20 Best Things to Do in London When It Rains

St Paul's Cathedral, London, England
Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

London is often depicted as chilly, foggy and rainy. Londoners are weather obsessed so they do talk about it a lot. But locals also say not to worry, it really doesn't rain that much in London.

The beauty of a city with so many things to do means that there are loads of attractions on hand for when the rain does start to fall or the fog lingers. London is home to many museums, theaters, shopping opportunities and, keep in mind the Thames river boats are covered. So let it rain on your vacation to London—you'll have a wonderful time.

01 of 20

Explore the City's Museums

Great Court, British Museum, Bloomsbury, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe
Chris Hepburn/Getty Images
Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, UK
Phone +44 20 7323 8299

This is probably the most obvious idea but still worth mentioning as London has so many great museums and galleries. The larger ones are all free so you can pop in for five minutes when you are in the area if there is a sudden downpour. 

Must-see museums include the British Museum. The museum houses interesting and rare collections from Egyptian mummies and pieces of the Parthenon to the game-changing Rosetta Stone and an enormous Easter Island figure. Located in London's West End, covering 18.5 acres, the British Museum is not just one of London’s best museums, but one of the world’s. 

Military History buffs should visit the Imperial War Museums, which are actually five museums and sites that serve to preserve the history of British conflicts starting from WWI to the present day. One of the collection’s most fascinating places to visit is the Churchill War Rooms, a subterranean bunker and network of rooms under the streets of Westminster. You can also visit the Royal Navy ship HMS Belfast permanently moored in the River Thames. The displays bring military history to life.

02 of 20

Find Your Way out of an Escape Room

clueQuest mission


169-171 Caledonian Road, London N1 0SL, UK
Phone +44 7798 772382

Puzzle your way out of this one. Open from 10 a.m. to late into the evening, an escape room is an excellent indoor option, although you do need to book ahead.

For this live escape game for teams of three to five people, you'll select a scenario (and a level of difficulty), get shut in a room and have 60 minutes to work out how to open the locks and find a way out. The game is suitable for 9 to 90-year-olds and is a lot of fun.

"ClueQuest - The Live Escape Game" is located at 169-171 Caledonian Road, London, N1 0SL.

03 of 20

Watch Movies

Mediatheque at BFI Southbank

Gautier Houba / TripSavvy

6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX, UK
Phone +44 20 7734 2222

Who doesn't love watching a movie when it's raining outside? Leicester Square is the heart of London's cinema-land and the location of most London film premieres. As well as the big cinemas you'll also find the Prince Charles Cinema here, which specializes in lower-rate tickets.

There is also an IMAX cinema at Waterloo and another inside the Science Museum. If you're own, head to BFI Southbank to the Mediatheque, which is a space where you can watch the British Film Institute's archive for free.

04 of 20

Go to the Theater

Exterior of the Royal Opera House

TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

Bow Street, London WC2E 9DD, UK
Phone +44 20 7304 4000

London theatre is perfect for taking your mind off the inclement weather.

Theaters in London range from those that attract Broadway names in central London's West End (with 40 theaters) to Pub theaters that consist of casual productions housed in separate rooms of pubs. 

The performing arts don't stop with theater productions. Year-round, the historic Royal Opera House in Covent Garden hosts The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, and The London Coliseum in the West End hosts the English National Ballet. 

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05 of 20

Cruise the Thames

Cruise the Thames

Jose m. Alvarez  

Embankment Pier, Victoria Embankment, London WC2N 6NU, UK
Phone +44 330 123 9044

As long as it's not too windy, a rainy day can be a perfect time to take a cruise along The Thames. You can get a dining cruise from Bateaux London (try their dinner and afternoon tea cruises) or on the Silver Sturgeon. Both offer daytime and evening options.

With Bateaux London, you'll set sail from just outside Embankment station and enjoy a relaxing three-course meal as you drift past iconic London sights like the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament. They even offer jazz cruises on the Sunday dinner sailing.

