We have to admit the British weather can be quite temperamental. The good news is that London is a pro at dealing with the rain and there is plenty to do. You might even get away with spending very little or nothing at all! So just in case you happen to catch our capital on one of its wet days, here are 17 things to do in London when it rains:
Go sightseeing and stay dry. Yes, you can do it!
1. Take a sightseeing bus tour
If you want to see London’s top sights in a guided tour and don’t want to get wet, a bus tour could be the answer. There are a lot of different operators to choose from, but most offer a hop on – hop off service so you can enjoy being conveniently transported from sight to sight in an iconic double decker bus. Some tours even include a boat tour on the River Thames or discounts to attractions so it’s worth shopping around for the best option.
2. Go for a boat cruise
All along the Thames you can hop on and off river buses. The boats are covered, you can use your Oyster card to pay for part of the fare and they even have a coffee shop on board! If you start at Westminster and go all the way to the Millennium Dome, you will cruise past the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, Shakespeare Theatre and Canary Wharf, sightseeing from a completely different point of view. Once you are in the Millennium Dome, there is plenty to do and explore underneath its huge shelter and if you wait until twilight to get back on board, you will see the city lit up for the night, a completely different view from daytime.
3. Go for a bus ride
Some of London’s public bus routes are quite iconic and drive past several famous landmarks for only £1.50 one way. You won’t be able to pay in cash on the bus, so sign up for an Oyster card, pay with a contactless card or buy a Day Travelcard. Here are a few routes worth exploring:
- Route 9 from Aldwych to Hammersmith is one of London’s oldest routes and drives past some of the wealthiest areas of the capital – Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly, the shopping destination of Knightsbridge, Kensington Gardens where the late Lady Diana used to live, the famous Royal Albert Hall on through to Kensington High Street and the beautiful Holland Park.
- Route 11 from Fulham to Liverpool Street, drives through the designer shopping ground of King’s Road in Chelsea and the elegant streets of Belgravia before dropping by Westminster Abbey, The Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It then drives on to Trafalgar Square and past St Paul’s Cathedral, The Royal Exchange and the Bank of England.
- Route 15 from Blackwall to Charing Cross is the ideal tourist on a budget route. For £1.50 you will have a full tour of some of London’s most famous sights – Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Monument, St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square. Then you are only a short walk away from Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben.
- Route 24 from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath is another one of London’s oldest routes and drives past Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square, going on to the shopping heaven of Camden Town. You might even recognise some locations from films such as Monty Python, Holy Grail, An American Werewolf in London and The Omen!
- Other bus routes with fantastic views: Route 14 stops at or close to several museums; Route 74 drives past some of London’s most affluent areas; Route 100 drives through the older Roman parts of the city; Route D3 drives through Jack the Ripper’s territory.
Take shelter inside an attraction and absorb the culture…
4. Visit a museum
London has a great selection of museums, many of which won’t even cost you a penny! Whether you want to explore the history of dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, peruse decorative arts from around the world at the Victoria and Albert Museum or enjoy the interactive exhibitions at the Science Museum, there is one for every type of interest. If you fancy something more unusual there is even a fan or a cartoon museum!
5. Visit The Tower of London
One of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions, the Tower of London is not to be missed whatever the weather! There is so much to see and do at the historic Tower that you are recommended to allow at least 3 hours for a visit. Highlights include the Queens crown jewels, the Royal armouries collection, the medieval palace, and the Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) tours.
6. Admire art
London has many art galleries and, like the museums, some of them are even free of charge! From famous old favourites at the National Gallery or the National Portrait Gallery to the contemporary art at the Saatchi Gallery and Tate Modern, there is something for every taste.
7. Explore another world
Visit the London Aquarium and say hello to the real pros of wet living; go on a space voyage via Peter Harrison Planetarium, at the Royal Museum of Greenwich; visit the magical world of Harry Potter; or travel down the time tunnel at The Geffrye Museum of the Home, where every room is an example of a different period in time.
8. Watch a performance
Take your pick from the many theatres in London and watch anything from independent plays to internationally acclaimed masterpieces. If you are a fan of classical or dance, make an appointment with the Royal Opera House or watch the Royal Ballet.
9. Listen to a live concert
From classic music at the Royal Albert Hall to indie music venues such Roundhouse, Koko and the Barfly, through to mainstream shows at Wembley or the O2 Arena, if you are a music lover, you will not be short of choice. On a budget? No problem. There are many pubs in London offering live music, not to mention the indie record shops where you can browse for hidden gems.
Bring a souvenir home…
10. Go Shopping
We might be biased but we think London is one of the best places to shop in the world. With world famous department stores in Knightsbridge, high streets brands in Oxford Street and quirky stalls at Covent Garden market, shopping in London is quite simply first class. If the weather is particularly bad, why not visit one of the enclosed shopping centres such as Westfield, in White City or Stafford, The Brunswick in Bloomsbury or Canada Square in Canary Wharf.
11. Peruse the markets
There are many indoor markets in London. Go artisanal at Greenwich Market; hunt for a bargain in the finest surviving Victorian Market Hall in London at Old Spitalfields Market; browse decorative and unusual antiques at Alfies Antique Market; or visit the largest fruit, vegetable and flower market in the UK at New Covent Garden Market.
12. Find a new book
London has some amazing bookshops. Get lost in Europe’s largest bookstore at Waterstones Piccadilly; take part in one of the cultural events or browse one of the many exhibitions hosted by Foyles; travel in time visiting the oldest bookshop in London at Hatchard or wonder around independent bookshops like Nomad Books. If you are on a budget or just fancy swapping your holiday read, visit Carnaby Book Exchange in the heart of London’s West End and pick up your next read for free. Let’s not even mention all the book signings, readings and lit festivals that are always going on in the capital!
Not the passive type? Like to get stuck in?
13. Play a game
Test your escapist skills at a real-life escape room like ClueQuest or HintHunt; have a ping pong game at ping pong bar Bounce or a pool championship at pool hangout 1920 Bar. And if that is not active enough, you can always get physical on a squash court at any of the fully kitted health clubs around the city.
14. Try something new
London is a treasure trove for activities. From the basic to the bizarre, you are sure to find something you have never tried before and can do indoors. Go ice-skating for basic or ice climbing if you are feeling adventures; pottery painting, bowling, ballroom dancing, wall climbing, diving, roller-skating… You name it! In London the options are countless. You can find a list of ideas here.
Prefer to sit back and relax? Treat yourself…
15. Have afternoon tea
A rainy day gives you the perfect excuse to enjoy one of Britain’s tastiest traditions – afternoon tea. This quintessential British pastime usually consists of finger sandwiches, dainty cakes, fresh scones with jam and cream, and (of course!) a pot of English tea. The setting is equally important so the capitals traditional hotels tend to be the most popular venues. The Dorchester, The Ritz, Claridges, One Aldwych or The Langham are all recommended for afternoon tea. Bear in mind you might need to book, as some of these venues are fully booked months in advance.
16. Spoil yourself
Spa, relax, unwind, renew… a rainy day is the perfect excuse to try a spa. From the luxurious and traditional to exotic Turkish baths, there is no shortage of options in London. If you fancy trying something exotic and different, try the Moroccan Rituals at Dolphin House Spa.
17. Eat & drink
Last, but definitely not least, with such a wealth of restaurant and bars, you can go traditional, pub grub, international, street food or even find a hidden entrance to a secret bar or a pop up canteen! If you want a completely new experience, dine in the dark at Dans Le Noir or visit the Brixton Market, once the red light district, now the hippest food experience in town.
The bottom line is… in London, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining or not. There is still a lot you can do regardless of the weather.