West End shows
London’s Theatreland is famous the world over and is right up there with New York’s Broadway as THE place to experience a show. The big productions sell out fast, but there’s a half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square Gardens for on-the-day purchases, and many theatres run a queue for tickets that have been returned. Theatres on the wish list should include the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden for opera and Sadler’s Wells for ballet. If films are your thing, Leicester Square Odeon regularly hosts red carpet premieres.
Or go alternative
A great fringe alternative in London is the Menier Chocolate Factory, which has only 180 seats and is housed in an 1870s building previously used to manufacture chocolate.
But there are more than 1,100 active theatres in the UK, so there’s plenty of choice wherever you go.
Bristol’s Old Vic was built in 1766 and claims to be the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world. Graduates from its Theatre School include Daniel Day Lewis and Olivia Coleman.
The UK’s ‘end of the pier’ seaside theatres are an experience, too. The Seaside Special show at Cromer Pier’s Pavilion Theatre in Norfolk should be on your ‘to do’ list.
Arts and culture
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Taking place in August in Scotland’s most historic city, this is the world’s largest arts festival, and features thousands of shows over three glorious weeks.
Described as ‘the single greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet’ the festival sells more than 3 million tickets.
Many of the big shows sell out quickly but there are hundreds which don’t – and many people simply enjoy the festival atmosphere and decide last minute what to watch, tempted in by artists who usher visitors into their performance space. Securing accommodation is more complicated – so book well in advance.
Or go alternative
If Edinburgh has run out of rooms and you prefer books to theatre, why not try the Hay Festival in Wales? The annual literature festival features live music shows, book launches, book fairs and film screenings over 10 days in Hay-on-Wye in May or June.
For those looking for a full-out street party, the Notting Hill Carnival, celebrating Caribbean culture, is staged in west London on the last weekend in August, attracting 2.5m visitors. It’s free to join, no ticket required.
The UK is big on diversity and its Pride parades and festivals in support of the LGBTQ+ community are some of the most spectacular in the world.
London’s Pride event in June or July is the largest but Brighton Pride is perhaps the most iconic. It takes place on the first weekend of August, attracting huge crowds to the south coast for a free parade which sees the entire city line the streets. Performers such as Britney Spears, the Pet Shop Boys and Mariah Carey have been headliners at the Preston Park ticketed festival which follows – and the street parties in nearby Kemp Town are legendary.
Or go alternative
There’s a strong LGBTQ+ scene in many UK cities, including London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds and Bournemouth. So, you don’t need to wait for Pride to have a party. Manchester’s famous Canal Street and London’s Soho should be high on the list.
You can find out more about the must haves of moving to the UK in our destination guides, full of tips to get you started.Click here to read our UK destination guides