10 Ways to Spend a Rainy Vacation in LondonBy Angelica Malin
Don’t let a downpour keep you from taking advantage of everything London has to offer this Autumn; there are countless things to do and see on a rainy day, including several free attractions that are a great way to soak up some culture while staying dry.
We’ve covered every possibility whether you’re seeking family-friendly activities or prefer to sit out the rain in London’s most excellent pubs – expect the unexpected and embrace the fact that rain is part of the deal in the UK.
London is home to nearly 9 million people; it has two centrally sited airports, Heathrow and London City, and two more further afield, so getting to the Old Smoke couldn’t be easier. Why not travel in style and go on a private jet? You can get an iconic black taxi into the swinging city from a private plane, door to door, in less than 80 minutes.
Once you’ve said goodbye to your knight of the road, you can enjoy loads of quality time in a famous historic city. Let’s start with a visit to the National Gallery.
1 – See Some Art in WC2N
Very few countries worldwide offer free entry to museums and art galleries. The UK leads the way in Europe. It’s possible to visit every leading gallery and museum without paying a penny (although donations are always welcome)
Many of London’s art galleries are open to the public and are free to visit. If you get caught in a downpour in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and Somerset House are all within walking distance.
Are you looking for something different? A little more niche? Then try The Photographers Gallery.
2 – The Photographers Gallery
The Photographers Gallery is tucked behind Oxford Street. It was the world’s first dedicated entirely to photography. If you’re into photography, the annual schedule of solo and group exhibitions by emerging and renowned international photographers is unrivalled.
If you’re looking for a souvenir, It’s possible to purchase works by over 35 internationally known photographers. If you’re seeking odd or rare photography publications, the shop has them, and there’s also a cafe if you need refreshment.
3 – Visit a Victorian Covered Market
The Victorians loved a covered market, even back then; the British have always been obsessed with the weather. A combination of meteorology and a love of shopping gave us exquisite venues such as Greenwich Market.
Greenwich market is an excellent example of a Victorian covered market, as are Leadenhall Market and Covent Garden Market. Nearby Borough Market is also a perfect spot to visit if you’re caught in bad weather, especially if you’re hungry.
Greenwich market has 46 stalls surrounded by shops. It is a perfect venue to enjoy some sartorial splendour in a perfect historical setting, and if you get bored of shopping, the famous Cutty Sark (an old ship) is two short minutes’ walk away.
4 – Amy Winehouse and Camden Market
If you’re looking for an up-to-date spin on culture, try Camden Market; not all of the stalls are covered, but you can hop from an indoor venue to an outdoor location via Amy Winehouse’s favourite pub, The Hawley Arms.
Back in the centre of town, spend a fascinating afternoon with Winston Churchill.
5 – The Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms are a must-see for anybody interested in the tactics of World War ll and Winston Churchill.
Visit the Churchill War Rooms for a taste of history close to London’s political hub. Inside this underground centre, you’ll explore the spot where Winston Churchill, the then-prime minister, formed World War II plans with his top team and hear the stories that made the war rooms so significant.
Entry isn’t free, but the rooms are well worth a visit – Churchill made history there.
6 – Visit a Bibliophile’s Paradise
The Southbank Centre Book Market has a large selection of books for sale. Browse the selection of new or second-hand books from all over the UK.
Waterloo Bridge protects the Southbank Centre Book Market and is open, rain or shine. While sheltering from the elements under the bridge, you can enjoy the view of the Thames, get a takeaway coffee, and generally spend a leisurely afternoon indulging in one of life’s pleasures – reading.
Further down the Southbank is the London Eye.
7 – The London-Eye
A visit to London would not be complete without a spin on the London Eye. This landmark was built to celebrate the millennium and has become so popular it remains in place today (under different ownership), 20 years after the developers should have removed it.
8 – Pub crawl around Covent Garden
Pubs are part of Covent Garden’s past; whether you’re drinking or not, going to the pub is a traditional British pleasure. They’re usually friendly, sociable establishments with a comfortable chair or sofa, a roaring fire, and decent company if you wish to strike up a chat with the other patrons.
Visitors may find some of London’s tiniest (and oldest) pubs around Covent Garden, which is somewhat of a treasure trove for these historic taverns. Try the Nell Gwynn at Bull Inn Ct, the Harp, WC2N, or The Lamb and Flag, Roses Street. Each has its history, from eerie presences to bawdy watering holes of the past.
9 – Visit Liberty
Liberty, or just Liberty’s, is a high-end department store in London. Situated on Great Marlborough Street, the structure stretches from Carnaby Street to Kingly Street, creating a three-story archway over Kingly Street Mall and the Liberty Clock.
Visitors recognise Liberty for its vibrant pattern fabrics, which have a solid relationship to art and culture worldwide. The massive mock-Tudor store featuring a mix of high-end and developing brands, and labels is a trendsetter worldwide, giving floor space to up-and-coming designers.
While you’re there, the afternoon tea at Aurther’s cafe inside Liberty is a fabulous treat on a rainy afternoon.
10 – Take the Bus
While you could take an overpriced ride on a tourist bus, we have a better suggestion. Why not try a free touring app that you can use with your headphones while riding a regular London bus? The app will provide you with all of the necessary information, and you can go at your own pace.
For the price of an Oyster Card, you can travel through London. Board the RV1 for a nominal charge, which will take you on a tour of London, passing by the Tower of London on Tower Hill, London Bridge, and Covent Garden.
You are free to disembark wherever you like to visit the Tower of London, Borough Market, or Waterloo. See London like a Londoner and really see the sites (in the dry).