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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.

women shopping

Here’s Where to Shop in London

As well as being an incredible place to visit for history and architecture, London is also one the most fashionable cities in the world and is an extraordinary place to shop. Across the many boroughs, you’ll find classic British style, luxurious international designer names and hip vintage threads.

Shop some of the most expensive brands in the world under a richly decorated facade, or step into a record store basement for a one-of-a-kind mod look. The shopping opportunities in London are endless.

If you’re planning to shop in this store-dense city, read this guide for everything you need to know about where to shop in London.

The West End

The West End of London is comprised of west and central London, and it houses the largest and most diverse range of shops in the city. In the West End, you’ll find mid to high-end luxury covering a full range of budgets, from modest to limitless. The area is posh, luxurious and elegant.

Mayfair

Oxford Street

Oxford Street has over 300 shops and is known as the busiest shopping street in all of Europe. From fascinating department store window displays to affordable fashion stores, Oxford Street has some of the best variety in London stretched over two kilometres.

Oxford Street first established itself as a shopping epicentre in 1909 with the opening of Debenhams and Selfridges. Selfridges, known for its famous clock, also boasts an incredibly wide array of footwear and denim.

The locally renowned John Lewis department store has a low-price guarantee with over 20 departments on seven floors. Shop here for toys, kitchenware, fabrics and clothing at the best prices around.

Flagship stores of many international brands including Topshop, UNIQLO, Zara and Gap dot the area. If your purse strings are tight, browse Primark for fashionable bargains.

Shop on weekday mornings to avoid the typical chaos of this busy street. Note that the crowds are especially dense during the legendary January New Year Sales.

busy-london

Regent Street

Perpendicular to Oxford Street, Regent Street offers more large outlets with mid-range glamour. There are over 75 flagship stores of international brands including Banana Republic, Ted Baker, and many more.

Turn just off Regent Street onto Great Marlborough Street for a view of Tudor style on the exterior of the legendary Liberty London department store. After travelling through Asia, Arthur Liberty opened his store in 1875 to sell oriental fabrics to the people of London. Today, you will still notice a sprinkling of exotic products amidst the English ambiance.

Looking for a dose of fun? Check out Hamleys, the world’s best toyshop. Enjoy miniature trains chugging by your feet whilst model planes zip around above you. There are six floors of entertainment for every age.

Bond Street

The luxurious Bond Street is comprised of both Old and New Bond Streets, connected by the pedestrian-only South Molton Street.

Bond Street is where the rich and famous go on shopping sprees. This area is home to some of the world’s most exclusive designer names such as Prada, Armani, Versace and Louis Vuitton. In addition to expensive clothing, you’ll find exquisite jewellery on Bond Street including Cartier, Tiffany & Co. and Asprey.

For something different, check out the nearby Dover Street Market. Japanese designers created this anti-luxury space to mix art with high fashion. Though the prices are still high, perusing the all-white, ultra-modern space will provide entertainment and perhaps inspiration.

Marylebone

St. Christopher’s Place

The charming St. Christopher’s Place north of Oxford Street in the Marylebone neighbourhood is off the beaten tourist track. Meander the quaint, tree-lined pedestrian streets for an eclectic selection of boutiques.

This specialist shopping area is full of independent brands offering high-end fashion and some iconic British products. Shop for clothing and accessories at Jigsaw or Whistles. If you want something more unique with a twinge of history, buy yourself an impeccably crafted hat from Christys’, which was established in 1773.

With over 20 eateries, St. Christopher’s Place is also the perfect place for a shopping break. Take your lunch outside to sit in the courtyard and enjoy the al fresco charm around you.

Soho

Carnaby Street

In the 1960s, Carnaby Street in Soho was where teenagers rebelled from their parents in favour of the mod style. Time magazine coined the term ‘Swinging London’ with this trendy area in mind.

With over 140 shops, bars and restaurants, this colourful street is still iconic and appealing to young adults today. Great shopping events, pop-up shops and live music gigs draw in the hip, young crowd, while the collection of edgy stores keeps them coming back.

Among the boutiques selling bold vintage clothing, you’ll find brand stores such as Muji, American Apparel, Puma and Diesel. Visit Kingly Court for three storeys of delectable eateries if you need a bite to eat.

carnaby street

St. James

St. James Street

St. James Street has been the epitome of English gentlemen class since 1661. With some of London’s most well-known gentlemen’s clubs including Brooks’s, White’s and the Carlton Club, it is no surprise that this neighbourhood epitomises traditional English style.

Stop by John Lobb for high-end, luxury shoes. This family-run business offers impeccably made shoes paired with traditional English flare.

St. James Street also offers some of the oldest stores in the city. James J. Fox is the oldest cigar store in the world and Lock & Co. Hatters is the oldest hat shop in the world. Both shops even supplied their products to Sir Winston Churchill!

Jermyn Street

Want to continue exploring quintessential English gentlemen’s style? Take a turn onto Jermyn Street. Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St. Albans, developed this area in 1664 to offer menswear close to St. James Palace.

The area is still renowned for sophisticated menswear and is perfect for masculine gifts. Here you will find tailor-made shirts, smart suits and fine leather goods.

For the perfect bespoke shirt, look no further than Budd Shirtmakers. For the ultimate noblemen’s experience, shop the menswear in Hackett alongside their private gin bar.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

In the Covent Garden neighbourhood, you’ll find an array of clothing stores plus three well-known markets. Walk through the quaint streets among vine-covered buildings and stroll into each of the three covered markets featuring arching skylights.

