A guide to Greenwich

London, Great Britain

12 places
A guide to Greenwich

Harriet Wiseman

Greenwich is a must-see part of London and it is well worth spending a day here. In fact it has so much to offer that you might find you want to come back multiple times to explore it even further. A UNESCO world heritage site and the 'home of time' – Greenwich is the meeting place of the two hemispheres of the globe and the Prime Meridian of the world, GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). It is not only significant in terms of its connection to the history of London, but indeed it is of great importance to the organizational structure of the entire world. This itinerary includes a museum marathon taking in art, design, science and maritime history as well as great places to dine, shop and even dance. It is a true day-to-night affair so get ready for a full-on Greenwich experience!

This tiny cafe has a gallery and shop hidden within it. The coffee is all from the infamous Monmouth and they serve fresh, varied food. Their cakes are award-winning so make sure that you sample one if you are in the area. Take-away is available so why not enjoy their lovely offerings whilst wondering round the beautiful Greenwich Park?

Sir Christopher Wren designed the Royal Observatory’s historic Flamsteed House in 1675; this original building is still open to the public and houses the UK’s largest refracting telescope. This is where the Prime Meridian of the World is situated and you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Don’t miss the Octagonal room at the top of the house that Wren built as an incredible observing space.

The more contemporary part of the Royal Observatory is the Peter Harrison Planetarium, where a mixture of CGI and real images are combined to create an immersive dome of single planets, whole galaxies and rare astronomical occurrences. The projections are grounded in scientific data as well as from the visualizations of specialists. It is well worth a visit for those who enjoy all things space-related; you can even touch a 4.5 billion year old asteroid!

Follow the metal meridian line from the observatory through the park as you meander down from the high observatory grounds towards the National Maritime Museum. The park is also home to a large children’s play area as well as rose, flower and herb gardens. There are also great views of London to be seen from this high vantage point.

Whilst in this historic setting why not expand your knowledge and horizons even further by exploring the National Maritime Museum? This architectural beauty is the world’s largest maritime museum and is packed full of interesting artifacts, stories from the sea, histories of ships and tales of creatures from the deep. There is always a wide selection of diverse exhibitions taking place as well as a great range of permanent collections on show.

Greenwich has been producing its Meantime beers since 1999 and they are a staple of many a London pub due to their full-bodied and distinctive flavours. Enjoy one (or indeed a selection board of half-pint samples with taste-complimenting snacks) in The Old Brewery, a restaurant and bar in the grounds of the Old Royal Navel College, and the site of the Meantime brewery. The staff certainly know their stuff and can advise you on which drinks might best suit your pallet whilst the setting itself is lovely, with a large beer garden and a unique interior. If you are feeling hungry there is a selection of fresh British classics on the menu, which can be enjoyed inside or al fresco.

The Fan Museum is a quaint listed building in which to spend a refined couple of hours. The collection has pieces from the 11th century onwards and places these works of art in their historical, sociological and economic contexts. Afternoon tea is served in the Orangery which overlooks a secret Japanese garden, booking is essential so do check the availability before you go. This really is a relaxing space to spend a few hours catching up with friends, chatting with the family or impressing a date.

The Queen’s House is the keystone of the famous landscape of 'Maritime Greenwich', which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. Architecturally it shows the critical juncture of English design in the 17th century, and it is said to have been given to Anne of Denmark in 1614 as an apology from her husband King James I after he swore at her in public as a result of her accidentally shooting one of his favorite dogs whilst hunting. Its colourful background is equally reflected in the huge fine art collection that it holds, from JMW Turner’s classic work Battle of Trafalgar (the largest painting he ever made) to Turner Prize nominee Yinka Shonibare’s contemporary Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle.

The Cutty Sark is the last remaining tea clipper to have survived time and a lot of action; this majestic ship from the 19th century was world-famous due to her speed and elegance in the water as well as her trips around the Globe. The ship has been raised over 3 meters above the ground so that not only can you go inside and explore what life would have been like on board, but you can also walk underneath and get an idea of how the structure was constructed.

Greenwich market was established in 1737 and its savvy survival can be pinned on two principles: being able to trade in all weather due to its roof, and only allowing high quality stalls. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it is all about the antiques and stalls selling collectables. On Wednesdays and weekends the vibe turns distinctly arty with craft vendors and designers taking over the space. A personal highlight are the traditional artisans who will write your name on a grain of rice in the most beautiful cursive script I have ever seen.

Here is an activity for the daredevil in everyone, walk across the top of the iconic Millennium Dome (now known as the 02 arena) either during the day or at night. There are 365 degree views waiting for those who muster the courage and put on the climb suit, you even get a tour guide who tells you all about the sites that you can see and their histories. A brilliant way to get a different perspective of London!

The formally-named Millennium Dome is an iconic part of the London Skyline. In the last few years it has been transformed into the London O2: a huge plethora of arenas, restaurants, bars and even a bowling alley that plays exclusive gigs. Due to its unique character the O2 attracts big names from the worlds of music, comedy and performance. There is also a club called Building Six that is often open until 6am. All the events are ticketed so it is important that you book before you go, however the shopping and culinary areas are open to those who are not attending shows.

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