Greenwich is a bustling, exciting and vibrant area of London which boasts a rich and interesting maritime history. Extremely popular with tourists and locals alike, there is so much to see and do in Greenwich, and many a historical fact to uncover.
The mixture of cultural and historical sights, vibrant bars and restaurants and its location on the Thames make it such a wonderful place for us to spend a day catching up, whatever the weather.
When I’m planning to meet up with friends or colleagues for a day or night out, Greenwich is where we will head!
by Aimée Castles-Greene;
Aimée has lived 20 minutes from central London for 28 years, enjoying and exploring all aspects of the city ever since. In her spare time, Aimée enjoys writing, reading, visiting exhibitions and museums and eating good food!;
What to see and do in Greenwich?
1. Travel Through Space And Time At The Royal Observatory
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Established in 1851, you can actually stand on the Meridian Line in the courtyard here. There is a reasonable entry fee, however if you just want to observe the building you can get up close free of charge.
The Royal Observatory is also home to Peter Harrison’s Planetarium, where you can see spectacular informative shows and relax in your chair looking up at the stars. There are even specific shows for children making it a great place to visit on a rainy day.
2. Sail Away At The National Maritime Museum
Completely free to enter, except for some paid exhibitions, this museum is the home of the history of the British Royal Navy.
There are so many remarkable items and curios to see, you’ll be entertained for hours on end.
Kids can get hands on in the interactive galleries and there is a gorgeous café and terrace with magnificent views of Greenwich Park.
Keep an eye out as you pass the building for the faces of great British maritime figures past, carved into the walls.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
3. All Aboard The Cutty Sark
Just set back from the river is the Cutty Sark, one of the last Tea Clippers to have been built.
You can pay to board and explore the ship, however the exterior is very accessible for free, meaning you can get some fabulous photographs of this piece British history without paying a thing.
4. Explore The Sights Of Greenwich Royal Park
The views from Greenwich Park are a sight to behold. The oldest of the Royal Parks, this glorious landscape is steeped in history.
It’s a wonderful location to take a picnic or go for a peaceful stroll, and you might even see a deer or two!
For the perfect view of the London skyline, locate the General Wolfe statue next to the Royal Observatory.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
5. Discover The Queen’s House
Fancy nosing round the Queen’s House? Of course you do and you can visit it for free in Greenwich. Completed in 1636, it’s full of collections of world renowned art to explore, and you might even encounter a ghost as the house is said to be haunted!
This sprawling mansion has pillared walkways either side which make for some great photographic moments. Stunning both inside and out, there are masses of historical facts to uncover about its royal occupants, the architecture and the items held within.
6. Food And Fun At Greenwich Market
With stalls and stalls of wonderful people selling wonderful items including crafts, clothes, antiques and so much more, Greenwich Market is a fun and vibrant day out. Vendors offer every type of street food you could imagine from hot scotch eggs, to churros, to South African quiches; there is something for everyone.
Boutique shops line the walkways and there’s a great pub inside the covered market, The Coach and Horses, serving reasonable drinks and pub grub so you can relax and enjoy the sites, smells, live music and buzzing atmosphere, right in the heart of Greenwich Market.
7. Going Underground – Greenwich Foot Tunnel
You can walk deep underneath the Thames through the Greenwich foot tunnel. Over 100 years old, it links Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs and is free to enter and use.
Originally opened in 1902 to serve as an alternative path for the working class to cross the river as the ferry was so expensive, it remains a popular route for tourists crossing today.
8. The Old Royal Naval College And Painted Hall Ceiling Tours
The Old Royal Naval College is a site to behold. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was the birthplace of British Tudor monarchs including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in its hospital days.
Various areas are free of charge to enter, but you can book guided tours to take you deeper into the college, including a tour of the Painted Hall Ceilings.
You can get up close and watch the painstaking restoration work of the conservatists as they continue to recondition the artwork of Sir James Thornhill, which took just under 20 years to paint and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. It’s truly fabulous and has to be seen!
9. Arrive in Style – Transport In And Around Greenwich
There are SO many was to get to Greenwich including by train, tube, Docklands Light Railway and by boat. You can speed up the Thames in comfort and style for a minimal price, and take in some beautiful sights from the river as you travel.
If you’re heading up to the Royal Docks, you can fly high above the city in the Emirates Cable Cars from Greenwich which allow you brilliant views of the sights below as you travel through the sky.
10. Become A Fan Of The Fan Museum
The world’s first museum dedicated to fans (no, not Beliebers or 1Directioners), this museum is reasonably cheap to enter and boasts stunning displays of fans past and present.
The elegant orangery is available as a walk-in service for afternoon tea – it’s well worth checking out if you fancy a bit of decadence.
11. Meantime Brewery Tours And Beer Tastings
For a reasonable fee, you can take a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich.
The tour gives you a look at the brewers at work and their processes and, to top it all off you can enjoy a beer tasting afterwards. The tour takes around 1.5 hours and is a great way to end a day in Greenwich, or begin a night out!
