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London experiences about 106 rainy days every year, and if you plan to visit, odds are it’s going to be wet for at least part of the time you’re here. While there are lots of great outdoor attractions, the good news is, if you don’t want to brave the weather there are plenty of attractions indoors too, some of which are even free. These are some of the top options that are perfect to save for a dreary, wet day.
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This notorious castle has been a monarch’s residence although it’s best known for its time as a prison and execution site for rebels with a noted haunted history. A must-see in London, visitors can choose from different tours like a humorous Beefeater tour or a spine-tingling ghost tour to marvel at the crown jewels and the executioner’s block that beheaded a couple of Henry VIII’s wives along with some troublesome heirs to the throne. The Tower of London is the perfect spot to visit on a rainy day, adding to its haunting feel.
The British Museum is an internationally renowned history and culture museum as well as being an architectural standout. Admission is free and it boasts an incredible treasure trove that includes some of the world’s most notable antiquities. You’ll be mesmerized by everything from Babylonian stonework and the famous Egyptian collection to impressive artifacts from the Roman Empire, the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles and the Lindow “Bog Man.” There is also a vast collection with works of man from prehistoric to modern times from across the globe.
There are a number of great covered markets where you can browse or buy a wide range of items and sample delicious foods. The Old Spitalfields Market is filled with cutting edge fashions and accessories at everything from independent boutiques to designer brand stores. Nearby there are street food stands, restaurants and specialty shops. On Saturdays, it becomes the Style Market and every month a special Arts Market is hosted here as well. Brixton Village Market, the Borough Market and the Wood Street Indoor Market are just a few of the other options.
The British Library is one of London’s top attractions, containing 180 miles of bookshelves that sit in the city’s deepest basement. One room is especially impressive with its glass cases that contain a wealth of treasures including original writing by everyone from the likes of Shakespeare to Dickens, the Magna Carta and pages from Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks. The United Kingdom’s national library, you’ll be able to take a stroll through manuscripts that have enlightened and brightened lives for centuries. There’s an entire wall dedicated to music too, with manuscripts from the Beatles to Beethoven.
The crowning glory on Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is free to explore and showcases hundreds of the world’s most famous and most beautiful paintings. You’ll find everything from Western European paintings that date from the 13th to 19th centuries, including works by masters like Van Gogh, da Vinci, Picasso, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Renoir and Titan. Holbein’s “The Ambassadors” is a must-see, laden with symbolism while featuring the “anamorphic perspective,” a technique popular in Early Renaissance art. An image that looks smudged in the foreground is transformed into a human skull when it’s viewed sideways.
Kensington Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and home to the late Princess Diana Visit to step into the shoes of a 17th- and 18th-century royal courtier while you make your way through the luxurious King’s and Queen’s State Apartments, jam-packed with remarkable paintings from the Royal Collection. “Victoria Revealed,” an exhibition inside the rooms Victoria lived as a child, explores her life and reign as a wife, mother, Queen and Empress. As the opulent palace is located in Kensington Gardens which surrounds the royal residence, if the sun comes out again you may be able to experience another must-visit London attraction.
Even if it’s raining out, riding the London Eye with views over the Houses of Parliament and down the Thames is a spectacular event and you’ll stay dry, sheltered in the pod. While visibility may not be great during the day, after dark seeing the riverfront illuminated from above makes it well worth the trip. For a truly special occasion, you can even sip champagne while enjoying the views.
You don’t have to buy anything to visit the most famous department store in the city. It’s something you’ll want to do just to enjoy the experience, raining or not, but it’s perfect to save for a rainy day. This high-end department store is really more of an attraction than a place to shop, with an amazing Egyptian elevator and elaborate Old World interiors. It hosts a perfumery, a shrine dedicated to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed, who was the son of the former owner, and fantastic food halls too.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is another free museum and it’s the world’s largest for decorative and applied arts. Named in honor of the 19th-century royal couple, the palatial South Kensington museum is a mix of applied art across a variety of genres, time periods and disciplines. The collections are ranged by categories like architecture, furniture, textiles and jewelry which makes the vast space easier to navigate. It holds the national photography archive, important furniture from medieval times to the present, an impressively diverse display of historic musical instruments and an unmatched collection of fashionable dress from the 17th century to today.
After visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum, head across the street to the massive Natural History Museum. Housed within a magnificent Victorian neo-Romanesque building that was constructed in the 1870s specifically to hold the vast collection of 50 million specimens, there are hundreds of fascinating interactive exhibits. Some of the favorites are the dinosaurs with a roaring T. rex and a remarkable model of a blue whale. In the Central Hall, you’ll be able to marvel at the iconic Diplodocus skeleton. A self-guided tour of the state-of-the-art Cocoon is a must, where you’ll not only see hundreds of specimens but you can get a glimpse into the laboratories to watch scientists work.