lions in trafalgar square london at dusk

Best London Museums: What To Do When The Weather Isn’t On Your Side

23 February 2018
Read Time: 6.0 mins

London has always been a powerhouse of creativity, culture and history, and the fact it’s also prone to a rainy day or two during the year actually lends itself to diving right into this side of the city. There are plenty of free London museums and galleries you can duck into when a downpour looms, as well as some that have incredible collections that are certainly worth their entrance fee. From gaining an understanding of the city at the Museum of London to learning of fascinating stories at the National Portrait Gallery, or the art of design at the Victoria and Albert, a rainy day in London means nothing more than an opportunity to explore a different part of the city’s cultural, historical and social makeup.

Victoria Albert museum sculptures inside The Victoria & Albert Museum's permanent collection has more than 2.3 million objects.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, the V&A houses a permanent collection of more than 2.3 million objects. Open since 1852, and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it is a powerhouse of creative collections that span architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, theatre and performance. Entry is free, so you can spend as little or as long in here as the rain lasts, then come back later!

Where:

Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 17:45

Fridays open until 22:00

Museum of London

Museums that outline the history of a city are some of my favourites, for they give a great overview and introduction that set the scene when you first arrive into a new city. The Museum of London documents the history of the city from prehistoric times to modern day, covering Roman times, Medieval times, the great plague, the city entering into the modern era as an international metropolis, and of course, ideas and plans for the city moving forward.

Where:

150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN (next to the Barbican Centre – also worth a wander around for architecture lovers)

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00

London Transport Museum

Covering the history of London through its transport system, this museum covers the last 200 years, highlighting the link between the transport system and the growth of London. The collection includes more than 450,000 items, including vehicles, posters, artwork, maps, tickets, signs and sound and video recordings. If you’re a sucker for maps or life in days gone by, you’ll love this place.

Where:

Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 7BB

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00

British Museum aerial view The British Museum district is in the heart of beautiful Bloomsbury.

British Museum

The very first public museum in the world, the British Museum was founded in 1753. Having always opened its doors with free admission, its collections see through nearly 6 million people each year. The collection originated from the personal collections of Sir Hans Sloane, but today consists of myriad pieces spanning British and Medieval antiquities, prehistoric, ethnographic and archaeological material, oriental art and more. You could definitely spend a whole rainy day in this place.  

Where:

Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B 3DG

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 17:30

Fridays open until 20:30

Great hall in the natural history museum london The great hall in the Natural History Museum is worth seeing in itself.

Natural History Museum London

The Natural History Museum was born in the 1880s when the British Museum needed to make room for increasing collections, so the natural history collections were moved into a separate space. The permanent exhibitions are free to browse, making it a great spot for a quick escape from a shower, while temporary exhibitions require a ticket. The museum is located next door to the Science Museum and across the road from the V&A, so the ideal quarter for a dose of culture on a rainy day. The collections here cover all manner of natural history, including deep in the oceans, human evolution, dinosaurs and more. The main hall’s impressive, intricate interior is also worth seeing if nothing else.

Where:

Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 17:50

national gallery of London at dusk The National Gallery is located in one of the most accessible areas of London, Trafalgar Square.

National Gallery London

Founded in 1824, the National Gallery houses a collection of some 2,300 paintings dating from the 13th century to 1900. It’s central location on Trafalgar Square and year-round free entry means a dreary shower can be escaped for as little or as long as you like in this gallery. Much of the collection is by notable artists, including Botticelli, Raphael, Rembrandt and Cezanne. Some of the most notable works include Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, and Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus.

Where:

Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN

When:

Open Daily 10:00 – 18:00

Friday 10:00 – 21:00

tate modern building at sunset The Tate Modern is housed int he former Bankside Power Station.

Tate Modern London

If you’re in the heart of London when a downpour is looming, get yourself across the Thames to the Tate Modern. Housed inside the old Bankside Power Station, the gallery is a modern interpretation that highlights the original character of the building. Today the gallery houses impressive installations in the huge turbine hall, as well as tens of thousands of contemporary works in the every changing galleries. Entry to the general collection is free, though you’ll need to pay for the temporary exhibits.

Where:

Bankside, London SE1 9TG

When:

Sunday to Thursday 10:00 – 18:00

Friday to Saturday 10:00 – 22:00

National Portrait Gallery

Portrait galleries are secretly one of my favourite places to stop in a new country, not only for their beautiful artworks, but for the weighty historical stories they tell about the nation. This particular one was the first in the world when it opened in 1856, and today holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. The collection of over 210,000 works from the 16th century to the present day is something to keep even the most museum-adverse travellers enthralled.

Where:

St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00

Open late Thursday and Friday (until 21:00)

London design museum exterior from across the thames The London Design Museum is impressive from the outside, too.

Design Museum

If the dreary London weather has you craving a bright, open and engaging space, the Design Museum should be your destination for the ensuing hours. Covering product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design, the museum is a welcome distraction for the creative mind. The building is beautiful in itself – an ideal space to ride out a wet London morning.

Where:

224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG

When:

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00

Open late the first Friday of each month (until 20:00)

Churchill War Rooms

Below the streets of Westminster lie a labyrinth of rooms where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet took shelter during the German bombing raids of the Second World War. Today these rooms have been turned into a fascinating museum that takes you back in time, telling stories of the staff who worked and slept in the Cabinet War Rooms for years from 1938. There’s also a permanent display that covers Winston Churchill’s 90-year life.

Where:

Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ

When:

Open daily 09:30 – 18:00


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Vicki Fletcher

A writer and photographer for Flight Centre, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, hiking into mountain ranges, following locals to the best food in town, and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.