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Think you know this Royal Borough in London? Here are all the things to do in Greenwich that might well surprise you. This post is in partnership with Visit Greenwich.
London is a city you may live in, but there’s always a place that makes you think again. Or you come to think of yourself as well acquainted after multiple visits, but there’s an area you realised you’ve never really ventured to. Greenwich is one of them.
You know the name. Greenwich – home to the Prime Meridian Line that divides the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Greenwich Peninsula – home to the world-famous arena of The O2. Many visit those star attractions and leave, not knowing there’s far more to this Royal Borough in southeast London.
The historic town centre, royal lineage and scientific and naval institutions comprise the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, inscribed by UNESCO in 1997. Mixed with active outdoors and adrenalin adventure activities, parks and markets, and world-renowned art and architecture, Greenwich stands out.
Except, this noble area on the Thames River is still overlooked by visitors, shielded from central City footfall at the end of the overland and water cruise lines. But it’s this lesser-known status that makes a visit to Greenwich all the more surprising.
Ready to see it all? Here are all the things to do in Greenwich – enough that you may well consider staying right in the heart of it next time you visit London.
- Getting to Greenwich
- Getting Around Greenwich
- Iconic Things to Do in Greenwich
- What to do in Greenwich Town and Beyond
- Greenwich Peninsula Attractions
- Greenwich and the City
- Where to Stay in Greenwich
Getting to Greenwich
Many first-time visitors to London overlook Greenwich entirely, and there’s an assumption that it’s too far away from the centre. However, the rail and river connections make it more accessible than you think.
Greenwich by Train
- London Bridge to Greenwich by train (Southeastern and Thameslink rail) takes around 10 minutes.
Greenwich by Tube and DLR
- Take the Jubilee line and the new Elizabeth line to Canary Wharf and switch to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which stops at the Cutty Sark and Greenwich.
- North Greenwich is on the Jubilee line to access The O2 and the surrounding Peninsula.
Greenwich by River
- Take the scenic route on an Uber Boat by Thames Clippers journey between North Greenwich or Greenwich to London Bridge, Blackfriars (for St Pauls Cathedral) or London Eye for the Southbank and Waterloo. Services run every 10 minutes, and you use contactless payment at the Pier.
- Opt for a River Thames Sightseeing Cruise departing from Tower Pier or Westminster Pier to Greenwich, which includes commentary throughout the journey.
Getting Around Greenwich
Greenwich and the Greenwich Peninsula are relatively compact areas that can be explored by foot, although some cross-river connections have become standalone Greenwich attractions.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Take an alternative route across the Thames that’s been around since 1902, long before many overland connections. The entrance to the 100-stair spiral to the foot tunnel underneath the River Thames is next to the Cutty Sark. See where the tunnel bends, creating an optical illusion where you can’t see the other end.
Walk the Greenwich Peninsula
Since Greenwich is a riverside location, there’s no shortage of scenic views as you walk between the town and North Greenwich, connected by the Thames Path. Follow the signs and enjoy a nature walk that takes around one hour.
Pass riverside pubs and old jetties, see the 1903 Edwardian-built Greenwich power station up close and get some of the best panoramas of historic Greenwich, The O2 and modern peninsula developments.
London Cable Car in North Greenwich
You don’t have to head to alpine pastures for gondola views. The London Cable Car crosses the Thames with views over the contemporary architecture and sculptures of the area. It connects Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks and London Excel. A round-trip fare costs £10.
Iconic Things to Do in Greenwich
Greenwich is defined by its showcase of British maritime history and stately splendour. Even if you are not a museum dweller or naval history doesn’t initially appeal, there are some artistic treasures, important institutional buildings, and iconic places to visit in Greenwich that you shouldn’t miss.
Cutty Sark British Tea Clipper
Behold the ship that dominates the Greenwich skyline and stands majestically close to the Thames Riverside. The Cutty Sark is the only surviving tea clipper in the world and was the fastest of its time when these mega vessels would compete in shipping tea back from China.
Constructed in 1869, the Cutty Sark re-opened to the public in May 2012 after a £50 million restoration. Browse the two lower museum floors before making your way to the main deck with its mighty masts (the original had 32 sails). Finish your tour in the café and walk under the colossal copper hull.
Cutty Sark Rig Climb
The Cutty Sark Rig Climb was launched in April 2022, giving daredevils the chance to scale this historic sailing ship. Clambering up the ship’s masts on the ‘ratlines’ (rope ladders) is hard work and a tiny glimpse into what it was like working as a seaman on this magnificent tea clipper, grappling with 11 miles of rigging. But the mix of adrenalin and awe as you survey your surroundings from this unique vantage point is unbeatable.
Want to increase the adventure stakes while traversing this mighty icon? Then opt for the Rig Climb Experience Plus, where you’ll move from the ratlines to the greater heights of the lower top sail, which you nervously sidestep across. An extreme challenge for the ultimate view, ending with a zipline back to the ground.
Sir Christopher Wren designed the magnificent architectural complex of the Old Royal Naval College with a two-domed centrepiece in a subtle, neo-classical style that came to be known as English Baroque. You’ll notice the similarities to his work on St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City.
