Weather to travel: London

Mention weather and Britain in the same breath and cue much eye rolling and sighing. You don’t go to the UK for the weather, sure, but it’s not as bad as the naysayers would have you believe, and you certainly shouldn’t be put off visiting.


Winter in Regent’s Park

The UK is influenced by a maritime rather than a continental climate and when it comes to the rain, that means our hills give a north west/south east split. So don’t panic if you’re headed to the UK capital and your news feed is full of flood pictures. Whilst the disruption is dreadful for those affected, London, in the drier half of the country, has had an average rainfall over the last three decades of just 557mm. 400mm or below would qualify it as a desert. If we compare that rainfall total to some of the major US cities, it’s less than half that which falls on Boston or New York City, and only a couple of hundred millimetres more than Los Angeles.

Burgh House

A summer morning in Hampstead

London’s rainfall is spread throughout the year, with the lowest totals seen in July. Typically, most months see rain about one in three days, but often that’s only a light drizzle and confined to short periods. Even in the autumn and winter, statistically the wettest, pack a brolly or a waterproof coat and you’re good to go. It’s not like there’s a dearth of indoor attractions to check out during a shower.
Masks from Benin on display at the British Museum Masks from Benin on display at the British Museum

Clearly, at 50°N of the Equator, no one’s going to come to Britain in search of the scorching temperatures you’ll find in the Med, but sightseeing in big cities is no fun in sweltering heat. Here in the UK, we don’t see really hot temperatures often enough to warrant the expense of air conditioning, so if the mercury rises, London isn’t the best. If you do find yourself here in those circumstances (and you’ll know about it, believe me, because the newspapers will splash it all over the front pages), then avoid the Tube, grab a couple of cold drinks and head for one of London’s many green spaces.


September in St James’ Park: photo by David Iliff CC-BY-SA 3.0

Fortunately, average temperatures even in the warmest month, July, rise only to about the mid-twenties (that’s Celsius and not Fahrenheit!). In the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, it’s a comfortable 15-18°C and even in winter, the temperature rarely dips below about 5°C. Not for us those biting Arctic winds or toe-numbing blizzards. This year, it was a balmy 19°C the week before Christmas – exceptional but not a record.

London 002

Docklands in the sunshine

So, remember what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation. Timing your London visit to miss the summer season gives you a chance of avoiding the worst of the crowds, so why not take a chance on the weather and come out of season. Enjoy your stay!

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