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Ian McKellen On Stage

Ian McKellen On Stage

Unstoppable stage and screen legend Sir Ian McKellen has spent the best part of 2019 touring an autobiographical stage show – formerly called ‘Tolkien, Shakespeare, others …and you!’, now subtitled that – to 80 venues across the nation, each of which meant something special to him. Naturally even the slew of London dates sold out pretty much immediately: but now he’s bringing it back to to the capital for a proper West End run, with all money going to theatre charities. The show – directed by Sean Mathias – is effectively McKellen’s greatest hits, in which he talks about his life, answers questions and performed bits of his most famous roles, notably Gandalf and the Bard.  

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‘Sweat’ review

‘Sweat’ review

‘Sweat’ transfers to the Gielgud Theatre for a short run in June 2019. This review is of its run at the Donmar Warehouse in 2018/19. The core cast is the same. What happens when three generations of certainty and security crumble overnight? Lynn Nottage’s monumental play about class, race and the dignity of labour tells us – and the answers should shame and scare us all. ‘Sweat’ was born out of two years that US playwright Nottage spent visiting the hollowed out post-industrial American city of Reading, PA. But her warm, intimate, polemic-free account of a small group of friends whose fortunes drastically decline between 2000 and 2008 has clear and present parallels with our own country – Stephen Bush’s smart programme essay nails it to London’s diverse working class, and it doesn’t take a degree in anthropology to understand that what goes for America’s declining centres of industry, goes for ours. I was a little apprehensive that Nottage’s extensive research would lead to information overload. But not a bit of it: there are only nine characters, some of them peripheral, but they’re exceptionally well written. Empathy radiates from every word; Nottage’s own sweat has paid off in what is emphatically one of the great American plays. It unfolds in non-chronological order. It begins in 2008, with Patrick Gibson’s Jason – his face bedaubed with white-power prison tattoos – grunting monosyllabically at Sule Rimi’s take-no-shit councillor Evan. We don’t know what’s going on, b

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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5 out of 5 stars
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The Book of Mormon review

The Book of Mormon review

Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but most of it is deployed ironically; beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the sounds and spirit of Broadway’s golden age. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breath

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
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4 out of 5 stars
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Wicked review

Wicked review

The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. After its 2006 opening at Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a spectacle that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet, this is all about the women and, even by previous lead Idina Menzel's standards, they are in soaring form here. T

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
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4 out of 5 stars
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‘The Light in the Piazza’ review

‘The Light in the Piazza’ review

Glance at the posters for ‘The Light in the Piazza’ and it looks like a fairly standard romantic musical; all ’50s frocks and sun-drenched skies. But it’s substantially stranger and more ponderous than that. It follows 26-year-old American tourist Clara, who’s naïve and trusting – a head injury as a child has given her a level of developmental delay. She’s taken round Florence by her anxious mother Margaret, who tries her best to shield her from suitors – until something in the sunlight changes her mind. It’s based on a popular American 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer. This 2008 musical updates it a bit but arguably not enough, especially in its approach to Clara’s disability. Dove Cameron’s performance as Clara has a hint of Disney princess to it, all cooing mannerisms and ditsy sweetness. Craig Lucas’s book doesn’t make much room for the more uncomfortable realities of her situation, in which her mother keeps her in the dark about her condition and shepherds her around like a child. Nor does it really dig into any of the questions raised by Clara’s romance with young local Fabrizio, who also doesn't know her ‘secret’. It’s kind of loosely implied that things are different in Italy; the warmth of Fabrizio’s expansive family will make everything right, will find a role for Clara that her US homeland can’t. This distinctly American faith in Italy’s magical powers shines out more satisfyingly in Adam Guettel’s score; it’s light on tunes, but Opera North’s orchestra brings ou

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
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3 out of 5 stars
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An exclusive offer for bottomless brunch at Roka

An exclusive offer for bottomless brunch at Roka

It’s back! But you’d better hurry – this offer is sure to fly

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35% off four spectrum yoga or meditation classes

35% off four spectrum yoga or meditation classes

Bend, stretch and salute the summer sun

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Time Out exclusive: drinks at Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration Safari Experience

Time Out exclusive: drinks at Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration Safari Experience

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Quincy Jones: ‘Soundtrack of the 80s’ at the O2

Quincy Jones: ‘Soundtrack of the 80s’ at the O2

A bona-fide music legend hosts a live concert

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50% off premium bourbon and bao bun tasting experience