12. Explore Eltham Palace And Gardens
An art deco paradise, you can pay to tour this 1930s stately home, admire its stunning interior which includes a medieval hall, and roam the gorgeous gardens.
Its history dates back to the 14th century and over the years the interior has been added to and changed to leave it with a highly eclectic and interesting décor.
13. Ranger’s House – A Georgian Villa
For a small entry fee you can explore this stunning Georgian villa on the border of Greenwich park. Home to the private art collection of Julius Wernher, it is one of the biggest private collections in Europe.
Jewellery, Renaissance paintings, sculptures and portraits add to the cultural and historical significance of this villa. Home to politicians and royals until the 20th century, there is an extensive past to uncover and so much to see.
14. Lights, Camera, Action, Greenwich!
Fancy recreating some scenes from your favourite movies?
Greenwich has been used as a setting for many films, including Les Misérables, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pirates of the Caribbean, The King’s Speech and many, many more.
15. Catch A Show At Greenwich Theatre
In the heart of Greenwich sits Greenwich Theatre.
Regularly hosting performances of old and new productions, it’s well worth seeing who or what is on when you visit. At Christmas they’re well known for putting on the best pantomimes.
16. A Relaxing Walk Around Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
A little hidden oasis in a built up area, Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park spans four acres of urban wetland. Free to enter, you can explore the park, the visitor centre and chat to the volunteers about the important work they’re doing.
Not only is the park vital to the regeneration of the Greenwich peninsula, it’s a beautiful relaxing space to unwind and gather your thoughts. Kids will love exploring the various species of insects and plants that inhabit the area and you may well learn something, too!
17. The O2 – A Bit Of Everything, For Everyone!
The O2 is known worldwide as a large performance venue for the world’s best artists when in London, but did you know there is so much more you can do there? Formerly known as the Millennium Dome, it’s become a hive of activity and events and there will always be something going on when you visit as it is a leading entertainment venue in London.
You can pay to go ‘Up at the O2’, whereby you climb across the top of the dome. This is a great way to get some panoramic views and pictures of London, but isn’t for the faint of heart, as it involves heights and lots of climbing!
The O2 has a variety of bars and restaurants and other activities to discover; Indigo nightclub (a huge club venue), bowling, shopping and a cinema. You can even pretend you’re a Sky News presenter in the Sky studios, completely free of charge. It’s a great place to wander round and explore, especially on a rainy day, which there are lots of in London!
18. Feel Welcome At St Alfege’s Church
In situ in Greenwich since St Alfege was martyred at the site in 1012, visitors are welcome to explore the church and take photographs completely free of charge.
Whilst respectability is expected, it’s a friendly environment and you’ll be offered a warm welcome to this historical site.
19. Modern Art At The NOW Gallery
The NOW Gallery is a free to enter exhibition space in Greenwich Peninsula.
Showcasing contemporary art, design and fashion, their modern and unconventional pieces and installations can also be seen dotted around Greenwich.
20. Greenwich Treasure Trails
A great way to explore Greenwich and learn all about its history is by taking part in one of the Greenwich Treasure Trails.
Purchasing one booklet is enough for a group of 5-6 people, and it’s a fun way to get to know the area whilst trying to make your way to the hidden treasure! The trail is 2.5 miles long and can be completed in your own time and at your own pace during the day.
Whatever age you are, you’ll be sure to have a great time taking part whilst learning some interesting information about the area and all that’s in it!
21. Good London Grub At Goddard’s Pie and Mash
If you’ve ever wanted to try out some real cockney grub then you need to head to Goddard’s.
Serving up traditional pie, mash and liquor since 1890, Goddard’s is a great place to try out London’s most famous dish.
Nothing fancy, just a proper London riff raff cooking up some Michael Winner guv’na!
22. Have A Laugh At Up The Creek Comedy Club
If comedy is your thing then check out Up The Creek Comedy Club.
Giving up and coming comedians a platform, tickets are inexpensive and it’s a great value night out and good for a giggle.
On Wednesday’s entry to their improv sessions are free and a great laugh! Who knows what will happen, that’s improv!
— Aimée Castles-Greene
23. Cocktails At The Clipper Bar
Located by the O2, the Clipper Bar staff serve up beautiful, tasty cocktails in its elegant surroundings.
With stunning views across Canary Wharf, it’s a great place to grab a drink – you can even experience one of their unique G&T’s created from their exclusive clipper gin, a must for seafaring fans.
24. Prince of Greenwich Museum Pub
Quirky your thing? Like Italian food? Want to take some fabulous pictures against interesting back drops? You have to visit the Prince of Greenwich Museum Pub.
This Victorian inn offers a cosy, warm and welcoming environment, great value food and live music on selected days, with some interesting items on display for your viewing pleasure.
25. Get Funky At Oliver’s Jazz Bar
With jazz performances every day of the week, the best musicians and jam sessions three times a week, Oliver’s is a brilliant jazz bar, a great night out and entry is really reasonable.
