Shakespearean London | How to celebrate National Shakespeare Day

Shakespearean London

Disclosure: I may earn a small commission from the companies or products mentioned in this post.

Did you know that William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April 1564, then died 52 years later in 1616 on the exact same day!?

Okay, well officially Shakespeare’s exact date of birth isn’t known but most historians believe it to be 23rd April. Plus, it makes a pretty interesting fact so let’s roll with it…

Which makes it particularly well-suited that April 23rd is now National Shakespeare Day, a day which celebrates the life and works of England’s greatest poet and dramatist.

So what better way to celebrate this important day than by discovering Shakespearean London, the city where he made a name for himself, and taking part in some fun Shakespeare inspired activities.

Here just a few things you can see and do to celebrate National Shakespeare Day in London:

See a show at Shakespeares Globe:

One of the most iconic symbols of Shakespearean London has to be the Globe Theatre. The original theatre was built in 1599, burnt down in 1613, was rebuilt in 1614, then closed again in 1642. Today’s structure is a reconstruction which opened in 1997.

The current Shakespeares Globe is a realistic reconstruction of the original based on historical evidence, and to this day you can still watch regular productions of Shakspearean classics, with a changing rotation of plays throughout the year. For each performance, a number of standing tickets (in the traditional ‘yard’) are released at a mere £5 each, while seated tickets start at £23.

In Spring/Summer 2019 the Globe Theatre is showing performances of Henry IV, Henry V, Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors and Pericles.

Even if you’re not watching a show, you can visit the theatre as part of a guided tour. There is also an exhibition about Shakespeare’s life and works.

See what’s on and book tickets here.

Shakespearean London

Visit the site of the original Globe Theatre:

The new Shakespeares Globe was built just 750 feet (230m) away from the site of the original theatre. You can visit the site of the original Globe, which sits just around the corner opposite The Rose Theatre. However, with only 5% of the theatre having been excavated, the main thing to see is a plaque commemorating the original structure. Still worth a visit if you’re already in the area catching a show in the current theatre.

Have a drink at The Cockpit pub:

Visit The Cockpit pub and drink on the site of the only London property owned by Shakespeare during his time residing in the capital.

The Cockpit pub sits on the approximate site of the Blackfriars Gatehouse, which Shakespeare bought in 1613 for the grand sum of £140. Although it’s believed that he never actually lived in the property, with it’s close proximity to the Globe, many think it is likely that he had plans to make it his home. Unfortunately, Shakespeare died just 3 years later and left the property to his daughter Susannah.

Take a calligraphy class with Quill London:

What better way to channel your inner Shakespeare than by trying your hand at the classic visual art form of calligraphy?

Head back to the days when people still hand-wrote manuscripts with a quill and ink, rather than typing words into a computer. Okay, it may not be the most practical way to get things done anymore (oh technology), but it’ll certainly impress your friends when you start dishing out beautifully hand-written birthday cards or getting out the home-made place settings at your next dinner party.

I recently took a modern calligraphy class with Quill London, and despite not being great at it thanks to my extremely unsteady hands, it’s an addicting hobby which I’ll definitely be continuing until I’ve mastered the delicate art form.

You can check out modern calligraphy classes with Quill London at their store on Amwell Street (on the border of Islington and Clerkenwell). Find out more about Quill and book a class here.

Or simply give it a go at home with some great calligraphy equipment from Viking. Shop: Pens and ink. Parchment.

Shakespearean London

This was my first attempt so don’t be too mean!

Shakespearean London

Rediscover Sonnets:

Despite the fact that I write for a living and regularly read classical literature, sonnets have never really appealed to me. In my mind, they have always just been those boring old poems we had to study in school and that I had no desire to revisit in adulthood.

So when 10 years after completing my English GCSE I was invited to take part in a Sonnets workshop I was certainly apprehensive.

But as it turns out, sonnets can be pretty damn cool.

Not only did I give Shakespearean sonnets another chance and actually start to enjoy them (I’d like to think that it’s due to my new found levels of maturity… maybe), but I also discovered that people are still writing sonnets today – who knew ey? – and are giving the whole style of literature a more modern make-over. Check out these two modern sonnets below…

Find out more about modern sonnet writing workshops here.

Shakespearean London


Take a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon:

Once you’ve covered Shakespearean London, head out of the city and pay a visit to the quaint town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The medieval market town in the West Midlands is known to be the birthplace of Shakespeare and is filled with the history of the famous English writer.

In Stratford-Upon-Avon, you can walk in the bard’s footsteps, visiting his birthplace, his wife Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, his mother Mary Arden’s Farm and his final resting place at the Holy Trinity Church. You can also watch a play by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre’s traditional Elizabethan stage.

You can get the train from London Marylebone to Stratford-Upon-Avon in just 2hr30 for as little as £5.50.

Shakespearean London

Photo by Elliott Brown (CC)


London City Calling

Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the southwest. She has a master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works full-time running this blog and as a freelance travel writer, splitting her life between London and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

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This post was written in collaboration with Viking who invited me to a Shakespeare inspired evening with calligraphy and sonnet writing.