London is lovely in any weather, but there’s something really depressing about planning your London itinerary when the forecast calls for precipitation – or waking up one day in London and seeing the rain coming down. But hey, it’s London – rain happens! And you’ve got to make the most of it even if you find yourself in London on a rainy day (or longer).
I’ve certainly had my fair share of soggy days in London. One particular one occurred when I was switching between accommodations on a recent trip. I was unable to check-in for a few hours and my jet-lagged brain couldn’t think of things to do in London on a rany day… so I spent hours riding the bus back and forth, wiping the humidity off the glass to see out at the waterlogged city.
Don’t be like me! Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you should give up your plans or waste your time in London. Read on to get inspired with more things to do on a rainy London day than you can possibly fit into your trip – even if it rains the whole time. (Though, of course, I’m wishing you dry, beautiful days!)
1. Explore One of London’s Covered Markets
London is home to lovely markets, at which you can find almost everywhere in the city. Exploring them and the wonderful things the vendors sell is a top thing to do in London on a rainy day.
- Borough Market – Borough Market is one of the most popular markets in London with a history that dates back to 1014! Known as the foodies market, Borough Market is full of stalls selling unique food from every corner of the world. There’s also plenty of wine bars, restaurants, and coffee shops where you can enjoy delicious bites.
- Spitalfields Market – Popular with hipster Londoners, Spitalfields Market is where food, fashion, and art collide. As one of the liveliest markets, Spitalfields Market has a nice eclectic range of stalls from independent sellers, where you can find vintage jewelry, film classics, and antiques. There’s enough to keep you busy during a rainy day.
- Leadenhall Market – All London markets have a distinctive feature, for Leadenhall Market is its astounding architecture. A historic building, Leadenhall Market is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture, with the ceilings taking all the protagonism. You’ll find plenty of food and pubs where locals go for a drink after work in the market.
2. Wander through London’s History Museums
Visiting a museum is an unbeatable plan when it rains in London. Luckily, the city has plenty of options to cater to all types of travelers.
- British Museum – The British Museum is one of the most famous museums in London. So, on a rainy day, it’ll be teeming with people. The museum’s permanent collection features artifacts from the five continents, with some antiques being over 2 million years old. Also, there are always special exhibitions you can explore.
- Churchill War Rooms – History buffs will have the time of their lives in Churchill War Rooms. These cabinet war rooms were Churchill’s secret underground headquarters during WWII. The cabinets remain precisely the same –even the desk is where Churchill left it. You’ll be literally walking the corridors as one of the men who shaped the Western World.
- Natural History Museum – Dinosaurs, rocks, skeletons, a giant blue whale, you can find all these species in the Natural Museum of History. Located in South Kensington, one day isn’t enough to discover the wonder this museum houses. Bring comfortable shoes and be ready to take in all the knowledge this museum offers.
- Grant Museum of Zoology – Grant Museum of Zoology is a short walk from King’s Cross, and it’s a little gem you can visit in London on a rainy day. Unlike other museums, the Grant Museum of Zoology is smaller and less crowded. Despite its size, there are a huge amount of specimens and collections there.
3. Gaze at One of London’s Art Museums
There’s plenty of museum options for the arts and culture vulture as well. Go to one of London’s art museums and immerse in the works of world-renowned artists.
- Tate Modern – The Tate Modern is a great place to appreciate modern and contemporary art and its evolution into the present. You can also stop by the museum’s Members Cafe and Restaurant, which gives glorious views over the Thames, whilst you enjoy a drink and a snack. Check out their website to learn about temporary exhibitions while you’re in London.
- V&A – The V&A is full of treasures that traverse many cultures and civilizations. You can see the most varied exhibitions, from handbags and clothing to Iranian and Tudors art. The gift shop is a must to visit– try not to spend all of your budget here, though.
- Tate Britain – A family of four art galleries, the Tate Britain houses British art from 1500 to today while. Be ready to have unexpected artistic surprises as the museum has done a great job including the artworks of less celebrated artists alongside the paintings and sculptures of world-class ones.
4. Go to Church
Many travelers decide not to go inside London’s iconic churches. However, these are great places to keep dry on a rainy day out.
- Westminster Abbey – Built-in 950 AD, Westminster Abbey has played host to numerous royal events, such as Kate and William’s wedding. This Gothic masterpiece houses incredible relics of the British monarchy history and traditions.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – St. Paul’s Cathedral offers excellent things to see inside, up, and down the building. Inside, you’ll witness gorgeous architecture, especially the dome. If you go all the way up to the fifth level, you’ll enjoy stunning views of London. If you go all the way down to the bottom floor, you’ll find the crypt that houses many tombs.
- Westminster Cathedral – Westminster Cathedral is a working cathedral and acts as the head church for Catholics in the United Kingdom. The building features a neo-byzantine style with marble columns, decorative mosaics, and large open spaces that are breathtaking. The most interesting fact is that Westminster Cathedral is relatively new, as architect John Francis Bentley built it only a hundred years ago!
