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Rainy day London

Bad weather means a good day at the capital's best museums, shopping malls and indoor attractions

Wet days aren't exactly rare in London, so when the heavens open there's always plenty to do. Populated with hundreds of great cafés, pubs and bars, and home to some of the world's best museums and shops, London has got bad weather conditions covered.

Museums

Top 10 museums in London

Don't soak up the rain, soak up some culture at the capital's top museums instead

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Shopping

Take shelter in a shopping centre

Find your favourite stores under one roof at one of London's great shopping centres

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35 reasons rain is better than sun

We Londoners often pray for sunshine but there are plenty of reasons why rain is actually better. Honestly...

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Film

Movies for kids

Sudden downpour nixed your plans with the kids? Here's the perfect plan b: the latest family-friendly treats at the cinema. 

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Check out the latest exhibitions

Things to do

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear

The V&A is a victim of its own success. Ever since the Alexander McQueen exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’, with its drama, tragedy and preposterous gorgeousness, the bar for their fashion exhibitions has been set impossibly high. While this is not another ‘Savage Beauty’, it is a thoughtful and interesting show. ‘Undressed’ tells the story of undies from the eighteenth century to more recent times. It reveals the ingenuity of underwear, from the missing bones at the back of crinolines which allowed women to sit, to corsets designed for horseriding – forerunners to the sports bra. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

This Is a Voice

Walk through the soundproofed corridor that opens the Wellcome Collection’s latest show and you hear a surprising sound: birdsong. What place does this twittering have in an exhibition about the human voice? It’s astonishing to enter Marcus Coates’s installation ‘Dawn Chorus’ and see footage of people singing like wrens and robins. Coates recorded birds individually, then slowed their songs down to be imitated by singers. He filmed the humans in their natural habitat – in bed, on the couch, in the bath – then sped his footage up until their voices were indistinguishable from the birds they mimicked. 

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

To generalise wildly, most of us can imagine what a Shakespeare play looked like 400 years ago – breeches, ruffs, dudes dressed as chicks. And anybody who goes to the theatre in 2016 knows what one looks like now. But in between? This smart new exhibition at the British Library aims to shed some light on the reality of Shakespeare’s four century-plus hold on our imagination, which it notionally does by focusing on ten key performances over the years. It doesn’t achieve its goal particularly literally – there’s very little specific documentation of individual theatre productions until the twentieth century.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

Clangers, Bagpuss & Co

Hopefully you were first introduced to the wonderfully weird worlds of Smallfilms, the production company of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firman, at an early enough age that this small but beautifully put together exhibition will be like a magician revealing his secrets. See the paper pieces that became Noggin the Nog, find out which '60s model was the fashion inspiration for the Clangers, learn how Bagpuss ended up pink and make your very own stop-frame animation starring Ivor the Engine. With lots of beautiful artefacts to admire – including Bagpuss himself – you'll feel even more fond of the shows than you were to start with.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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See more great exhibitions in London

See what's on at the cinema

Film

Captain America: Civil War

Can Marvel's latest wash away the sour taste of recent superheroic letdowns? Yes it can

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Heaven Knows What

This US indie about New York junkies is shockingly, powerfully intimate

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Film

The Jungle Book

Disney's remake of their 1967 cartoon classic is breezy, gleeful and visually stunning

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Arabian Nights: Volume 1 - The Restless One

The first part in Miguel Gomes's stunning, sprawling epic about life in the age of austerity

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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See the latest film releases

Get cosy in a café, bar or pub

Restaurants

Sip on a warm coffee

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Bars and pubs

Settle in the pub for the day

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Things to do

Hide away in a speakeasy

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Restaurants

Treat yourself to hot chocolate

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See our guide to eating and drinking in London

Take shelter in a museum

Museums

British Museum

One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any time, comprise millions of objects. First-time visitors generally head for the mummies, the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, the Lewis Chessmen and the Sutton Hoo Ship Burial.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

V&A

The V&A houses one of the world's greatest collections of decorative arts, in such varied fields as ceramics, sculpture, portrait miniatures and photography. Among the highlights are the British Galleries 1500-1900, which are arranged chronologically to trace the history of British design from the reign of Henry VIII to that of Queen Victoria.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Natural History Museum

The handsome Alfred Waterhouse building houses a collection that contains some 70 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens. The Natural History Museum’s Life Galleries are devoted to displays on animal life, from creepy crawlies to the plaster cast of a Diplodocus that lords it over the Central Hall.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Science Museum

The Science Museum features seven floors of educational and entertaining exhibits, including the Apollo 10 command module and a flight simulator. The Wellcome Wing showcases developments in contemporary science, medicine and technology. The Medical History Gallery in the museum's attic contains a substantial collection of medical history treasures.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See London's best museums

Keep the kids entertained

Museums

Take a trip to the museum

Looking for ways to keep the kids amused? London's museums offer tonnes to discover and do, and many put loads of effort into making their exhibits accessible to children. What's more, you'll find all kinds of fantastic activities and workshops designed to engage enquiring young minds. You never know, the grown ups might learn something new too... A hit with the kids: London's best museums for families Horniman Museum This anthropological museum has to be one of the most child-friendly venues in all London. Set in 16 acres of landscaped gardens, the Horniman provides extensive facilities for families, including a nature trail, weekend workshops and a Hands On Base where children can touch museum objects. There's an aquarium, and the Nature Base explores the natural world with exhibits including the Horniman Museum beehive. British Museum Rooms 62 and 63 of the Roxie Walker galleries are top of most children's agendas; it's here that the Egyptian mummies reside, exerting an eerie spell over visitors. Inventive and free family events run on Saturdays. Handling sessions take place daily in various galleries and there are some fantastic trail booklets available in the Paul Hamlyn Library that help kids of different ages get the best out of the museum. Natural History Museum The museum splits its exhibits into four colour-coded zones, each with its own marvels. In Blue Zone, a life-size model of a blue whale quietens all but the loudest of kids. Geolo

