Dazzling architecture and eclectic London attractions steeped in history, and host of eating, drinking and shopping options, Greenwich provides the perfect day out for visitors to the UK’s capital.
If you arrive by boat (River Bus) then you’ll have a something in common with the first settlers in Greenwich – the Romans. The Italian conquerors docked here on their way up to what was become the centre of Londinium (London). Evidence of this can be found in Greenwich Park between the Vanbrugh and Maze Hill gates where the remains of the floor of a Roman villa are fenced off.
The Vikings were next to camp here in the 11th century, when they used Greenwich as a base to attack strongholds in Kent before taking Canterbury. Later that century, following the Norman invasion of 1066, the area belonged to a Norman bishop before the crown seized it in 1082, establishing a royal link that lasts to this day.
Kings Henry IV and Henry V were regular visitors to Greenwich and Tudors Henry VIII (the one who had all those wives and killed a few of them) and Elizabeth I were born here. James I commissioned St Paul’s Cathedral architect Inigo Jones to design the Queen’s House which today stands at the heart of the National Maritime Museum.
The Royal Observatory, the home of time and the Greenwich Meridian, was built on the orders of Charles II, who also had Greenwich Park redesigned and planted. James II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to design the Royal Hospital for Seaman, which later became the Royal Naval College and is now the stately home of Greenwich University, the grounds and colonnades of which visitors are free to wander around and admire.
Despite its history, visitors today are unlikely to see royals wandering around Greenwich. Instead the area around the National Maritime Museum (West Greenwich) welcomes day-trippers from around the world who come to soak up the town’s unique atmosphere and architecture.
The waterfront is dominated by the impressively renovated Cutty Sark, a tall ship (tea clipper) that used to race tea from the fields of the East to the pots and cups of the UK. A few metres from the Cutty Sark is the Gypsy Moth, a much smaller sailing vessel in which Sir Francis Chichester sailed around the world.
Next to these, a circular redbrick building with a glass dome houses an elevator and stairs that transports people down to the atmospheric foot tunnel under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs, where visitors can get a more panoramic view of Greenwich.
Greenwich Market is a big draw for many with its eclectic array of goods on sale. The Market is nicely complemented by host of independent clothes, antique, retro, nautical and art shops that can be found on the streets here.
There are also a number of eating options available both in the market and on the streets, there’s something for everyone. And if it’s nightlife you are after, then the pubs and clubs, including the Up The Creek Comedy club with disco, should more than satisfy. Greenwich is also the home of the O2 (formerly the Millenium Dome) which has regular club nights and hosts some of the biggest names in the music industry.
With free museums, Greenwich Park, the grounds of Greenwich University, pubs, clubs and even a massive music venue, there is something for everyone in Greenwich.
Getting to Greenwich
Greenwich Station from London: Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge and Cannon Street. A Travelcard Zone 1 — 2 is valid
Take the Docklands Light Railway direct to Cutty Sark Gardens or get on the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and change to the DLR
To Greenwich town centre: 177, 180, 188, 286, 386 - to Greenwich Park 53, X53 then walk down through Greenwich Park. The 188 bus from Russell Square comes through the town centre on its way to North Greenwich Underground station
Greenwich Pier from Tower of London, Charing Cross and Westminster
From Greenwich Peninsular to the Royal Docks in East London