5. Splurge at Harrod’s
What can be better than going on a shopping spree on a rainy afternoon? How about shopping in one of London’s iconic stores?
Harrod’s is iconic to England’s style and culture and still is a hub for posh Londoners who look for the latest fashion trends. Of course, most boutiques fall on the high end, so you might not spend the whole afternoon actually shopping. Still, you can pop into different shops or admire their lovely-designed windows. You can also admire the wonderful building architecture, which combines traditional and modern British design.
For a quick bite, head to the Food Hall. It’s incredible and has delicious (and affordable) dishes you can sample!
6. Head to the Theatre in the West End
Seeing a theater show is one of the top things to do in London when it rains for locals and visitors alike. While Covid hit the entertainment scene, London’s best plays and musicals are slowly going back to normal. There’s plenty of plays to choose from and at every budget. If you want to explore London’s theatre history, you can book tickets for a play in Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Listed as a Grade I building, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest one in London. For those who can afford a little splurge, watch a play at Victoria Palace Theatre. Currently, they are presenting Hamilton, the multiple award-winner American musical.
7. …Or Head to the Theater
If plays and musicals aren’t your thing, you can head to London’s cinemas (as the British call them) and watch a movie. Electric Cinema offers a unique cinema experience in the heart of Portobello Road. The interior looks old-fashioned, and this gives it a funky vibe. Electric Cinema is also one of the oldest working cinemas in Britain, and it became Britain’s first Black cinema in 1993.
Curzon is another great option for a cinema experience. This chain of cinemas is in the heart of London and specializes in art-house films. Locals love to watch films here as the place has a vintage atmosphere dating to the 50s. Curzon also hosts different events, like ballets and festivals year-round.
Cinephiles should go straight to the Prince Charles Cinema. This repertory cinema presents a rotating program of cult, arthouse, and classic films alongside recent Hollywood releases. Heading to Princes Charle’s Cinema is also a great option if you’d like to indulge in some independent movies as well.
8. Try an Indoor Sport
There’s no need to doze off on a rainy afternoon. London is a big city and offers fun activities for all occasions and weather.
Head to Bounce for some ping pong time. Don’t run away, though; this isn’t your typical ping pong club experience. Bounce is a social venue bringing an upgraded version of this sport with ping pong tables, epic cocktails, and gourmet dishes. You’ll definitely raise your body’s temperature on a cold rainy day.
Indoor golfing shouldn’t be for first dates only. Shelter away in one of the Swingers Crazy Golf joints and escape the rain outside. If you really want to get your body moving, spend the day at one of London’s adventure parks jumping on trampolines, climbing, or sorting out obstacles in ninja runs. You can also try out new sports on your rainy day, like Pétanque, a traditional French park game.
9. Make a Feline Friend at London’s Cat Cafe
Get ready to cozy up in the company of a fluffy friend on a rainy day in London. Opened in 2014, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium is a two-story café where you can spend the whole day relaxing in the company of lovely cats. There are over thirteen cats in the café, and all feline members are rescue cats.
You can book a ticket on their website, with most visits being 90 minutes long. As soon as you arrive, you can play with the cats or have a delicious afternoon tea in their company. You’ll also find a lovely staff who knows all about the cats and explains how they find loving homes for each cat.
10. Channel Your Inner Sherlock Holmes’ at an Escape Room
Escape Rooms are always a great plan, but even more so on rainy days! Grab your group of friends and book a Sherlock Holmes escape room. The Game is Now has recreated the unique world of Sherlock so that you and your friends can solve the mysteries of London. You’ll feel like the “consulting detective” uncovering a series of clues, conundrums, and codes to solve the puzzle. Luckily, you won’t be on your own to solve the conundrums. The experience features footage of original cast members, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, giving you tips and leading you to the next clue!
11. Floo to the Harry Potter Studio Tour
Many travelers who come to London want to visit all the wonderful sites J.K Rowling included in the books and movies. While visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour is mainly in the fans’ itinerary, the truth is that even if you aren’t the biggest HP geek, this place is still impressive. So, if you have a rainy day in your London itinerary, change whatever plans you had and head to Harry Potter Studio instead.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour includes visiting all of the props and sets from the movies, which means it will take you many hours to cover all the exhibits. You can expect to spend up to six hours to complete the tour as the sets are massive. There also are plenty of interactive parts along the tour and a small café selling Harry Potter-themed food and Butterbeer.
NB: visiting the Harry Potter studio can take up your whole day. Besides the time you’ll spend on the tour itself, getting to the studio takes a considerable amount of time as it is in Leavesden, an area well outside of London.
12. Journey to the Stars in Greenwich at the Royal Observatory
There’s more than great art and architecture to discover in London. You can explore the shiniest stars here, too, at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
You might not be all about the cosmos, but learning about astronomy’s history is a great plan to do in London on a rainy day. The Royal Observatory Greenwich is one of the world’s top historic astronomy destinations and offers plenty of astronomy-related attractions. Its most popular attraction is The Prime Meridian, a line marking the planet’s vertical equator, dividing the east and west hemispheres. At the Royal Observatory Greenwich, you can stand directly on the Prime Meridian.
