If you’re a fan of history or theatre, there’s undoubtedly one place that has earned a spot on your London itinerary: Shakespeare’s Globe, on the banks of the River Thames. This iconic theatre, while not the original, has been drawing crowds (literally) for hundreds of years, and even those of us who love glitzy West End productions can admire the origins of England’s theatrical roots.
During my time living in London, and returning there on trips to see the city as a visitor too, I’ve had the chance to experience many London attractions, including Shakespeare’s Globe. I thought, based on my experience, it might be helpful to write a review if you’re wondering whether to dedicate time to visiting this historic spot versus another activity on your itinerary.
Below you’ll find an introduction to Shakespeare’s Globe, important details about visiting, and my own experience visiting. Altogether, my Shakespeare’s Globe review aims to help you understand whether visiting is really worth it – an essential for history and theater fans – or worth skipping. If you’re still uncertain or have extra questions, I’m happy to help in the comments below.
Bonus! As part of the London Pass, you can receive free admission to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (valued at £24 in 2024!). Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.
History & Importance of Shakespeare’s Globe
When one thinks of English Literature, William Shakespeare, the Elizabethan poet and playwright, is one of the first few names that come to mind.
While Shakespeare’s works are still being performed worldwide, how we experience them has changed dramatically as Shakespearean playhouses were very different from the modern ones we have today. For example, back in the day, the theatre could almost be said to be more egalitarian. You could still watch a performance even if you didn’t have a lot of money: for a small sum, you’d be allowed to stand right in front of the stage to watch the show! (Some of these ‘groundlings’, as they were called, were even known to throw food at the performers if they were unhappy with what they saw!)
Standing a mere 750 feet from the original site – the original Globe theatre, built in 1599, unfortunately no longer exists (It first burned down in 1613, was rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644) – today’s Globe is an (almost) true-to-history reconstruction where you can experience Shakespeare’s plays the way an Elizabethan audience would have. Minus the heckling, of course!
There have been some modifications made to the “new” Globe for safety – reducing the size of the audience, for one – and some of the construction is obviously based on conjecture, but this is as good as traveling back to the Elizabethan theatre as you can get! (For more information on the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe, click here.)
Why Visit the Globe Theatre
Why visit Shakespeare’s Globe? Well, where else can you watch a show AND travel back in time? (Not literally, of course.)
Another reason is that shows at the Globe can be more interactive than traditional ones, as there’s less distance between the audience and the cast, so things can get quite fun. Last but not least, if you’re visiting London on a budget, you can get a standing ticket for a mere £5- £10. I hope you have strong legs as you’ll have to stand for the entire performance. It is a great London activity for history, literature, and theatre lovers alike!
Basics of Visiting Shakespeare’s Globe
Photo courtesy of the_globe via Instagram
Shakespeare’s Globe is located at 21 New Globe Walk, SE1 9DT. In other words, it’s in South London, on the bank of the Thames River, and in the Bankside Cultural Quarter.
Note: The Globe is very close to the Tate Modern and also within walking distance (10 minutes) of Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral, so you can easily make a day of it!
Hours & Shows
There are a few ways you can visit Shakespeare’s Globe:
- watching a play that is performed at the Globe
- going for a guided tour of the Globe (more on this below)
Sidebar: There is also an indoor candle-lit playhouse, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, on the same site, which is not to be confused with the actual Globe Theatre. This Shakespeare’s Globe Review centers around the experience of watching a show on-site and not taking a tour of the playhouse.
As an open-air theatre, plays are held at the Globe during summer (usually May to October.) There are even midnight matinees where you can watch Shakespeare under the stars. (The shows begin right before the stroke of midnight, at 11.59 p.m.)
During the rest of the year, you can still visit the Globe using a tour. The dates and times for both shows and tours vary, so I recommend checking the Shakespeare’s Globe website. (Generally, the tours are held either every 15 or 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but it’s always best to check!)
If you’re looking for refreshment, the Globe’s Swan Restaurant/ Bar is open from 8.45 p.m., seven days a week. It opens at noon every day but Sunday, when it opens at 11:30 a.m. There are also a few eateries a stone’s throw from the Globe.
Tours & Gift Shop
As with all tourist attractions, there is a Globe Gift Shop. (If you don’t have time to stop at the physical shop after your show/ tour, you can even visit the online shop.)
It sells Shakespeare-themed souvenirs, such as a make-your-own Shakespeare tree-topper, a Globe glass bauble (for your Christmas tree), a 400th-anniversary version of Shakespeare’s first folio, etc.
My favorites are the specific play-themed merchandise you can get, such as a Hamlet brooch and a Macbeth mug. The perfect way to remember the show you watched at the Globe!
My Experience at Shakespeare’s Globe
Photo courtesy of the_globe via Instagram
Attending a Midnight Matinee at Shakespeare’s Globe sounded absolutely magical, so it had been on my bucket list ever since I was a Literature Student at the University of St. Andrews. (I didn’t have enough money for a past-midnight cab ride home back then, so I had to wait till I was back in London as an MBA student to finally tick it off my wish list. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I ended up going for two performances in a single summer!)
Some people have said that it can be a boozy experience, but I didn’t find it so. The delicious smell of the vendors selling sausages and burgers was much stronger than any smell of alcohol. (And I didn’t have any issues with drunk theatre-goers.)
Overall, I really enjoyed my time at the Globe. However, any Shakespeare’s Globe Review would be remiss if it didn’t talk about the show itself: don’t go expecting Oscar-winning performances. I would say the quality of the performance can be hit-or-miss, but either way, it’s definitely an experience to remember. The atmosphere is just so lively and fun!
As mentioned, I’ve watched several performances there, and the show’s quality can vary quite a bit. One was so bad that my entire party – and several other groups around us – actually ended up walking out before the performance ended!
To be fair, it wasn’t entirely because of the acting. The play had been set up in such a way that a good quarter of what was going on could not be viewed by us/ the people sitting upstairs. (The cast kept positioning themselves UNDER the stands instead of in front of them. And our tickets weren’t cheap: they were either the most or second most expensive category.)
Shakespeare’s Globe Review: Final Thoughts
Despite the occasionally bad performance, is Shakespeare’s Globe worth it? Yes! Whether it ends up being a good or bad performance, it will definitely be a fun and unique thing to do that is quintessentially English.
However, note that the theatre is open air (i.e. no roof) and the show goes on, rain or shine, so bring your raincoat and a sporting attitude!
Have any other questions about my Shakespeare’s Globe review or whether to add this to your London itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
Don’t forget! As part of the London Pass, you can receive free admission to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (valued at £24 in 2024!). Click here to read my London Pass review and click here to buy your own London Pass and save during your London trip.