London is lovely in the sunshine and dramatic in the snow. But that doesn’t mean grey and drizzly days are a washout. There are plenty of things to do in London when it’s raining, from exploring our city’s amazing free museums and chilling out in a dreamy day spa to drinking next to a pub fire or curling up and reading in one of London’s loveliest libraries.
Next time the heavens open, don’t stress. Here are 18 awesome places to go when you need to keep out of the London weather.
RECOMMENDED: More things to do on a rainy day in London
Things to do when it rains in London
Staying indoors definitely isn’t boring in the bucolic surroundings of Hampstead’s famous neoclassical villa. Many an hour can be spent ogling its legendary art collection – which contains masterpieces by Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Gainsborough, among others – or marvelling at its interior, painted in baby blues and pastel pinks, making even the gloomiest of days a little brighter.
Give the rain what for by brandishing one of Jimmy Smith’s superior-quality umbrellas at it. This charming Victorian shop is filled with every kind of brolly from traditional to snazzy high-tech folding models and sun parasols.
See London’s iconic concert hall as never before in a behind-the-scenes tour. Get up close and personal with its nooks and crannies, discover the building’s colourful history and gain a special insight into its current performances. You may even get the chance to see The Royal Ballet in class or some of the slick backstage technology in action. All with nary a drop of rain in sight.
Don’t get soaked in the rain, soak up knowledge in the Wellcome Collection’s beautiful reading room. This gallery-cum-library-cum-events space has more than a thousand books and a hundred objects to peruse, including contemporary sculptures, paintings, medical artefacts and manuscripts. Pick one of the many comfy sofas and hunker down with a book. You’ll instantly forget all about the dark clouds outside.
Roam the city’s cobbled streets without getting wet by taking shelter under Leadenhall Market’s magnificent vaulted roof. Designed by Horace Jones in 1881, this covered market is a fine example of Victorian architecture and houses plenty of pubs, cafés and restaurants that you can try without the risk of a soaking. Be sure to pay a visit to the historic Lamb Tavern for a leisurely pint.
Venue says Dating back to the fourteenth Century, Leadenhall Market is a unique, boutique shopping and dining destination in the heart of the City.
See finches, quails and exotic fish while you stroll amid 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees at the Barbican’s exotic conservatory. It’s a taste of the tropics in the heart of London and rain-safe all year round.
While away the hours indoors by getting down to the ultimate rainy-day activity: a board game. At Draughts there are more than 500 to choose from. The £5 entry fee allows you unlimited play as well as the guidance of a ‘game guru’ who will tell you which game is best for your group and give you the lowdown on the rules. So cheaters, beware.
Get comfy in one of London’s oldest cinemas by watching a flick wrapped in a cashmere blanket in one of Electric Cinema’s luxurious leather armchairs. Nestle down on one of the front row’s six opulent, velvet-lined double beds for a sumptuously cosy few hours indoors.
Dodge a downpour by exploring one of London’s excellent museums. And what better choice for a drab afternoon than Bermondsey Street’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Its dazzling bright orange-and-pink frontage and eye-popping displays of colourful threads make for perfect relief from grey skies.
Indulge in retail therapy while remaining dry at Camden’s famous collection of bohemian stalls and shops which spill out from a network of old horse tunnels. Stock up on retro and antique furniture as well as quirky crafts and clothes while waiting for the rain to clear.
This ivy-covered watering hole in Limehouse is the perfect spot to get cosy away from the wet. All wood panelling and warm burgundy walls, this is a traditional riverside pub serving hearty grub and classic ales. Cocoon yourself in The Dickens Snug, named after its famous former patron. With the open fire and riverside views, you can get toasty while watching the raindrops ripple on the Thames.
When the weather takes a turn, thaw your hands - and your heart - with a life-affirming hot chocolate from Chin Chin Labs. The Willy Wonkas of Camden Market are best known for their ice cream, but their hot drinks are hard to beat, too. The menu is commendably short - order the signature hot choc, which comes with a hand-made toasted marshmallow.
The perfect antidote to grey skies: stare up at the stars in one of the planetarium’s regular shows while touring distant galaxies and learning about the universe with the help of an experienced astronomer.
Take shelter from the showers in this beautiful food hall in Fulham, tasting your way around seven food traders. With Texan BBQ from Hot Box, fried chicken from Butchies and heavenly pizza from Made of Dough, there's no chance of going hungry during a downpour. Check out their sister venue at Victoria for more food hall fun.
Venue says Introducing bottomless brunch! Buy brunch and add bottomless drinks for £25. Every weekend at Market Halls: bit.ly/Book-MarketHalls
We don't need much of an excuse to drink gin, and 'it's raining' seems about as good as any. Make it a more cultured booze-a-thon with a tour - Sipsmith is our favourie, with its copper pot stills, history snippets, and tutored tasting for £25.
Find more ways to dodge the rain in London
Grey and grim days aren’t exactly rare in London, so when the heavens open there’s always plenty to do. The capital is packed with hundreds of indoor activities: it’s home to some of the world’s very best museums, art galleries and shops, as well as plenty of great cafés, pubs and bars to drown your sorrows in.