Built on the site of the former 15th-century Tudor Palace of Placentia (Greenwich Palace), these grand halls served as The Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Royal Naval College. Wander its grounds for a conveyor belt of harmonious facades, classic columns, and elegant archways.
See the Painted Hall, with its magnificent murals and luminous painted ceiling that have given it the name of ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’. This 40,000 square feet golden-hued canvas in the former Royal Hospital’s Main Hall was a display and celebration of Britain’s sea power.
Entry: Painted Hall admission ticket is £13.50 (including an audio guide)
Queen’s House and The Tulip Stairs
On the fringes of Greenwich Park, the stately white Queens House is the first Palladian (a classical style based on symmetry) building in the UK and the only remaining structure of the Tudor Palace of Placentia.
The last vestiges of the palatial history are here. It’s where King Henry VIII and his daughters, Queen Elizabeth 1 and Queen Mary I, were born and the site of the King’s marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves.
It’s now home to an extensive and world-renowned art collection, including the iconic power monarch ‘Armada Portrait’ of Elizabeth I, painted after England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. End your visit through the collections with a walk down the Tulip Stairs – the first self-supporting spiral stairs built in Britain and one of the remaining original features of the Queen’s House.
National Maritime Museum
Showcasing Britain’s seafaring past and naval history and power, the National Maritime Museum also looks at the history and engineering of seafaring and navigation, shipwrecks and battles and our connection to the sea. Amongst its prized collections are Nelson’s Trafalgar Coat and Turner’s painting, The Battle of Trafalgar.
The Royal Parks we enjoy today were once hunting grounds at the order of Henry VIII before they became protected green spaces for public access. Greenwich Park is the oldest enclosed Royal Park, and its hilly setting is a perfect window over historic Greenwich, the modern skyline of Canary Wharf and the City’s architectural heritage, including St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Entry: The park is free to visit from 6 am to 9 pm
Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian Line
The hilltop is where you’ll find the world-famous Sir Christopher Wren-designed Royal Observatory, famed for its centuries-long scientific and astronomical research and home to the gigantic Great Equatorial Telescope.
Stand upon the Greenwich Prime Meridian Line (0° longitude) that divides the Western and Eastern hemispheres and see how this discovery came to be with the unique clocks designed by John Harrison. Latitude was already measurable by the distance from the equator, and these clocks solved the “longitude” problem for seafarers. This invention created the calculation for Greenwich Mean Time and Prime Meridian of the World in 1884.
Visit the Bridgerton House
The Ton is in Greenwich! The Georgian villa on the western edge of Greenwich Park might be familiar to Bridgerton fans. Ranger’s House is home to an extensive and eclectic 700-piece collection, including tapestries and trinkets, porcelain and paintings gathered by 19th-century businessman Sir Julius Wernher.
Still, its façade has become the home of the beloved Regency-era family, adding to Greenwich’s film-set locations.
The Best of Greenwich on a Biking and Walking Tour
You’ll be surprised at how much ground there is to cover in Greenwich, and if you only have a half or one day to see it all, you may struggle to fit it all in. For a thorough introduction, consider one of the walking and biking trips from Greenwich Royal Tours’ to cover the historical highlights and hear the stories from local experts who have seen how the area has changed.
Graham knows every corner of every exhibit so that you won’t miss a thing. Choose from the ‘best of’ Greenwich, a tour traversing the Peninsula or opt for in-depth museum guiding.
What to do in Greenwich Town and Beyond
Greenwich isn’t just about maritime museum hopping and royal sites. The town itself forms a part of the World Heritage site. Head South of Greenwich Pier and west of the Old Royal Naval College and spend time exploring the cluster of pretty streets and narrow alleys.
Grab coffee and cake from Paul Rhodes bakery or Ilirian Cafe, lunch at Goddards at Greenwich for traditional Pie and Mash and join the queue to sample the Dark Sugars Ice Cream flavours.
Greenwich Market is at the heart of the town, which comes alive at the weekends as people flock to browse the craftmanship of the 40 artisan stalls and indulge in street food options spanning empanadas to Ethiopian cuisine.
You could spend hours at the market getting swept up in the buzz or popping into one of the independent boutique stores and tailors, art galleries and speciality coffee shops. Visit Arty Globe for unique architectural prints and keepsakes of London and the world, Corkville for handmade leather shoes, the Fudge Patch for delicious vegan sweet treats including cherry Bakewell and sherbet lemon flavours, and the 15grams Coffee House roaster for the perfect brew.
The neighbouring Greenwich Vintage Market is the place to search for antiques and collectables.
A grand English town needs a good English pub, and you will find plenty in Greenwich, like the historic Spanish Galleon from 1834 and the Grade I Listed pub, The Gipsy Moth.
Head to the riverside for a scenic view over a traditional pint and work through the heritage buildings that line the Peninsula. The Victorian Trafalgar Tavern is popular, followed by the Georgian Cutty Sark pub and the homely 1830s Enderby House.
