Greenwich is one of London’s not so hidden treasures. With a wealth of museums, markets and sights, its no wonder that it has established itself as one of London’s must visit destinations. Here’s The Discoveries Of’s top 10 things to do in Greenwich.
Greenwich is firmly on my list of recommendations for anyone visiting London – or even anyone who lives in the city but doesn’t get out to explore as much as they could. So take a day out, put on a comfortable pair of shoes and join The Discoveries Of for our top ten things to do in Greenwich.
- 1. Wander Around The Old Royal Naval College
- 2. Discover the Centre of Time at The Royal Observatory & London Planetarium
- 3. Explore The National Maritime Museum
- 4. Marvel at Art at The Queen’s House
- 5. Roam Around Greenwich Park
- 6. Shop and Eat at Greenwich Market
- 7. Step Aboard The Cutty Sark
- 8. Take a Flight on the Emirates Air Line
- 9. Eat Some Traditional British Food at Goddard’s at Greenwich
- 10. Have a Pint at the Cutty Sark (the pub this time)
The Old Royal Naval College is a must-visit while you are in Greenwich. Wander around the huge grounds, with their symmetrical layout and imposing buildings. Make sure that you don’t miss the college’s two highlights – the Chapel and the Painted Hall. The Chapel is a marvellous example of 18th century baroque design, complete with an ornate plaster ceiling and a large altarpiece by Benjamin West. The Painted Hall is just that, with a huge ceiling painting by James Thornhill.
The buildings were commissioned by William III’s queen Mary as a naval hospital. She engaged Christopher Wren, who designed the hospital’s distinctive buildings so as not to block the views of the river enjoyed by The Queen’s House nearby. The naval hospital because the Royal Naval College in 1869 and is now partially occupied by the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.
2. Discover the Centre of Time at The Royal Observatory & London Planetarium
It may be a pretty steep climb up to The Royal Observatory (after having done it, my one piece of advice would be to avoid doing this immediately after lunch) but the views from the top are worth it alone. It’s one of the best views in London. Make sure you bring a camera because you are definitely going to want to snap the views of the City you’ll get from the top.
The Royal Observatory is actually several different buildings and areas, some of which are free and some of which aren’t. Flamsteed House (named after the first Royal Astronomer in residence after the Observatory was built and its courtyard, which houses the Meridian Line are behind the barriers, so you’ll have to pay to get to them. Same for the Planetarium. It is worth the money as both the Observatory and Planetarium are very interesting spaces where you can learn a lot about their history and their interaction with the modern world.
3. Explore The National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum is one of those surprise hits: the first time I went was for an Ansel Adams exhibition a few years ago. Being an avid photographer, there was no way I was going to miss that exhibition and I figured that seeing as I was there, I might as well have a look at the rest of the museum. I was very glad of it. The National Maritime Museum charts the history of Britain’s naval heritage through an expertly curated range of exhibitions.
The museum tells so many tales, from that of the the East India Company, who controlled large parts of India up until the mutiny in 1857 to the dark side of the British obsession with tea (the rise of the opium trade). There’s also a gallery dedicated to Nelson and the role he played in shaping British history. Kids (well, adults too) love the interactive features and there’s a children’s gallery and play area to keep the little ones entertained.
4. Marvel at Art at The Queen’s House
I’m not going to lie, The Queen’s House is my new-found favourite place. Of all the things to do in Greenwich, it’s the one that I knew the least about, but enjoyed the most. It was built in the 17th century for Queen Anne (James II’s wife), she unfortunately died before it was completed. Instead Henrietta (Charles I’s wife) was the first queen to inhabit the royal residence.
The building was designed by groundbreaking architect Inigo Jones, was the first in England to be built in the Neoclassical style. From the outside, it’s a simple yet striking piece of architecture but it’s the inside that I fell in love with. The Queen’s House is currently being used to showcase some of the Royal Museums’ collection of portraits (which is the second biggest in the UK after the National Portrait Gallery’s).
The rooms are filled with portraits and other artworks from floor to ceiling – striking the perfect balance between the lustrous setting and the striking artworks. Pieces currently being exhibited include Queen Elizabeth I’s Armada portrait and Gentileschi’s Joseph & Potiphar’s Wife. Don’t forget to peek out of the windows too – there are beautiful views to the Royal Naval College at the front and over Greenwich Park and to the observatory at the back.
5. Roam Around Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park is one of London’s Royal Parks and the oldest of them all – its history dates back to the Roman times and it was enclosed as a park in 1433. Henry VIII was born here and it was he who introduced the deer to the park.
History aside, the park is a fabulous setting for summer picnics (been there, done that). No matter how busy it is, you can always find a nice space to claim as yours for the afternoon to laze away while nibbling on tasty tidbits. Unless you are very adventurous, picnic season is certainly over for the year but the park still makes for a wonderful backdrop to a long walk. The Royal Observatory and London Planetarium are also based in Greenwich Park – even if you aren’t going to the Observatory, you should climb to their entrance for a stunning London cityscape.
6. Shop and Eat at Greenwich Market
There are really two parts to Greenwich market – the shopping part and the food stall part. If you like food, or shopping from quirky independent traders (or both) then there’s something for you here. The market dates from the 18th century and is one of the city’s prettier ones. Shoppers can browse through a large array of goods – from handmade leather bags to limited edition photography and hand forged curtain poles. If you’re hungry, Greenwich Market’s continental food court should also not be missed – lovers of Caribbean food should definitely try the West Indian food stall there.
7. Step Aboard The Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is a beauty of a boat and one of Greenwich’s most famous attractions. She was built in Scotland in 1869 and was the fastest ship of the time, thanks to her modern design. The Cutty Sark was built as a tea clipper, used to escort tea from China to Britain as quickly as possible – now she’s the only remaining tea clipper in the world.
A visit to The Cutty Sark is a chance to learn about the ship’s history: over the years, she’s been used as a wool clipper, spent a spell in Portugal and used as a training ship in Kent. She’ s been docked in Greenwich since the 1950s but was closed between 2007 and 2012 for a renovation project that saw her permanently lifted three metres out of the water so visitors could see the full boat for the first time.
8. Take a Flight on the Emirates Air Line
Over on the Greenwich Peninsula and near to the Greenwich o2 Arena, the Emirates Air Line is a cable car that shuttles between North Greenwich and Royal Docks near to the Excel Centre.
Yes, the Air Line is operated by Transport for London, and is probably a useful means of transport for many people but it’s also the perfect way to take in London from a different perspective as you hover 90 metres above its skyline. It goes without saying that if you’ve got a bit of a fear of heights, you might want to give it a miss.
9. Eat Some Traditional British Food at Goddard’s at Greenwich
Goddard’s is a pie, mash and liquor restaurant and the place to try some traditional British grub. Pie houses grew in popularity in the 1700s and have been warming Londoners’ stomachs ever since with their range of hearty pies. Goddard’s is also the place to try those rare cockney treats – jellied or stewed eels.
10. Have a Pint at the Cutty Sark (the pub this time)
It’s not a proper day out in London without a proper pint in a pub and there are few places better in Greenwich to do this than The Cutty Sark Pub. The pub’s riverfront building dates back to the Georgian times and the three floors offer pretty views of the Thames and Canary Wharf. Sit down with a pint one of the Young’s special brews on tap, relax and congratulate yourself on a day well done.
So there it is, the top things to do in Greenwich. Have you tried any of them? I’d love to hear from you if you do.