In case it’s escaped your attention, the English summer, in all its infinite bounty, is about to unironically bestow upon us a ten-day period of wall-to-wall rainstorms starting this weekend.
Your options are two-fold:
1) Herd all the animals of the earth, two-by-two, onto an enormous wooden boat for safe-keeping; or
2) Cosy up in a pub by a roaring fire; revisit a roller disco from 1970s LA; explore the cosmos (from a comfortable armchair); thrash your friends at ping-pong; and take shelter in a subterranean speakeasy.
For the former, there’s probably a tutorial on youtube somewhere. But for the latter, there’s this: our ultimate survival handbook stuffed with sheltered, snug and 100% waterproof ideas for things to do in London when it’s bucketing down.
Keep it for a rainy day.
Find Temporary Respite in an Escape Room
You’re cooped up anyway, so you might as well go the whole hog and lock yourself into a tiny room filled with mind-baffling puzzles, each more tricksy than the last. The only downside is that even if you are still in there after the hour’s up – possibly of your own volition – they will have to open the door, and you will have to go outside again.
Find Creative Inspiration at the National Art Library
This exceptionally atmospheric room at the V&A houses the country’s collection of artistic tomes (and it’s completely free to join). Other strong candidates include the poetry library at the Southbank Centre, the Barbican Library, the Wellcome library and, of course, the British Library – but they have considerably fewer windows to stare out of wistfully as the rain falls.
Details: V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL | Free
Warm Up By The Fire
So, a bus has just passed you on the pavement and given your shins a complimentary rinse. You urgently require the equivalent of a leg blow dry. Get down to one of these excellent pubs with roaring fires, and by the time you dry off, you’ll be so deeply entrenched in a cosy armchair with a glass of red wine that you’ll have forgotten the whole sorry incident.
It’s raining, so your natural instinct is to curl up on the sofa and binge Selling Sunsets. But imagine upgrading your Ikea sofa and doritos for plush velvet armchairs, bespoke ice cream sundaes and a skilfully-made martini as you settle in to watch the latest blockbuster in one of these glorious independent cinemas instead.
Hole Up in One of London’s Best Speakeasies
These hidden bars are so hard to find, even the rain can’t find a way in. Hunker down in a subterranean drinking den, and sip award-winning cocktails (maybe even with a little live jazz) until it’s safe to go back outside.
See The World at The Photographers’ Gallery
How to broaden your horizons when making it to the end of your street feels like a battle against the elements? Retreat to the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho, a space dedicated to the art of the lens where you can usually catch two or three exhibitions in one go. Hey presto, you can gallivant from the streets of 1960s New York to modern-day Lagos without getting your hair wet.
Details: 16-18 Ramillies St, London W1F 7LW | £8
Treat Yourself To A Facial at Skinwork
And emerge looking as sparkling and refreshed as the streets of London after a good downpour.
Details: 24 Peter St, London W1F 0HE | £130+
Tackle the Bermondsey Beer Mile
Bar-hopping becomes considerably more difficult when you have to put on ten additional layers between stops. The Bermondsey Beer Mile is effectively the city’s most efficient pub crawl, where you can duck into dozens of brewery taprooms without having to dash more than 50m between each one. Then again, with tank-fresh beers, mead and wine available along the way, we can’t promise you’ll stay dry.
Play Crazy Golf at Swingers
Playing golf in the middle of a thunderstorm is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do. So play it safe by hitting the green at Swingers instead, where the courses are all indoors and exist in a Truman Show-like state of perennial sunshine.
Details: Oxford Street & Liverpool Street | £11-13.50
Complete The Holborn Museum Crawl
The world-famous Holborn Museum Crawl – which we’ve just made up – provides a whole day’s worth of offbeat entertainment with minimal time spent outside. Start off at Novelty Automation for a shot on the satirical arcade machines, then run down the street to Sir John Soane’s Museum (an eccentric architect’s house that’s been kept almost exactly as he left it 200 years ago), before dashing straight across the square to the Hunterian Museum, a morbidly fascinating collection of medical marvels, preserved animal specimens and 18th century surgery equipment. In fact, maybe fit in lunch before that last one.
Polish Your Pétanque at Baranis
In the South of France, they play pétanque on sun-strewn gravel courts, ruffled by the warm breezes of the Mediterranean. In London, we play it in a basement in Chancery Lane. Baranis is home to the only indoor pétanque court in the UK, allowing you to simultaneously defy the elements, and survey one of the city’s most extensive absinthe selections while doing so.
Details: 115 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1PP
Relive Your Childhood at a Pottery Café
There’s something relaxing about sitting in Kentish Town’s Social Pottery, creating your own work of art by painting ceramic plates, bowls and mugs as rain lashes against the window outside.
It could be the wine.
Details: 136-138 Kentish Town Road, London, NW1 9QB | £5.95+
Go to Cowshed in Primrose Hill
Settle into a cosy armchair in front of the telly. A trip to Cowshed is basically the same as staying in at home, only with a fleet of highly-trained professionals making you look top-to-toe glamorous… for when you get back home and into your PJs later.
Details: 115-117 Regent’s Park Rd, London NW1 8UR | From £18
Find Enlightenment at Yogarise
Then find enheaviment at Oi Spaghetti and Tiramisu.
Details: Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Rd, London SE15 3SN | See more great yoga classes in London
Add Some Colour To Your Day at the Design Museum
It’s one of London’s most fascinating museums, with exhibitions covering fashion, architecture, product design and more. Plus, there are five floors to explore, so chances are there might be a break in the rain by the time you’ve finished in there.
