Trains to the National Theatre

Trains to the National Theatre

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An unmistakable presence on the Thames and one of the UK’s best loved performance venues, the National Theatre is a tour de force among London’s arts and culture scene.

Founded by the legendary Laurence Olivier in 1963, the Royal National Theatre or ‘NT’ has been based at its landmark South Bank site since 1976. While the theatre’s productions regularly tour the UK and have even travelled as far as China and Australia, the building is the company’s spiritual home and is a must for any and all stage lovers when passing through London.

Whether you’re hoping to bag tickets to an award-winning show or just want to admire the theatre’s brutalist architecture, here’s everything you need to know for your visit to the National Theatre.

Where is the National Theatre?

The National Theatre sits directly fronting the Thames as part of the famous South Bank cultural quarter. It’s right beside Waterloo Bridge and close to the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, in the London Borough of Lambeth.

The National Theatre address is: Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

How do I get to National Theatre?

Given its central location, you could save time and money by leaving the car at home and heading into London by train instead. Arriving via South Western Railway services into London Waterloo, the National Theatre is just 300 metres directly north, with the walk taking around eight minutes. Simply exit from the front of the station, pass the BFI IMAX cinema and make towards Waterloo bridge.

Travelling by train

It won’t come as news that traffic in this part of Central London can get busy. Add to that the cost of congestion charges and potential ULEZ fees, and it’s easy to see why getting the train could be less hassle. Thankfully, South Western Railway services run direct to London Waterloo from major transport hubs in the region, including Woking, Basingstoke, Guildford, Winchester, and Southampton Central train stations.

Choose from our various ticket types when planning your trip. There’s plenty of ways you could save on train fares, not least by investing in any Railcard you’re eligible for. You could also benefit from cheap train tickets by planning to travel off-peak, while discounts are also available when you travel with friends and family, thanks to GroupSave.

Travelling within London

South Western Railway doesn’t just provide access to Central London from across the wider region. Suburbs of the city such as Surbiton, Wimbledon, Staines, Earlsfield, Putney or Raynes Park can enjoy fast access into London Waterloo via our network. Plus, when you’re equipped with a London Travelcard, getting around the capital couldn’t be easier. But you can also use an Oyster card or contactless for cash-free travel if you prefer.

Things to do at the National Theatre

From incredible National Theatre shows to fascinating exhibits and impressive spaces for hire, there’s plenty to draw you over to this spot on the South Bank.


To truly get a taste for the talents of the National Theatre, you’ll need to catch a show. With four auditoriums across this sprawling complex, there’s bound to be something on, and it’s little surprise it ranks among the best theatres in London.

Head to the National Theatre website and check their What’s On calendaropen in new tab. National Theatre tickets can be bought online, though you can always swing by the box office and pick some up in person. There are discounted tickets available at certain times when you call at the box office, particularly right before a show is about to take place, but this is risky and you might be left disappointed. There are also promotions online, such as Friday Rush with a select number of £10 tickets released at 13:00 every Friday.

Free exhibitions

It’s not just world class performances that the National Theatre offers. As part of its commitment to the arts and culture, the company runs regular, free exhibitions related to the work taking place on its stages or from the wider world of theatre. Don’t forget to see if any are taking place when planning your visit.

National Theatre tours

See the magic behind the stage when you book in for a National Theatre tour. These one-of-a-kind experiences are designed to let visitors step beyond the auditorium and explore how the company’s world renowned performances are brought to life. Depending on your particular interests, reserve your place one or more of the four tours the theatre offers:

  • Architecture tours – lasting 90 minutes, visitors can explore otherwise unseen areas of the iconic brutalist landmark.
  • Costume tours – a chance to see how the wardrobe department prepares actors and actresses with an enormous supply of make-up, wigs, clothing and more.
  • Backstage tours – a look behind the curtain, with access to off-stage areas and an opportunity to learn more about how productions come together.
  • Family tours – made for those travelling with kids, these fun tours allow little ones aged five and over to handle production props and try on costumes.

Tour schedules change regularly, so reserve your place soon to avoid disappointment.

River Stage

Now a summer staple, the National Theatre brings its outdoor spaces to life each year thanks to the River Stage. Free to access on the public area at the front of the Theatre, it runs over select weekends in July and August with all manner of eclectic performances to be enjoyed. Think drag shows, dance troupes, comedy and more. It’s all accompanied by a bar and delectable street food, so you can really make the most of the atmosphere.

