Greenwich is a beautiful area of London famed for its maritime history and for once being home to Henry VIII. It’s even thought that the adjacent Isle of Dogs is so-called because it was where Henry VIII kept his kennels in the 16th-century. Oh, and did I mention that the whole area is now designated a UNESCO world heritage site?
So whether you’re interested in vintage shopping, eating your weight in delicious local specialities, or simply soaking up some history, there’s all that and more to explore once in Greenwich. Here are seven incredible reasons to visit Greenwich on your next London trip! After all, there’s no shortage of things to do while in the area…
How to visit Greenwich
There are several ways by which to reach Greenwich, a green space home to countless museums and Royal History to the east of the City of London. Easy to reach by bus and DLR (part of the London tube system), it’s even possible to catch a half-hour boat ‘Thames Clipper’ along the water.
For those who are looking for an informative river cruise (complete with audio guide), then you may well want to consider purchasing a Westminster to Greenwich River Thames Cruise which will take you all the way to Greenwich Pier. From there, sites such as the Cutty Sark and Greenwich Pedestrian tunnel are just steps away.
Greenwich is the home of time and stars
If you want to, quite literally, see where the prime Meridian line exists, you need only head to the Royal Observatory. High up on a hill overlooking the Queen’s House (where you’ll find the Tulip Staircase) and the City of London, the Royal Observatory was founded by Charles II in 1676.
Though the official Prime Meridian line is located within the walls of the observatory (and you’ll have to pay for the privilege of snapping a photo of yourself on either hemisphere), the true Meridian line is actually located around 100 metres away, in the middle of the park.
This is because when astronomers in the past were calculating the line, they didn’t take into account other factors that might throw off the measurement, such as distortions by gravity. As such, the real ‘0’ can actually be found on a footpath in the heart of the park.
If you still want to visit the observatory for yourself (and I can personally tell you that a visit is well worth it!), then you might want to consider purchasing your tickets in advance.
Greenwich shows another side of London
Far away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life, Greenwich sits in an era of its own. A place where time seems to move at a much more leisurely pace than in other places of the city, the area is easy to access via public transport just half an hour from the city.
Greenwich is home to plenty of quirky Coffee Shops
If you want to find independent coffee shops serving speciality coffees and beautifully baked cakes, then you’ve come to the right place. A personal favourite of mine is Paul Rhodes. Baker of delicious pastries and serving equally great tasting coffee, the ambience is great.
Greenwich has lots of Naval History
Between the Cutty Sark, Old Naval College and the National Maritime Museum, there’s no shortage of naval history to explore and discover. In fact, the Royal Maritime Museum is the largest of its kind in the world, while the Cutty Sark was built in the 19th-century and was once the fastest sailing vessel of its time (click here to buy your entrance tickets ahead of time).
Elsewhere in the area, iconic Architecture, Sir Christopher Wren (designer of St Paul’s Cathedral and of St Dunstan in the East) designed the Old Naval College. Though currently under renovations, the interior Painted Hall is one of the most iconic Baroque interiors in Europe.
There is lots of Royal History in Greenwich!
And while we’re on the subject of the Old Naval College, it’s worth noting that in a previously existing palace close to where the College now stands, King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I were all born in a 15th-century royal residence by the name of Placentia.
In the 17th-century, after James I publically swore at his wife, Anne of Denmark, he said sorry by constructing her a villa fit for royalty. Situated on the fringes of Greenwich Park, this lavish and opulent house is now a free museum and is home to paintings by acclaimed artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds and Van Dyck.
Greenwich has oodles of green space
For the best fall foliage in London, you simply need to head to the East of the city! At other times of the year, picnics are best held in the expansive Greenwich Park. All year long, this green space is the perfect place to go walking, or simply admire the views across the water and onto the rest of London. From certain locations within the park, it’s even possible to spy the O2 Arena.
There are several free museums in Greenwich
Whether you want to experience Regency history or you’re more in the mood to admire the artwork, Greenwich is home to several stunning museums and art collections, all worth a look at. Highlights of free places to visit in London include the Inigo Jones’ designed Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum.