Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Greenwich provides the perfect day out for visitors wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Central London. A short journey down river from Central London, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is home to six museums, stunning historic architecture and a wonderful range of shops, markets, pubs, and restaurants.
1. The Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian
Here you can stand astride the world’s prime Meridian — the line that divides west from the east — at the home of Greenwich Mean Time. The Royal Observatory houses a full museum – the highlight of which must be the collection of clocks built by John Harrison, the 18th-century genius who solved the centuries-old problem of determining longitude at sea.
2. The Cutty Sark
A rare survivor of the golden age of sail, the Cutty Sark tea clipper, was one of the world’s fastest ships in the 19th century. Famous for bringing tea from China to Europe, it now stands in a dry dock at the very heart of historic Greenwich. You can explore almost every level of the ship, from its decks to its cargo holds, and the magnificent form of the ship is revealed in a public gallery beneath its hull. This is one of the legacies of an extraordinary restoration which saved this superb relic of Britain’s maritime past for posterity following a fire in 2007.
Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Photo Credit: © Cutty Sark.
3. National Maritime Museum
This is the largest museum of its kind in the world, telling the full and compelling story of Britain’s relationship with the sea through thousands of superbly evocative exhibits. These include a 300-year-old Royal Barge, a beautiful speed boat of the 1930s and a fascinating array of paintings and artefacts that bring history to life. Among the true highlights is the uniform worn by Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, showing the bullet hole left by the French marksman which left him mortally wounded.
4. Greenwich Park
One of the finest open spaces in London, Greenwich Park covers almost 200 acres. It offers wonderful views up the river to the City of London and across to the nearby spectacular towers of Canary Wharf. During the reign of Henry VIII, it became a royal hunting ground and is today seen around the world as the starting point for the London Marathon.
Greenwich Park with National Maritime Museum and Canary Wharf off in the distance. Photo Credit: ©David Mark/Pixabay.
5. O2 Arena
This is among the finest live music and entertainment venues in the world, holding audiences of well over 20,000. It has hosted the Rolling Stones, Prince, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce and tennis fans know it as the regular venue for the ATP World Tour finals. The arena is housed in the former Millennium Dome, recognisable around the world, which was designed by Lord Richard Rogers in the form of a giant tent to mark the turn of the millennium.
6. Emirates Air Line
A sensational cable car journey takes the visitor over the River Thames on the Greenwich Peninsula, from the 02 arena on the southern bank across to the Royal Docks, close to the ExCeL exhibition centre, on the north side of the river. The journey takes up to 10 minutes, rises to almost 100 metres, and produces superb views of the London skyline.
View of Emirates Air Line cabin with O2 in the background. Photo Credit: © Emirates Air Line.
7. The world’s only museum dedicated to the history of the fan
Fans have many functions besides keeping wealthy figures cool. These hand-held, often highly decorated, devices were also works of art in their own right and were used to denote status, fashion, and ceremony. This world-renowned collection of fans has examples dating from the 12th century to the present day. It is located in two delightful Georgian townhouses and also houses the Orangery café, which is a charming place to enjoy English afternoon tea while visiting Greenwich.
8. Royal Naval College
UNESCO has recognised the richness of Greenwich’s architectural history by designating it a World Heritage site. The jewel in this crown is the former Royal Naval College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, and completed in 1759. It is a superb collection of stately buildings and stands on the very banks of the River Thames on the site of a former Royal Palace and birthplace of Henry VIII. The Painted Hall is regarded as one of the great glories of English architecture and its ceiling has been compared to that of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
The Old Royal Naval College exterior. Photo Credit: © London & Partners.
9. Queen’s House
Smaller than the Naval College, but no less beautiful or significant, the Queen’s House has a special place in English culture. Its design, by Inigo Jones in 1616, was the first flowering of classical architecture in this country. The house was extensively restored in 2016 and now serves as a showcase for paintings owned by the National Maritime Museum and displays works by Turner, Stubbs, Reynolds, and Gainsborough.
10. Pubs, bars restaurants and markets
Greenwich is a magnet for shoppers and diners who want something good —- and different. The town centre now houses a superb range of quirky independent shops and market stalls specialising in fashion, gifts and unusual souvenirs. As for restaurants, take your pick from an eclectic range of cuisines and cultures. And if there simply isn’t time to sit down and eat, the town’s blossoming street food scene will see you right.
With so much to see and do in Greenwich you really won’t want to waste a moment. As the local expert, a Blue Badge Tourist Guide will ensure you don’t miss anything and will be able to show you one or two things you maybe weren’t expecting!