06 of 20

Hit the Shops

Oxford Street

 Gautier Houba / TripSavvy

87-135 Brompton Road, London SW1X 7XL, UK
Phone +44 20 7730 1234

London does have some of the best shopping in the world. If you want to stay in one location, consider a large department store such as Harrods or even one of the two Westfield shopping malls (Westfield London or Westfield Stratford City).

Oxford Street is long (this one street has four tube stations) and is lined with High Street shops and many flagship branches. Turn off at Oxford Circus to explore Carnaby Street or take the kids to Hamleys as there are seven floors of toys. 

07 of 20

Ride the London Eye

The London Eye

TripSavvy / Gautier Houba 

Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB, UK
Phone +44 20 7967 8021

This rotating attraction is definitely a good move on a rainy day as you can enjoy the views from a warm, dry capsule. Rain or shine, the London Eye is one of London's best-loved attractions and carries around 10,000 visitors every day in its 32 capsules.

Yes, there will be raindrops on the windows but use those to take more interesting photos of the sights in the rain on the London Eye.

08 of 20

Pop into a Restaurant or Pub

London Pub

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-2.0 

Comfort eating can be what's needed when it's raining, so go for fish and chips or some other British cuisine. Whatever the weather, every day is just right for afternoon tea with fancy cakes and a dainty cuppa. If you're looking for something more casual, have a pint of real ale and a decent pub pie.

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09 of 20

Take the Bus

Commuters on the London Bridge
Alan Copson/Getty Images

To make the most of a rainy bus journey, head upstairs and grab the seats at the front which never ceases to bring child-like joy to all who get that position.

Some good routes for just watching the world go by including the no.11 plus the no.9 and no.15 which are heritage routes on old Routemaster buses.

10 of 20

Play Ping Pong

Bounce London

terencechisholm/Flickr/Public Domain 

241 Old Street, London EC1V 9EY, UK
Phone +44 20 3657 6525

At Bounce London, play table tennis at the location where ping pong was created and patented in 1901. You can book by the table so this is a good option for large groups to have some fun indoors together. 

11 of 20

Walk in the Rain

London in the Rain

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-1.0 

Westminster Station, Bridge Street, London SW1A 2JR, UK
Phone +44 7889 259312

The streets will certainly be less crowded and this would be grand fun for visitors who come from hot countries where they can't get out and walk comfortably. The shopping areas are fun to walk since you can duck into a store or tea shop if you are getting to damp.

Walking tours take place even on rainy days. There are many options and some feature stops indoors. Consider a museum-focused tour, a food tour, or a City of London Walking Tour, focusing on the old Roman settlement, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London.

If you are not afraid of getting wet then head out and enjoy the rain. Umbrellas are on sale all year round in London so wear a raincoat and a grab a brolly if you want some protection.

12 of 20

Feel the Magic on a Harry Potter Studio Tour

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

Ferne Arfin

Leavesden, Watford WD25 7LR, UK

The Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour offers you a chance to delve into the world of Harry Potter by exploring two sound stages and a back lot with original sets, moving creatures, and amazing special effects. There are interactive activities along the way.

You can see the original Hogwarts Express steam engine and step onto Platform 9¾. Throughout your time, you'll discover how the special effects in the film were made and, at the end, do a little wand-shopping or quaff a Butterbeer. There is a Studio Café, Starbucks, and a Backlot Café situated about halfway through the Studio Tour.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available online

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13 of 20

Take a Tower of London Tour

CEREMONY OF THE KEYS TOWER OF LONDON, Tower Bridge, London, London, England
VisitBritain/Britain on View / Getty Images
London EC3N 4AB, UK
Phone +44 20 3166 6000

While the Tower of London has extensive grounds, there is much to see indoors. 

Consider taking a Yeoman Warder's tour or Beefeater's tour and opt to visit the Crown Jewels, too. The hour-long tours by the Tower's special guards are usually offered every half-hour. Your guide will give short talks about the history of the Tower of London, tell a few spine-tingling stories, and take you through some of the buildings.

