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A UNESCO world heritage site, Greenwich is truly one of London’s riverside gems. Heritage and maritime history merge with glorious parks and gardens, plus providing some of the best pubs and food options in London.
Situated on the banks of the Thames, Greenwich is a cute and charming London borough that is often (but not always) quieter than the main tourist sites in the capital. Easily accessible by rail or Thames Clipper, here is why Greenwich should feature on your next London hit-list:
Top things to do in Greenwich, London
1. Greenwich market
Fabulous food stalls, awesome arts and crafts stalls plus a whole heap of traditional fare (pie and mash anyone?). Greenwich market has it all and is one of the most historic markets in the country. It first opened over 200 years ago in 1737 and moved to its current location in the 1800s.
The arts and crafts markets take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and the weekends, with the antiques and collectables market taking place on Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays – (good) food is always available. Head here early if you want to beat the crowds.
FURTHER READING – 10 best markets in London
2. Greenwich Royal Observatory
High on the hill in Greenwich Park, the Greenwich Royal Observatory is where time started (sort of!) – and you can stand on the historic prime meridian of the world (where GMT actually begins).
Opening in 1676, it plays a significant role in the history of astronomy and navigation and it is now home to a museum detailing all that took place here.
If you happen to be visiting at lunchtime, check out the Greenwich Time Ball which drops daily at 1pm, which historically helped mariners set and synchronise their watches. Even if you don’t pay to go in, it is still rather cool to see the exterior and enjoy the hillside views of Greenwich Park and the River Thames.
3. The Cutty Sark / National Maritime Museum
Time for tea! Well, kind of – The Cutty Sark stands proud in the heart of Greenwich, acting as a rather fitting focal point.
Built in 1869, this is the world’s only surviving tea-clipper, and it’s history can be explored as you wander around the exterior of the vessel as well as a cleverly designed museum which sits in the ship’s bow (the architecture and layout of the museum is rather ingenious, much of it reimagined after an outbreak of fire in 2007).
In addition, the Cutty Sark is home to the world’s largest collection of carved maritime figureheads (which can sometimes be rather creepy, especially at night). There are also a range of eclectic events which take place at the Cutty Sark – we once even took part in a silent disco here!
A short walk from the Cutty Sark brings you to the National Maritime Museum, the UK’s foremost maritime collection which is free to visit (unlike the Cutty Sark) and contains several galleries, some permanent and temporary exhibitions and a nice cafe. The best bit for us is exploring the huge ships and galleons at the centre of the museum.
4. Greenwich Park
Could these be the best views in London? Judging by the sheer number of people who visit and enjoy Greenwich Park every day, we sure think so!
With unspoilt views of historic Greenwich juxtaposed against the sleek and shiny skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, this is the ultimate vantage point to see all of London and the intricacies of the Thames. One of London’s Royal Parks and with so much green space, pick-up a picnic in Greenwich from either the market or the M&S Foodhall by Cutty Sark and make an afternoon of it.
5. Greenwich Bars and Pubs
There are so many good bars and pubs in Greenwich that you are spoilt for choice and ‘Inn Heaven’. All are snug, historic and rather charming – the walls ooze heritage and the taps run with cold beer so what’s not to like?
Our favourites include:
The Trafalgar Tavern – an iconic inn built in 1837 and located right on the water’s edge, this is one of the most popular pubs in the whole of Greenwich as it overlooks the Thames and sits right on the Thames path. If you can’t blag one of the indoor tables that directly sit on the water, no need to worry as there is heaps of room outside to enjoy your beer.
The Gipsy Moth – our most visited pub as it is right next to the Cutty Sark and it has a lush beer garden (although we always try to grab one of the tables directly facing the Cutty Sark itself – not as easy as it sounds). Although the service can be a bit hit and miss (it is very popular with tourists so the bar queues can be huge), the location is amazing and they do a nice line in traditional pub grub like fish and chips.
The Cutty Sark Tavern – a little walk away from Greenwich town centre, located smack bang on the Thames, this old inn has an outside beer garden (albeit quite concrete) and depending on who you believe, started life in either 1695 or 1795 ( either way, very old!)