The atmosphere is fantastic and during the winter months you can get cosy by the open fire as you tap away to some classic, funky jazz beats. A hidden gem, it’s a definite for lovers of jazz.
26. Drinks Above The World At Eighteen Sky Bar
Close to the O2 is the exclusive Eighteen Sky Bar offering a very upmarket experience in its luxurious surroundings.
The bar boasts incredible views of the skyline, especially if the outside bar is open, as the glass panels allow uninhibited views across Canary Wharf from a prime viewpoint.
27. The Pilot – Great For Pub Grub
The only ‘local’ pub in the vicinity of the O2, The Pilot is a cosy little bar and restaurant, has lots of outside seating, good food and is reasonably priced if you fancy a traditional pub experience as an alternative to the chains of restaurants that dominate the area.
28. The Old Brewery At The Royal Naval College
For a yummy bite to eat in idyllic surroundings, head to The Old Brewery.
Located within the grounds of The Royal Naval College, you can eat and drink in either the gorgeous restaurant or on the large outdoor terrace, taking in the perfect, uninhibited views of the local architecture and surrounding buildings.
Perfect for a summer’s day!
29. Pirates And Ships At Blackwall Point
Around the back of the O2 is Blackwall Point.
Previously a site for the display of hanged pirates in cages, in order to deter others on passing ships, today it is home to ‘A Slice of Reality’; a large art installation of a boat which has been sliced in half.
An interesting sight and well worth a look!
30. A Piece Of History – Queen Elizabeth’s Oak in Greenwich Park
With its ‘roots’ in the twelfth century, legend has it that this oak tree was once a favourite resting spot of royals throughout British history.
Legend has it that Henry VIII danced around the tree with Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth I favoured it as a relaxing place to sit to contemplate and grab some shade.
The tree fell some time ago, but you can still visit the trunk which remains in situ in its original spot.
31. Bangers At Heap’s Sausage Café
Just around the corner from Greenwich Park, in a little side street, is Heap’s Sausage Café.
Famous for its many different varieties of sausage, you can nip in for a quick bite to eat or grab some sausages to take home.
Prices are extremely reasonable and it’s a must-visit for any sausage connoisseur or lover of bangers!
32. Maritime Books, The Nautical Specialists
There a few gorgeous little bookshops in Greenwich, but Maritime Books is something special.
Specialising in maritime and naval literature only, you can browse rare books, antique books and extremely hard to find editions in this specialist shop.
It pays homage to the vast maritime history of the area from its quaint location.
33. What’s On At The Jetty?
There is always something happening on The Jetty. Formerly active in receiving coal for a nearby power station, today it hosts live music, events, workshops and so much more. With a focus on gardening and being green, it’s a beautiful, eco-friendly space to visit with stunning views over the river Thames.
If you fancy being green-fingered, you can pop by and volunteer for the day – they welcome all ages and abilities. It’s a wonderful place to get stuck in with an activity and if you fancy it, The Vagabond Café on the Peninsula’s Floating Garden is a lovely place to grab a bite to eat.
34. Grab A Drink Amongst History At The Trafalgar Tavern
Set appropriately on the Thames, with stunning views across the water, The Trafalgar Tavern is a quintessentially British pub, serving up great food in a beautiful setting.
Dating back to 1837, a life size statue of Lord Nelson stands proudly outside, and within you will find beautiful paintings and artworks that reflect the significance of this inn within British naval history.
There are benches outside so you can drink against the backdrop of the river, or simply relax inside by one of the bay windows as you marvel at the sights within the tavern’s cosy atmosphere.
35. Curios At The Clock Tower Market
If you’re looking for the perfect gift, something memorable to take home or just fancy browsing the weird and wonderful, The Clock Tower Market is definitely for you!
Vintage clothing, retro items and even war paraphernalia is available here amongst antiques and other quirky items.
A smaller market place, you can browse the wares of 50 stallholders in this funky little environment. You really never know what you’ll find!
36. Cheese Galore At The Cheese Board
If you love cheese and all things fromage then you have to visit The Cheese Board. They have 150 different types of artisan cheeses to choose from, and even create cheese wedding cakes!
They also sell wines, beers and ales so you can be sure to partner your buy with a drink to compliment the flavour. It’s certainly a place to go if you want something different for your cheese board at home and definitely an experience!
37. Take A Relaxing Walk Through East Greenwich Pleasaunce
The East Greenwich Pleasaunce is a tranquil little tree-lined garden, and a cemetery for 3000 sailors who died at the Royal Hospital Greenwich and whose remains had to be moved due to the creation of a new railway line.
It’s a historical site that today boasts a children’s playground, a memorial area providing information about the sailors and how the bodies were moved, a café and toilet facilities.
The various species of trees make this a wonderfully peaceful area to take a stroll and relax in Greenwich and owing to its horticulture, it has retained a Green Flag Award, namely an award for being a publicly accessible and green space.