50% off premium bourbon and bao bun tasting experience

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Our favourite musicals

The Phantom of the Opera review

The Phantom of the Opera review

I’m not sure any show ‘deserves’ to be the most successful entertainment event of all time, but I’ll hand it current holder of that title, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – it still works hard for its audience. Sure, chunks of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s opus have never left 1986. But whereas describing a musical as ‘stuck in the ’80s’ is usually shorthand for cheap, thin synth orchestration, nothing could be further from the truth here: the portentously swirling keyboards and crunch of hair metal guitar that powers ‘Phantom’s title song have a black hole-like immensity, sucking you in with sheer juggernaut bombast. Mostly, though, ‘Phantom…’ remains strong because its high production values haven’t been allowed to sag. The late Maria Björnson’s design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything from pastoral jollity to an ancient Carthaginian theme on the way to the Phantom’s stunning underground lair. It’s totally OTT – in one scene the Phantom zaps at his nemesis Raul with a staff that fires actual fireballs – and anybody who describes the plot (homicidal lunatic grooms girl) as romantic should probably be put on some sort of register. But its blazingly earnest ridiculousness and campy Grand Guignol story are entirely thrilling when realised with the show’s enormous budget. And while Hal Prince’s production may have been hailed as rather gauche back in the day, in 2013 it all comes across as rather more tasteful than the a

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
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5 out of 5 stars
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‘Waitress’ review

‘Waitress’ review

Lucie Jones has now taken over from Katharine McPhee in the role of Jenna in 'Waitress'. Blake Harrison and Ashley Roberts have also joined the cast as Ogie and Dawn.  The specials board in the diner in ‘Waitress’ advertises a bacon and blueberry pie. Most of the pies in Diane Paulus’s Broadway-conquering show are allegorical: their lurid lists of ingredients are flights of fancy in the mind of Katharine McPhee’s titular heroine Jenna, a pie-making prodigy who dreams of escaping her abusive marriage. However, as far as I can tell, the show is serious about the bacon and blueberry one. Bacon. Blueberry. Individually these are reasonable things, but with apologies to American readers, I cannot conceive why anybody in their right mind would even put them on the same level of the fridge, let alone lock them inside a pastry crust. Similarly, ‘Waitress’ is made from the very finest ingredients, but often they don’t actually feel like ingredients that should have been put together. Adapted from Adrienne Shelly’s cult 2007 indie flick of the same name, ‘Waitress’ is a moving musical full of flawed, morally compromised characters of the sort you so rarely get in this type of glossy Broadway show. Everyone, on some level, lets us or themselves down: indeed, the big showstopper, ‘She Used to Be Mine’ – delivered with exquisitely controlled sorrow by McPhee – is Jenna’s bitter ode to her disappointment in herself. There are no heroes here: not Jenna, not her hunky gynaecologist lov

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
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4 out of 5 stars
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‘Come from Away’ review

‘Come from Away’ review

Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful. ‘Come from Away’ has been a massive sleeper hit across North America, Broadway included, and it’s easy to see why: it mixes down-home authenticity with the desperate intensity that comes in times of crisis. This is a moment where 7,000 temporary arrivals join a community of just 9,000 people. Logistics might not be the sexiest of topics for a musical, but one of the many surprising joys of this show is how gripping it makes things like the struggle to rustle up transport at a time when the local school bus drivers were on strike and had to be coaxed into crossing the picket line. Then there are beds, food, medication and interpreters to be sourced for passengers from across the world: one non-English-speaking couple communicates by cross-referencing Bible verses. Based closely on interviews with real Newfoundlanders, this is a picture of a community that stretches itself to bre

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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5 out of 5 stars
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Big the Musical

Big the Musical

This all-singing adaptation of the beloved 1988 Tom Hanks body-swap comedy long predates the recent glut of musical adaptations of ‘80s flicks – ‘Big the Musical‘ (officially styled ‘BIG the Musical’) actually premiered on Broadway in 1996. The long-delayed British production finally had a try out at Theatre Royal Plymouth in 2016, and now books in for a very limited run at one of the West End’s very biggest theatres. Jay McGuiness stars as Josh Baskin, the 12-year-old who becomes trapped in an adult’s body – to heartwarming effect – after an encounter with a mysterious fortune teller machine. Tickets on sale April 2

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Our favourite plays

The Night of the Iguana

The Night of the Iguana

It’s been 19 years since Clive Owen acted on the West End stage and almost as long since London saw a major revival of Tennessee Williams’s brooding classic ‘The Night of the Iguana’. Now big Brit star Owen will take on the role of Rev T Lawrence Shannon, a disgraced priest now plying his trade as a second rate Mexican tour guide. James Macdonald’s production has an excellent further cast, headed up by Lia Williams, Anna Gunn and Julian Glover.

