Wondering what to do when it rains in London? Your "favourite" Anglophile has some suggestions to keep you occupied. So grab your wellies and your 'brellies, and let's talk about drizzly London!
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A rainy day in London?
If you're planning a trip "across the pond," chances are...basically 100%... that you'll have to figure out how to spend a day in London in the rain. Don't let that concern you! Rain in London has a different quality to rain elsewhere. It's rarely a "washout," but more often just random, often seemingly unexpected, and frequently short-lived.
Whether it's a soggy afternoon, a drizzly morning, or one of those rare washouts, you'll need to have some rainy day plans in your back pocket. I hesitate to call them "contingency plans," as rain is as British as anything, and if you went to London and didn't have a few good rain comments/jokes/stories/quips upon your return, some might doubt you had even visited the U.K..
So let's discuss my top 10 "favourite" things to do on a rainy day in London! Is this post an excuse to use all of my rainy London photos? Surprisingly no, though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy to finally find a use for them. And, if this is your first trip to the best city in the world, be sure to read A First Timer's Guide to England before you go!
London in the rain: Post up at the pub
I'll admit that I was tempted to end this list here, at just the first suggestions. Do as the Brits do! In the event of sudden, expected, surprising, heavy, light, or no really rain at all, head for the pub. Showers in England are often short, so if you're walking around when the drizzle starts, pop into the pup, "get a few pints in," and then be on your way! It might even be the highlight of your day!
London in the rain: See a show
London's West End is one of the greatest theatre districts in the world. And the amazing thing is, with the sheer concentration of theatres and endless shows, you really can buy tickets for a show on the day of. No, you might not be seeing the most cutting-edge show with this approach, but sitting in a centuries old theatre truly is a great way to get out of the rain and enjoy some of the best singing/acting/dancing around.
For more on London's theatre scene: on spending time in Covent Garden and seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London, check out the full posts!
A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else. -Unknown
London in the rain: Hit the shops
If you're in the market for any type of purchase, I promise, you can find it in London. While shopping may not seem like the perfect rainy day activity, London's large department stores and covered arcades are a great place to spend a little while and wait out a passing shower! For more on exploring London's Historic Department Stores, check out the full post!
London in the rain: Historic churches
London's historic churches are a delight. Significantly different from other churches in Europe, they offer much less of the gold gilding and painting than you'll see in Italy or Spain, but they're beautiful nonetheless.
And, many of them offer very unique opportunities after your tour. Two of my personal favorites, St Paul's and St-Martin-in-the-Field boast phenomenal "crypt" attractions. The latter's Cafe in the Crypt is a must-see, regardless of weather, but extra fun on a rainy day.
London in the rain: Fancy tea at a hotel
"The best way to spend the tiresome hours between lunch and cocktails..." Tatler
The Brits are constantly drinking tea, but "afternoon tea" is its own animal - complete with fancy cups, endless hot water refills, and frankly more food than you need in the middle of the afternoon. Certainly not an everyday occurrence. But, if you're looking to while away the hours on a drizzly day, afternoon tea couldn't be better way to warm up (there's usually champagne available as well - never fear!).
We loved our afternoon tea at The Goring on our honeymoon. For Royal fans, you'll know The Goring as the Royal Family's favorite hotel: home of the last public outing of the Queen Mum, where HRH The Duchess of Cambridge spent her last night as Kate Middleton, and where The Queen ventures out for her rare out-of-the-Palace meals!
London in the rain: Visit the Royal Palaces
Speaking of Palaces, London's phenomenal Royal Palaces are a great way to spend a rain afternoon. Massive, largely indoor experiences, they, too, feature great cafes. Buckingham Palace and Clarence House are open very limited times, when The Queen and her family are away during the summer, but Kensington Palace is definitely worth a visit! There are several other great houses in central London, including Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington, and Spencer House, family home of Diana, Princess of Wales.
London in the rain: Tour the Houses of Parliament
Though quite the historian, (and a lawyer!) I'm not much of a politics buff, so for whatever reason, visiting the Palace of Westminster wasn't much on my radar. However, during our last trip to London, we dropped by Parliament (on a drizzly day!) and we had the most marvelous experience. The tour is surprisingly intimate, and setting food in the House of Commons for the first time is an incredibly surreal moment.
Our Parliamentary visit was long before Lethal White came out, and having explored the setting certainly provided a great setting in my mind's eye for one of my now-favorite books!
London in the rain: Public transit
As you should always, and particularly on a rain day, you should take advantage of London's phenomenal public transit system to get quickly across London. In a quick shower, a Tube ride might be enough to keep you busy until things dry up. Additionally, London's famous double-decker buses can provide a unique view of the misty city, and kill some time if you're waiting for things to dry off.
One of the most captivating areas in London, The City, is particularly enchanting in a light drizzle, and the bus ride from The City back toward wherever you may have called home base takes you through many of the capital's most well-known areas.
London in the rain: Carry on.
London in the rain: What not to do!
And of course no list would be complete without just a couple warnings of what you'll want to avoid on a rainy day in London!
Gorgeous as the British Museum is, there's nowhere quite so crowded as the British Museum on a rainy day. It's *free* and it's on every first-time traveler's list, so in the event of a "washout day," they'll all be heading straight for the British Museum. Save it for another day.
Similarly, a mainstay of the London Pass, The Tower of London is one of the most crowded tourist attractions in London. While crowds aren't specifically the issue on a rainy day, the formatting of the attraction is. While some might assume it's a largely indoor experience, The Tower, like any fortress, is actually an amalgamation of a large number of buildings - chapels, living quarters, museums, etc., all snuggly nestled behind, and into, The Tower's walls. Traipsing around The Tower in the rain is, frankly, a miserable experience, and I'd know - I've done it!
Thanks for stopping by!
For more on planning a trip to Europe, including how to prepare for eventualities such as rainy days, check out the full post! And don't forget to subscribe to the blog emails, below, for my free, downloadable carry-on packing guide for Europe!
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