‘West End’ or ‘Theatreland’ is synonymous with the West End area of London where almost 50 theatres showcase exquisite live entertainment. With a history dating back to the 1600s, West End grew officially as the theatre district in the late 1800s when theatres like the Lyceum and Apollo opened up. In 2019, the West End shows have become grander with highly emotive scripts, talented actors, and spectacular stage effects. Whether it is the lure of cheap tickets or the advantage of catching an impromptu evening of theatre, last-minute West End tickets are a saviour! Here is a guide on how you can find cheap last-minute tickets for West End shows and musicals.
Try the TKTS Booth
TKTS is the official discount-ticket partner of the Society of London Theatre, which is a body of all West End theatres. The participating theatres offer their tickets in real time at the TKTS counter, and you can purchase last-minute tickets for shows on the same day or latest on the next day. There is only one TKTS counter in West End at Leicester Square, and the crowds line up to get the best seats for their favorite shows. Many popular shows and sold-out shows never make it to TKTS as they are sold through other channels.
Pro-Tips to get the best last minute West End tickets via TKTS booth:
- TKTS tickets are given only in person, and you need to have a valid photo ID card on you.
- You have a better chance of getting a matinee ticket, and these are given only for the same day. So, be there at 9 AM to ensure you get ahead of the line and pick the show you want.
- The TKTS ticket availability is shown on their website, and you can check it before heading to buy the tickets in person.
- The best thing about this channel is that one person can buy any number of tickets unlike other last-minute options at the box office and otherwise.
Check for Returns and Cancellations
Believe it or not, a lot of people don’t turn up to watch West End shows, even the popular ones like The Lion King. These tickets find their way back to the box office on the day of the show and are sold for steeply discounted prices. However, if the show is ‘sold-out’ through regular channels, then you may have to pay the full rate. This method of getting cheap tickets for West End is one of the most time and effort consuming and is quite unpredictable both in terms of availability and cost.
Pro-Tips to get the best last minute West End tickets via Return and Cancellation tickets:
- Visit the box-office early in the morning around 8 AM to find out if any tickets have been returned till the day.
- If you don’t get your pick, return about 90 minutes before the start as you will have the last-minute cancellations. Most cancellations are due to bad weather, so get yourself the right gear and prepare to wait in line.
- Bring both credit card and cash, as the box office may prefer one over the other and you don’t want to lose your precious ticket just because of this.
Test your luck at the Lottery
You can get really lucky with a West End ticket lottery and find yourself watching a hit show like Hamilton for just £10! The lottery procedure is relatively simple, and the process is generally set by each show and theatre individually. The lottery process is usually of three types –
- Lottery on the day before the show – For starters, Hamilton conducts a lottery with a 22-hour window, and you can apply through their app or website to be eligible for the lottery.
- Lottery on the day of the show – Most shows open the lottery 2-3 hours before the show, and you generally have to be present at the theatre to buy the tickets.
- Weekly lottery – Many shows like Matilda, Aladdin, School of Rock, and Book of Mormon take your details in an online lottery and factor in your preference for a show.
Pro-Tip to get the best last minute West End tickets via lottery :
Most theatres have restrictions like cash-only payment, tickets limited to 2 per person, requirement to present a photo ID etc. Ensure that you are prepared for these before you apply for the lottery.
Check for Day Seats
Day seats or Day tickets are the seats that are available on the day of the show. These tickets cannot be pre-purchased and are often tickets with limited views. These include front-row or side tickets which have restricted viewing. The theatre offers these tickets on sale just a couple of hours before the show at highly discounted rates. You don’t have to wait around to see if you get the tickets and you can hit a few theatres till you can get something you like. However, these are not going to be the best seats in the theatre. Also, these tickets are often limited to two per person.
Find out the National Theatre Offers
The National Theatre has a scheme for discounted tickets called the ‘Friday Rush’ where it opens bookings on Fridays at 1 PM for the next week’s performances. Friday Rush is applicable for performances in the three theatres – Olivier, Lyttleton, and Dorfman. While it’s not exactly last-minute, the advantage is that tickets open up on Fridays for even the sold-out shows! This gives you just enough time to plan an outing on short notice, all the while enjoying the cheap ticket rates.
Use London Theatre Apps and Websites
The management behind theatres and shows put tickets up online on their websites or third-party websites to make sure that tickets are easily accessible to theatre-goers. While you can get full price tickets on the theatre websites, third-party apps like Headout, Encore, and London Theatre Direct are ideal to get last minute London theatre tickets and discounts.
Headout is a reliable source for West End tickets, and you will get anywhere between 20%-40% discount on most show tickets. The app has a good inventory of even last-minute West End tickets, so you don’t have to head to a ticket booth physically and can sit at the comfort of your home or office and plan your evening!
Go for the Press Nights or Previews
Theatres conduct Press Nights for critics and media a few days prior to the public release. While most of the press gets free tickets to the show, the theatre also offers seats for a discount before the show to fill up the theatre. These tickets are sold just before the show and also limited to only two per person. You may not be able to get in for the popular and hyped up shows, and also there is a possibility that these shows can get canceled or postponed at the last minute.
Try for Standing Tickets
Many West End theatres have standing space, and these tickets are sold for as low as £5. The popular ones include the Groundling tickets at the Shakespeare Globe, and the Lyceum Theatre offering Upper Circle standing tickets for Lion King at £20. These tickets are available once all the other tickets are sold and can be purchased at the last minute from the box office. The only issue is that you have to stand throughout the performance!
1. Why should I buy last-minute tickets?
Last-minute tickets are best for impromptu plans for an evening out in the Theatre District. However, savvy theatre-goers will vouch for the multiple benefits of last-minute tickets. These tickets are cheap; you can get many of them for half-price or even lower. Plus, you can experiment with different shows and genres you may never otherwise watch. Headout is a great platform where you can find last-minute West End tickets and watch an incredible show for a steal!
2. Are last-minute seats likely to be at the rear end of the theatre or with a restricted view of the stage?
Last-minute West End tickets are always a mixed bag. You can get tickets at the rear end of the theatre, but many theatres reserve the front rows for last minute sales. Of course, most of these have restricted views. Some theatres also offer standing tickets, which have good views but you have to stand all through! Just check the seating plans before purchasing the tickets.
3. Can online platforms (sites/apps etc.) be trusted?
Yes, a lot of online platforms tie-up with official theatre groups to offer these last-minute theatre tickets. However, you should always check the URL of the website, as several websites use similar sounding names to confuse their customers. Also, make sure to check how the tickets are given, whether they send you an email or offer in person. Headout is a reliable website that is trusted by hundreds of theatre-goers every day to purchase their West End tickets.
4. Are there ticket booths (other than TKTS) in London where I can buy last-minute tickets from?
Yes, there are ticket booths in the West End district where you can buy last-minute tickets. However, many of them do not have the real-time update of tickets like TKTS or online apps like Headout.
5. If I want to watch a specific show that’s already sold out, would it still be possible to get last-minute tickets?
Yes, you can always try your luck with returns, day tickets, lottery or standing tickets to purchase last-minute tickets. All these other tickets are available only as last-minute options and not for advance booking.
More West End Guides
For more West End information, here are some helpful quick links!