The phrase ‘restricted view’ is a major red flag for many theatregoers when booking West End theatre tickets. Without any supplementary information about the extent of the restriction or how much of the show will be affected by the restriction, most people are left imagining the worst and avoiding these seats altogether (our recent list of the worst seats in the West End highlighted 10 seats to steer clear of) – but this means missing out on some seats with incredible views at an unbelievable price.
The average price of a theatre ticket has risen by 21% since before the pandemic to an eye-watering £140 for a musical and £114 for a play, according to the latest research by industry newspaper The Stage. With additional costs of travel (£7.70 per day), accommodation (£130 average per room per night) and food (£59pp) for many people coming to London to see a show, the total cost of a family theatre trip can easily exceed £500 – pricing out some theatregoers out entirely.
This is why finding the best seat, whatever your budget has never been more important. You don’t need to pay top price to enjoy a 5 star view and experience in the West End. There are over 5,900 restricted view seats throughout London’s West End theatres with more than 9,200 photos and reviews on SeatPlan. We’ve analysed all of them to highlight the very best to help you save money on your next theatre visit.
Disclaimer: All seating prices are correct at the time of writing but maybe subject to subsequent reductions or increases.
- Phantom of the Opera – 5 star view for £27
- See Frozen with a picture perfect view for just £30
- Save money on a 5* view under the overhang for Les Mis
- Wicked – Fourth row Stalls for just £20
- 4* seats for The Mousetrap from £23
- See Hamilton without the premium price tag
- 5* view for The Lion King for less than £55
- Great 4* view of The Play That Goes Wrong for £25
- Escape to Mamma Mia’s island paradise for less than £20
- Save money with these great seats for Six the Musical
- What are the most common types of restricted view seats?
- Tips for finding the best restricted view seats
Phantom of the Opera – 5 star view for £27
Best restricted view seat: Grand Circle A5 from £27 to £50
There are 287 restricted view seats dotted throughout the auditorium at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Ranging from pillars in view, restrictions due to the overhang of the section above and the curvature of the theatre.
The best restricted view seats for Phantom of the Opera are located on the right hand side of the Grand Circle (A1-5, B1-4). These seats have the clearest view of the stage, with only the occasional need to lean forward, and offer you a perfect vantage point of the famous chandelier. Other recommended seats include Grand Circle A33 and B37.
The cheapest restricted view seats for Phantom of the Opera are located in the Balcony. A10 and A27 are highly recommended by SeatPlan users for the view, however there is a compromise on legroom and overall comfort from these seats.
See Frozen with a picture perfect view for just £30
Best restricted view seat: Grand Circle, B17 from £30 to £108 (a whopping £75 difference between peak and off-peak performances!)
Following its magnificent £60m refurbishment, even the 384 restricted view seats at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane are rated highly for offering a great view of the stage. For our top pick in this venue, we’ve chosen B17 in the Grand Circle, which is one of the 61 seats in the auditorium that come with a warning about a safety rail in view – however, SeatPlan users have hailed this seat as great value with no restrictions on any of the action on stage.
Look out for other great value restricted view seats at the sides of the Royal Circle (A45), which have a minimal restriction from a safety rail. As well as Grand Circle A7, which offers an intimate view with a little leaning required.
Cheapest: The Stalls Slips, which run along the sides of the front area of the Stalls are amongst the cheapest in the theatre. Whilst you lose around a third of the stage due to the side view, you do also get a very close up view of the show. SeatPlan users’ favourite of the slip seats is seat 4.
Save money on a 5* view under the overhang for Les Misérables
Best restricted view seat: Stalls R9 from £54 to £120 (this seat more than doubles in price at peak performances!)
The quality of the 373 restricted view seats in the Sondheim Theatre (34% of the total number of seats) can vary quite dramatically, with some seats obstructing over two thirds of the set and require patrons to constantly lean forward during the show. The circle overhang begins to obstruct the view in row R of the stalls (R9 receives 5 star view rating), this obstruction only affects any action that takes place on top of the barricade, which is a couple of scenes in act two – well worth the reduced price tag.
AA25 in the Dress Circle has a side view that obstructs the view occasionally but otherwise offers an amazing clear view of the show. Alternatively, in amongst a sea of top price tickets in the Stalls, there is a pair of seats in the centre of the front row that come with a reduced price tag – A15 and A16. These seats are located behind the conductor, who remains in view during the performance. However this is a minimal obstruction for an otherwise entirely immersive experience.