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‘Death of a Salesman’ review

‘Death of a Salesman’ review

Last year, super-director Marianne Elliott brilliantly rewired one great American classic: Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company’, which she refreshed for the twenty-first century by astutely gender-swapping the lead character. Her black-cast-led revival of another American classic, Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ – co-directed with her long-term associate director Miranda Cromwell – possibly doesn’t redefine it to quite the same extent. Other directors have had the same casting idea. But it is a phenomenal production that unquestionably finds new depths to the play.Certainly, making struggling salesman Willy Loman African American clarifies certain elements of the character, in the same way that making Bobby into Bobbie did for ‘Company’. Here played by US star Wendell Pierce (‘The Wire’), Willy’s crippling inferiority complex and vocal mystification at why people take against him seem answered – he isn’t just a terminal loser, but a man in denial about the fact he’s been discriminated against his whole life because of his race. Never easy to watch, the scene in which Willy begs his young, white employer Howard for easier work is excruciating.The idea of Willy as a victim of racism isn’t something Elliott/Cromwell follow through with absolute rigour. But it gives an extra dimension to Pierce’s excellent Loman, who can appear hale, hearty and charismatic one minute and irrevocably damaged the next – he is a fuck-up, but he has been defeated by more than just his own shortcomings

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
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Present Laughter

Present Laughter

Andrew Scott’s stage career consists of largely leftfield choices… and also massive Noël Coward revivals at the Old Vic. Almost a decade after featuring in the grand old theatre’s production of ‘Design for Living’, a now rather more famous Scott anchors this major revival of ‘Present Laughter’, a farcical comedy with a tremendous lead role in the shape of self-obsessed light comedy actor Garry Essendine. Joining Scott in Old Vic boss Matthew Warchus’s production – designed by Rob Howell – will be Luke Thallon, Sophie Thompson, Suzie Toase and Indira Varma.

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4 out of 5 stars
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The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

Following an extensive UK tour, this stage adaptation of Paula Hawkins’s mega-selling novel pulls into the West End for a short run. Samantha Womack stars as Rachel Watson, a depressed alcoholic who fixates on a ‘perfect couple’ she sees through the train window every day. But when the woman in the couple disappears, Rachel suddenly finds herself a witness and a suspect. Anthony Banks directs an adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel.

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More great theatre tickets

The Lion King

The Lion King

The posters have been plastered around the London Underground for years – long enough for this show to become the most successful musical of all time – but nothing prepares you for the sheer impact of 'The Lion King's opening sequence. With the surge of 'Circle Of Life' reverberating through your chest, Julie Taymor's animal creations march on, species by species. Gazelles spring, birds swoop and an elephant and her child lumber through the stalls. It's a cacophonous cavalcade that genuinely stops you breathing. You'd think Noah's Ark had emptied onto the stage. For a global blockbuster, 'The Lion King's absolute theatricality is astonishing. Techniques from all over the world – African masks, Japanese Kabuki costumes, Malaysian shadow puppetry – are smashed together in an explosion of spectacle. It's perfect for a musical, allowing both distinct flavours and an eclectic carnival spirit. Admittedly, things deflate when it sacrifices this defiant originality for subservient approximation of the film. Timon and Pumba (Damian Baldet and Keith Bookman), though impressively like their screen counterparts, step into the savannah from a different dimension. The hyena-infested elephant's graveyard swaps menace for goofiness and the famous stampede scene, so delicately handled and moving in the film, is merely ticked off with a sigh of relief. The familiarity of the film is a root cause of the show's commercial success. But, ironically, 'The Lion King' can't afford such compromis

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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On Your Feet!

On Your Feet!

Occupying what seems to now be a regular summer musical theatre slot at the London Coliseum – inaugurated by last year's by Meat Loaf odyssey ‘Bat Out of Hell’ – ‘On Your Feet!’ is a biographical jukebox musical tracing the life and times of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Having already enjoyed a two-year-stint on Broadway, the show is a night of uplifting Latino-pop that follows the two Cuban-Americans as they fall in love as youngsters in ‘70s Miami and go on to storm the charts as Miami Sound Machine and via Gloria's successful solo career. Don't expect a heavyweight plot, but if you like the songs and the rhythms then by all accounts they're done justice via Sergio Trujillo’s kinetic choreography and a large, well-drilled band.

