The World’s Most Incredible Open Air Theatres

Teatro Greco di Taormina photo
Photo by Ania Mendrek

Luckily, as we head out into the summer sun the arts follows us. Whether its the scenic backdrop, the actors voices drifting up to the starry sky above, or the natural elements playing their part in the performance, outdoor theatre offers a truly special experience.

The roots of outdoor theatre lie in ancient Greece, where actors performed plays to the Gods in open-air structures nestled into the slopes of hills called theatrons. The tales of these first playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides are still immensely popular today. Of course, due to lack of technology the Greeks relied on nature to create ambiance for their plays. Natural lighting and backdrop were essential to mood and the theatrons were built to enable maximum sound travel. Nowadays, theatres play around with technology in every way possible to create the desired effect on their audiences. But, there’s something unbeatable about stripping plays back to their original state; outdoors under control of the elements. Touring companies around the world used natural light and settings to perform their plays in amazing locations. Sitting back in a deck chair, with a glass of pimms and a blanket listening to Macbeth spiraling interior is a phenomenal summer pleasure. Here’s some of the top places to do it…

Minack Theatre in Cornwall, UK

minack theatre photo
Photo by Ozzy Delaney
Theatre buff Rowena Cade had the idea for this spectacular theatre back in 1920. With the help of a few others, she constructed Minack in the granite cliffs of Porthcurno Bay. Shakespeare’s The Tempest was the opening play, and the crew used car headlights to light the set. Minack is as just as much about the play as it is about the setting. The gardens it’s set in are lush and glorious, and your seat offers panoramic views across the ocean. This summer, Minack is showing plays such as Much Ado About Nothing, Alice, Sweeney Todd, and even a production of Chicago. As well as the performances, you can take a tour through the remarkable theatre and learn of its history.

Shakespeare in the Park, New York City, USA

Every summer, the Public Theatre continues their tradition of putting on free Shakespeare performances in Central Park. Yes, you read that right: it’s free! The backdrop is sensational, with the Belvedere Catle looming in the background of the Delacorte Theatre’s stage. In the past, famous actors like Meryl Streep, Al pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Denzel Washington have performed for Shakespeare in the Park. It’s world-famous and a truly unforgettable experience. Of course, tickets are pretty hard to get, but if you do manage to snatch some up you could be watching the truly enchanting Twelfth Night this season.

Teatro Greco di Taormina in Taormina, Sicily

Teatro Greco di Taormina photo
Photo by Galli Luca

In his “Journey to Italy” poet, playwright, and novelist Johann Wolfgang Goethe said of the Teatro Greco di Taormina: “No theatre audience has ever had such a sight in front of him.” A jaw-dropping work of architecture, this theatre in Sicily dates back to the third century BC. It’s carved out of the hillside, and looks out over the Ionian Sea and upon Mount Etna. The acoustics are incredible, and pay tribute to the expert design of theatres centuries ago. There are performances and music productions on all season long.

Vondelpark Open Air Theatre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest park and every summer the open-air theatre here puts on a huge variety of performances. The stage was set up back in the ’80s by Vondelpark party-goers and performers and it attracts mass crowds each year. Friday evenings offer contemporary and modern dance performances, Saturday afternoon the theatre presents performances by and for children and Saturday evenings are marked by standup comedy and music. Then, on lazy Sunday mornings there’s some classical performances put on. Plus, all performances are free and there’s some good food stands, bars, and cafes all around the park so you can grab a picnic and make a day of it.

Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England

shakespeares globe photo
Photo by n_willsey

Shakespeare’s globe is a bucket list venue. Rebuilt by Sam Wanamaker based on the Shakespearean original, the theatre offers the chance to see his famous plays as they would have been seen when they were first performed. The theatre sits on the banks of the River Thames and is the traditional circular build, with focus entirely on the acting.You can sit in any of the circles on wooden benches, or for only a fiver you can join the masses and stand in the pit. This summer, the Globe is showing Hamlet, A Winter’s Tale, and As You Like It. With all the glorious British weather we’re having this summer, there’s no better time to go.

Toga Open Air Theatre in Toyama Prefecture, Japan

Theatre productions at Toga are particularly enchanting at night, when the space becomes almost cosmic. Modeled on the classic amphitheatre of ancient Greece, Toga was constructed for the first international theatre festival. The majestic mountains and lake serve as a backdrop for a variety of performances. It’s situated in a huge park, that hosts summer workshops, training and a mass variety of plays and music shows.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Theatre, Lijiang, China

Although productions here aren’t the popular plays we typically go for, the Jade Dragon theatre is in one of the most spectacular settings in the world. It sits 10,000 feet above sea level and has the phenomenal Snow Mountain as its backdrop. Plays here from the famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou demonstrate the traditions and lifestyle of the local Naxi, Yi and Bae people and are performed at the highest altitude of any theatrical production in the world.

 Seebühne in Bregenz, Austria

lake constance theatre photo
Photo by Tauralbus

Floating on the beautiful lake Constance, this stage is unlike any other. The auditorium sits on the lakeside and can seat up to 7,000 people. Each season different plays and music events take places here, including the Vienna Symphony Orchestra’s classical music. The stage itself is remarkable, but what the crew do with the sets is unbelievable. Tickets are on sale now for the stage’s biggest event – The Bregenz Festival.

Obviously, watching theatre outdoors means you take your chances battling the elements. Chilly winds, sharp rain, perhaps hail, and blinding sun. We can help you there, with these stylish sunnies that are the perfect accessory for a day watching open air theatre…

Gotha Crystal Glitter Round Sunglasses in Blue Gold
Gotha Crystal Glitter Round Sunglasses in Blue Gold by Jimmy Choo

Shine as bright as the stars on the stage or in the night sky in these elegant blue round frames from Jimmy Choo.

Keyhole Square Sunglasses in Matte Black
Keyhole Square Sunglasses in Matte Black by Hugo Boss

Opt for classic sophistication with a pair of Hugo Boss keyhole sunnies. These frames are smart and slick, and the matte black colourway is completely versatile.

We’ve loved exploring these top open air theatres. If we’ve missed one of your favourites then tell us all about it in the comments section below.