Lonely Planet review
Today's Londoners may flock to Amsterdam to misbehave but back in the bard's day they'd cross London Bridge to Southwark. Free from the city's constraints, men could settle down to a diet of whoring, bear-bating and heckling of actors. The most famous theatre was the Globe,where a genius playwright was penning box-office hits such as Macbeth and Hamlet .
The original Globe – known as the 'Wooden O' after its circular shape and roofless centre – was erected in 1599. Rival to the Rose Theatre, all was well but did not end well when the Globe burned down within two hours during a performance in 1613 (a stage cannon ignited the thatched roof). A tiled replacement fell foul of the party-pooping Puritans in 1642, who saw the theatre as the devil's workshop, and it was dismantled two years later. Its present-day incarnation is the vision of American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who sadly died before the opening night in 1997.
Admission includes the exhibition hall and guided tour of the theatre (departing every 15 to 30 minutes), faithfully reconstructed from oak beams, handmade bricks, lime plaster and thatch. Tours shift to the nearby Rose Theatre instead when matinees are being staged in season.
From April to October plays are performed, and while Shakespeare and his contemporaries dominate, modern plays are also staged (see the website for upcoming performances). As in Elizabethan times, seatless 'groundlings' can watch in all-weather conditions (£5; seats are £15 to £39) for the best views. There's no protection from the elements and you'll have to stand, but it's an unforgettable experience.