So, you’ve saved up all your money and you and your bestie have arrived in London. You’ve waited all year for this and you’re going to have the best city break. Nothing is going to stop you.
Then you wake up early on the first morning and are devastated to see that the heavens have opened, and the forecast says it’s going to last all weekend.
But, let’s face it, you haven’t come to London for the weather and there’s still plenty to do, even in the rain.
Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a seat, get comfy and see our top 21 things to do in London when it rains.
1. James Smith & Sons, Umbrella Shop
Clearly, this has to be your first stop! The Umbrella Shop was founded in 1830 by the original Mr Smith, who made umbrellas in a small workshop out the back. In 1851, a man named Samuel Fox invented a lightweight steel frame, and James Smith II was one of the first umbrella makers to use it.
His business took off and he moved to 53 New Oxford Street, which is where the shop remains today. And it looks exactly like it did all those years ago. Go grab yourself a beautiful, classic umbrella ready to start your weekend. Just ask the cabbie to take you to ‘The Umbrella Shop’ – they’ll know where to go.
2. Afternoon Tea
The places to have afternoon tea in London are numerous and iconic. You might not be able to afford to stay in these hotels, but you can certainly waltz in feeling like you do! The Palm Court at The Ritz is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy finely cut sandwiches, teacakes and pastries. Could they have the perfect scone, fresh from the oven with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream? They have 5 sittings a day, 7 days a week, so you can try them out for yourself – no excuses.
Not just for the kids, these trampoline parks will bring out the inner child in you, and there’s no experience required. Imagine giant airbags, slam dunk basketball, foam pits, dodgeball courts and a resident DJ. Hours of fun to be had by all. Flip Out London has three outlets around London, and Oxygen Free Jumping is at The O2 in Greenwich. You can also get lessons at the School of Trampolining to help hone your skills.
4. Behind the Scenes Tours
Many of London’s most famous theatres have behind-the-scenes tours. You can choose from the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and the beautiful Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera House tour will take you to see the inner workings of this Grade I listed building. You will get to go under the stage, see how the technical teams work and you even get to sit in the royal box. If the theatre isn’t your thing, how about a behind the scenes tour of the Harry Potter films?
5. Grab a Book and Take a Seat
Two amazing libraries to visit are Wellcome Reading Rooms and The British Library.
Wellcome Collection is a gallery, library and event space. The reading space is a beautiful double height room with an eclectic collection of furniture, ensuring you’ll find the perfect spot to relax.
The British Library, built in 1973, is the largest national library in the world with approximately 25 million books – so you’re not going to run out of things to read. They also house an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspapers from 1840, run masterclasses, and hold talks and exhibitions.
6. Learn to Skateboard at House of Vans
It’s never too late to start learning to skateboard, and where better than the House of Vans? This 30,000 square foot space in the Waterloo Tunnels has been transformed with neon lights and all things American.
This has to be one of the coolest spots in town, with a concert space, café and excellent skate and BMX areas. Or, how about the all female skate nights with cocktails, music and even yoga?
Well, who’s coming to London and not doing a bit of shopping? Certainly not me and my bestie!
Why not head down Regent Street to see some of London’s most famous shops? Hamleys is the ultimate toy shop and not just for the kids. It’s been on Regent Street for over 250 years. How about the recently renovated Apple Store, considered the pioneer of Apple’s retail future? Or, the amazing Liberty opened in 1875 and housed in an iconic mock Tudor building? It’s the ultimate place for unique luxury gifts.
Don’t forget the numerous shopping centres, all undercover and waiting for you and your credit card.
8. Brass Rubbing
Yes, this is a thing! Make your way to St Martin-in-the-Fields situated in the north east corner of Trafalgar Square, and in the basement of the church you’ll find brass rubbing.
Popular in the Victorian era, when visitors to churches wanted to take home a memento of their visit. It’s now been brought up to date and is something all the family can do.
They’ve a collection of over 100 replica brasses from all over the UK, and staff on hand to show you how it’s done. Prices start at £4.50
9. Electric Cinema
Situated in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, the Electric Cinema is one of the oldest working cinemas in Britain and one of the quirkiest cinemas in London. With a capacity of 83, you get to watch all the current movies from large leather and velvet armchairs, sofas and even beds. Each one with a side table, lamp, footrest and even cashmere blankets if you get cold. To top it off, there’s a bar that serves all types of food and great cake! This is a really special night out and not your typical visit to the cinema.
10. Indoor Crazy Golf
Did you know that there are no fewer than 11 crazy golf courses in Central London? Not all are indoors but there are a couple that are. Even better, some are in pubs!
