Greenwich is a borough of London to the South of the River Thames, which is the perfect option for either a day out in its own right, or (if you’re visiting the city) as an extension to my core 2 days in London itinerary. Greenwich is known for its Maritime history, as well as being the spot where the Eastern and Western hemispheres of the world meet at a longitude of 0º.
Greenwich is the perfect place to spend a day if you’re looking for something different to do in London – it has a wealth of fun attractions and isn’t always quite as busy as Central London. It’s also super easy to get to – you can take a South Eastern train from London Bridge in 8 minutes, or you can take the Jubilee tube line directly in to Greenwich North. You could even choose to get to Greenwich by Thames Clipper boat – from Embankment Pier, Tower Pier or Canary Wharf. This was the option we chose, and we really recommend it as you can take in the sights of The Thames as you go.
And if you have a day to spend in the area, here are some of the top things to do.
1. The Royal Observatory and The Prime Meridian (2 hours)
The Royal Observatory sits atop a hill with lovely views down to Greenwich Park and The Thames. It played an important role in the history of astronomy and navigation and as such the prime meridian line passes through it, giving it its name Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
At the Observatory, you can stand astride the Meridian line with one foot in the East and one in the West. You can also tour the museum around the history of time and navigation, with an incredible display of clocks and an exhibition on John Harrison’s quest to solve the problem of longitude. You can also learn about significant astrologers, the history of the site itself and learn about the role of telescopes.
Did you know that the red ball on top of the Observatory actually tells the time? At 1pm every day the time ball drops, and you can learn how this historic time device was used by attending a talk in the Courtyard.
2. The Planetarium (1.5 hours)
The Peter Harrison Planetarium is a 120 seat theatre where you can take a tour of the solar system, narrated by astrologers. Shows are around 40 minutes long, the seats are really comfortable, and they can take you to land on Mars, watch the birth of a star, speed through the solar system or head inside the Hadron Collider at CERN. There are loads of shows to choose from, and we chose one about Dark Matter which was brilliant.
There are also a few floors of exhibitions to discover so if you’re really in to space and the planets, then you may want to spend longer here and either not go to the Maritime Museum or The Cutty Sark.
3. Greenwich Park (2.5 hours incl. lunch)
After a 5 minute walk down the hill, you reach Greenwich Park which is a beautiful open space, perfect for a little stop to watch the world go by. There are some nice walking trails, a small cafe to grab a drink, and lots of open space to just sit and relax. After strolling around the park, you’ll probably be ready for some lunch – and there are lots of great options as you head from the Park up towards the River Thames.
If you’re visiting England and want to try an English tradition, head to Heap’s Sausages which serves incredible home made sausages and mash. If that’s not for you, you could hit Gastropub The Greenwich Tavern, head to Pho Street for tasty Vietnamese, grab Argentinian at Buenos Aires Cafe or even Japanese at Sticks’n’Sushi.
4. The National Maritime Museum (2 hours)
From the restaurant area it’s a 5 minute stroll to the National Maritime Museum. Outside the museum is a ship in a bottle – this is a scaled down version of Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory, on which he died at the Battle of Trafalgar. At the museum you can learn more about the UK’s Maritime history, covering everything from major battles, uniforms, weapons, ships themselves and maps. It’s such an interesting and interactive collection to explore and there are also some super interesting temporary exhibition – at the time we visited, this was ‘The Moon’ – which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landings.
5. The Cutty Sark (2 hours)
From The Maritime Museum, head down to the riverside and to Cutty Sark. This historic ship is an ex-tea trading ship, and fastest of its time, which first set sail for Shanghai in 1870. It could carry about 47 double decker buses full of tea, and completed 8 successful trips to China before having to change with the times when the Suez canal was opened and she was no longer needed in the tea trade. Instead, Cutty Sark transported wool from Australia, until again steam ships began to enter the trade and complete the task much more quickly.
Cutty Sark was sold to the Portugese, and eventually became a sailing ship, and then a training ship for cadets until it was restored to its original form and converted in to a museum. The ship has seen everything – from every major port in the world, to murder on board, to a Captain committing suicide by throwing himself in to the sea from the deck. And she’s here to tell us the tale – a really interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
After disembarking from the ship, you will probably be ready for dinner to take you to the end of your busy 12 hours in Greenwich. Again there’s loads of choice, with The Prince of Greenwich or Midpoint Restaurant being my personal picks.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this post helpful if you’re visiting the capital and looking for things to do. Stay safe everyone and happy travelling.