London

"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. Battersea Arts Centre

    Battersea

    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

  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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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  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. Menier Chocolate Factory

    This converted industrial space has become celebrated for its inspired reworkings of classic musicals, with several of its productions eventually transferring to the West End...Read More

  • 8. The Old Vic

    Southwark

    In 2015, Matthew Warchus, the director behind Matilda the Musical, took over as artistic director of this grand venerable theater, where stage legends like John...Read More

  • 9. Unicorn Theatre

    Borough

    Dedicated to innovative work for young audiences, this modern theater hosts plays, musicals, and interactive theater for everyone from toddlers on up. Inclusivity is a...Read More

  • 10. Vault Festival

    South Bank

    This seven-week extravaganza of fringe theater and stand-up comedy is a chance to see some of the United Kingdom's most innovative and engaging performers. The...Read More

  • 11. Young Vic

    South Bank

    Just down the road from its elder sibling The Old Vic, this offshoot hosts big names performing alongside emerging talent, often in daring innovative productions...Read More

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