Being five miles out of central London, Greenwich is often left out of most travel itineraries. But with countless historic landmarks, a vibrant city centre (not to mention the fact that it's home to the Prime Meridian line), making the 20-minute journey to Greenwich is more than worth it for any tourist in London.
Derived from the Saxon word meaning “green village,” the area now known as Greenwich started as a small farming settlement on the banks of the River Thames, and remained mostly rural until the end of the 19th century. The area started expanding around the 16th century, and eventually became the epicentre of royal London during the reign of Henry VII thanks to the riverside palace at Greenwich (The Palace of Placentia), which was used by both the Tudor and Stuart monarchs.
But today Greenwich is perhaps best known as being home to the Prime Meridian of the world (AKA Longitude 0°0'0"), which was divides the eastern and western hemispheres, and was originally defined by a Transit Circle telescope at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Its maritime area was also awarded a World Heritage Site status in 1997, and is home to some of the most notable maritime landmarks in the UK, such as The Old Royal Naval College (which was a Royal Navy training establishment between 1873 and 1998) and Cutty Sark (the only remaining 19th-century tea clipper in the world).
Greenwich also boasts having the oldest enclosed royal park (Greenwich Park) which was once used as a hunting ground for Henry VIII), and is also home to Britain's only urban cable car and The O2 Arena.
Today both locals and tourists alike venture to Greenwich to stroll around its vibrant shopping area, which contains a string of independent shops lining the streets surrounding the town centre. Its town market (Greenwich Market) is also a fan-favourite, as it contains over 120 different arts, craft and antique stalls.
Whether you're looking to shop for antiques, listen to some live music, or even enjoy a pint in a quintessential English pub with some friends, there's no limit to the things you can do during a visit to Greenwich.
But if you want to experience everything that Greenwich has to offer, here are some of the best activities you can do during your visit to the area:
- Stand on the Prime Meridian Line after a visit to The Royal Observatory Greenwich; (and make sure you check out Flamsteed House while you're there as well).
- Get some hardcore retail therapy done at The O2 Centre before watching a once-in-a-lifetime performance at The O2 Arena.
- Shop around the hundreds of arts and crafts stalls at the Greenwich Market.
- Stroll around the historic clipper ship Cutty Sark
- Look at some fascinating exhibitions and items like historic ship models, uniforms, paintings and navigation instruments at the National Maritime Museum
- Snap photos of the Queen's House (which was built as a summer residence for Anne of Denmark under the orders of King James I).
- Climb to the top of the dome of The O2 Arena and enjoy 360-degree views of London for the Up At The O2 experience.
- Browse for antiques, collectibles, jewellery and books at the Greenwich Vintage Market.
- Watch some live music and drink a pint at the Moonlight Market on the last Friday of every month.
- Take a boat ride around a lake or play a friendly game of tennis at Greenwich Park.and enjoy stunning views of the Canary Wharf from the top of the hill. (And while you're there, see if you can spot any foxes or deer that are known to live in the area as well).
- Marvel over some stunning architecture at the Old Royal Naval College, which dates back to the reign of Charles II
- See where Henry VII was baptized at the St. Alfege Church
- Go ghost hunting around the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which is believed to be one of the most haunted locations in London.
- Don't make the common rookie mistake of mispronouncing Greenwich (it's correctly pronounced as “Gren-itch”)
- Because the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark and the Queen's House are all within walking distance of each other, you can easily visit all three sites in one day. Cutty Sark is a six-minute walk from the museum, while the Queen's House is a three-minute walk away.
- If you want to do some research before you visit, check out the Visit Greenwich podcast for more historical information on some of the area's most fascinating attractions and landmarks.
- If you're on a budget and don't feel like spending cash on eating out, then try to visit Greenwich during its market days as you can easily find a dish for under £5