The Peter Harrison Planetarium is another great attraction you can visit here. It offers state-of-the-art projections and visualizations of the universe, like the “Meet the neighbors” and “The sky tonight,” to learn more about the vast cosmos.
13. Head to the Great Outdoors – Indoors!
Just because it’s raining outside, it doesn’t mean you have to give up getting in contact with nature. The Barbican Conservatory is a leafy sanctuary where you’d love to spend some time on a rainy day! It features over 1,800 species ranging from tropical plants and trees to birdlife and exotic fish. There’s a serene atmosphere with the most Instagrammable variety of foliage and flowers.
You can also pay a visit to the Sky Garden to unleash your botanical side. Perched on the 43rd floor, Sky Garden is a lush urban jungle that offers spectacular views over London. It’s a wonderful experience to have on a rainy day as you’ll be able to still absorb the magic of London from the indoors.
14. Explore & Sample Chinatown
You don’t have to travel much to experience authentic East Asian culture and cuisine in London. Just head to Chinatown.
An ethnic enclave right in the heart of London in Soho, you’ll completely forget you’re on English soil once you step into Chinatown. Established in the Soho area in the 1970s, Chinatown has plenty of authentic East Asian restaurants, shops, bars, and cafés. Today, its main attraction is the Chinese Gateway on Wardour Street. The area is also a must-visit for any lover of Chinese cuisine, with over 100 restaurants.
Don’t miss browsing the supermarket and gift shops. These are excellent places to buy souvenirs too!
15. Hole Up in a Pub
Londoners have two great pastimes: drinking tea and pints. London has some of the best pub scenes in the world, so you’ll easily find lovely pubs across all of the city. However, you’ll find some of the tiniest and oldest in Covent Garden. Lamb & Flag is one of these.
Built in 1772, Lamb & Flag is one of London’s oldest pubs. Back in the 19th century, bare-knuckle fights were regular scenarios in this pub, which gained the pub its moniker ‘The Bucket of Blood’. If you’d like a budget option (beer isn’t always affordable in London), you can grab a pint of IPA at The Edward Rayne, where you can find pints starting at £1.89.
Some of my other favorites include The Clerk & Well (in Clerkenwell) and The Antelope (near Sloane Square).
16. Splurge on a Long, Indulgent Tea
No visit to London would be complete without the quintessentially English afternoon tea. While it might not sound that important, taking the afternoon tea, even if it’s just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, is a huge deal in England.
You’ll have every type of afternoon tea imaginable in London. Traditional, exotic, elegant, expensive, affordable, London has afternoon teas for all tastes and budgets. Each experience is unique and offers a great way to understand why this ritual has rooted so deeply in English culture. There is a wide selection of hotels in London offering the best afternoon teas in London, including Claridges, the Dorchester, the Ritz, and the Savoy, as well as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason.
17. Spend the Day Like a Royal
The royals, and anything related to them, are a great attraction of London. So, on a rainy day, set off to explore their residences scattered across the city.
- Buckingham Palace – The home of The Queen, Buckingham Palace is a classic royal landmark in London. You can admire the stunning architecture from the outside or book a ticket and explore the inside as well. If you can, schedule around 11:30am to experience the Changing of Guards.
- Kensington Palace – Kensington Palace is the royal residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Kate. Kensington Palace is a beautiful palace with lovely gardens and a must-stop if you’re a fan of Queen Victoria!
- Windsor (Day Trip) – Escape hectic London and head out to Windsor to explore Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. William the Conqueror founded this castle in the 11th century, and it has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today, The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle.
18. Use Your London Pass on Indoor Attractions
First of all, what’s a London Pass? For those who don’t know, the London Pass is a card you can use to receive free admission to London attractions for a set number of consecutive days. Your London Pass will include indoor attractions which are great for rainy days. There are over 35 attractions, and while it doesn’t cover all of London attractions, it does cover many of the most popular.
The Shard is a great London Pass attraction you can visit on a rainy day. This 87-story skyscraper is the tallest building in London, and as such, it offers views of the city and its immediate suburbs. It also has a nice restaurant where you can grab a bite or a drink as you watch the rainy city from above.
19. Bonus: Keep Calm, Grab an Umbrella, and Carry On!
Rainy days are far from being a contingency in London. Quite the contrary, they are the norm when it comes to the weather you can expect in this city. Having said this, just grab an umbrella and head out to do whatever you had planned to do anyway. London is always beautiful, even when it’s pouring cats and dogs. Also, those rainy days never feel as bad when you’re discovering a new place.
Part of exploring a new country is adapting to its culture, habits, and, in this case, its weather. If you’re anything like me, I guarantee you’ll remember and long for these rainy days when you’re back home!
Have any questions about what to do in London on a rainy day? Let me know in the comments!