28 things to do in London when it rains

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 are enough indoor activities and ways to make the most of the city even when it's a bit wet outside. While the city is an exciting city to simply explore by foot during your London holiday, with its incredible architecture, lively street performers and more, when the rain hits it’s good to know where to run for cover. 

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. 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 its 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).

5. Explore Borough Market

There’s loads of covered markets to choose from in London, but Borough Market has to be considered as one of the best. Spanning two sites by London Bridge, the main covered market is a circus of activity, with stalls selling all sorts from fresh fruit to French cheeses, Croatian wines to freshly baked breads, and more exotic items as well as a few freebie tasters. Once you’ve shopped til’ you’ve dropped, stop off at one of the restaurants that line the market, or head over the road to the second site, where a number of food stalls offer a delicious array of dishes, from falafels to sausage rolls. 

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. A few pubs are also getting in on the act - you can hire a table at the Old China Hand, Nordic Bar and The Book ClubBook ahead at some of the smaller venues where possible

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. Historic Covent Garden pubs

Going to the pub is a classic British pastime, whether you’re drinking or not. They’re usually pretty friendly, sociable places that offer a comfy chair or sofa, a crackling fire and decent conversation if you want to strike something up with the other punters in there. Of all the London pubs, you’ll find some of the tiniest (and oldest) in Covent Garden, which is something of a treasure trove for these historic pubs. Each has their own histories, from haunted presences to ‘reserved’ spaces; try the Nell Gwynn, the Harp or The Lamb & Flag to get you started. 

11. Visit Churchill War Rooms

For a slice of history near the political heart of London, pay a visit to the Churchill War Rooms. Once inside this underground centre, you’ll explore the site where the then-prime minister, Winston Churchill, shaped plans for World War Two with his top team, and listen to the stories that made the war rooms as significant as they were. 

12. Have a peek 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. 

13. Tour the Royal Albert Hall

If it’s raining in London and you’re wondering what to do, take an official guided tour of the Royal Albert Hall. As you wind your way around this Victorian-age edifice, you’ll find out all about the royal areas, the incredible auditorium and dramatic engineering issues. It’s long been a stage where some of the top stars have performed, from the Arctic Monkeys to Beyonce, and the Cirque du Soleil in between. 

14.  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. 

15. 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.

16. Wait out any rain delays at the pub

Rain has been known to cause train delays. If you're stranded at the station with an hour or so to kill, drop into a pub near the main London train stations and wait it out.

17. 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 screen cinema, with large comfy seating, as well as a bowling alley and casino.

18. 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 that's custom designed it can take up to four weeks to create the finished product.

19. 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.

20. Relax at a hotel spa

You can try one of the top 10 hotel spas in London, many of which have pools, or just go for a relaxing massage or facial with one of these spa deals.

21. Go ten pin bowling

London has a decent indoor bowling scene - and prices are generally cheaper in the off-peak day time.  All Star Lanes have four venues in the capital, Holborn, Bayswater, Brick Lane and Westfield Stratford City, or at Bloomsbury Lanes, where you can munch on American pizza while you bowl.

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. 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.

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

The Barbican is a great place to hang around - you can see some exhibitions or just have a drink in one of the cafes. They also have free WIFI in the public area.

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. Get a great view of the city from the lastminute.com London Eye

Spot the city's most famous landmarks from above with a spin on the lastminute.com London Eye. Visibility may be slightly reduced in the rain, but you can still see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, whilst staying dry. Book your tickets online in advance to guarantee your entry.

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