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21 Things to Do in London When It Rains

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.

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.

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.

Scones

Trampolining

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.

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?

The Globe Theatre

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.

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?

Shopping

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.

Regent Street

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

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.

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.

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.

The National Gallery

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

Museums

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.

Natural History Museum

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!

Pub

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.

museum

17 Museums in London You Have to Visit

London is famous for its history and culture, so it’s no wonder that there are so many attractions to see. You could spend months visiting everything this spectacular city has to offer.

When it comes to visiting museums, you’re spoilt for choice. There are hundreds to visit right in the capital. Whether you’re interested in war, history, art or even famous personalities, you’ll be sure to find a museum just around the corner.

If you are visiting London on a budget, then you’ll be pleased to know that the majority of the more popular museums in London are free to visit, offering a wealth of exhibits that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a guide to 17 of the best museums in London you just have to visit on your trip to the capital.

1. Museum of London

It seems only right to start with the museum that documents the turbulent past of one of the world’s most famous and historical cities. Located on the London Wall, near the Barbican Centre in the City of London, the Museum of London overlooks the remains of the Roman wall in one of the oldest parts of the city.

With over six million artefacts, the Museum of London takes you on a journey in time through a range of interactive galleries from the prehistoric, ‘London before London’, to ‘Medieval London’, ‘War, Plague and Fire’, which covers the Civil War, the Plague and the Great Fire, to ‘Victorian London’ and World Wars I and II, up to the present day.

Nearest Tube Stations: Barbican, St Paul’s

2. Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London has a sister museum based in an old warehouse in Docklands. It documents the history of London as a port from the 1600s through to the present day. Learn about early traders, London’s involvement in the sugar and slave trade, how the port served the Empire, and Docklands during World War II. Then take a walk in the shoes of a Victorian sailor and explore the dark alleyways of Sailortown, a fascinating recreation of a Docklands street in 19th century London.

Nearest Tube Station: Canary Wharf

3. British Museum

The incredible collection at the British Museum spans over two million years of human history. It’s one of the only museums in the world to display such a vast amount of treasures from across the globe under one roof.

The museum is divided into galleries, each depicting a specific period in time or geographical location such as Roman Britain, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Here you can see the world famous Rosetta Stone, Samurai Armour, the Parthenon Sculptures, the preserved Iron Age body of the Lindow Man, and Egyptian Mummies, to name but a few. The rooms are centred on the spectacular glass roof of the Great Court.

Nearest Tube Stations: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square

british museum

4. Victoria and Albert Museum

Just around the corner from the Natural History Museum, the splendid Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest museum of art and design in the world. It’s home to millions of artefacts, sculptures, drawings, paintings, photographs, jewellery and objects from around the world.

The exhibits are divided into categories from different areas around the world. As well as permanent exhibitions, the ever-changing museum holds a range of temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Highlights include the spectacular Jewellery Gallery, the British Gallery and the Medieval Renaissance Gallery.

Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington

5. V&A Museum of Childhood

A fascinating museum for all the family is the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green. This delightful museum displays the UK’s largest collection of objects to do with childhood from the 1600s through to the present day.

Not only does the museum display toys throughout history, but also objects relating to life for children in the home, at school, and in everyday life.

Nearest Tube Station: Bethnal Green

6. Science Museum

The third museum located in South Kensington is the Science Museum. With a variety of interactive displays, the museum is home to over 15,000 objects spread over seven floors that cover anything and everything to do with science, such as medicine, nuclear power, food, space and technology.

You don’t have to be a science geek to enjoy the museum. The interactive exhibits are fun, fascinating and truly hands-on for all the family. Explore the Apollo 10 command capsule, experience what it’s like to fly with the Red Arrows, or take on a mission in space with 3 and 4 D simulators.

Nearest Tube Station: South Kensington

7. Imperial War Museum

Disturbing, emotional and life changing, the Imperial War Museum documents the real life and death stories of people who have experienced war, from the Great War, World War I through to the present day.

Permanent galleries include The Lord Ashcroft: Extraordinary Heroes and Secret War, A World War One trench, The Second World War, A Family in Wartime, and the Holocaust Exhibition.

There are often free talks from people who survived the war that give a first-hand account of life in London during the Second World War.

Some of the most fascinating yet disturbing items you’ll see include a pair of children’s shoes from a Nazi concentration camp, a damaged window frame from the World Trade Centre, destroyed on 9/11, and a terrorist bomber’s suicide vest.

Nearest Tube Station: Lambeth North

8. Natural History Museum

Situated in South Kensington, the Natural History Museum displays over 80 million artefacts from the natural world. As well as the iconic T. Rex fossil and Blue Whale in the magnificent central Hintze Hall, visitors get a chance to discover dinosaurs, reptiles, mammals, planets, volcanoes and earthquakes all divided by colour zones throughout the museum.

Highlights include the largest gold nugget in the world, a 4.6 million year old meteorite, the casts of a man and a dog from Pompeii, and an earthquake simulator where the room really shakes.