Details: 224 – 238 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6AG | Free permanent collection, with ticketed exhibitions ~£20
Take a Dip in Aire Ancient Baths
If you’re going to get soaked, it’s going to be on your terms. And today, those terms involve a series of pools set in a candle-lit labyrinth inspired by the bathing rituals of ancient Rome.
Details: 2-3 Robert St, London WC2N 6BH | From £115
Go See a Matinee
The theatre: pure escapism. And really, is there anything cosier than ducking out of the rain into a gilded, palatial space filled with red velvet seating and a troupe of artistes ready to weave tales and illusions right before your very eyes? Well, yes, there is – and that’s doing it in the middle of the afternoon.
Take Afternoon Tea
Deal with a rainy day the way Regency-era aristocrats would have done, by settling into a sumptuous lounge, warming up with a pot of strong tea, eating more than is physically reasonable, and making sly comments about the embroidery skills of various acquaintances.
See the best afternoon teas in London
Go For A Walk (in the Barbican Conservatory)
When you can’t go outside, make the outside come to you. The Barbican Conservatory is a triple-height glasshouse packed with more than 1,500 different plant species. There are cacti houses, antisocial terrapins, and greenery cascading over concrete balconies everywhere you look. And it’s all ingeniously topped by a water-repellent glass roof.
Details: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS | Free, but book ahead
Indulge In a Bamboo & Silk Ritual at Claridge’s Spa
Descend into Claridge’s subterranean art deco temple of relaxation for a treatment that involves a trilogy of hand and body massage techniques (including warm bamboo sticks), a silk cocoon facial, and some scented poultices to relieve your pressure points. Oh, and it all begins with a ten-minute ‘welcoming foot ceremony’. Which is exactly what you’ll need after wading through three inches of pavement slush on the way there.
Details: Claridge’s, Brook Street, London W1K 4HR | £295
How to Make Love Last. How to Fail. The Meaning of Life. Just a couple of the breezy, light-hearted topics the School of Life tackles with near-daily lectures, hosted by speakers, philosophers, thinkers, creatives and psychologists drawn from around the world. Best of all, they all take place online, meaning you can find eternal serenity from your sofa.
Details: See what’s coming up here | £80-90
Stretch Your Legs at Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace
Depending on your level of skill, you can hit the floor either figuratively or literally at this roller rink, a reincarnation of an iconic disco hall back in 1970s LA.
Details: Exhibition London, Ariel Way, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 7SL | £20.50
Stage A Ping Pong Tournament at Bounce
A prime opportunity to establish, once and for all, which of your flatmates is the ultimate ping pong master, in a neon-drenched subterranean lair dedicated to cocktails, pizza, and the noble sport of wiff-waff.
See all of London’s best activity bars
Details: 241 Old St, London EC1V 9EY | £6+
Stare Into Space at the Planetarium
Rainclouds are the common foe of astronomers everywhere. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can still enjoy the majesty of the night sky in a planetarium, where you can lie back in a comfy reclining armchair, settle in as they dim the lights, and listen to the soothing tones of an expert as they take you on a tour of the heavens. And just remember that some scientists believe you can learn while sleeping…
Details: Greenwich Park, Blackheath Ave, London SE10 8XJ | £12
Style Out The Headgear at Immersive Gamebox
When it’s raining, you have carte blanche to stay inside and play video games… inside a giant, projection-filled cube. At Immersive Gamebox, you are the avatar, so you’ll need to dash around the room to guide everyone’s favourite non-copyright character around a ghost-filled maze, and so on. Plus, the motion-sensitive visors will do a great job at distracting everyone from your wet weather hairdo.
Details: Southwark, Wandsworth & Shoreditch | £21+
Feel Cultured at the Saatchi Gallery
A sizeable contemporary gallery dedicated to showcasing artists who aren’t often on show in the UK, the Saatchi’s exhibitions are generally unusual, provocative, and will stay with you long after you’ve visited. Plus, the gallery has a huge portico entrance, so you can stand out of the rain while planning where you’re going to dash to next.
Details: Duke of York’s HQ, SW3 4RY | Some free exhibitions, main exhibitions from £16
Learn To Smell Better at the Experimental Perfume Club
The technical name for the smell of the earth after rain is ‘petrichor’. Which is probably the kind of thing you’ll learn in an hour’s scent-making workshop at the Experimental Perfume Club with professional ‘nose’, Emmanuelle Moeglin.
Details: 53 Monmouth Street, London WC2H 9DG | £150+
Dry Off in A Board Game Café
Board games are the ultimate rainy day activity, but the Scrabble set on your bookshelf with half the vowels missing just isn’t going to cut the mustard. Take over a corner of Draughts instead, and work through their library of 1,000 board games while the staff keep you topped up with craft beers and tacos.
Details: 41 Kingsland High St, London E8 2FA | £7pp
Learn to Cook at Borough Kitchen
In many ways, a rainy day is like a mini lockdown. And just as in lockdown we all seized the opportunity to get round to all those things we’d been meaning to do in normal life, now you can seize the opportunity to do all the things you meant to do during lockdown. Like becoming a world-class chef (for at least one specific dish) by attending the excellent masterclasses at Borough Kitchen.
Details: Chiswick, Hampstead & Islington | £115
If you’re climbing the walls at home, much better to do it somewhere like the Castle Climbing Centre, which has 10 areas for bouldering and over 400 routes for top-rope climbing… all housed within an old Victorian pumping station.
Details: Green Lanes, London N4 2HA | £14
Go Swimming Outside (Unless It’s A Thunderstorm)
Because f*ck it, you’re already soaked.
Forecast looking up? Quick, enjoy all these things to do outside in London