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1 out of 5 stars
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Aladdin review

Aladdin review

They don’t really have pantomimes in the US, which may explain why the creatives behind this hit Broadway adaptation of Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ made a pantomime, probably without realising. There’s no Widow Twankey or Wishee Washee, but Alan Menken’s musical gives you the same things as a decent British panto ‘Aladdin’: lavish set pieces (designer Bob Crowley has done some impressive things); campy, knowing, fourth wall-breaking humour; songs (obvs); a magic carpet sequence; a dull hero (Dean John-Wilson’s prominent man-cleavage is the most memorable bit of his performance); a ludicrously OTT villain (Don Gallagher’s Jafar laps up the boos at curtain call); and a scene-stealing dame (more later). It’s well done, but talk about selling coals to Newcastle: the humour hits the spot with Howard Ashman’s dry lyrics, but it lacks the inspired madness of, say, the Hackney Empire panto. Alongside the other big West End Disney musical, Julie Taymor’s ‘The Lion King’, it struggles to establish a distinct, theatrical identity. And my mind boggled at how the diverse, largely British cast has had bland American accents foisted upon them to play Middle Eastern characters. One decision producers won’t be regretting is importing star of the Broadway show Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie. The role could have been something of a poisoned, er, lamp, given Robin Williams’s iconic turn in the 1992 film. But glitter-doused Nicholas makes it his own with a kinetic mix of fabulousness and physicality. He

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!

Judy Craymer's bold idea of turning the insanely catchy songs of ABBA into a musical has paid off splendidly, in every sense – box office figures for 'Mamma Mia!' are as eye-watering as its outfits. This is largely because Catherine Johnson had the sense to weave the 1970s into her script, and director Phyllida Lloyd to cast accordingly. Heroine Donna Sheridan lived the free love dream (if only because her boyfriend ran out on her), wound up pregnant and survived to see her daughter, Sophie, reject all her principles in favour of a white wedding and the kind of certainty that comes from knowing which of your mother's three consecutive lovers ought to be walking you down the aisle. If you wanted to, you could see this as a conversation about feminism. But you'll look pretty silly debating patriarchal oppression while on your feet clapping to 'Dancing Queen'. Some of the songs are oddly static, but when the choreography does get going – for instance, when Donna's friend Tanya stylishly quashes a libidinous local puppy in 'Does Your Mother Know?' – it's terrific, and makes great use of props: I wonder if the producers can assure us that no electric drills or hairdryers were harmed in the making of this musical? The current cast appear to have been chosen more for their singing voices than their serious acting ability. But who needs dramatic conviction when you have purest pop to do the convincing for you? Given the songs, a story just about solid enough to stay upright on its

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

It feels like 2019 is the year every single hit Broadway musical of the last three years descends upon London. Following hot on the heels of ‘Waitress’, ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Come from Away’, here’s tearjerking Tony-winner ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. Written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, with a book by Steven Levenson, the musical concerns the eponymous troubled teen, who writes himself a series of letters to help him cope with a profoundly difficult time in his life, following the tragic death of a school friend.

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Silent disco at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Silent disco at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Get down amongst the fishes at this super silent disco

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Silent Disco at The View From The Shard

Silent Disco at The View From The Shard

Go up the Shard and get down at our silent disco party, where you can combine banging beats with one of the best views in the city. 

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Studio Ghibli film season at the British Museum

Studio Ghibli film season at the British Museum

Join us for the ultimate Studio Ghibli film season, with live interviews, screenings and free sake

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Time Out presents Movies On The River

Time Out presents Movies On The River

Catch a film on London's first cinema to hit the Thames

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London Eye

Take a spin on the giant wheel overlooking the Thames - from just £31.50

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Magical London: Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour

Magical London: Harry Potter Guided Walking Tour

Walk in the footsteps of your favorite wizards (and witches) around the muggle world of London. Meet your guide in Soho and find out which House you belong in. Head down the real Diagon Alley, where Harry buys his first wand in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone." Then visit the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron, the secret wizarding inn.

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Tower of London Ticket with Crown Jewels Exhibition

Tower of London Ticket with Crown Jewels Exhibition

Visit the iconic Tower of London – part of British history since the 11th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1086 by William the Conqueror. Spot the ravens kept on the premises and discover the reason why they are so well cared for. Stroll across Tower Green to see where many executions took place, including those of 2 of Henry VIII's wives. You will also have access to the inside of the tower.

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Madame Tussauds London

Madame Tussauds London

Accept your exclusive invitation to Madame Tussauds London. Star in immersive experiences like The Voice and Star Wars and get up close and personal with more than 300 lifelike wax figures of your favorite celebrities.

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SEA LIFE London Aquarium
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SEA LIFE London Aquarium

Don't get into deep water looking for things to do, buy tickets to London's favourite marine-themed attraction - from £20

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