Monday, 22 March 2010

How to have a West End night out - and not break the bank

No memorable visit to London is complete without dinner and a show. There are countless restaurants and around 40 theatres in the West End area of central London alone. Whichever combination you chose, there will be one constant – to be completed at any level of style is going to be expensive. But I have a few tips, which can help keep the cost down.
Musicals predominate followed by straight drama. Comedies at London theatres are in short supply – if that is your taste there are plenty of comedy clubs around town to be found in listing magazines. If you are determined to see a hit show you will have needed to book in advance. Best seats could cost around £50 ($75) – dearer if you want to see ballet or opera.
It pays not to be too picky. I’m a big fan of ‘tkts’ – the cut-price on-the-day theatre tickets booth in the middle of theatreland in Leicester Square. There are many other booths in the area but I prefer to stay loyal to the official one operated by The Society of London Theatre.
In my experience there is always a good range of theatres offering discounted seats for afternoon and evening performances. Unfortunately often only the best seats are available for markdowns that can be up to half of face value. So not cheap but you are guaranteed a top-class view of the stage.
Having settled on an evening performance leave enough time to do a little internet hunting to find a restaurant reasonably close to the theatre which to ring up and book a pre-theatre supper.
Many West End restaurants boost their early evening trade – from around 6pm onwards – by offering good value set meals. You have to eat like Goldilocks. You don’t want to suffer hunger pains by the third act but neither do you want to nod off because you had a glass of wine too many.
Shows end around 10.30pm and theatregoers head either back to base or for popular nearby areas such as Covent Garden or Soho to carry on enjoying the entertainment London has to offer.

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