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The Best Theatres in the UK

Wednesday 08 February 2023

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When you think of British theatre, you might first think of Shakespeare’s Globe or the National Theatre, but there is plenty more to explore. Around the UK, in towns and cities, you can find stunningly beautiful theatres where plays, musicals, comedy shows, and more are performed with passion and excitement. If you’re looking to get your theatre fix more often, why not join audiences at some of the best theatres in the UK?

Old Vic, Bristol CrossCountry Destination

First opening its doors in 1766, the Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world, so it really is a theatre-lovers pilgrimage! The stage at the Old Vic sees familiar favourites, like As You Like It and Orpheus & Eurydice, as well as innovative new productions, family-friendly productions, and cutting-edge stand-up comedy.

Bristol Old Vic is not only responsible for showcasing some of the UK’s greatest talents, but also for producing and nurturing them. The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School has trained Olivia Colman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Naomie Harris, and Erin Doherty – among many others.

Getting to the Old Vic 

Bristol’s Old Vic is set in the heart of Bristol, in between the city centre and the Old City. Getting to the theatre from Bristol Temple Meads train station is easy – a number of buses will take you directly from the station to the Old Vic in around 15 minutes. Alternatively, walking will take a similar time. CrossCountry offers a range of routes to Bristol Temple Meads from around the UK – explore routes here.

The Bristol Old Vic Theatre, with a glass and red exterior design

Royal Exchange, ManchesterCrossCountry destination

Before you even set foot inside, the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester is visually striking. The Great Hall was previously used as one of the world’s centres for cotton trade. When the building was threatened with demolition in the 1970s, a theatre company took up residence to become a crucial part of the city’s thriving culture. From a deeply historic exterior to a brilliantly modern interior theatre design, the Royal Exchange is a unique theatre space and is well worth a visit.

From Helen Mirren to Maxine Peake, the Royal Exchange stage has seen countless great stars in its time. Mainly showcasing brand-new drama and modern takes on classics, the company at the heart of the Royal Exchange thrives on bold, dramatic choices, using the one-of-a-kind space to create one-of-a-kind theatrical experiences.

Getting to the Royal Exchange

Finding your way to the Royal Exchange Theatre with CrossCountry is easy, as we operate a wide range of trains to Manchester Piccadilly station. With less than a mile between Manchester Piccadilly and the Royal Exchange, a walk will take around 15 minutes, or a bus will take 9 minutes.



Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

What could better set the scene for a Shakespeare play than the beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon, famously the bard’s birthplace? Stratford-upon-Avon is proud of its connection to Shakespeare, and this pride and wonder at one of literature’s greatest writers shines through in every performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Set on the River Avon, in a Grade II listed building with a Globe-inspired design.

The stage extends into the centre of the room, with seating on three of the four sides and rising high into the auditorium to create a uniquely atmospheric arena for Shakespeare’s work to be performed. Whether you love the tragedies, the comedies, or the histories, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre puts on a range of classical and reimagined performances of Shakespeare’s work.

Getting to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Situated in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is one connecting train away from CrossCountry station Leamington Spa. Simply hop on a train from Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon and find your seats!

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, with a swan on the River Avon

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh CrossCountry destination

Edinburgh is a veritable hub of theatre and comedy, most notably during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes over the city each summer, but innovative theatre is on offer year-round in Scotland’s capital. The Festival Theatre has been showcasing the best of Edinburgh’s theatre talent since 1892, and following a major renovation project in 1994, the theatre is a fantastically modern place to enjoy great performances. Legend has it that the Festival Theatre is even haunted by an illusionist killed in a fire at the Empire Theatre, as it was previously known – so watch out!

From fantastic touring shows like Sister Act and An Inspector Calls to classic opera from Puccini and ballet performances – there is plenty to enjoy on stage at the Festival Theatre.

Getting to the Festival Theatre

The Festival Theatre is conveniently located only 0.4 miles from Edinburgh Waverley train station, meaning it takes on 8 minutes to walk or 7 minutes to take a bus from the station directly to the theatre. With CrossCountry, you can hop on board a train directly to Edinburgh Waverley from a wide range of locations across the UK.

Brownsea Open Air Theatre, Poole

In the summer sunshine on the South coast of England, what could be better than watching a fantastic theatre performance accompanied by an evening breeze and a sunset? In Poole, you’ll find the singularly wondrous Brownsea Open Air Theatre (or B.O.A.T as it is known to locals); an open-air Shakespearean theatre company that has regularly staged theatrical performances for almost 60 years. You’ll find BOAT on Brownsea Island, which is accessible with a short ferry from Poole Harbour. The ferry ride on either side of the performance is a magical way to create an atmosphere for a show, with stars twinkling above you on the ride home.

Getting to the Brownsea Open Air Theatre

Before hopping on a boat, you’ll need to make your way to Poole. When travelling with CrossCountry, all you need to do is take a train directly to Bournemouth train station, followed by a short connecting service to Poole, taking around 10 minutes. Trains to Bournemouth run from Birmingham, Coventry, and more.

A stage set for a play, with chairs scattered around and a ladder leading to the light rig

New Theatre, Cardiff CrossCountry destination

Eye-catching from the outside with its signature aesthetic, constructed from brick and Bath Stone, the New Theatre in Cardiff is, in fact, a Welsh theatre institution that has been pleasing crowds since 1906. The first public performance at the New Theatre was of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and classic plays have been performed here ever since – along with an expanded offering of stand-up comedy, musicals, showcases, and family-friendly productions.

Over the years, performances have ranged from Hamlet to Mamma Mia!, from The Mystery of Edwin Drood to Faust – and everything in between. Whether you’re on a weekend away to Cardiff and want to add some theatre to your trip, or you’re searching for local entertainment, the New Theatre is an absolute must.

Getting to the New Theatre

The New Theatre is in the heart of Cardiff City Centre, situated only a 10-minute walk or bus ride away from Cardiff Central station. You can reach Cardiff Central directly on several CrossCountry services, operating from Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, and locations across the UK.


If you’re planning a trip to one of the best theatres in the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best historical places in the UK, the best forests in the UK, or the best cinemas in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.

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