How to buy tickets to London’s best shows and attractions

Let’s face it: London has so much to do, finding the time to see it all would take weeks, if not months.

Like most visitors, you won’t have the luxury of months, so you’ll want to hit the major sites ASAP. This post is your ticket (see what I did there) to planning your time and ticket-buying activities, so you can save the headache of figuring it out on the spot.

Below are some of the major sites and activities requiring tickets, and how to get them.

Shakespeare’s Globe play

seeing a show at Globe Theatre in evening in London

Cost: £7.00

Shakespeare’s plays are as accessible for regular people today as they were in his time. For less than a tenner, you can enjoy three to four hours of whatever Shakespearean show is currently on at the Globe Theatre as a groundling.

Like the working class in Shakespeare’s time, you’ll be given a standing room-only ticket, so you can shuffle in among your peers and enjoy a show from the ground (hence, groundling).

How to get tickets:

Tickets for shows are issued at the Globe Theatre’s box office. You’ll have to arrive before 6pm (when it closes) to secure your tickets for the performance you’d like to see (which usually starts each night between 7 and 7:30pm).

For such a low price, it’s fun to watch the confusing and sometimes boring plays you read in English class come to life. It’s true what they say: Shakespeare is funnier live.

West End show

witch and fairy of Wicked on stage in London

Cost: £20 – £150+

West End is to London as Broadway is to New York, and just as amazing. Big name shows — like Les MiserablesPhantom of the Opera, and Wicked — are long-running options that will introduce you to a taste of the talent harboured here.

Still-popular-but-lesser-known options like Kinky Boots and The Book of Mormon will have you keeled over laughing in your seat. Or, you can read the descriptions of what’s playing online and choose something you fancy.

How to get tickets:

Whatever performance you choose, you have two main options for buying tickets.

Buy them in advance online. This allows you to select your seat and choose between price brackets.

Try for a last minute deal at TKTS in Leicester Square. Once you arrive in London, head to Leicester Square — in the heart of the theatre district — and stop at the TKTS box office in the centre near the fountains. They sell last minute tickets for that evening’s shows at reduced prices.

Because TKTS only sells what is left over from the theatre box offices (and may sell out of some shows right away too), if there is a particular show you’re dying to see, ordering online is probably your best bet. If you have a few that you’d be fine to watch and you want to save a bit of cash, TKTS is a great option.

Madame Tussauds & London Eye

London Eye in evening across water

Cost: £40 – 45

The famous wax museum and the large ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames are two iconic attractions in London, and well worth a visit.

If your itinerary includes both of these big-ticket items (and in my opinion, it should), follow these steps.

How to get tickets:

Buy a combo ticket for the two attractions in advance online. This will not only save you money, but it allows you to book an entry time for both places.

If you’re on an insanely tight schedule, booking Fast Pass tickets for the London Eye will save you about 45 to 60 minutes of queuing, which might be worth it.

The queues at both tend to be massive, so booking an entry time allows you to breeze past those who didn’t have the foresight to book online at Madame Tussauds.

Unfortunately, the entry time you’ve selected for the London Eye is for queuing and not actually hopping in one of the carriages, though you still need to book this time in advance.

The Eye keeps crowds down by giving everyone a 30-minute timeslot in which to join the queue… which still means 45 minutes of waiting to actually board the wheel. If you do not have this time booked, you will be kicked out of the line, sent to secure an entry time, and then required to go to the back of the line again.

Tower of London

Tower of London across water

Cost: £27 for adults, £19 for students

The Tower of London is one of the most interesting war/historical museums to visit during your time in London. Take a tour with one of the Beefeater guards (included in your entry price) and pop in to see the crown jewels (watch The Crown on Netflix first if you want more context for these) before checking out the huge ravens that are kept by the guards here.

How to get tickets:

Picking up your tickets right before entry shouldn’t be a problem — the Tower usually has all of its ticket kiosks open, and there are a lot of them. If you go later in the day, this process is especially fast as the crowds have usually thinned.

My advice is to arrive around 2:30pm, buy your tickets, and enter for the 3pm Beefeater tour (these run every 30 minutes until the last one at 3:30pm), which gives you enough time to gather the history from your guide and then explore on your own before the tower closes at 5:30pm.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Diagon Alley at Harry Potter studio

Cost:£45 for adults, £41 for children (and well worth every penny!)

If you have a third day in the city, devote it (yes, all of it) to this. Harry Potter fans who have seen at least one or two of the films will love it. You’re taken through the making of the movies, from costume and set design to special effects and animal training.

How to get tickets:

Tickets need to be purchased online well in advance of your visit, usually at least two or three months before. When you buy them, you’re given an option including a digital guide, and you should definitely go for it. You’re also required to choose an entry time — in my experience, the earlier you arrive the better for fewer crowds (it gets busiest around 2 or 3pm).

The digital guides were the best decision I made on my last visit, as they give you in-depth facts about each area as you go along. I don’t normally like digital guides, but these were superb. We spent 6 hours soaking it all in, with a spot of butterbeer and a meal in the on-site cafe to break up the day.

Sorting out tickets can be a major headache when travelling, but if you know what to expect, you’ll breeze through the process like a pro.

Do you have any questions on buying tickets for other major sites? Let me know in a comment and I’ll help as much as I can.

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