"All the world's a stage," said Shakespeare, immortal words heard for the first time right here in London. And whether you prefer your theater, music, and art classical or modern, or as contemporary twists on time-honored classics, you'll find that London's vibrant cultural scene more than holds its own on the world stage.

Divas sing original-language librettos at the Royal Opera House, Shakespeare's plays are brought to life at the reconstructed Globe Theatre, and challenging new writing is produced at the Royal Court. Whether you feel like basking in the lighthearted extravagance of a West End musical or taking in the next shark-in-formaldehyde at the White Cube gallery, the choice is yours.

There are international theater festivals, innovative music festivals, and critically acclaimed seasons of postmodern dance. Short trip or long, you'll find the cultural scene in London is ever-changing, ever-expanding, and ever-exciting.

No matter where you head, London's art and performing arts scenes have been setting global trends for decades—and even for centuries, when you count Shakespearean theater and Handel oratorios. Fringe theater, classical ballet, participatory chorales: you name it, and London probably did it first (and often still does it best).

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  • 1. Barbican Centre

    City of London

    Opened in 1982, The Barbican is an enormous Brutalist concrete maze that Londoners either love or hate—but its importance to the cultural life of the...Read More

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  • 2. Battersea Arts Centre


    This arts center has a reputation for producing innovative new theater and dance works as well as hosting top alternative stand-up comics. It also hosts...Read More

  • 3. Curzon Soho


    Opened in 1959 and now a Soho institution, this three-screen independent cinema runs a vibrant program of first-run arthouse and mainstream films, along with an...Read More

  • 4. Frieze London

    Regent's Park

    A glamorous contemporary art fair, Frieze London brings the crème de la crème of the international art world to London each October. Its sister show,...Read More

  • 5. Meltdown Festival

    South Bank

    The wildly eclectic and very cool Meltdown generally takes place in June at the Southbank Centre. It's curated by a different big-name artist each year...Read More

  • 6. National Theatre

    South Bank

    When this complex designed by Sir Denys Lasdun opened in 1976, Londoners were slow to warm up to the low-rise Brutalist block, with Prince Charles...Read More

  • 7. Royal Albert Hall


    Opened in 1871, this splendid iron-and-glass-domed auditorium hosts everything from pop and classical headliners to Cirque du Soleil, awards ceremonies, and sumo wrestling championships, but...Read More

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  • 8. Royal Opera House

    Covent Garden

    Along with Milan's La Scala, New York's Metropolitan, and the Palais Garnier in Paris, this is one of the world's great opera houses. First established...Read More

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  • 9. Sadler's Wells


    If you're into leading classical and contemporary dance companies, head to this purpose-built complex, which opened in 1998 and is the sixth theater on this...Read More

  • 10. Southbank Centre

    South Bank

    The general public has never really warmed to the Southbank Centre's hulking concrete buildings (beloved by architecture aficionados), products of the Brutalist style popular when...Read More

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  • 11. The Proms

    South Kensington

    Hosted predominantly in the epic Royal Albert Hall, The BBC Proms is an eight-week-long festival of classical concerts that takes place every summer. More than...Read More

  • 12. Wigmore Hall


    London’s most beautiful venue for chamber music also happens to boast near-perfect acoustics. The hall has a rich history, including hosting the premieres of a...Read More

  • 13. Wilton's

    East End

    Arguably London's most atmospheric cultural space, Wilton's has been entertaining the crowds since 1743, first as an alehouse, then as a music hall. It now...Read More

  • 14. Almeida Theatre


    This Off West End venue, helmed by artistic director Rupert Goold, premieres excellent new plays and exciting twists on the classics, often featuring high-profile actors....Read More

  • 15. BFI London Film Festival

    More than 200 feature films, many of them world or European premieres, plus shorts and artist talks, grace the program of the BFI London Film...Read More

  • 16. BFI London IMAX Cinema

    South Bank

    The British Film Institute's glazed drum-shape IMAX theater (now, confusingly, operated by Odeon) has the largest screen in the United Kingdom (approximately 75 feet wide...Read More

  • 17. BFI Southbank

    South Bank

    With the best repertory programming in London, these four cinemas run by the British Film Institute are in effect a national film center. More than...Read More

  • 18. Cadogan Hall


    Once a church, this spacious venue is home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the English Chamber Orchestra performs here regularly. The hall also hosts...Read More

  • 19. Dance Umbrella

    The biggest annual performing arts event in London is Dance Umbrella, a 20-day festival in October that hosts international and British-based artists at venues across...Read More

  • 20. Everyman Hampstead


    The antithesis of a noisy, sticky-floored multiplex, the Everyman arthouse chain offers a premium cinema-going experience with ticket prices to match. But many say it's...Read More

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