Plonk have set up their glow-in-the-dark courses at four pubs around London. Their website has all the details. Swingers has two multi-million dollar courses, one in a WW2 bunker near The Gherkin and one just off Oxford Circus in an old department store. These adult-only venues have great street food from some of London’s favourite vendors and the obligatory cocktails. Check them out to see what all the fuss is about.
11. Art Galleries
No matter what your taste in art, London has you covered. Impressionists, sculpture, modern or the old masters, there is something for everyone. If you just have time for one gallery, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is the perfect choice, as it has one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world. Here you’ll find all the classics including da Vinci, Renoir and Constable. Better still, it’s free.
12. Covered Markets
There is something special about wandering round a market. No matter what you are looking to buy, London will have a market selling it.
Borough Market in Southwark Street is London’s largest and oldest food market. It has existed in some form since 1014, and has become the place to go for all things foodie. You name it, breads, cheeses, meat, fish – it’s all here.
If you’re looking more for vintage clothing, books and bric-a-brac, Old Spitalfields Market in the East End is the place to go. If you can get there on a Thursday, you’ll have the extra pleasure of strolling through the antiques market.
13. Ten Pin Bowling
An oldie but a goodie! No matter what your level, it’s always fun to get a group together for some beer, fast food and a bit of ten-pin bowling.
For somewhere a bit smarter than your average alley, check out The Croc Bowling Alley at The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho.
This original 1950s bowling alley is the real deal, with specially commissioned solid maple bowling lanes, a silver grand piano and three driftwood crocodiles on the walls.
14. Sea Life London Aquarium
Had enough of the art galleries and museums? Why not try something different and head over to the aquarium. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, this world-class aquarium has over 600 species of fish. You can walk on the glass tanks where the sharks are swimming below or stroke a starfish at the Rockpool.
The aquarium has over 6,000 inhabitants. You can see everything from turtles to penguins to crocodiles, and everything in-between.
15. Royal Observatory Planetarium
The Planetarium is part of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Perched on a hill with fantastic views over London, the digital show, ‘The Sky Tonight’ is presented by an astronomer from the Observatory. Lie back on the comfy chairs and let them whisk you away to a far-flung galaxy – and all for only £8.
16. A Matinee at the Theatre
Most of the West End shows have matinees two or three times a week. There is something a little bit naughty about being in the theatre in the middle of the afternoon. It also tends to be a bit cheaper and easier to get tickets. So, if you fancy School of Rock, The Book of Mormon or Hamilton, hit the matinees.
17. Ping Pong Bars
It seems they have thought of everything you can do with a drink in your hand! Following in the footsteps of New York, London has taken to the ping pong craze.
It’s become so popular there are now more than 15 places in London to play and have a drink.
Bounce is one of the biggest with two locations in Shoreditch and Holborn. With a combination of pizza, drinks, ping pong and karaoke, what’s not to love?
18. Alexandra Palace Ice Rink
Know locally as the Ally Pally, Alexandra Palace was first opened in 1875. Now, it’s a whole entertainment complex, which includes the newly renovated theatre that had been closed for 80 years.
Open year round, the ice rink is a stunning place for casual ice-skating or even for some skating lessons.
Doesn’t matter which London museum you want to visit, any of them will blow your socks off. Some say the Victoria and Albert is the world’s greatest museum of art and design. The works at the V&A span everything from marble sculptures to Art Nouveau and paintings by Britain’s favourite John Constable.
Both the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are only minutes away, so you can make a day of it and visit all three. Best of all, they are free.
20. Spa Treatment
Ladies and gents, this really should be top of the list of things you want to do when it’s raining in London. Put on your fluffy robe, switch off your phone and just have a bit of ‘me’ time.
No matter your budget, you should be able to find the perfect spot for a few hours of indulgence.
It’s hard to single one out, but the ESPA Life at The Corinthia Hotel looks amazing with the centrepiece being a glass-walled sauna amphitheatre!
If all else fails, on a rainy day in London where better to go than the pub! It’s really hard to single one pub out, because there are so many great ones to choose from. You will literally find one on every street corner. One of Charles Dickens’ favourite was the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, which used to host bare-knuckle fights. Possibly the oldest pub is the Spaniards Inn perched on a hill by Hampstead Heath, which has been open since 1585. Some of its most famous clients included Keats and Byron. Now they have a range of cask ale, craft beers, fine wines and a great Sunday roast. Sit yourself down beside a roaring open fire and relax.
That’s our list of 21 things to do in London when it’s raining. Now there are no excuses to be glum when your city break ends up a bit damp.
If this has ‘wet’ your appetite for a trip to London, Premium Tours runs lots of exciting tours to the nation’s capital, come rain, hail or snow! Contact us to find out more.