Greenwich is not often thought of in the context of being a part of London. Thanks to its leafy park and naval history, the area is considered a destination in its own right. But what do you see once you’ve stepped aboard the Cutty Sark, or marvelled at the painting ceiling of the Naval College? Well, here are the very best hidden gems, quirky attractions, and secret spots in Greenwich!
Greenwich foot tunnel
Spanning the length of the river between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs (no one is quite sure as to the origins of the name. It’s thought to be so-called because Henry VIII kept his kennels there during the Middle Ages), the pedestrian Greenwich foot tunnel has been in use since the Victorian era.
Open to the public in 1902, the tunnel was designed by engineer Sir Alexander Binnie, who designed several Thames crossings during his lifetime. Spanning just over three hundred and seventy metres, this tiled tunnel is infamous for having the ‘acoustics of a public toilet’!
Though not really one of the ‘secret spots in Greenwich’ in the same sense as the other locations within this article, Greenwich Market is not nearly as famous as other London markets like that of the Sunday Columbia Flower Market or the one in Notting Hill’s Portobello Road.
With this being said, Greenwich Market is a must for any history buff. After all, this is the only London market set within a World Heritage site. Close to the Cutty Sark ship and not far from the water’s edge, this indoor market makes for the perfect rainy day activity and has around one hundred and twenty markets. Open seven days a week, once inside you’ll find a whole array of antiques, food, and souvenirs!
St Alfege Church
Said to be the place where Henry VIII was christened, St Alfege is dedicated for a saint who was once the Archbishop of Canterbury and is alleged to have been martyred on the spot where the St Alfege church now stands. During my time in Greenwich, I actually stayed in the adjacent Innkeeper’s Lodge and our room quite literally overlooked the St Alfege churchyard!
Though the ecclesiastical building finds its roots in Medieval times, the current church on site was largely rebuilt in 1712–1714 and is now a Grade I listed building. This is because a storm in 1710 led to a collapse of much of the medieval church. Over time, the sheer number of burials in and outside of St Alfege’s had weakened the foundations, leading to its eventual collapse.
Real Greenwich Prime Meridian
While everyone flocks to the Royal Observatory to snap their own photo straddling the ‘official’ Prime Meridian line, what is little-known is that the original calculations were a bit off (they were a long time ago, after all!). Instead of being absolute 0, the official meridian is actually incorrect!
Instead, the real prime can be seen and experienced for free in the adjacent park. Best seen in the fall so as to make the most of all the beautiful autumnal tones, head to the green space in the golden hour if you want to capture the park in the best possible light.
Public standards of length, Greenwich Observatory
Situated on the side of Greenwich Observatory, in a place where many pass by on a daily basis but few even notice, a small plaque indicates the location of several public standards of length. Indicating various measurements like ‘British Yard,’ ‘two feet,’ and ‘one foot,’ these indicators were put in place before 1866 so that members of the public could check different measurements.
Tulip Stairs, Queen’s House
Free to visit, the Queen’s House is the perfect rainy day activity in Greenwich and is a must-see for any history buff. Home to all manner of stunning architecture and an eye-watering art collection, one of the main highlights of the Queen’s House is the Tulip Stairs.
This staircase is the first geometric self-supporting spiral stairs in Britain and dates back to the 17th-century. Elsewhere in the Queen’s House (which has undergone intensive renovation works over the past few years), there’s neo-classical architecture to enjoy by acclaimed architect Inigo Jones.
Halcyon Books in Greenwich
Books on the shelves, books piled high. As soon as you step into Halcyon Books, it soon becomes apparent that this is one of the best bookstores in London. Selling all manner of new and second-hand books, there are some 40,000 titles for sale in the store. Located along Greenwich South Street, the family-run shop was founded in 1990 and is well worth a visit on any trip to Greenwich.