There are usually hundreds of fun things to do in London on any given day. But always on the look-out for special insider tips, here are five unique things to do in London on a Sunday only!
What to do on a Sunday in London
While the UK has started to relax its Covid-19 restrictions as of Saturday 4 July 2020, please be aware that some of the following venues might have restricted opening hours or other specific regulations. Where possible, I included the most recent information to make your visit as safe and easy as possible.
1. Visit a Sunday market
While some of London’s most famous markets are closed on a Sunday – like Borough Market and Portobello Road Market – others are only open on Sunday. My favourite Sunday markets in London can alle be found in the historical East End of London.
Colombia Road Flower Market
First of all there’s the Colombia Road Flower Market in Bethnal Green. Besides endless stalls selling fresh flowers and plants, the street is also lined with the cutest shops. Thanks to the street musicians there’s a great vibe and there are also some great eateries around.
Note: Due to Covid-19 there’s now a one-way system in place. You can enter Columbia Road Flower Market via Gosset Street, Ravencroft Street and Barnet Grove. Exits on Barnet Grove, Shipton Street, Ropley Street and Hackney Road only.
Spitalfields Market and Sunday Upmarket
Close-by you have the popular Spitalfields Market and Sunday Upmarket, both in Shoreditch. Technically also open on Saturdays, the Sunday versions of both are more elaborate and are rooted in local history.
You see, the East London Sunday markets were born from Jewish culture. and date back to the 1880s when the East End of London was mostly inhabited by Jewish immigrants.
Following their Sabbath that ended on Sunday, Brick Lane and its surrounding streets would be flooded by hundreds of people, all eager to socialise and to do their shopping.
Although the Jewish community is long gone from the area, the Sunday markets in Shoreditch remain an ever-present reminder to these times. For those who are in the known that is, and now that also includes you…
Petticoat Lane Market
For a great taste of local life, a visit to the iconic Petticoat Lane Market is a real must. Running from Middlesex Street in Shoreditch and Wentworth Street in Whitechapel, this market originated in the 1750s. This makes it one of the oldest street markets in London!
In the market’s early days, this part of London was home to a large community of French Huguenots. Most of these were silk weavers and the area has been associated with garments and textiles for centuries. And even hundreds of years later, these remain the main items sold at Petticoat Lane.
Probably the least glamorous market in this list, Petticoat Lane is a real East End icon soaked in history.
Related article: Best Markets in London for First-time Visitors
2. Tuck into a Sunday roast
Most visitors to London include eating fish & chips or an Indian curry in their London itinerary. Great typical British meals to have of course, but if you want to have a real taste of traditional British cuisine then you must try a Sunday roast. It’s actually one of my favourite things to do in London on a Sunday!
The Sunday roast, or Sunday lunch, is a typical pub meal. Big hearty meal and a beer? Count me in!
As the name suggests, it’s only served on Sundays. Yeah, you might find some places that serve them on other days of the week as well, but these are most likely to be tourist traps and I suggest you stay far away from them!
Consisting of roast potatoes and vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding, a chunk of meat or veggie/vegan option with a generous amount of gravy, this is the ultimate lazy Sunday lunch! (And because it’s so much, probably also your Sunday dinner, and Monday breakfast.)
When I still lived in the Netherlands and visited Hubby in London at the weekends, I usually had to leave on Sunday morning. I was sad to say goodbye for a few weeks again, but I was even sadder to miss out on the Sunday roast each time! I made up for it though when I moved to the UK permanently.
Find out my favourite places in London for Sunday roast in this related article: National Yorkshire Pudding Day.
3. Attend public debates at the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park
Whenever I think about the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, it reminds me of my school days. Because I actually first learned about this typical London tradition in secondary school in the Netherlands. Since then I always wondered what this unique Sunday event in London was all about.
Dating back to 1872 already, the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park is a prime example of democracy. (Or an example of a clever way a government can make its dissatisfied people feel like they’re being heard.)
Every Sunday morning, any member of the public is allowed to give a speech about politics, religion or other topics in this spot. While in the past the orators were typically stood on a soapbox, today they often use small step ladders.
Besides the speakers, you also have the so-called hecklers, people who interrupt the speech with counter-arguments, turning the speech in a public debate. This is actually an essential part of the tradition of Speakers’ Corner. Sometimes the arguments are valid, but sometimes they don’t make much sense. It’s all part of the experience though.