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Theatre

Enjoy a family-friendly show

Even the smallest members of the family enjoy the odd stage show. Here are the Time Out theatre team's recommendations for which performances will suit the very little ones, the nearly big ones, and the grown ups.

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Film

See a fun film with the kids

Need ideas to keep the kids entertained? We suggest a trip to the movies to see one of these family-friendly films. Check out our reviews of the kids movies currently playing in London cinemas or plan ahead with our round-up of upcoming films.

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Kids

Spend the day playing indoors

London is brimming with options when it comes to indoor play centres. Crammed with climbing frames, slides and bouncy castles, they offer an ideal environment for using up excess energy. Time Out's round-up has something for everyone, from babies and toddlers to older kids. Think we've missed a great soft play centre? Tell us in the comments box below.

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See our guide for kids in the capital

Visit London's indoor attractions

Things to do Buy tickets

The Shard

The very public progress of this mammoth building (just how do you keep a skyscraper under wraps?) ensured that, by the time of its completion in 2012, the Shard was a familiar part of London's skyline, visible from all over the city – contentiously so in the case of London's many protected views. Visitors are now flocking to Renzo Piano's tripod-shaped, glass-clad building at London Bridge. At 1,017 feet high, it's the EU's tallest, containing offices, apartments, a hotel and, most excitingly, 'The View from the Shard' , a four-storey observatory deck on floors 68 to 72. The development also coincides with a new public plaza, bus terminal and a long-awaited revamp of London Bridge station.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Attractions Buy tickets

The London Dungeon

The new London Dungeon has all the ghastly gore and black comedy of the old Tooley Street attraction in a bigger and more high-tech package. A jokey celebration of torture, death and disease, visitors can journey back in time to London's plague-ridden streets (rotting corpses, rats, vile boils and projectile vomiting all come as standard) and meet some of the city's unsavoury characters, from Guy Fawkes to demon barber Sweeney Todd. A cast of blood-splattered actors are joined by 'virtual' guests, such as Brian Blessed as Henry VIII, and as well as the 18 different shows and 'surprises' – which could see you on the run from Jack the Ripper or getting lost in London's Victorian sewers – there are two rides to raise the adrenaline: a turbulent boat trip down the Thames towards execution, and a dark drop ride plunging three stories in the pitch black. Note that the London Dungeon is unsuitable for young or easily scared children.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Attractions Buy tickets

Tower of London

Despite the exhausting crowds and long climbs up stairways, this is one of Britain's finest historical attractions. Who would not be fascinated by a close-up look at the crown of Queen Victoria or the armour (and prodigious codpiece) of King Henry VIII? The buildings of the Tower span 900 years of history and the bastions and battlements house a series of interactive displays on the lives of British monarchs, and the often excruciatingly painful deaths of traitors. There's easily enough to do here to fill a whole day, and it's worth joining one of the highly recommended and entertaining free tours led by the Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters). Make the Crown Jewels your first stop, and as early in the day as you possibly can: if you wait until you've pottered around a few other things and generally got your bearings, the queues are usually immense. The other big draw to the tower is the Royal Armoury in the White Tower, with its swords, armour, poleaxes, halberds, morning stars (spiky maces) and other gruesome tools for separating human beings from their body parts. There's also (from July 10 2013) a redisplay of the Line of Kings – an original exhibition dating back to the 1680s – which includes wooden horses carved by Grinling Gibbons, Henry VIII's armour and a scale model of tilting knights. Kids are entertained by swordsmanship games, coin-minting activities and even a child-sized long bow. The garderobes (medieval toilets) also seem to appeal.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Attractions Buy tickets

SEA LIFE London Aquarium

In addition to the hundreds of varieties of fish and sea life from all over the world, including stingrays, sharks, piranhas and sea scorpions, the aquarium's Shark Walk allows visitors to walk over a glass platform with sharks swimming just below their feet. Californian cownose rays, which swim in synchronised formations, are another recent feature, as is a tunnel constructed from a 25m-long whale skeleton, beneath which visitors can watch a tropical ocean of fish, coral and green turtles. The Rainforests of the World area, complete with exotic vegetation and a tropical waterfall, is home to a pair of six-foot dwarf crocodiles, and for Easter 2013 the Ocean of Stars exhibit opened, showcasing six different species of starfish, with a tentacle tunnel that gives you a close-up view of all those Asteroidea. The aquarium is well placed for the other attractions of the South Bank: it's right beside the London Eye and a 20-minute walk along the Thames from Tate Modern.

Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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See London's top attractions

Comments

5 comments
Peter Sauders
Peter Sauders

We always go shopping when it is raining. Ventured out further this last weekend to Trash or Treasure vintage shop in Maidstone. Great items and prices were defo better than London.

lucy
lucy

What an amazing website i love the dancing information it gives you!