Follow the steps of Shakespeare in London

As the UK prepares to celebrate Shakespeare's national day on 23 April, it's the perfect time to take a look at the Bard's influence in London, to honor in the best way the legendary playwright. The date of this celebration is not insignificant, since it corresponds to the writer’s possible birthday, as well as that of his death. This moment is an opportunity for the nation to pay tribute to his legacy and encourage Londoners and travelers alike to visit the sites that shaped his life and continue to inspire generations.

As well as commemorating his work, this is also an opportunity to highlight the writer's involvement in the English language, since he introduced many words to the language and contributed to its richness.

You’ll find a few ideas to follow Shakespeare’s footsteps and discover the places in London where he had the greatest impact.

Inside the Globe Theatre

Inside the Globe Theatre

- © Nick Brundle Photography / Shutterstock

Who is Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare, born in 1564, spent much of his time in Stratford-Upon-Avon as he was raised in this English town. However, drawn by the capital, he moved to London later in 1592. He lived here for two decades, in the pursuit of his ambitions and career, and where his talents had been displayed, of which he had many; he was not only an incredible playwright, but also a poet and an actor. Today, this multifaceted artist is recognised by many as the greatest writer in history and his name still resonates across the globe.

With plays such as Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the writer has shown that he mastered the genre of comedy, history and tragedy, with 39 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 long narrative poems to his name.

Despite the passage of centuries, the Bard of Avon has the ability to create timeless works that still inspire artists today.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

- © Ana Hollan / Shutterstock

Globe theatre

Discover Shakespeare’s Globe, an open air performing arts venue, situated on the bank of the River Thames. This venue is a reconstruction of the original playhouse where Shakespeare worked for several years, as he progressed in his career within the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” company. This venue held a special place in Shakespeare’s life, and a visit to the Globe theater could be the best opportunity to discover it.

Called a ‘wooden O’ by the Bard, the theatre is a 360° auditorium where you’ll experience the captivating plays that every literature enthusiast loves. Today, the structure devotes its entire activity to honoring the writer. It offers educational tools to help children discover Shakespeare, as well as guided tours to know the behind the scenes of the theater and its plays. And above all, you can experience the plays in the same atmosphere as in Shakespeare's time. In fact, the current globe has performed all of Shakespeare's plays at least once, and is about to perform its version of Much Ado About Nothing from 25 April to 24 August, just a few days after Shakespeare day. You’ll find the tickets right here!

The Globe Theatre, in London.

- © Andrei Nekrassov / Shutterstock

Sam wanamaker playhouse

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is part of Shakespeare's Globe, offering an indoor theatre alongside the Globe theater. This venue is linked to the Bard because, although it is not an exact replica, it was inspired by the Blackfriars Theatre, which inspired the writer's last works and where Shakespeare's company used to perform.

Westminster Abbey

Although Shakespeare is buried in his native city, he is part of the Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey. The purpose of the Corner is to honor poets and writers, and in this case to provide a place of pilgrimage for lovers of the Bard of Avon through a memorial. In fact, this memorial is represented by a life-size statue exhibited from 1741 to commemorate the poet.

The British Library

The British Library, located next to King's Cross station has many fascinating collections, including Shakespeare's manuscripts and early editions of his plays. Be prepared to learn more about his worlds as a copy of his “First Folio” is available on display for the visitors.

The British Library, in London

- © Old Town Tourist / Shutterstock

National Portrait Gallery

They say a picture says more than a thousand words. William Shakespeare may not agree, but seeing a portrait of the artist may tell you a little more about him. Head to the National Portrait Gallery, near Leicester Square, where you'll find Shakespeare's portrait. Look at it carefully and, now that you've seen where he set foot, you can imagine him there. This portrait is in fact the only portrait ever created during his lifetime. It is all the more special because it is also the first portrait acquired by the gallery.

Madame Tussauds

In the same vein, head to Madame Tussauds in London, next to Regents Park, this war museum is home to a Shakespeare figurine. One, or perhaps it is more accurate to say a pair, as there are actually two figurines of the playwright there, so keep an eye open to find both to discover the writer in a more realistic way.

Practical information

Now that you know a bit more about the places that were impacted by the famous writer, we will surely know how to follow his steps on this special day. However if you want to learn more about the details, don’t hesitate to follow a guided tour. Here is a list of some walking tours available:

  • Shakespeare in London 3-Hour Guided Walking Tour

  • Shakespeare Walking Tour in London

by Clara Uveteau
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