6. Greenwich MeanTime Brewery
A relative ‘newby’ on the brewing scene, Meantime Breweries Greenwich site opened in 2010, after originally being brewed in nearby Charlton. After a meteoric rise to success, Meantime is now one of the most established breweries in London and you’ll see their beer being poured in most major London bars.
You can also take part in a Meantime Brewery tour, which lasts 1.5 hours and enables you to sample most of their beer range. Their claim to fame is that it is only one of two breweries in the world that is located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site – we’ll raise a glass to that!
7. O2 / Greenwich Peninsula
Formerly the Millenium Dome and now home to the O2 entertainment complex (loads of bars, restaurants, shows and exhibitions), Greenwich Peninsula has recently reinvented itself as an upcoming destination that promises big things in the future.
Whilst not really worth a special visit in itself, this could work quite nicely as an evening excursion after a day out exploring Greenwich village. International bands often perform here, or you could get some alfresco bites at one of the bars overlooking the Thames (we’d recommend the leafy The Jetty).
The newest addition to Greenwich Peninsula is The Design District, a new creative hub comprising of 16 architecturally awesome buildings that will be used as work spaces and temporary pop-ups.
Whilst much of Greenwich’s Design District is still very much work in progress (as at February 2022), we were enthralled by the futuristic Design District Canteen, billed as a new ‘global food hall for London.
Whilst it may not have the number of food stalls of say somewhere like Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall (the Design District Canteen has 6 stalls and 1 bar), the upstairs mezzanine for eating housed in a huge clear bubble feels more like Eden Project than east London so is quite a unique place to nom your noodles.
To get there, you can either walk, bike or drive from Greenwich town centre or arrive in style by getting the Emirates Air Line, London’s only cable car, from Royal Docklands (recommended, if only for the unique experience – just use your Oyster card).
8. Thames Clippers
As Greenwich is located in east London and quite far from the central sights like Trafalgar Square or the Houses of Parliament, a rather nice way to visit Greenwich is to get one of the Thames Clippers from Southbank / The London Eye and cruise along the river – they are a lot of more modern than the Cutty Sark (!) but still serve tea (and coffee, beers and wine).
9. The Old Royal Naval College
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and originally built in 1692 as a Royal Hospital, this stately and majestic building is well worth a visit, especially the grounds which are free to visit (gotta love that symmetry!).
The highlight is the Painted Hall, completed in 1726 and often described as Britain’s version of the Sistine Chapel – it was recently reopened after a £9 million restoration project in 2019.
You might get a sense of deja vu and recognise the Old Royal Naval College from the movies as it is one of the most popular filming locations in London – flicks filmed here include the Tomb Raider reboot, the Thor sequel, Pirates of the Carribean, Sherlock Holmes and The King’s Speech – quite the line-up!
10. Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Going underground, going underground…but not in the usual way. There is no tube carriage here but simply a rather unique way to traverse the Thames, literally walking below the water.
Opened in 1902, the foot tunnel links Greenwich (by the Cutty Sark) to Millwall on the South bank of the Thames via a 370 metre long tunnel.
Originally constructed as a free alternative to an unreliable ferry service for shipyard workers, this foot tunnel is quite the experience and remains cool, even on the hottest days of the year.
11. London Sculpture Trail
Finally, if you are after something a little different whilst in Greenwich, how about taking in some alfresco art and exploring The Line Sculpture trail from Greenwich Peninsula, London’s only outdoor exhibition space and sculpture trail along the river.
Check out our London Sculpture Trail blog post which includes pictures of all the current exhibition pieces and sculptures.
Check out our other London blog posts
- Things to do in East London – travel guide
- Top things to do in Brixton, South London
- Things to do in Stratford, Londonl
- Queen Elizabeth 2012 Olympic Park in London
- Maltby Street Market in London
- Best things to do in Canary Wharf and Docklands
- Shooters Hill London – local area guide
- Things to do in Camden, North London
- A Guide to Trinity Buoy Wharf
- A guide to Victoria Park Village and park in East London
- Columbia Road Flower Market, London guide
- Crystal Palace Park – London dinosaurs
- The 10 best markets in London to visit
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