14 of 20

Go on a Pub Crawl

A busy Picadilly Circus in London, England
Julian Elliott Photography / Getty Images
Piccadilly Circus, London WIJ 9HP, UK
Phone +44 343 222 1234

Consider the Soho Legends and Pub Tour for a walk through history with a small group. Have a pint or two and wander trendy SoHo with your guide and experience the area where many famous musicians and celebrities lived and worked.

The tour starts in Picadilly Circus and stops at several colorful pubs along the route. Guides will dish about pop culture icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Moon and Paul McCartney who frequented the area.

15 of 20

Shop at London's Covered Markets

Covent Garden market

Tom Bonaventure / Getty Images

5B Greenwich Market, London SE10 9HZ, UK
Phone +44 20 8269 5096

Victorian covered markets are worth seeing for both their architecture and for what's for sale inside. Greenwich Market is a great example along with Leadenhall Market and Covent Garden Market

If you're hungry or are shopping to put together a meal, head for Borough Market, one of London's oldest food markets. There are vendors selling hot foods, restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy an informal meal, and stalls with produce and international delicacies like chocolates and cheeses.

16 of 20

Enjoy an Indoor Garden

Barbican Conservatory

Laura Porter

Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS, UK
Phone +44 20 7870 2500

At the Barbican Conservatory, you can enjoy birds such as finches and quails and see ponds of exotic fish while you stroll through the gardens with 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, all under a glass roof.

Partake in afternoon tea during your visit, with a selection of handmade cakes and savories inspired by plants grown in the Conservatory. Reservations can be made online.  

The Conservatory is open on selected Sundays each month and bank holidays from noon–5 p.m. Admission is free. 

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17 of 20

Take a Theater Backstage Tour

Shakespeare's Globe London - Globe Theatre Tour

Dennis K. Johnson / Getty Images

Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX, UK
Phone +44 20 3989 5455

London's theaters have an international reputation and most likely you'll be taking in a performance or two. But learning about the workings of production is a great way to gain insight into how these performances are designed and put together. 

You'll learn about the fascinating history of these famous buildings and about the actors who have performed on their stages. The National TheatreRoyal Albert Hall and Shakespeare's Globe Theater have backstage tours available most days.

18 of 20

Hop on and Hop off the Bus

Big Ben and a red bus in London
Sylvain Sonnet/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Big Bus London provides several routes where you can take refuge on the bus as it rains and hop off between showers at one of their 45 designated stops. There are three different routes available. 

You can hop on and off as much as you want within your ticket validity. Get off at London’s best attractions or sit back and stay on the bus and enjoy the trip from inside. 

19 of 20

Warm up With Bakery Goods

Pasteries and goods on display at Bread Ahead Bakery & School

Bread Ahead Bakery & School

Abbot Street, London E8 3DP, UK

London is known for its bakeries and international offerings range from Japanese sweets to French pastries reflecting London's diversity in its population. Something warm out of the oven has a special attraction on a rainy day. 

An innovative sandwich from the Dusty Knuckle, such as one with porchetta and salsa verde or spiced cauliflower and tahini, is an enjoyable alternative to the average fare.

The markets are ideal for pastry and bread-hunting. Bread, at Borough Market, is known for doughnuts and also serves up excellent cheese and olive sticks. They also teach baking. 

20 of 20

Enjoy Elegant Afternoon Tea

Palm Court, The Ritz London

The Ritz London

Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX, UK
Phone +44 20 7499 6321

Partake in an iconic British pastime: afternoon tea. Sit back and experience this British tradition in an iconic setting—tea at the Ritz Palm Court is a top London experience. Men must wear a jacket and tie for tea at the Ritz. You'll be served fine sandwiches, scones with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve, and unending delicate pastries and cakes. Although there are 18 different types of loose-leaf tea to choose from, you can also sip a glass of Champagne. 

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20 Best Things to Do in London When It Rains