The best travel activities for rainy days
European weather can be unpredictable: one minute the sun might be shining, the next you’ll be skipping over puddles looking desperately for cover. The good news is, when rain hits Europe, there’s always something to keep you busy. Here's our list of top indoor activities for you to try out on a rainy day on your next Eurail trip, or even in your hometown.
There’s no better rainy day activity than touring a museum. Most European cities have these down to a fine art. Whether you’re looking for science, sport, natural history, transport, modern art or something a bit more traditional, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to hold your interest long enough until the clouds clear. If you’re struggling to find one, a quick Google or Yelp search will turn up honest reviews and insight about what’s on show before you part with your cash.
Good to know: Pack your student card. Most museums in Europe offer some kind of discounts. If you’re no longer a student, check the museum website’s ticket page for details on any free or discounted days.
Religious institutions make for prefect rainy day excursions. Even if you’re not particularly religious, or of a different faith, a respectful visit to a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, shrine or any other religious establishment is a humbling and rewarding experience.
Good to know: Many religious institutions have dress codes that you must adhere to. Check ahead of time to make sure you respect these.
Cafes and coffee shops
Most European cities have their own take on the traditional cafe and coffee shop. A morning in a traditional Viennese cafe is dramatically different to the experience you’ll have in a hip Berlin one, for example. Spending a rainy day in a cozy environment catching up on your journal, reading, bragging about your trip on social media, or simply people watching can be thoroughly rewarding.
Good to know: Some cafes and coffee shops are more tolerant of patrons lingering than others. As a general rule of thumb, those that deal in quick caffeine fixes on busy thoroughfares are less likely to welcome you for a lazy morning than the third-wave coffee shop with plug points and free Wi-Fi.
If the rain outside is getting you down, why not drown your sorrows indoors? While most cities in Europe have a vast number of touristy bars to choose from, there’s something rewarding about wandering out of the main center and ordering a pint, or a glass of red wine, or perhaps something stronger and more traditional, in the company of locals.
Good to know: Most online searches and polite hotel concierges will point you towards the most popular bars in the city. The best way to escape the tourists is to ask a city resident — either your hostel receptionist, new selection of Tinder matches, or your taxi driver — where they like to grab a quick drink.
Long distance train ride
A train ride out of town on a dark and stormy day is a fantastic way to whittle away the hours when it’s wet outside. You’ll be warm and cozy inside the climate controlled cabin as you whip past the real-life movie taking place outside. If you’re based in a city for a few days, you can take a long journey to a nearby town and return later that day. But if the storm strikes, you could also pack your bags and use the opportunity to move on altogether to a new city.
Good to know: Some train journeys are famous for their scenery and best saved for clear weather. If you’re looking for views, avoid taking scenic high altitude trains, such as those through the Alps, when it’s cloudy outside.
Take in a live show
Rainy days are the perfect time to get your dose of culture. Check local listings for live theater, bands, operas or comedy. If nothing intrigues you, head to a classic live theater or opera venue that does. Many venues open for tours and offer fascinating architectural insights.
Good to know: Many live venues offer steep discounts for last-minute tickets. Check at the venue box office shortly before the show.
If the rainy weather’s making you a bit hungry, head to a local restaurant to sample some local delicacies. There’s no better time to fill your stomach than when the weather takes a turn. Track down a cozy restaurant that serves up local dishes and eat your rainy day blues away.
Good to know: Don’t rule out covered food markets. Many stay open regardless of weather and are a fun and atmospheric way to spend a rainy day.
Sure, exploring shopping centers might not be a typically European activity. But if the weather’s miserable, or even if it’s not, it’s always fascinating to see how various destinations handle this global activity. Consider the likes of London’s Harrods, Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, or Paris’s Galeries Lafayette, for example. Even the most hardened anti-shoppers will find it hard not to be totally enraptured by the sheer spectacle of these beautiful shopping meccas.
Good to know: There’s almost always a direct relationship between shopping center prominence and price. If you’re looking to actually buy products, you will likely find better prices off the main drag.
Watch a movie
Watching a film indoors may be criminal on a sunny day, but there’s something quite rejuvenating about venturing into a movie house for a few hours when the weather takes a turn. Most cities have movie houses that are destinations in themselves, and great to visit regardless of the films showing that day.
Good to know: Mainstream movies in Europe can be fairly costly and will most likely be in a foreign language. But visit a classic or small arthouse cinema, and chances are you’ll catch a hidden gem in a unique environment.