get in and sit down before curtain up at 19:30!

Pre theatre

The next important moment of the break is pre-theatre dinner. There are usually a few deals out there but restaurants in town can get busy, so you are best off arriving early. I would look to sit down at 5:30. You can have a G&T whilst you order and still have an hour to dine. I would stick with two courses (my auntie has two puddings!). Three courses (at least before the theatre) is too much food and takes too long.

Besides, the most important thing about a pre-theatre dinner is not the food but how close you are to the theatre. If your plan, of arriving early for everything, has failed you will not enjoy rushing across town to get to the theatre on time!

If you pick a restaurant that is nearby, you can always return there, after the show, for drinks and cheese and you might even see some of the cast there. Talking about the cast, do go round to the stage door to see them come out after the show. If you are shy, you don't need to ask them for their autograph or a selfie, but it is nice to say you saw them and maybe say a personal congratulations – they really will appreciate that and I absolutely mean it!

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Go to the loo at the restaurant because theatre loos are small and few and far between: especially for the ladies – besides that will give him time to pay!

If that G&T and bottle of house red was not enough booze for you then head to the theatre bar on arrival to order interval drinks, but know that they will be expensive! Let's face it, the whole weekend is fairly expensive so we shouldn't really worry about an extra couple of quid on your second G&T of the evening. But if you are planning to return to the restaurant, or choose another destination: a pub, a club or room service, then you could save £20 here! I would suggest a stretch of your legs though: some of those theatre seats can be quite uncomfortable, especially for the larger theatregoer!

So you've checked in, gone up, settled down, dressed up, gone down, got out, gone in, ordered, drunk up, eaten up, paid up, got in and sat down and been thoroughly entertained!

It is now about 22:30 and you have London at your feet.

Post theatre

London at night is magical. It is easy to get carried away with the whole romance of it all. Take a stroll along the river or through the squares, finish dinner, enjoy a drink, even see something else, the city is full of late night clubs – whether you fancy comedy, burlesque, jazz or something else completely different! But do remember that, like all big cities, there are some absolute rotters around! Keep an eye on your belongings, don't use unmarked taxis, avoid using rickshaws and don't go down dark alleys.

The morning after

Whatever you do after the show, the last thing you need to do in the evening is check what time you need to be down for breakfast. If you have it included it would be a pity to miss it!

Having said that, London has the bottomless brunch down to an art form. There are too many options to go into here and besides my friend Emily does it so much better at http://www.curious-london.co.uk/2015/07/09/the-ultimate-london-bottomless-brunch-bucket-list/ I really would recommend having a read – as much as I would recommend having brunch!

Because brunch (especially a bottomless one) will take you past checkout at the hotel, remember to do that, if you are only staying one night, before you leave.

The hotel will look after your bags whilst you make the most of the day and I would hate to think that, halfway home, you realise that you didn't visit a single museum,, that you only saw Nelson's Column on your way to brunch and that “shopping” consisted of stopping momentarily at a stall in Covent Garden and promising the stall holder that you would return later!

However long you do have on your second day make sure you relax and enjoy your time - it will go all too quickly – and before you get back into your car, or climb onto the train, make sure you promise yourselves one more thing: that you will be back very soon indeed!!