Cheapest: Grand Circle F6 from £24
The cheapest options for Les Misérables can be found in the Grand Circle. Due to the curvature of the auditorium, many seats in this section have a restricted or side view of the show. But this only affects some parts of the show. F6 in the Grand Circle has received excellent ratings from SeatPlan users for the view it offers .
Wicked Stalls Row D for just £20
Best restricted view seat: Stalls, D38 from £20 to £42
Due to the complex, extravagant set of Wicked there are 162 restricted view seats in the venue. These include seats at the end of either side of the stalls, as well as some seats in the Circle due to safety rails in view. However, this amounts to missing a few entrances of certain characters and is more than compensated by the significantly reduced price compared to seats closer to the centre. What you still get from these seats is a great, intimate view of the show and perfect vantage point for the showstopping songs like ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Popular’ and ‘No Good Deed’.
Alternatively, the front row of the Circle has a safety rail in view, but this has a very minimal impact on your view of the show. The best of these seats is A21, which is consistently rated 5 stars for its view.
Further back in the circle are seats at the side which have a safety rail slightly restricting the view. This doesn’t disturb the view and the distance from the stage allows you to take in the full spectacle of the show. Look out for the highly rated L49 priced from £35.
4* seats for The Mousetrap from £23
Best restricted view seat: Dress Circle, A24 from £23 to £63
The St Martin’s is one of the smallest theatres in the West End, which means most seats have a close-up, intimate view of the stage and there are only 11 restricted view seats in the whole venue. The restricted view seats can be found in the Boxes and in the end seats of the first three rows of the Dress Circle.
The best of these restricted view seats is A24, which only cuts off the extreme right hand side of the stage and amounts to missing a dressing room door and a handful of moments during the play. The seat is priced similarly to those at the back of the Upper Circle, but offers a much closer view.
Box A offers a more restricted view than seats in the Dress Circle, but has the added benefit of privacy, space and freestanding chairs, which can be perfect for a date night or special treat.
See Hamilton without the premium price tag
Best restricted view seat: Stalls, G41 from £70 to £90
Looking to get a great view inside the room where it happens without paying the premium price tag that is attached to most of the stalls seats for Hamilton? All of the end aisle seats are sold at a reduced price due to a restricted view, however many of these seats are consistently rated 5 stars by SeatPlan users.
From these seats you won’t be able to see the characters when they stand on the part of the balcony on the same side that you’re sat. However, as Hamilton is primarily performed at the centre of the stage, you won’t miss any key plot points or songs.
Cheapest: The Slip seats (seat 5) in the Royal Circle and the Grand Circle (A22) are amongst the cheapest in the auditorium and some compromise on comfort and legroom will be necessary. However, the view is brilliant for the price, with a similar restriction to those in the side Stalls.
5* view for The Lion King for less than £55
Best restricted view seat: Grand Circle, A31 from £54 to £87
There are 94 restricted view seats at the Lyceum Theatre – the majority of which have a side view or safety rail obstructing the stage. The safety rail obstructs the front row of the Grand Circle but this row offers a perfect vantage point to view the huge spectacle of The Lion King. A31 has received 5 star reviews for the view it offers, with one user claiming there are “absolutely no obstructions. Clear view of the entire stage and orchestra.” If A31 is unavailable, look out for A14 which has a comparable view.
Alternatively, 68 side stalls seats have a restricted view of some elements of the staging. However, they also provide an incredibly immersive experience with cast members walking down the aisles right next to your seat and being close enough to the stage to see every nuance of the performances. The best side stalls seats are E8 and K41.
Best restricted view seat: Stalls, G24 from £24
The Duchess Theatre is an intimate venue where most of the seats offer a clear view of The Play That Goes Wrong. However, there are 32 seats on the end of the aisles in the Stalls which do have some viewing restrictions that offer a cheaper way of seeing the show without compromising too much.
Seats on the left hand side of the auditorium offer the least restrictions. In these seats you’ll miss some jokes and scenes involving a fireplace that can’t be seen from these seats. This amounts to just a couple of minutes in the whole show. SeatPlan users feel despite this, these seats offer a great experience at an excellent value.