Jubilee Market contains the widest variety of goods and the East Colonnade Market sells handmade products. You will find children’s clothing, hand-knit scarves and even some magicians’ stalls for handmade tricks. The offerings change daily so keep an eye out for something special!

Lastly, the Apple Market focuses on artwork and household goods Tuesday through Sunday each week. On Mondays, the Apple Market sells a wide selection of beautiful, one-of-a-kind antiques.

apple market

South Bank

Gabriel’s Wharf

On the outskirts of the West End, escape the hustle and bustle in favour of the refreshing Gabriel’s Wharf in South Bank. This picturesque area hosts a variety of independent designer shops and art galleries.

There is an artsy, relaxed vibe despite the plain buildings. With a wide variety of cafes and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to stop for a cup of tea and enjoy the view of the River Thames.

Explore the nearby Oxo Tower for more small galleries and shops. What was once a power station to supply the Post Office with electricity is now an artsy tower with unparalleled views.

East London

Historically a dangerous part of town, East London is now hip, young and trendy. Shop this side of town for vintage clothing, quirky gifts, and retro antiques. You can see the best breakfast spots in East London here.

Hackney

Chatham Place

On the east side of London, Chatham Place runs north and south in the town of Hackney. As a newer shopping destination, the area is clean, sleek and modern.

Chatham Place houses a variety of luxury fashion brands at discounted prices. However, it’s best known for the Burberry Outlet. With up to 80% off, it’s no wonder that crowds flock here to stock up on this classic British brand. Try to arrive early to avoid the busloads of tourists.

This new area hosts a few other well-known brands as well. Shop Aquascutum for suits and outerwear. Check out Pringle, the classic Scottish knitwear designer, or shop quirky accessories at Anya Hindmarch.

Hackney Walk

On Morning Lane, perpendicular to Chatham Place lies Hackney Walk. This luxury outlet centre is the result of a major urban development project that was completed in late 2016.

Shop this impeccably organised area for up to 70% off a variety of designer clothes. You will find classic British wear at Joseph, luxury cashmere at Colombo, or menswear at Gieves and Hawkes. On one end, Nike has set up a superstore selling their famous sneakers and eye-catching athletic wear.

South Hackney

Broadway Market

Nestled between Regent’s Canal and London Fields in South Hackney is Broadway Market. Since the 1890s, this street has been a popular place for traders. Now every Saturday, a large market gathers where you can shop for everything from scotch eggs to vintage leather handbags. You can see more about London’s best farmers markets here.

The rest of the week it’s still possible to visit the many independent shops and pubs that line this street. There are a wide variety of exotic foods at the restaurants and unique goodies at the local shops.

On the canal side of Broadway Market, Broadway Books has NY Review titles, many small publishers and an impressive London section for travellers. For footwear, head to Black Truffles. They have an impressive range of quirky women’s and children’s shoes.

Stoke Newington

Church Street

Church Street in Stoke Newington is a hidden gem without a tube stop nearby. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Stokey’ by locals, this neighbourhood has a bohemian atmosphere, full of independent niche shops.

For the truly local experience, seek out the secondhand record store, Lucky Seven. Step into the basement for the true treasure – the hidden vintage clothing store, Lily Pad. For more retro clothes, check out Ribbons Taylor and Dirty Blonde.

Dalston

Dalston

Dalston is a young, funky area full of some of London’s best vintage shops alongside well-loved hair and nail salons. This neighbourhood oozes style.

The avant-garde fashion of LN-CC hides behind a long wood-lined hallway. For quirky vintage home goods, shop at Pelicans and Parrots. If possible, shop here in the late afternoon so you can end the day at the rum shack underneath with a happy hour drink.

For more hipster finds, Beyond Retro is a vintage superstore offering styles from the 1960s to the 1990s. Finally, stop by Oxfam. Although they have locations all over London, the Dalston Oxfam is somewhat legendary. Locals are known to stop by daily in search of the newest used designer threads.

Tower Hamlets

Brick Lane

In the Brick Lane neighbourhood, you’ll find buildings covered in soot and dust with walls covered in detailed murals. Everything in Dalston is edgy and artistic, making it a great place to shop for vintage bargains.

As home to London’s large Bangladeshi community, you will notice the street signs are in both English and Bengali, and will point you to the many well-known curry houses. In addition, there are trendy coffee shops, 24-hour bakeries, and the new Vibe Bar beer garden.

On Sundays, Brick Lane Market brings out the area’s vintage charm. Locals line the streets with stands selling a wide array of vintage bargains that rivals the selection in Dalston.

brick-lane

Old Spitalfields Market

Over 350 years old, Old Spitalfields Market is the original East London market. The market offers a wide range of goods from fresh produce to designer makeup and everything in between.

Inside the large airy hall, you’ll find independent stalls selling quirky, unique gifts, whereas the more established and well-known brands line the building outside. Among the vintage clothes and handmade jewellery, there are also well-made burgers and fancy cocktails in the nearby bistros.

Though the market is open every day, there are specialty days throughout the week. Sundays are always the busiest with the widest variety of unique goods, Thursdays are for antiques and Fridays are for art and fashion. Plus, a few days each month the market offers vinyl days, ideal for old record lovers.

Want to hit as many neighbourhoods as possible to get your fashion fix in London? London specialists Premium Tours know where to find all the best shopping in the capital. We also offer private cars for hire so you can enjoy your shopping experience in privacy and comfort. After a full day of shopping you’ll be in need of a pick-me-up so be sure to visit one of these lovely riverside pubs for refreshments.