Londoners rarely venture out without two things – their Oyster Card and an umbrella.
According to weather data, even in the height of summer there’s a chance of a shower in London every three days. But don’t let that put you off, because there’s enough indoor activities and ways to make the most of the city even when it’s a bit wet outside.
So to make sure you’re prepared, here are a list of things to do in London when it rains.
1. Browse the books at the Southbank Centre Book Market
Protected by Waterloo Bridge, the Southbank Centre Book Market is open come rain or shine. Select from a range of second hand books while you shelter from the elements under the bridge.
2. See some art at London’s galleries
Many of London’s art galleries are free to wander about in. If you get caught in a downpour in Trafalgar Square, then the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Somerset House are all within a couple of minutes walk of each other.
We’ve also put together a list of some of London’s lesser known art galleries for something a bit different.
3. Watch a film with a cuppa tea
There’s something deliciously decadent about sneaking off to the cinema during the day. If you don’t fancy the Odeon, try one of London’s independent cinemas, as a lot of them have great bars and cafes inside as well.
4. Get your board game on in Haggerston
Draughts in Haggerston has over 500 different games to choose from. The cafe in Hackney also has a full food and drink menu to keep you going if you’re settling in for a game of Monopoly or Risk.
5. Visit a traditional covered market
Greenwich Market is a fine example of a Victorian covered market, and Leadenhall Market or Covent Garden Market also have similar traditional structures. Borough Market isn’t a bad place to get caught in the rain either – especially if you’re hungry.
If antiques are your thing, then Alfies Antiques (and it’s sister market Grays) is a great bet. There are four floors of collectables to browse in what was once a former Edwardian department store. It also has a lovely cafe (with some outdoor seating should the rain let up).
Find out more about London’s markets.
6. Play Pétanque…
Have a go at this game, which is a variation of Boules. The only indoor Pétanque court is in a pretty good bar – Baranis on Chancery Lane.
7. …or Ping Pong
The biggest ping pong bar in town is Bounce near Chancery Lane, and this super-swish club has 17 tables to play at, including table service for drinks and food.
“I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining.” – Comedian Groucho Marx
8. Go old-skool and play pool
The 1920 in Clerkenwell has four American pool tables and a great cocktail bar (try the gin-based Bam-boozled). Number 1 Sports Bar in London Bridge has a large number of pool tables and it turns into a club later in the evening.
For a traditional pool hall, try Rileys Sports Bar in Victoria or Haymarket which also feature big screens showing the latest live sport.
9. Have a brain workout in an escape room
If there’s a group of you (between three and five), head to Kings Cross and try clueQuest. It’s a live escape game, which sees you and your friends use logic and those little grey cells to spring yourselves from a locked room within an hour.
10. Take in a matinee at the theatre
Watch a musical or play in the middle of the afternoon. Most shows start at 2.30pm to 3pm and finish between 5pm and 6pm.
Discover the latest theatre deals here.
11. Have a peak backstage
Find out more about London’s theatres and venues by taking a tour behind the scenes.
You’ll be able to smell the greasepaint (and even handle some of the props), discover the history of some of these famous buildings and hear little-known stories about actors and actresses who have trodden the famous boards. The National Theatre, Royal Albert Hall and Shakespeare’s Globe have tours taking place daily.
12. Go record hunting
Visit Flashback on Essex Road, the area around Berwick Street in Soho, or Lucky Seven in Stoke Newington and spend an hour scouring the racks for obscure LPs.
13. Play indoor tennis
The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has four indoor courts if you fancy a game, and they’re open every day of the week.
You can hire racquets and tennis balls at the centre – see website for prices and booking.
14. Wait out any rain delays at the pub
The wrong kind of rain…has been known to cause train delays. If you’re stranded at the station with an hour or so to kill, drop into one of the best pubs near the main London train stations and wait it out.
15. Take cover in a huge shopping centre
Westfield has one shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush and another at Stratford, and you’ll find the major high street labels, along with designer outlets at both venues, along with huge food courts and restaurants like Wahaca and The Real Greek.
At the Stratford site you’ll also find a 17 digital screen cinema, with large comfy seating, as well as a bowling alley and casino.
16. Buy a bespoke umbrella
James Smith & Sons sell the best umbrellas in London. The company has been in business for more than 180 years and have sold to prime ministers like Andrew Bonar Law and William Gladstone.
They still make the umbrellas in the basement of their beautiful Victorian shop in New Oxford Street. As well as umbrellas, you can also get canes and walking sticks – but if you want one designed specifically it can take up to four weeks to create the finished, quality product.
17. Or if you leave your umbrella on the tube
You won’t be the only person – the TfL’s Lost Property Office at Baker Street has collected around 12,000 umbrellas over the years. Any brollies handed in are logged and stored, so if you have a distinctive one maybe give them a call – it might have been handed in.
18. Face it, you’re going to get wet anyway
The Lee Valley White Water Centre was built to host the canoe slalom events at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. And now, you can have a go in a canoe or kayak or tackle the rapids by white water rafting.
If you just fancy taking a dip in one of London’s outdoor swimming pools, you’ll probably have a lot more room in the lanes.
19. Relax at a hotel spa
20. Go ten pin bowling
London has a decent indoor bowling scene – and prices are generally cheaper in the off-peak day time.
21. Have a restorative cuppa
Possibly as quintessential as the UK’s wet weather is the concept of afternoon tea. Take time out of your day to experience this British tradition in London – the best afternoon teas is a good place to start, or get a last minute afternoon tea deal if you’re caught out.
22. Start singin’ in the rain
Karaoke Box has three venues in Mayfair, Smithfield and Soho, where you can hire rooms for between 5 – 12 people by the hour. You can also get waiter service.
Islington and Soho also has Lucky Voice, where you can sing along with inflatable instruments as props. Bloomsbury Lanes also have four private singing rooms if you want to combine a few tunes with a game of ten pin bowling.
23. See under water in the London Aquarium
Seeing the fish and amphibians at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium is a very calming way to spend the day. Watch the penguins potter about or see the sharks gliding past in the huge tanks – if you time it right you can also catch the daily feeds.
24. Have a game of (indoor) golf
Choose between Soho Golf & Country Club or Royal Smithfield venues for Urban Golf. After playing on one of their state-of-the-art simulators, treat yourself to the traditional 19th hole drink in the cocktail bars and lounge.
City Golf & Sports Bar also has six simulators, featuring more than 50 of the world’s best golf courses to try your arm at. Most of the venues have cheaper “tee times” during the day.
25. See some really dark skies
If visibility is a bit rubbish, take refuge in one of the Royal Observatory’s Planetarium shows. Stargazers in Greenwich can enjoy the latest HD technology beamed onto the domed roof and discover more about the universe.
26. Batten down the hatches at the Barbican
27. Mooch about in a museum
Many of London’s museums are free, like the Wellcome Collection which has some intriguing exhibits (as well as a library, restaurant and cafe to hang out in). If you’re caught in the rain in South Kensington, you’ll find the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A all within a short walk of each other.
See our full list of London museums for more inspiration.
28. Shelter under the umbrellas at London Bridge
This unusual umbrella art installation at Vinopolis Piazza was part of a marketing strategy for Procter and Gamble’s “athlete’s mum” campaign – however it has stayed in situ ever since as a colourful landmark at London Bridge.
Need any more inspiration?
Our 100 Things in London page is designed to help you find unusual places to visit in the city.
You can also find the latest events and happenings going on in London right now.
For all the latest news and travel information, visit the Transport for London website.
And finally, remember to check out the weather forecast.