Connections Youth Theatre Festival

Connections is the National Theatre’s annual youth theatre festival. Running for almost three decades, it proudly champions the talent of emerging playwrights, costume designers, actors and more. Featuring companies from all corners of the UK, you can catch their shows for a limited time during summer each year.


Putting on an event? Then few venues can offer the location and grandeur that the National Theatre can. With a variety of meeting rooms available for corporate get-togethers, there’s also the recently refurbished Buffini Chao Deck. Set on the roof of the iconic theatre building, the space enjoys sweeping panoramic vistas of the London skyline viewed through retractable glazed panels. Whatever the occasion, this versatile space is sure to impress.

Is there a dress code for the National Theatre?

There’s no specific dress code for the National Theatre. In general, London theatre etiquette suggests that casual or ‘smart casual’ clothing is fine for spectators. If you’re planning to see a show at the National Theatre, it’s better to ensure that you’re comfortable and feel appropriately dressed rather than trying to go overboard with smart and formal attire.

Tips for enjoying the National Theatre

Almost all trips to the National Theatre go without a hitch. But to ensure you’re well prepared and have an enjoyable visit, there are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Read up about any productions before booking your tickets. Check reviews and see if this sort of performance is something you’ll appreciate.
  • If you’d prefer not to pay for a programme on your visit, you can pick up a cast list for free instead.
  • There are different box offices for each of the four auditoriums, so ensure you’re in the right queue when coming to buy or collect tickets.
  • Those on a budget can try grabbing discounted tickets, such as those for preview performances or ‘standby’ tickets that go on sale 90 minutes before the show’s start time.

Things to do near the National Theatre

Set on the artsy and creative South Bank, there’s no end of things to do either before or after you catch a show. Turning left along the river, you’ve only a short walk before you reach the famous London Eye and enjoy impressive views of the Palace of Westminster. There’s almost always something going on at Jubilee Park and Garden, with funfairs, comedy festivals and live music events scheduled throughout the year. Families will also love the SEA LIFE London Aquarium and The London Dungeon, both located within the County Hall building.

Turning right as you come out of the theatre, you’ll soon come up to the landmark OXO Tower. It’s worth diving into Gabriel’s Wharf open-air shopping outlet to browse the wares and see if any of the street food takes your fancy. Continue following the Thames Path under Blackfriars Bridge and you’ll soon arrive at Tate Modern, one of London’s most visited museums. Whether or not you decide to call in, following the Thames Path all the way to Tower Bridge is easily among the best free things to do in London.

Food and drinks

Whether you need your fill before, during or after the performance, the National Theatre’s food and drink offering is fun and diverse. The company have teamed up with independent street food pioneers KERB to create a truly one-off theatre dining experience that’s a fair fit for the creativity and flare of the theatre’s shows.

There are 11 spaces where you can grab something to eat or drink. The House Restaurant & Bar is the flagship for pre-theatre dining, while the Atrium Café focuses on artisan coffee, fresh sandwiches and colourful salads. The Espresso Bar is perfect for a pick-me-up, while Bob’s Lobster at Terrace Restaurant & Bar promises the best lobster rolls this side of the Atlantic.

If you’d rather refuel away from the museum, there are tons of eateries to be found along the South Bank, including family favourites like Wagamama, Las Iguanas and Giraffe.

Places to stay near the National Theatre

Given its superb South Bank location, there are plenty of places to stay within walking distance of the National Theatre, including options for all tastes and budgets.

Good choices for those looking to save on their stay include Premier Inn London Southwark and Travelodge London Central Waterloo. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge and Park Plaza County Hall balance comfort and affordability well, while for something special, the super stylish Bankside Hotel is an excellent pick. For families, the larger bedrooms at the Holiday Inn Express London Southwark will come in handy.

National Theatre accessibility

The National Theatre make use of the latest technology to ensure everybody can enjoy performances at the venue. Access provision include caption, signed and audio-described shows, while smart caption glasses or also available. The theatre regularly run sensory adapted and chilled performances too. For more details on access provision and info on how to book tickets for these events, head to the National Theatre’s accessibility pageopen in new tab.

Buy train tickets to any destination in Britain – no booking fee