London is a popular destination that may be as known for its dreary, rainy weather as it is for its history dating back to Roman times. London is a destination that many travelers have on their must-see list, whether you're going to follow in the footsteps of the Queen, Harry Potter, or Sherlock Holmes; or want to get up close and personal with sight-seeing hotspots such as the London Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben.
However, many tourists may expect to spend most of their London trips inside, because London is thought to be one of the rainiest cities in the world.
The question is: Is London really as rainy as common travel lore would have you believe? The answer might not be what you think. We're sizing up London's rainy competition in the USA and comparing some of the rainiest cities in the world.
According to climate data for London, the city averages 22.976 inches (583.6 millimeters) of precipitation per year. Compare that to precipitation in major U.S. cities and London doesn't even make the top 15 rainiest cities. Even New York City is rainier than London, with an average of 49.9 inches of rain per year. In fact, when it comes to cities, the six rainiest big cities in the United States average more than 50 inches per year and are:
- New Orleans, Louisiana, the city with the most precipitation in the U.S., gets on average of 62.7 inches of rain per year.
- Miami, Florida (yes, even sunny Miami gets more rain than London!)
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Orlando, Florida (No one calls Orlando "Rainy Orlando", but it gets a lot more rain that London does.)
The rainiest place in the USA is Mt. Waialeale on Kauai in Hawaii, which gets approximately 460 inches (11,684 millimeters) of rain each year.
That's quite a bit more than London!
But maybe you're thinking, even if it doesn't get a high volume of rain, it still rains a little bit every day in London, doesn't it? Again, according to London climate data, the city averages approximately 106 rainy days per year. It may sound like a lot, but 106 days per year really isn't that many days when you think about how that leaves 259 dry days. So more than half of London's days are not rainy.
There are several cities in the USA that average rainy days way above London's 106 days. The cities with the most rainy days (rather than the highest volume of rain) are:
- Rochester, New York and Buffalo, New York with 167 days each a year (or just 198 dry days), which is a little less than half of the year.
While London is definitely a reasonably rainy city, it does not really compare to the rainiest places in the USA or in the world. The perception of London as "the rainiest city" definitely comes from popular culture in movies and songs that describe London as a rainy, foggy place-- it's often described as gloomy. While the rainy atmosphere has become part of London's identity, it turns out that it's not entirely accurate. It seems like London's rainy reputation has been the result of hundreds of years of bad weather PR.
Whether you love or hate the rain, it’s always good to have an idea of what to expect on a big trip. Whether you’re planning a trip to London or visiting one of the rainiest cities in the U.S.A., be sure to check the weather ahead of time and be prepared before you go by packing a lightweight umbrella, rain jacket, and shoes versatile enough to withstand the rain.