Most famous theatre cities around the world

broadway sign in NYC

Alice Piper

Posted July 27, 2022

From London to New York and Milan to Melbourne, people the world over love a good theatre show. Here’s what going to the theatre looks like in famous cities around the world.

Going to a musical is a joy for so many senses; the sounds of magnificent voices reaching notes we never thought possible, the sights of costumes that took hours to produce, and even the touch of luxurious surrounds like plush seating and stage settings. 

While each of these elements can be felt in theatres around the world, the way in which you experience them will differ significantly. Whether it’s London’s West End, Broadway in New York City, or one of the stunning theatres in Melbourne’s CBD, here’s what catching a show looks like in the world’s most famous theatre cities and districts. 

If you're planning to enjoy a show closer to home, thanks to a new partnership between RACV and Ticketek, RACV Members can enjoy a whole new suite of benefits, with exclusive offers to access a range of theatre experiences and events in Melbourne’s famed East End theatre district.  

Famous musical theatre cities and districts

Broadway, New York City, USA

Broadway, the epicentre of the world of theatre stretching from 42nd to 53rd streets in New York City, is known as ‘The Great White Way’ because the district was the first to be lit up my streetlights. Just a few blocks south of Central Park and the Lincoln Centre, Broadway is on the west side of Midtown Manhattan.

Broadway is home to 41 theatres showing big-budget ‘Broadway musicals’ as well as smaller, independent ‘off-Broadway’ shows, and is one of the few places in the world where you can see a show at nearly all hours of the day.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, with restaurants galore in Broadway and New York City serving up every cuisine imaginable from French and Middle Eastern to Mexican and Japanese – all perfect from grabbing a pre- or post-show bite to eat and exploring more of the city. 

There’s also plenty to do in and around Broadway itself, such as exploring Central Park, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or catching a basketball game at Madison Square Garden.

East End, Melbourne, Australia 

Melbourne is undoubtedly the cultural hub of Australia with so many art galleries, themed restaurants and foodie hubs dotted around the city, as well as the home of fantastic musical theatre productions.

Melbourne’s key musical theatres such as the Comedy Theatre, Regent Theatre, Princess Theatre, and Her Majesty's Theatre are all within the famed East End theatre district in the heart of the CBD, meaning there is plenty to do around a show. You can have a pre- or post-show restaurant experience, enjoy some retail therapy in the luxurious Paris-end of Collins Street, or relax with a drink at a rooftop bar.
Acclaimed theatre productions currently showing in Melbourne include The Picture of Dorian Grey, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and SIX The Musical.

Princess Theatre, Melbourne

Melbourne's theatre district sits right in the heart of the CBD. Image: Getty.

West End, London, England

When it comes to English-speaking theatre, London is a world leader with its famed West End home to Shakespeare’s Globe, the Barbican and the National Theatre which saw productions like The Lion King and Wicked do very successful stints. 

The West End provides a huge boost for the UK economy, attracting locals and tourists wanting a stellar musical theatre experience.

In amongst all the bright lights, glitz, glamour, and grandeur of the West End, the location also lends itself to far more than simply musical theatre performances. The famous Oxford and Regent Streets is where you’ll find designer shops, bars, restaurants, and everything else you need for a fun day and night out in London.  

Milan, Italy 

One of the oldest musical theatre cities in the world is Milan, with a long history of theatres, as well as opera houses, which have seen many artists and musicians perform over centuries. 

The Teatro alla Scala, the Piccolo Teatro, Teatro Manzoni, Teatro Dal Verme and Teatro Nuovo are all theatres which have made Milan famous the world over.

A must-do when you’re in the theatre district of Milan is the guided tour of the Scala Museum and Theatre where you’ll be taken through the rich history of the ‘Temple of the Opera’, seeing the extensive collection of costumes and musical instruments, portraits, and souvenirs.  

Experience some more Italian culture in the theatre district of Milan by visiting The Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and the Golden Triangle, as well as taking a break in one of the many piazzas for a vino and some local cuisine. 


Milan city

Milan is one of the oldest musical theatre cities in the world. Image: Getty.

Paris, France 

Paris is one city where there is no real definition of a ‘theatre district’ as the city’s theatre scene is played out a little all over the place. 

The Parisian theatre scene is attracting more international and English-speaking tourists by providing subtitles for shows.

It's also home to the famous Moulin Rouge, a cabaret on Boulevard de Clichy, famous for being the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. See a show any night of the week along the Moulin Rouge, just remember to dress smart, as the dress code is très chic.

When in Paris, go for a pre- or post-show drink at Harry’s New York Bar which was famously visited by Coco Chanel, or delight in the impressive architecture of Square and Théâtre Edouard VII, a favourite of American actress Meryl Streep. 

You can also spend the daylight hours (before seeing a show) at the famous perfume museum, Musée du Parfum Fragonard, where you can indulge the senses by creating your own scent, or visit the Musée de la vie Romantique, a small museum housing works of famous literary authors. 

Tokyo, Japan

While it might not immediately spring to mind when we think of musical theatre, Tokyo is in fact a bustling city offering traditional stages and opera houses with both international and local performances, and has done for centuries. 

Tokyo has 149 theatres, with performances being a colourful and mesmerizing combination of dance, drama and music where you can gain insight into Japan’s rich cultural history. 

Most of Tokyo’s theatres are dispersed across the entire city , which means there is also an opportunity to take advantage of seeing much of the city.

A point of difference is that most theatre performances in Tokyo are matinee, so you can use the time outside of theatre performances to visit high fashion houses, the Tsukiji Fish Market which is the busiest and largest fish market in the world, or the Sensoji Temple, the oldest and most significant in all of Tokyo. 


Toronto city skyline

Toronto, Canada is where a lot of musicals have their 'test run' before heading to Broadway. Image: Getty.

Toronto, Canada

Home to a thriving musical theatre scene, Toronto is the city where a lot of musicals get their ‘test run’ to gauge whether they will be successful enough for Broadway in New York City. 

Sitting downtown within Toronto’s larger Entertainment District, the theatre district is home to the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theatre in North America, as well as Soulpepper, the modern Young Centre for the Performing Arts which is a renowned year-round repertory company.

Tourists come from all over Canada, as well as internationally, to enjoy one of the liveliest theatre districts in the world, as well as see the sights and attractions of a thriving city in many other ways. 


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