Greenwich also caters to craft beer enthusiasts. Meantime Brewery, located between Greenwich Town and North Greenwich, offers tours and tastings of its tasty brews, including the Easytime Lager, No Coast IPA and London Pale Ale, which you might spot on the Thames Clippers and in the riverside bars. Don’t miss out on trying the Yakima red ale – an outlier on the tap list that has become a surprising favourite.
Eltham Palace and Gardens
You’ll have to venture further than the town centre for the English Heritage site of Eltham Palace – a 15-minute taxi south of Greenwich town or a short train from London Bridge to Mottingham.
This former medieval palace where Kings and Queens held court for 200 years was turned into a stylish Italian, Swedish and Art Deco 20th-century home for the fashionable elite by the wealthy Courtaulds. The restored 1479 medieval Great Hall is a highlight, keeping part of the original features of this banquet room, including the oak wood ceiling.
Greenwich Peninsula Attractions
The Greenwich Peninsula is more than a stop for a concert at The O2, although this is the Peninsula’s star attraction. This area is a burgeoning Design District, enticing creatives like architects and artists, designers and digital creatives to be a part of the area’s vibrant transformation.
Up at the O2 – Climb the World-famous Arena
No concert tickets in hand? You can still enjoy visiting The O2. Climb 52 metres above the City’s legendary arena in North Greenwich, walk over this world-famous roof and reach one of the best panoramic vantage points of the iconic London skyline.
The 90-minute Up at the O2 experience is one of the adventurous things to do in Greenwich for views over the Historic Maritime area, The Olympic Park, and Canary Wharf with an adrenalin-hitting dose of adventure. Get into your harness and tackle the soft walkway that begins with a nearly 30-degree incline. It’s easier than it looks!
Booking: The experience costs £35.00 to £40.00, depending on whether you choose a day, sunset, or twilight climb.
The Tide – Riverside Art Installation Walk
The latest design installation in the area is The Tide – a riverside art walk in Peninsula Square that brings together community hangouts, lounge spaces, and public art. While still in its early stages, the plan is for more kilometres of landscape trails to follow the waterfront.
I strolled the rainbow colonnade – the new light-refracting ‘Quick Tide’ installation by Felipe Pantone – close to the North Greenwich Pier point.
Greenwich and the City
North vs south, east vs west – a Londoner will wax lyrical about distance and what area is better to the point they rarely venture in the opposite direction. Many assume Greenwich is far removed from the City, but it’s not (you can’t scoff at a 10-minute train journey).
As a visitor, you can use Greenwich’s riverside location as a base and the springboard for a Sightseeing City Cruises trip or take the Uber boat by Thames Clippers and create your tour. Disembark at the following stops for some City highlights.
Pass under Tower Bridge, marvel at the Crown Jewels at the medieval Tower of London, and see the nearby remains of the Roman city walls.
Take a guided tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral for the perfect accompaniment to Sir Christopher Wren’s work already seen in Greenwich (£18 per adult, Monday to Saturday). Or admire the famed dome from the hip Madison rooftop bar, with one of their signature gin tonic mixes in hand. End at the City of London Distillery for a gin tour and tasting.
Aside from a starting point to visit Big Ben, Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, this pier point is where you can swap the Thames Clipper for the Thamesjet Speedboat RIB experience (£40) and see the sites of London at high momentum.
Even though I got unlucky, heading out in the heavy rain, I loved the thrill of whizzing down the Thames at high speed. The James Bond soundtrack accompanies the adrenalin of this water pocket rocket’s bumps and tight turns as you set out on an MI5 mission.
London Eye (Waterloo)
This Pier brings you to the Southbank for a slow turn on the iconic observation wheel, access to Waterloo and the entertainment-filled and bar-lined waterside. Find the street art tunnel at the Leake Street Arches and enjoy one of London’s hidden creative corners.
Where to Stay in Greenwich
There are plenty of accommodation options in Greenwich, from traditional Inns to boutique hotels making it an excellent base for a historical city break, with easy links to London’s bustling centre.
I stayed in the Doubletree by Hilton London Greenwich – once a police headquarters from the 1940s turned boutique four-star hotel with art deco touches and modern décor. All the bedrooms nod to the history of Greenwich with glass door printed timelines of the royal and maritime linage.
It’s close to Deptford Bridge DLR station and a 15-minute walk to Greenwich town, although its local menu in the elegant lounge (the former Firearms Shooting Gallery) may pull you back in the evening. Rooms from £119.
The Pilot on the Greenwich Peninsula is a traditional 1800s Inn with a renovated contemporary design. Bedrooms are chic, while the pub offers all the mainstays, including a full English breakfast and Sunday Roast. Rooms from £231, including breakfast.
The Ibis London Greenwich hotel is just around the corner from the St. Mary’s Gate entrance to Greenwich Park and five minutes walk to the main sites. There’s a lobby bar, but the hotel is close to Greenwich’s great pubs. Rooms from €94.
I spent four days in Greenwich on a trip to uncover the very best of what the Royal Borough has to offer. The trip was organised in partnership with Visit Greenwich. All opinions remain my own.