As a passionate international traveller I often opt for overseas adventures over exploring what our great country has to offer. So if there is one thing the global pandemic has made me grateful for in relation to travel, it would be the time to visit areas that have never got round to or places I have not given much thought to since my school years. Enter Greenwich.
Before restrictions were in place, the last time I was in Greenwich was in 2017, taking part in the London Marathon. It’s safe to say I didn’t pay any attention to the sights on the day, everything was a blur and if you told me I ran round Cutty Sark I would not have been able to recall the memory.
As we were starting to be allowed to move somewhat freely, I started to make plans to base my time in the area. For long training walks for my summer events, I headed to Greenwich park each week to check out the status of the Cherry Blossom before heading home up the Lea Valley River or strolling along the Thames to get the miles under my belt. Then, once museums, galleries and restaurants started reopening – tickets were booked too.
With the summer holidays well in swing and travel plans still somewhat sketchy, I wanted to share my highlights from the area.
With views over the Thames and City, many would say Greenwich Park has one of the best views within London. I would be inclined to agree, as even on the dullest of days there is nothing quite like reaching the top of the hill, to the view point, and taking in the London skyline.
The park, well known as the starting point of the London Marathon, has something for everyone and offers a great base for a day out exploring. From the numerous museums and cafe, through to the infamous Cherry Blossom in the spring and deer park, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained.
The Royal Observatory & Greenwich Meantime
Head to the Royal Observatory and home of the Prime Meridian, where the eastern and western hemispheres meet.
Here you can place one foot in the east and one foot in the west, for that all important selfie. The Royal Observatory is a wonderful place to spend a few hours to make you appreciate time, discover all about astronomy and take in the historical clocks.
Sitting on the boundary of Greenwich Park and Blackheath you will find the English Heritage site, Rangers House. If you are a fan of the Netflix show Bridgerton, you might recognise the gates and front entrance as the home of the regal family. The Georgian villa houses The Wherner Collection, with over 700 pieces of art.
If you are an English Heritage member then entry is free. For non-members it is £11 to visit, however I recommend investing in a yearly membership as it provides free entry and parking to many heritage sites throughout the UK.
Queen’s House, located at the edge of Greenwich park, is free to visit! Another filming location for Bridgerton, here you will find world famous artworks, including The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I – the iconic painting of the Tudor Queen.
Be sure to take in the first self supporting staircase in Britain, the Tulip Staircase. Look up from the bottom to admire the spiral structure and blue tulip railings.
National Martime Museum
Head to this free museum to read about tales of exploration and martime. With family friendly galleries and free exhibitions, you could easily spend half a day here alone.
Be sure to check out the “Ship in the Bottle” – the replica of Nelson’s ship can be found outside to the rear of the museum.
Old Royal Naval College
This UNESCO world heritage site, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, offers 500 years of British history. Here you can visit the grounds, chapel and visitor centre for free and book tickets talks and tours.
You can also get a full years entry to The Painted Hall for just £12.50. At the time I visited I was delighted to experience the Gaia installation, however even without this The Painted Hall is something to be seen, by far one of the most tranquil places I have visited to date.
Probably the most iconic sights of Greenwich is the Cutty Sark. This historic sailing ship was the fastest of its time and you can learn all about its fascinating history by jumping on board.
Walk along the upper decks, cabins and learn all about the precious cargo it transported during its heyday!
Now open 7 days a week, you can head to Greenwich market to enjoy a number of culinary treats with the food stalls, pick up some antiques, arts and crafts and even fashion from one of the traders.
It is somewhat of a bustling up within the area and you would be hard pressed not to be tempted to buy.
The Greenwich Peninsula has seen a number of developments in recent years. Home to the O2, you will find that the neighbourhood is a hive of activity. Here you will find a vast number of restaurants, shops and the concert venue too. Keep an eye out for exhibitions too as they often are hosted here.
If you fancy a little more adventure, why not climb the O2 itself. Come rain or shine it makes for a great day out. Or head to the Emirates Cable Cars to experience a different way to travel round the city of London.
Its always worth keeping your eye out in the area for art installations. This summer has seen the colourful “Hundreds and Thousands” – a 700 metre long kaleidoscope dominate The Tide. Definitely worth checking out, especially on a sunny day!
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has so much to offer, that you most likely would not fit it all in a day, and with the every changing views with the seasons, exhibitions and installations, you are bound to keep visiting time and time again.