If you find yourself running low on funds and ideas for fun while in London, England, on a Sunday, you won't have to look far for some great activities, exhibits, and attractions that are free or inexpensive.
While some museums and shops are closed, a great number of them operate on Sunday business hours, which restricts the time they can be open to just six hours. This means that while you could spend the day browsing through one of London's street markets, you'll just have less time to do it.
From working on your fitness by taking a self-guided tour of historic neighborhoods, street art, gardens, and parks to getting a bit religious by attending historic church services, there's plenty to do in London on a Sunday that won't cost you a pence.
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour
Take a walk and see a new neighborhood with one of the many downloadable walking tours, or leave your technology at home and print out the Little Venice to Camden Regent's Canal Walk, which is an incredibly peaceful way to see London. For a bit of extra thrill on your Sunday, the Sweeney Todd walk in east London is a good introduction to the gruesome tale of "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
Attend a Church Service
Whether you're religious or agnostic, there's no doubt about the wow-factor involved in attending a Sunday service at the historic St. Paul's Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, both of which are free and open to the general public. If you go to St. Paul's, you could also visit the roof terrace at One New Change shopping mall at no cost and enjoy the views of the cathedral dome.
Get Political at Speaker's Corner
On Sundays at Hyde Park, large demonstrations are held weekly celebrating free speech in England near the Marble Arch tube (public transit). Although the area of the park known as Speakers' Corner was significantly reduced in 2013, free speech advocates still use this area to challenge political leaders in the country. If you're passionate about social justice, this no-cost weekly event is the perfect way to tap into the local political discourse.
Go Mudlarking on the Thames
Mudlarking, the act of visiting and searching for trinkets on the exposed banks of a river, was considered a profession in London until the early 20th century, but it still makes for a great hobby on any day of the week when the River Thames is at low tide. If you're looking for something that might make you a little bit richer, check the tide tables for the Thames and then spend an afternoon mudlarking the shores.
Visit a Museum
London loves art, and nearly all national museums across the U.K. are free for visitors on any day of the week, so you have plenty of choices. Enjoy the Museum of London for exhibitions on history, music, and more, and stop by the public garden Postman's Park. If you don't mind hordes of people, head to South Kensington for the big three museums, which can get busy on the weekend. The Natural History Museum has the longest lines, and although the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) can be a bit calmer, the Science Museum is generally less crowded above the ground floor.
Watch the Changing of the Guard
The time-honored tradition of the Changing of the Guard of the Queen's Guard has been a part of life for the royal family since 1666, and when Queen Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837, the tradition moved along with her. Official Changing of the Guard ceremonies, which are often accompanied by music, take place Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but be sure to check the full schedule as rain and holidays may cancel or delay these ceremonies. Also, if you're in the area a little later in the day, don't miss out on the daily Four O'Clock Parade, a dismounting ceremony at the historic Horse Guards building.
Enjoy Outdoor Gardens
London is a very green city, so spend your Sunday at places such as Kensington Roof Gardens, established back in the 1930s with themed gardens on top of a department store. Or visit one of the royal parks such as the nearly 57-acre St. James's Park, which is full of lovely flower beds. In north London, you can enjoy the views from Primrose Hill or the sprawling "secret garden" Hampstead Heath with an 800-foot long pergola, while southwest London boasts the beautiful Kew Gardens.
Walk Along Southbank
A popular choice for Londoners and visitors alike, a walk along the South Bank cultural and entertainment district near the Thames River in the heart of the city is always a good idea. There's plenty to see along the way, such as the Southbank Centre performance venues that have classical music shows and The National Poetry Library, and the highly-popular Tate Modern museum (no admission charge). If the weather turns dreary, you can head into the BFI Southbank Mediatheque to watch some of the British Film Institute's movie archives for free.
Shop at a Flea Market
There are plenty of flea markets around every weekend in London, but the Hackney Flea Market in the heart of Stoke Newington's Church Street is one of the best places to get fine jewelry, vintage fabrics, and furniture—or to spend hours browsing through some items dating back hundreds of years. At various events on weekends, both independent artists and antique collectors show off their stuff at this unique market, so you're sure to find something special on your visit here.
Explore a Rooftop Bar
The rooftop at the Queen of Hoxton nightclub and performance space in the East End is a great place to stay warm while enjoying fantastic views of the city skyline and chatting with friends. Although drinks and food will cost you a few pounds, it's free to hang out in the terrace with interesting pop-up themes such as a Cuban-themed bar with cabanas and domino tables or another inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. However, it's always a good idea to confirm with the venue, as particular events may have an entrance fee.
Uncover Street Art Around the City
London is full of artists, and as a result, the streets are full of art—no matter where you look. It's enjoyable to walk around and soak it all in. As the walls are constantly being painted then repainted by artists from around the world, you'll rarely see the same street art on two consecutive trips to the city. Art of this can be found throughout the city, though certain areas of East London like Shoreditch are extremely popular for graffiti. Check out Brick Lane, Middlesex Street, and Sclater Street.
Spend the Day at the Library
London has some of the most extensive collections of literature and most beautiful libraries in the world, so if you want to spend the day inside escaping to a foreign land or planning your next grand adventure, head to a local library. Completely free of charge, some libraries are open on Sundays, like The British Library, which offers millions of books, journals, newspapers, and more, plus special programs for kids and adults, such as an event for families with children on the autism spectrum. The Canada Water Library is open limited hours on Sunday but has numerous items to gaze at, plus a Culture Cafe for grabbing some coffee and cake.