Don't let a downpour stop you from enjoying all that London has to offer; there are endless things to do and see on a rainy day, with a number of free attractions that are a perfect way to get some culture while sheltering from the rain. Whether you're looking for family-friendly activities or would rather sit out the rain in London's best bars, we've got it covered (literally).
1. Explore the British Museum
As one of London's most popular attractions, it's likely the British Museum will be busy on a rainy day – but don't let that stop you. This museum always has special exhibitions and displays that will captivate and educate visitors young and old.
2. Catch a movie
Cosy up and watch a movie at one of London's most unique cinemas. From classic musical sing-alongs at The Prince Charles Cinema to an immersive viewing of the latest blockbusters at the BFI Imax, you won't be short of places to go.
3. Experience some history at Tower of London
Take a step back in time to explore the Tower of London, where you can learn about its history and see the Crown Jewels on display in the Jewel House – some of which are still used in royal ceremonies today. Book your tickets at hrp.org.uk. If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your own home, curl up on the couch and catch up on its history with Inside the Tower of London, which is now on its second series.
4. See some art at Tate Modern
Get some culture at the Tate Modern, which has an impressive selection of international modern and contemporary art, and a number of special exhibitions to enthral art lovers, including a year-long exhibition on artist, teacher and curator Dóra Maurer. Better still, entry is free.
5. Shop until you drop
Get some retail therapy at one of London's largest shopping centres. Westfield has centres in both Stratford and Shepherd's Bush, with hundreds of shops, restaurants and cafes all under one roof.
6. Visit one of London's covered markets
For a more unusual shopping experience, take shelter from the wet weather at one of London's covered markets like Borough Market – where you can sample delicious food or snap up ingredients to cook something at home. Alternatively, Leadenhall Market, which was built in 1881, is a stunning indoor shopping space offering retailers such as Barbour and Reiss, tasty lunches from market stalls and breathtaking architecture.
7. Tour the National Gallery
Art aficionados should go to Trafalgar Square, home to the National Gallery. Admission is free and you'll see thousands of works from celebrated artists including Van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt. Head there soon to see the Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance exhibition before it ends, or enjoy Leonardo Experience a Masterpiece over the next few months.
8. Go to see a show
You're spoiled for choice of amazing shows in the West End, especially if you’re in the mood for a musical. Whether you fancy watching Waitress the Musical, The Tina Turner Musical or 9 to 5 the Musical, the theatre is a great place to warm up your hands (and your vocal chords!)
9. Wander around the Natural History Museum
Dippy the Dinosaur, one of the Natural History Museum's most famous attractions, may be on tour, but in its place you'll see 'Hope' the blue whale skeleton, along with exhibitions dedicated to everything from evolution and dinosaurs. Whether it’s taking a photo with the clock from the CBeebies shows Andy's Dinosaur Adventures and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures, or exploring the hands-on science centre, it’s a great place to keep dry on a family day out.
10. Go bowling
A fun rainy day activity to do with family, friends or a date, you can't go wrong with a game of bowling! There are so many bowling alleys across the city to choose from, including All Star Lanes, Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, and Rowans Bowl in Finsbury Park, which also has pool, arcade games and karaoke for hours of fun.
11. Get inspired at the V&A Museum
Museums are a failsafe way to spend a few hours while it's raining, and the V&A is a must for anyone with an interest in art and design. While the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition has ended, after being named the most visited exhibition to date, upcoming options will cover Mary Quant’s fashion revolution and photographer Tim Walker.
12. Enjoy a tipple (or two) at a pub
What better way to spend a few hours on a rainy day than catching up with friends in one of London's pubs or bars? There are hidden gems across the city, but if it's a cocktail you're after, we recommend one of these best cocktail bars in London.
13. Go on the London Eye
Even if it's raining, you can still see some of the city sights from the shelter of one of the pods on the Coca-Cola London Eye. Sure, visibility may not be as good as on a sunny day, but you'll still get a good glimpse at landmarks like the Houses of Parliament and down the River Thames.
14. Have a day out at the Science Museum
Exploring the Science Museum is an ideal wet weather activity with children in particular, but visitors of all ages are sure to be in awe of the award-winning exhibitions and objects on display, including a number of interactive and immersive experiences.
15. Dine at one of London's many cafés or restaurants
Take shelter from the rain at one of London's eateries. There are thousands to choose from catering to all tastes, whether you simply fancy a quick bite to eat, want to indulge yourself with a Michelin star meal or want to sample cuisine from around the world. The only hard part will be narrowing it down to just one.
16. Go inside St Paul's Cathedral
It's an iconic part of the London skyline, but why not take the opportunity to go inside St Paul's Cathedral? You'll learn about the cathedral's fascinating history and explore the galleries and crypt. Plan your visit at stpauls.co.uk.
17. Explore Westminster Abbey
Alternatively, you could go to Westminster Abbey, a famous landmark that dates back to 960AD and has played host to historic events such as the Queen's coronation and the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate in 2011.
18. Relax in the Barbican Conservatory
Looking to escape the feeling of the concrete jungle and unwind in the countryside? You don’t need to travel far. The green spaces of the Barbican Conservatory offers thousands of plant species to wander through to clear your mind, and those with a sweet tooth can indulge in an afternoon tea - don’t mind if I do!
19. Head to the National Portrait Gallery
For a free day out taking in a collection of thousands of portraits, head to the National Portrait Gallery. Special exhibitions are held at the gallery regularly, with upcoming events including a lecture on Elizabeth I at 60, and a Pre-Raphaelite Sisters exhibition which will explore the women of Pre-Raphaelite art.
20. Play indoor golf
Unleash your competitive side with a game of mini golf at one of the growing number of venues popping up across the city. Swingers now has two locations in the capital, while Junkyard Golf also has four 9-hole crazy golf courses on offer at its base in East London. One of the newest to open is Puttshack, East London, which uses cutting-edge technology to give mini golf a seriously modern update.
21. Try an escape room
Gather your friends and test your skills in an escape room. There are scores of themed escape room games across London, including The Game is Now: Sherlock Escape Room, an amazing team challenge that puts you in the shoes of the detective.
22. Go to a spa
Treat yourself to some rest and relaxation at one of London's city spas. You'll find incredible spas within the city's top hotels, or could head to your local salon for a little bit of pampering.
23. Head to the Royal Observatory
Take a journey through space and time in Greenwich, home to the Royal Observatory. In the planetarium, visitors can experience the wonders of space with expert commentary from real astronomers, while you can also stand on the Prime Meridian Line at the home of Greenwich Mean Time. See more at rmg.co.uk.
24. Visit an indoor play area with the kids
Got little ones to entertain? You'll want to head to one of London's indoor play areas for a fun rainy day activity. KidZania London at Westfield London is an indoor city run by kids, where they can try 60 real-life activities while parents relax with a drink in the Grown Ups Garden Shed.