10 inspiring things to do in London when it rains
There’s no doubt about it. Our capital city is magical. After all, where else could you peer at a Picasso, visit royal headquarters, and take afternoon tea in the course of one day? But for recent grads, summer interns, or anyone else watching the pennies, London can also be expensive. Especially when the weather dictates that you stay inside. But don’t despair. You don’t need to hibernate at home until it’s hot enough to sunbathe in Hampstead Heath. There is a budget way to do London if you know where to go. And what’s more, there’s a budget way to do London in the rain.
#1 | Wile away a day in the British Museum
The British Museum is probably the only place in the country where you can spend six+ hours looking at artefacts and not get bored. And that’s because everything, from the mineral display to the dinosaurs to the Ancient Egyptian section, has been meticulously thought-out, explained and curated in the most entertaining way possible. You could do much worse in wet weather.
#2 | Flip out at Flip Out
Flip Out is London’s adult answer to Wacky Warehouse, which is to say that it houses 76 trampolines, an extensive soft-play area, and a don’t-try-this-at-home stunt box. If you took bouncing around seriously as a child, then you’ll love this mix of nostalgia and challenge. Activities start at £4.50, which is about the same price as an umbrella would cost should you choose to spend your rainy day inside…
#3 | Beat the boredom with board games
Draught’s Board Game Cafe in Hackney is just like any other eatery. It has ambient lighting, cosy chairs, scrumptious food and…wait…over 600 board games?! That’s right, Draught’s Cafe is a haven for game-players, and whether you’ve just about mastered Snakes & Ladders, or are a champion D&D player, everyone is welcome. Draught also first opened their doors as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, which is another cool reason to visit.
#4 | Visit the Planetarium
Okay, so this one isn’t free. But as a ‘tour of the universe’ is a mere £8 per ticket, it is cheaper than a pizza in most London establishments. The Planetarium is housed inside the beautiful Royal Observatory (a wonder in itself), and twice a day, a leading astronomer guides a captivated audience through dazzling displays of the stars.
The Royal Observatory also happens to be one of the most popular spots for a proposal in the country, so if you’re lucky, you might see more than a ring around Saturn during your visit.
#5 | Take cover in Leadenhall Market
I know what you’re thinking. Market = shopping. Shopping = spending. But the Leadenhall Market is first and foremost just a really beautiful place to visit. Situated under a stunning Victorian glass roof, the market is home to a huge line-up of shops, restaurants and stalls, all sequestered from the rain, and all enjoying some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. And yes, there are eye-poppingly expensive designer clothes on sale. But there are also stalls ranging from a Harry Potter stand (yes, they sell wands) to Turkish street food, and so really, Leadenhall market has something for everyone.
#6 | Celebrate the culture
Sure, you might have to fork out a bit extra for an exhibition, but most of London’s established art galleries are completely free. Tate Modern (note the optional donation) has been serving up the best of British modern art since 2000, whereas The Wellcome Collection (everything from grisly medical histories to Japanese art) has recently undergone a £17.5 million renovation. So forget a National Art Pass. If you want to see great paintings in London, a zone 1-6 travel pass will more than suffice.
#7 | Borrow a Book from the British Library
Rainy days have been synonymous with reading since the dawn of print, and where better to curl up with a good yarn than the second biggest library in the country? With over 13 million books, and endless cosy nooks to sit in, the British Library is the perfect place to waste away an afternoon with your favourite author. And you’ll never want for a good book again.
#8 | Bliss out in the Barbican
Why the Barbican isn’t up there with the Tate, the Towers and Big Ben as one of London’s finest tourist attractions is a mystery. This 23,000 square foot garden is home to over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees, as well as a vast array of exotic fish. And if it’s grey skies and chilly rain that you’re avoiding, it might be worth noting that the Barbican is heated to simulate a tropical rainforest climate, so it’s basically the perfect place to go if you want to warm up and dry off.
#9 | Wait it out in a classic British pub
Anyone who says that you can’t get a cheap beer in the city has clearly never visited the Anchor Tap near Tower Bridge. At just £2.56 a pint, it boasts the cheapest prices in London, and its no-nonsense, traditional interior is perfect for rebelling against the hundreds of gastro-pubs lining every other street. Plus, it’s situated right in the heart of the city, so if the skies do clear up, you’ll be in the perfect position to do the more touristy stuff.
#10 | Battle through it
Whether you’re new to England or have lived here all your life, you should probably know by now that our fair capital is famous for its downpours. Of course, we all long to stroll through Hyde Park with nothing on our backs but the sun, but ultimately, the most London thing to do in London is to stick to the original plan, whatever the weather. So our parting advice? Buy a brolly, suck it up, and keep on keeping on.