What to do in London on a rainy day

 

rainy London big ben

 

Your suitcase is packed, your tickets printed: next stop, London! You’ve planned it all: the long walks along the Thames, a stroll on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, a picnic in a royal park… That was without counting the possibility of rain. Don’t despair, London will be no less exciting. Here are 30 ideas to save the day!

Get drunk on art

The Tate, the V&A, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum… All these iconic museum keep their permanent collection free to the public: you only pay for the themed exhibitions. How brilliant! If this is not your first time in London, though, why not try something different and go behind the stage. The Royal Albert Hall will show you its incredible architecture, the Royal Opera House the costume room, the National Theatre the incredible logistics to change the decors. All come with lots of fantastic anecdotes.


Step into a Freemason building

There’s a sumptuous Freemason’s hall, just a few minutes walk from Covent Garden, and yes, it does open to the public for guided tours. It’s been used countless times for movies: James Bond for Spectre, for one. Quite a magical place to forget the rain…

 

Freemason's Hall London

Have a coffee in a church

The most famous is the Crypt Café, right under St Martin in the Field’s church (Trafalgar Square), which regularly has jazz evenings. For the wow effect though, try the Host Café, in St Mary Aldermary. Its stunning sculpted ceiling, like exquisite lace, makes it the best place in town to sip your espresso.

 

Host cafe LondonPhoto by The better places

Explore a hidden tropical garden

The brutalist architecture of Barbican is home to an exhibitition space, a cinema and… a tropical garden, open to the public on Sundays. You may glimpse weddings, private events, photoshoots even. Canary Wharf too has a garden, a rooftop but sheltered one. Look out for the piano there to improvise a mini concert :). We’re also big fans of the Sky Garden, 155 m high in the city, under a stunning glass roof. You will have London at your feet, a view on the Shard, a choice of restaurants and bars. Bonus: the entry is free, juts book a slot online.

 

Sky Garden London

Go shopping, but not on Oxford Street

Try the famous shops of the Covent Market, the foodie haven of the Borough Market, the Harry Potter worthy Leadenhall Market, the narrow passages of the Camden Market… We love the covered galleries near Piccadilly, Burlington Arcade being a favourite. A real journey in time. Gentlemen still stop by to get their shoes polished there.

 

Burlington Arcade London

Play

There are lots of funky bars in London. Draughts has over 500 board games. Flight Club is dedicated to darts but offers a gentleman’s club atmosphere, Bounce to ping pong, Bar Kick to table football. The more adventurous will try… urban axe throwing at Whistle Punks. Alternatively try Bingo, once an old fashioned activity, has gone back to being trendy – try the Bingo Academy in Camden or in Waterloo for example. For online games, you can find reviews here.

 

board game Draught London

See a musical

London, like New York, loves musicals. There are plenty to choose from: Les Misérables, Charlie and the chocolate factory, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera… Have a look at the Theatre gallery in the V&A – some of the most iconic costumes (The Lion King, War Horse….) are featured there.

Be a child again

Ballie Ballerson is quite a fun concept: a pool, a million transparent plastic balls, LED lights changing colours, cool music… Get ready to dive in! Bonus : the bar serves retro cocktails…

 

Indulge in an afternoon tea

Cakes always are a good idea. You could try the exquisite Georgian room on the top floor of Harrods, enjoy your scones listening to a pianist at Fortnum & Mason’s or go for a themed afternoon tea. The Berkeley’s finds inspirations in the latest fashion shows, One Aldwych recreates the magic of Charlie and the chocolate factory, the Rosewood’s is all about iconic modern artists like Jeff Koons…

 

Fortnum & Mason's afternoon tea London

Be sporty

No worry – this will still be fun. How about free jumping on trampolines at Oxygen? Doing yoga with a view at The Shard or at the Sky Garden? Swimming in the 2012 Olympic Games swimming pool?

YOGA sky garden london

Create a street art piece

In 2008, Banksy had organised a street art festival in the Leake Street tunnel, right by Waterloo. He succeeded to make it a legal graffiti zone: yes, anyone can come and tag the walls, any time of the day. Including you! It’s become a famous setting for photoshoots and video clips.

Skate underground

House of Vans is in the very same tunnel. There’s a café, an art gallery, a mini screening rooms and… an underground skate space. It’s free too!