Nearest Tube Stations: South Kensington, Victoria

natural history museum

9. Churchill War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms are part of the Imperial War Museum collection and are located in Westminster. The museum includes the original Cabinet War Rooms, the wartime bunker used by Winston Churchill and his staff during the Blitz of World War II. Visitors can explore the underground rooms where the Government met and see where Churchill slept. The Map Room has been left exactly how it was when the lights were eventually switched off in 1945.

The Churchill Museum gives a deeper insight into the life of Britain’s most famous prime minister, and explores his life and legacy through objects, photographs and artefacts.

Nearest Tube Stations: Westminster, St James’s Park

10. National Army Museum

Located in Chelsea, the National Army Museum is spread over six floors and offers a range of exhibits, objects and artefacts relating to the role of the British army from the English Civil War up to the present day.

Permanent exhibitions include the British Army in World Wars I and II, the Falklands, the Napoleonic Wars, the Boer War, and displays on Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s a range of interactive displays and visitors can dress up as wartime medical assistants, build their own rocket or put together a parachute.

There’s a soft play area for younger children, while older bloodthirsty kids can enjoy gorier items such as the amputation saw used to chop off the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg during the Battle of Waterloo, or a blood-stained uniform worn by a soldier in World War I.

Nearest Tube Station: Sloane Square

11. National Maritime Museum

For those interested in the fascinating history of the British Navy, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is a must see. The largest museum of its kind in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site offers over two million objects relating to life and death on the seas including exhibitions dedicated to famous sea-goers such as Captain James Cook, Captain Scott and Admiral Lord Nelson.

There are plenty of interactive exhibitions for children including a gallery where kids can fire their own canons and destroy a pirate ship, as well as fascinating displays about British maritime trade and slavery. A must see is the original blood-stained uniform worn by Admiral Lord Nelson when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Nearest Train Stations: Docklands Light Railway, Cutty Sark, Greenwich, Maze Hill

12. HMS Belfast

The floating museum is a Royal Navy ship permanently docked on the River Thames and is part of the Imperial War Museum Collection. The ship itself played an important role in the British naval blockade against Germany during the Second World War.

Today visitors get the chance to experience what life was like aboard a ship during times of war. There are nine decks to explore featuring the Captain’s deck, sickbay, mess decks, sleeping quarters, the galley and the gun platform.

Interactive exhibitions include the Operations Room where you can help recover a drowned plane or climb down to the lungs of the ship and explore the boiler and engine rooms, 15ft below sea level.

Nearest Tube Station: London Bridge

hms belfast

13. London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum is a fascinating story of London and its transport system from 1800s through to the present day. The museum in Covent Garden has over 450,000 items relating to London transport and its influence on the capital’s history and culture.

Exhibits include one of the earliest wooden railway coaches, which you can climb aboard, a horse-drawn omnibus from the early 1800s, the very first underground steam-powered engine, and a sedan chair, the very first licensed public transport used in London.

Nearest Tube Station: Covent Garden

14. British Library

Spread over 14 floors, The British Library is the largest library in the world. It also holds a treasure trove of priceless documents such as the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s notebook, Leonardo da Vinci’s handwritten notes, Shakespeare’s first folio and lyrics to Beatles’ songs handwritten by John Lennon to name just a few.

Every year the library hosts a variety of free exhibitions. The latest is dedicated to the world of Harry Potter. As well as magical artefacts, the library also displays original material from J K Rowling’s archives such as lists and scribblings about possible plots and characters.

Nearest Tube Station: King’s Cross

15. Charles Dickens Museum

The Charles Dickens Museum is situated in the original London home of the great writer and his wife Catherine at 48 Doughty Street. It’s the house where Dickens wrote some of his greatest masterpieces including Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby.

Fans of Dickens can explore his study, the bedchambers, and servant’s quarters. The museum also houses Dickens’ treasures such as his original desk, handwritten notes and drafts from his novels, Catherine’s engagement ring and original artefacts that belonged to the family.

Nearest Tube Station: Russell Square

16. Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is aptly located at one of the most famous street addresses in the world: 221B Baker Street. Fans of the world’s most famous detective will be greeted by a real-life Mrs Hudson who will accompany them through the various Victorian rooms spread over four floors.

The rooms, which include Holmes’s parlour, study, bedroom and bathroom, are filled with fascinating Sherlock Holmes’ memorabilia relating to Arthur Conan Doyle’s books.

Here are some other spots in London which Sherlock Holmes fans should check out.

Nearest Tube Station: Baker Street

sherlock

17. Jack The Ripper Museum

Those who are fascinated by the most gruesome and infamous serial killer of all time shouldn’t miss a visit to the Jack the Ripper Museum at 12 Cable Street near Tower Hill.

Situated in a Victorian terrace house in the heart of Whitechapel, the area where most of the grisly murders took place, the museum will take you back in time to the autumn of 1888 where you can discover the lives and deaths of the victims, the main suspects and daily life in Victorian East End London.

Spread over four floors, the museum faithfully recreates the Mitre Square murder scene of Catherine Eddowes, the Ripper’s sitting room, the police station, the victim’s bedroom and a mortuary in the basement.

Nearest Tube Station: Tower Hill

Depending on your interests, there really is something for everyone in London.  After spending the day exploring London’s museums, you can relax and enjoy some delicious food in one of London’s best restaurants