Cheapest option: Seats at the other end of the Stalls are slightly more restricted, with two key areas of the stage not being fully visible. Despite this, the seats offer a cheaper way to get Stalls seats without losing too much of the overall experience.
Escape to Mamma Mia’s island paradise for less than £20
Best restricted view seat: Grand Circle, AA10 from £18 to £21
This seat, along with its neighbour AA11, have a ‘moderately restricted’ view warning but are a great value option with an almost perfect view of Mamma Mia! The viewing restriction concerns the back corner of the stage where no action happens as the show is primarily played front and centre stage. These seats do come with a compromise, with SeatPlan users’ giving low scores for both comfort and legroom.
There is a total of 164 restricted view seats at the Novello Theatre, ranging from slightly restricted side views to very restricted views through a safety rail. Some of the best options include front row seats (C15) where the high stage is compensated by feeling like you’re on the Greek island where Mamma Mia is set. Higher up the auditorium, slip seats (AA2) in the Dress Circle and the Grand Circle (B23) can be a good value way of seeing the show if you don’t mind a little leaning to get the best view.
Cheapest option: Seats located at the sides of the Grand Circle and Balcony are the cheapest restricted view options at the Novello Theatre. The curvature of the auditorium and safety rails located of the front of the sections, obstruct part of the stage.
Save money with these great seats for Six the Musical
Best restricted view seat: Dress Circle, G19 from £43 to £45
Priced at almost a third lower than its neighbours, this Dress Circle seat offers a perfect view of Six the Musical with the pillar in your eye line but not obstructing the stage itself. For the most optimum view some leaning may be required during the show.
Alternatively, the Boxes (Box C) in the Vaudeville Theatre can be the perfect vantage point to watch the show. With a very minor obstruction to the bottom corner of the stage (where no action takes place), you can enjoy moveable chairs and the luxury of your own private box.
Cheapest option: The cheapest restricted view seats are located on the aisles of the Grand Circle. These seats have a very restricted view due to a safety rail at the front of the section.
What are the most common types of restricted view seats?
There are over 5,900 restricted seats in the West End. Here is a breakdown showing the most common types of restriction and how many seats are affected:
The research shows that safety rails are the most prominent type of viewing restriction in the West End with over 1,800 seats affected. Side views are also prominent in most venues with over 1,000 seats having this kind of restricted view. Other common restrictions include overhangs, pillars and the need to lean forward.
However, Restricted view warnings can often sound a lot worse than the reality. Whilst there will be some element of compromise with the lower ticket price, this can often only amount to a few scenes in a 2+ hour musical or play.
Booking restricted view seats: what to consider
Read on to find out how you could save money by booking a restricted view seat on your next West End theatre trip without compromising on a great view!
Don’t mind looking up? Opt for the front row
Front row seats are usually sold at a significantly lower price than the rows behind them. This is because of the proximity to the stage and the performers, you will likely have to look up for most of the show. However, at popular shows these seats quickly become fan favourites due to the once-in-a-lifetime experience that being so close to the stars of the West End.
Circle overhangs don’t impact every show
Seats at the back of the each section of a theatre are usually restricted because the ceiling of the section above it cuts off part of the stage. Now, if you’re seeing Phantom of the Opera, this can be a major issue because you’ll miss the iconic chandelier. But, many hit shows are played entirely stage level and any overhang won’t impact your view of the action.
Need to lean forward? Usually only for a scene or two
Seats on the extreme sides of the auditorium or high up in the Balcony often require an element of leaning to see all aspects of the show. But this rarely means you’ll be leaning forward for the entire show. Take Get Up, Stand Up: The Bob Marley Musical, there is a small catwalk at the front of the stage that audience members in the upper levels of the auditorium will need to lean forward to be able to see, but this is only used during a couple of songs, for the rest of the show you’ll enjoy an unobstructed view of the show.
Date night? Pillar seats offer cuddle opportunities
Pillars are one of the most severe viewing restrictions a theatre can have. Large pillars can obstruct the view of large swathes of seats behind them. But if you’re particularly friendly with your stagey companion, you can cuddle into one another to get the best of both your views.
Safety rail in view? Soon forgotten about once the show starts
When you first sit down in your seat and have a railing right in your eyeline to the stage, it can be worrying that you’ll struggle to see for the whole show. However, once the lights go down and the show begins you can quickly forget about the rail in front of you and you’re able to look through the railing with ease.
Article last updated August 2022
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