 

House of vans underground skate

Find shelter in stunning bookshops

Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street, has a delightful glass room, a wooden interior and a last century atmosphere: you are sure to fall under its spell. Waterstones in Piccadilly is less charming but there are 6 floors to explore with lounges you can cocoon in and lead through books (and a café on the last floor)/ Try Book for Cooks in Notting Hill too, fully dedicated to foodies! Ninja Books organises regular book crawls (same as a pub crawl but from a bookshop to another)

 

daunt books london

Take a selfie with Yoda

Madame Tussauds has added Star Wars to its galleries – yes, that includes Yoda and BB8…

Escape the rain and spend the afternoon in an independent cinema

Who could resist the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road, with its luxurious leather armchairs and sofas for 2. Even better, you can order snacks and wine at the bar and take them back to your seat… A number of hotels also have screening rooms, offering a VIP atmosphere. One Aldwych, in Covent Garden, is famous for its Film & Fizz evenings: 3 course dinner, movie, glass of champagne and popcorn for £55 per person. You could also try the Prince Charles Cinema: they often do movie marathons (movies from the same director or a saga, screened in a row overnight) and Singalongs…

 

portobello electric cinema notting hill london

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16 Comments

  1. March 5, 2018 / 05:54

    Oooh! I absolutely love your list! The Host cafe looks absolutely amazing! And the book crawls :)))

  2. March 5, 2018 / 12:31

    That ball pool looks so fun! Luckily the UK being such a rainy place does have its advantages – plenty to do if the weather is rubbish 🙂

  3. Danila Caputo
    March 6, 2018 / 20:41

    We’re going to London this month and this was a definitely interesting read! I had no idea that the museums were mostly free and it’s an amazing news! We already had the Borough Market on our list of things to do, I can’t wait to go now!

  4. March 7, 2018 / 18:26

    Fantastic post! I love the sunshine, so I’m always disappointed when I arrive at a destination along with the rain clouds, but with a list like this I’ll certainly not get bored! I especially love the church cafes – I’d never heard of that before!

  5. March 8, 2018 / 14:00

    Such nicely written that one would start praying for rains 😀 (not much to pray though with the normal London weather). Loved the photos 🙂

  6. March 9, 2018 / 01:56

    This is an amazing list! I’m so impressed with the variety of things you list, not just eating and drinking. I would love to do a bookshop crawl and have tea in a church! Thank you for sharing these off-the-beaten-path places.

  7. March 9, 2018 / 10:25

    How much I love this blog post! London is such a cool city with so many cool things to do. The yoga place looks awesome too – thanks for this recommendation!

  8. Chocoralie
    Author
    March 11, 2018 / 01:03

    @Jenia It’s one of my favourite places in London… Such a sweet spot!

  9. Chocoralie
    Author
    March 11, 2018 / 11:50

    @Emma | The Gap Life Diaries You can never get bored in London 🙂

  10. Chocoralie
    Author
    March 11, 2018 / 16:31

    @Danila Caputo Try the Broadway Market too with a walk by the canal:)

  11. Chocoralie
    Author
    March 11, 2018 / 21:23

    @Erica Edwards Fully agree – I love taking pictures and a rainy day makes things tricky… but it’s sometimes a wonderful way to discover a different side of a city 🙂 There are a few church cafés in England – sometimes to keep the community closer as people go less to church these days, or to bring funding for renovations… I have seen a few empty churches turned into wonderful creative spaces too!

  12. Chocoralie
    Author
    March 12, 2018 / 11:58

    @Sumit Surai We’re luckier than you may think rain wise… Not so much water, but winters are very grey 🙂

  13. March 12, 2018 / 17:37

    Given how much rain we get, this is a great list and I’m saving it to pass on as I’m so often asked by friends visiting for ideas for poor weather and I always struggle to think of things until it’s too late! Our museums are definitely the first obvious answer as we have such variety. My favourites are the Natural History Museum and the British Museum. The Crypt Cafe is a great call and lovely to have a coffee and cake there. I’m noting down the tropical garden in the Barbican as I had no idea and have never visited!!! Love the suggestions for bars offering something extra in the form of a pastime, whether board games or darts or bingo! Theatre and musicals are good, and there are lots that aren’t big ticket prices. Afternoon tea is a big one, so much of my life is food oriented!!!

  14. Chocoralie
    Author
    April 23, 2018 / 10:16

    Thank you Renada – there is so much more to do! London is an amazing place 🙂

  15. Chocoralie
    Author
    April 27, 2018 / 15:48

    Kavita: so glad I still could surprise someone who knows London well already! The best compliment ever 🙂

  16. Chocoralie
    Author
    April 27, 2018 / 15:49

    Thank you Martina, you made my day 🙂

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