Although Parliament officially announced Speakers’ Corner as the location for free speech in 1872, there’s a much longer and rather grim history to it. Because not far from here were the notorious Tyburn Gallows.
These were in use from 1196 till 1783, executing more than 50,000 people. Before the doomed souls were executed, they were allowed to give one final speech.
Some of the people took this opportunity to confess while others gave despairing pleas. Either way, they made for great entertainment for Londoners who bought tickets for these ‘events’. Remember, these were pre-theatre and Netflix days of course.
But even after the gallows were removed, this spot of Hyde Park remained to be associated with public speeches and protests. Big demonstrations would often end in Hyde Park, but these gatherings weren’t authorised. After a few clashes between protestors and the authorities, the government eventually officially established Speakers’ Corner.
Over its history, Karl Marx, George Orwell and Vladimir Lenin have given speeches here. And also the Suffragettes have held their meetings here over a span of eight years in their campaign to secure voting rights for women. Filled with history, a visit to Speaker’s Corner is one of the best things to do in London on a Sunday!
4. Join a tour at Spencer House, built by Princess Diana’s ancestor
This tip will go down well with people not only looking for unique things to do in London on a Sunday but also admirers of Princess Diana. Because on Sundays this mansion, officially belonging to Diana’s brother, opens its doors to the public!
Located at 27 St James’ Place, Spencer House was commissioned by 1st Earl Spencer in 1756. Architect James Stewart was responsible for designing the house’s interior.
Having just returned from Greece, Stewart put a lot of authentic Greek details into the house. It even became one of the first examples in London of the neoclassical style! This style soon became a trend not only in England, but all across Europe.
Built to impress and entertain, Spencer House was a popular party destination for the elite. Hosting anything from lunch parties to banquets and masked balls, guests included royalty, aristocracy and artists.
Nowadays, the house is partly used as offices but also for special events such as weddings. Imagine having your nuptials in such a unique setting! Although I wonder how much that would cost…
Want to visit the house and admire its fully restored eight grand State rooms in a more affordable way? Then join one of their guided tours! As said, they only take place on Sunday and last for approximately one hour.
For information about opening hours and admission prices visit the Spencer House website.
5. Wander through the deserted streets of ‘The City’
Pre-corona times, it was pretty unique to see deserted streets in London. This tip therefore suggests an optimistic view of the future when busy London streets will be a normal sight again.
If you’re visiting London and feel you need to get away from the masses, then I have a little secret for you. Just head down to the so-called ‘City of London’, the historical centre of London that was once founded by the Romans.
The City of London is filled with pretty streets steeped in history
Nowadays known as London’s main central business district, the City is mostly filled with modern corporate skyscrapers. While there are also a few shops in the area, most non-office buildings are restaurants, cafés and pubs. All to accommodate the bankers and office workers to wind down after a hectic work day of course.
Since these offices are all closed at the weekend, you’ll find this area is completely deserted then. It’s actually almost eerie. But it also gives you the chance to take in all the unique London sights without anyone around.
While I don’t especially appreciate the modern skyscrapers, they’re great for photos. And the contrast between these ultra modern buildings and the oldest streets and buildings in London is quite special.
Where to go in the City of London on a Sunday?
The covered Victorian Leadenhall Market is one of my favourite places in the City. While the shops and eateries in the market are also closed on Saturdays, you’ll still find groups of tourists around that day. On Sundays you might encounter the occasional tour group, including my own Dutch-language London tours, but overall it’s the quietest day of the week.
Other streets and sights in the area that are worth exploring include: St Olave’s Church on Hart Street (don’t miss the three skulls above the gate around the corner on Seething Lane).
I love the narrow Lovat Lane near Monument to the Great Fire of London and imagine this old London street hasn’t changed much in atmosphere over the last hundreds of years.
The Walrus and the Carpenter pub on the corner of that lane is worth a visit for a drink and snack too! And don’t forget to look across the road and admire the entrance of the Old Billingsgate Market on the Lower Thames Street.
The streets around Bank Station, Monument Station, Moorgate Station and Barbican Station (up towards Liverpool Street Station) are also great places in London to explore on a Sunday.
Do make sure to have a wander around Guildhall (below) and the Barbican Estate as well. Finally, also the side streets of St Paul’s Cathedral are surprisingly quiet on Sundays.
Which of these special activities would you prefer to do in London on a Sunday? Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx
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