If there’s one thing that you can’t plan for on a trip to London it’s the weather. Actually, that’s not entirely true, you can pretty much guarantee that the weather will be entirely unpredictable!
Fortunately, however, there are lots of things to do on a rainy day in London. The obvious places to retreat to when the heavens open are the museums and luckily London has a lot of them. But there are plenty of other rainy day activities too including ice skating, bowling, climbing centres, the theatre and much more.
The following are some of our favourite things to do in London when it rains – enjoy!
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Rainy day activities in London – Museums
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There are 170 museums in London meaning that wherever you are in the city, you’ll most likely find a museum nearby. There are national museums, free museums, niche museums, world-famous museums and museums where you enjoy a sleepover! Getting around all 170 museums will take some time, however, so we’ve just listed a few of our favourites here.
The British Museum
The oldest and largest museum in London is the British Museum. It first opened its doors in 1759 and covers 18.5 acres with a mind-boggling eight million objects in its collection. The collection is so big, in fact, that only 1% of it can be displayed at any one time. The British Museum is also one of the most visited museums in London.
If you’re visiting with kids make sure to pick up one of the Explorer Trails, which are a wonderful way to discover some of the museum’s collections. The British Museum is free to visit.
Natural History Museum
One of the most popular museums to visit with kids in London is the Natural History Museum.
The Dinosaur Gallery is always a hit and make sure you try out the earthquake simulator while here. Regular exhibitions take place including the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The museum is also the setting for one of the best scenes in the original Paddington movie and home to the excellent Dino Snores museum sleepover.
Next door to the Natural History Museum is the Science Museum where you can easily spend several rainy days exploring. Don’t miss Wonderlab where you can see lightning strike before your eyes, play with forces on giant slides or travel through space under a canopy of stars.
Across the road is the V&A Museum another one of London’s free museums. A fun way to explore the exhibits is on a treasure hunt with THAT Muse.
Borrow a backpack for kids from the Learning Centre. These packs are full of fun activity sheets designed for children aged 5-12 to explore the V&A. There are Agent Animal bags for under 5s.
There are lots of other museums that are well worth a visit on a rainy (or sunny) day. These include the TATE Modern, which always has fantastic exhibitions.
The Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, South London, is a fun and quirky destination for families. Dedicated to anthropology, natural history and musical instruments the museum is most famous for its over-stuffed walrus in the main Natural History Gallery. It’s also home to the Butterfly House, which is sure to bring joy on a rainy, grey day.
The Cartoon Museum is filled with comic strips and animation, it’s a particularly good one to visit if you’re in London with teens. The Sherlock Holmes Museum, dedicated to the fictional London detective, always has a long line outside. The Old Operating Theatre is a brilliant step back in time and one of the oldest surviving operating theatres. The Charles Dickens Museum is housed in the author’s old London house.
Visit the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels, the London Dungeon is a great option for older kids and teens, and the British Library usually has an interesting exhibition on. It’s worth visiting the library anyway to see the King’s Library, home to some of the most rare and important texts in the world. The British Library is also home to the original edition of Magna Carta from 1215.
Finally, there’s no better way to learn about the city than with a visit to the Museum of London.
Active rainy day activities
Sometimes you just need to keep the kids active. London has lots of options for burning off energy on a rainy afternoon. The London Aquatics Centre has family sessions but what you really want to book tickets for is Aqua Splash. This inflatable assault course runs from the end of July to the end of August.
London always has lots of ice skating rinks that pop up in time for Christmas but there are rinks where you can skate year-round. You can go ice skating at Alexandra Palace, at Queens Ice and Bowl in Queensway (where you can also go bowling) and at the Sobell Leisure Centre in Islington.
The Castle is a brilliant indoor climbing centre housed within, yes, a castle! They hold family taster sessions and kids taster sessions. All visits must be booked in advance. Clip n’ Climb in Chelsea is another great place to try indoor climbing.
The Crystal Maze
The Crystal Maze Live Experience is based on the hugely popular 1990s TV show. Teams have to complete a number of challenges in a set time limit. If you successfully complete the challenge you win a crystal, which gives you 5 seconds of time in The Crystal Dome. It’s open to anyone aged 13 and over.
At the O2 in Greenwich you’ll find an Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park with over 150 trampolines. There are performance trampolines, a ninja warrior course, a foam pit and more. Make sure to book in advance.
In addition to Queens Ice and Bowl there are a number of other places you can go bowling in London. All Star Lanes has venues in White City, Brick Lane, Holborn and Stratford and offer family packages.
There’s also Bloomsbury Bowling, although they don’t offer anything in particular for families. Hollywood Bowl, however, is a really good option for families. This bowling alley has a handful of venues across London. Tenpin is another bowling option with family deals.
Baysixty6 Skate Park offers beginner sessions and lessons. You’ll find it in North Kensington, under the Westway.
Plonk has a handful of crazy golf venues in London and several of them are indoors, perfect for rainy days.
Rainy day activities – movies and theatres
The cinema is always a good idea on a rainy day and London is home to both big chain cinemas and independent movie theatres. There are also dedicated children’s theatres, which are the perfect place to escape to when there’s bad weather outside.
We love the Everyman cinemas for their cosy sofas, waiter service and pizzas. They also show excellent films. There are venues throughout the city. The Picturehouse is another lovely cinema chain with a handful of venues in London.
The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley is one of London’s oldest cinemas (which explains the lack of leg room). The Art Deco interiors make up for it though. The Electric Cinema in Portobello is just lovely.
Many of London’s theatres stage family-friendly shows, particularly around Christmas when the city goes Pantomime crazy. Keep an eye out for Kids Week; during the month of August children aged 16 and under can got to any participating show for free if accompanied by a full paying adult.
There are a handful of theatres dedicated to shows for children. These include the Unicorn Theatre and the Little Angel Theatre in Islington. The Puppet Barge Barge is another good option. Take a look here for London Theatre ticket deals.
Some of the best West End Shows to bookmark include the Lion King, Matilda, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for Harry Potter fans.
Other rainy day activities in London
Still looking for fun activities to do on a wet day? Here are some other options!
Located in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush shopping centre is Kidzania, an indoor city for kids. Designed for children aged 4-14 years old, the scaled city allows kids to learn through interactive role-play. They can become firefighters or pilots, work as journalist or in a supermarket, earning money (kidZos) along the way.
London Bookstores for kids
We’re always happy to retreat to a kid-friendly bookstore when the weather isn’t playing ball. Take a look at some of our favourite bookstores for children here.
An escape room is a fun way to spend a wet afternoon. Some of them, however, can have rather creepy or more adult themes so make sure to check that the one you choose is kid-friendly. ClueQuest is a good option with most missions suitable for children over the age of 9.
Personally, when the weather is miserable I find that cake helps. London has plenty of themed afternoon tea experiences designed for kids. Take a look at best kids’ afternoon teas here.
Another fun foodie option is to visit Borough Market near London Bridge. The market is under cover and filled with lots of yummy street food on offer. Old Spitalfields Market is another great thing to do when it rains. The covered market is fun for the whole family with food and drink stalls as well as shops to browse.
Discover Children’s Story Centre
This lovely literary getaway is a great rainy day activity for toddlers and younger children. Located in Stratford, children up to the age of 11 can follow an indoor story trails guided by fantastic creatures. The Discover Children’s Story Centre also hosts exhibitions themed around popular children’s authors and illustrators.
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Younger children will love a trip to the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. It’s not cheap and it’s not huge but it’s a good escape in wet weather.