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Photograph: Heloise Bergman

Great places to hide from the rain in London

Make a grey day brighter by exploring the capital with no fear of getting caught in a downpour. These are the outings to save for a rainy day in London

Written by
Alexandra Sims
,
Lucy Lovell
&
Sarah Cohen
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London on a rainy day needn’t be a washout! Sure, our fair city is glorious in the sunshine and dramatic in the snow, but if the rain is pelting down, use it as an opportunity to take shelter in one of the capital’s many indoor attractions. A wondrous planetarium, say. Or an old-school bowling alley. Or a tropical conservatory. London has all these and many more places where you can stay warm and dry while the elements batter the city. 

Next time it’s raining, try exploring our city’s amazing free museums, chilling out in a dreamy day spa, drinking next to a pub fire or curling up and reading in one of London’s loveliest libraries. And if you need more ideas, browse the below list of great places to hide from the rain in London. You’ll be willing it to pour more often.

RECOMMENDED: More things to do on a rainy day in London.

Things to do when it rains in London

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Hampstead Heath

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. Entry is free, but you need to book in advance.

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Wellcome Collection Reading Room
  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Euston

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.

Leadenhall Market
  • Shopping
  • Arcades
  • City of London

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.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Barbican

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. Booking essential.

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Haggerston

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 £6 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. There’s also a branch in Waterloo in the Leake Street Graffiti tunnel.

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Electric Cinema Portobello
  • Cinemas
  • Independent
  • Portobello Road

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.

Fashion and Textile Museum
  • Museums
  • Fashion and costume
  • Bermondsey

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. 

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Stables Market
  • Shopping
  • Camden Market

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.

The Grapes
  • Bars and pubs
  • Limehouse

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. Fun fact: The Grapes is co-owned by Ian McKellen.

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Chin Chin Labs
  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Camden Market

When the weather takes a turn, thaw your hands – and your heart – with a life-affirming hot chocolate from Chin Chin Labs (currently only available for takeaway). 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 handmade toasted marshmallow. Also in Soho.

 

Peter Harrison Planetarium
  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Greenwich

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.

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Japan House
  • Attractions
  • Kensington

Feel a million miles from drizzly London (or more like 5,870) with a trip to Japan – without the long-haul flight. Japan House is one of three new cultural centres (the others are in LA and São Paulo) aiming to show you the ‘real’ Japan. Spread over three serene floors, everything at the London branch from the floor tiles (flown in from Awaji Island) to the food (by renowned chef Shimizu Akira) will have its roots there. The best bit? No jet lag.

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Finsbury Park

Don’t let the rain dampen your spirits, have some kidult fun at this classic bowling alley in Finsbury Park, filled with red neon, kitsch Americana and old-school arcade games. You can have pizza delivered straight to your lane or go for a song at the in-house karaoke booth, so there’s no need to face the elements.

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Sea Life London Aquarium
  • Attractions
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • South Bank

Surround yourself with water without getting wet at this busy London attraction. Walk over, under and through colourful aquatic wonderlands, from tropical to Arctic, and keep your eyes peeled for swift sharks, ephemeral jellyfish and jewel-coloured sea turtles.

Find more ways to dodge the rain in London

  • Things to do

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. 

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