Most people that visit London focus on the big-ticket tourist items such as the London Eye, Big Ben, Notting Hill and Buckingham Palace, that is in central London forgetting anything outside of zone 1. Never looking further, a field to places like Greenwich in the South East of London.
If you visit London and don’t take a day trip to Greenwich and see what things you can do in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. You'll be missing out on some fantastic things like local history, food markets and the best views that London has to offer. These are just a few of the things to do in Greenwich.
A day exploring Greenwich should be on everyone’s must-see list whether spending a weekend in London or a few weeks.
Greenwich became a Royal borough in February 2012 and is one of the eight royal boroughs in London.
Greenwich is home to many grand buildings overlooking the Thames River, such as the works of celebrated architects Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren.
Here are some fun things do in Greenwich by a local.
How to Get to Greenwich
The easiest ways to get to Greenwich from the City of London is either via the DLR from Canary Wharf to the Cutty Sark.
The overground train from London Bridge to Greenwich station, taking around 15 minutes.
But if you want to travel in style and get to see some of London’s most iconic sights like the London Eye, Tower Bridge and the Tate Modern. Then I’d recommend taking the Thames Clippers. Where you'll enjoy a 35-minute cruise from London Eye down the Thames to Greenwich Pier.
You can use your oyster card or London day pass on the Thames Clippers.
Things to Do and See in Greenwich
See the Cutty Sark
The first place you’ll probably visit in Greenwich is the Cutty Sark as it is the closest to the DLR station in Greenwich.
The Cutty Sark was one of the last and fastest British tea clippers built. The ship is now one of three remaining clippers from the 19th Century and one of the main things to see in Greenwich.
The ship was damaged by fire twice, first on 21 May 2007, while undergoing conservation and on 19 October 2014.
Now restored you walk underneath the Cutty Sark. Interacting with the original planks and iron frameworks of the ship. You can even treat yourself and friends to afternoon tea under the Cutty Sark.
Opening Time: Monday to Sunday - 10am - 5pm (Including Bank Holidays)
Address: King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HT
Visit the Greenwich Foot Tunnel
If you’re not a local of Greenwich, you’ll miss the dome-shaped entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel. The Greenwich foot tunnel runs under the River Thames to East London. Connecting the Royal Borough of Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs in the north, located in front of the Cutty Sark.
The tunnel was completed in 1902 and replaced the existing ferry service. Don’t be alarm if kids on skateboards, runners and people on bikes whiz pass you going down into the foot tunnel.
The tunnel is accessible by spiral staircases and two large lifts at either end. Which were refurbished between 2010/ 2012 and is also part of the UK's National Cycle Route 1 linking Inverness and Dover.
It will take you around 8 - 10 minutes to walk to full length of the tunnel. Even though cyclist are not meant to cycle in the tunnel many do.
So be alert when walking in the tunnel for oncoming cyclist and runners. Apart from that, the tunnel is safe to walk along.
Old Royal Naval College
The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich and is one of the (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in Greenwich. The building designed by the famed Christopher Wren, between 1696 and 1712.
The buildings were initially constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, now generally known as Greenwich Hospital.
The hospital closed in 1869. Between 1873 and 1998 it was the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The grounds and some of its buildings are open to visitors.
Chapel of St Peter and St Paul
The Chapel of St Peter and St Paul is a Neoclassical piece of work by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart and William Newton. The piece features Samuel Green organ and an altarpiece painted by Benjamin West, it is said to be one of Britain's finest 18th-century interiors.
The Chapel is still an active place of worship, holding regular services throughout the week, as well as frequent events and performances.
Services and events often feature the Chapel Choir, which students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
The Painted Hall
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is said to be one of the most spectacular and critical baroque interiors in Europe. It’s also the largest painted ceiling in Britain.
The ceiling was painted between 1707 and 1726 by British artist Sir James Thornhill. The artist drew on around 200 figures to tell a story of political change, scientific and cultural achievements in Britain.
Using William III and Mary II in 1688 and George I in 1714 to form the central narrative of the painting.
You can take a 50-minute, accessible tour via an observation deck. Getting within meters of the UK's largest painted ceiling, and discover the painting’s mysteries, revealed for the first time in half a century. As the ceiling is under conservation which ends in September, making it now a prime time to visit.
Discover the Painted Hall up close on a Painted Hall Ceiling Tour. Book today.
Visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is the world’s largest maritime museum, with over 10 free galleries and a vast collection that is covering artworks, maps and charts, armoury and portrait.
Tickets: Free entry. Opening times: 10.00–17.00 daily.
Visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich
Visiting the Royal Observatory is one of the main things to do in Greenwich.
The observatory is a compound dedicated to astronomy and the symbolic location of Prime Meridian, which marks the 0 Longitude Line.
The true Prime Meridian (the imaginary line which runs from the North Pole to the South Pole), is 334 feet to the east, cutting through a footpath.
Enter the planetarium and courtyard (tickets are £15 for adults) and straddle the East and West Hemispheres (as nerdy as this sounds it’s fun to do). You might have to wait for your time to straddle the line.
You also get a free audio guide of the history of the building to listen to as you explore the grounds.
Take your time when going through the different rooms and listening to the audio. This could take up to 2 hours.
The Astronomy building is free to enter and has lots of telescopes and information that will keep you engaged, looking towards the stars.
There is also a short film of the Big Bang and what is currently known about far-reaching outer space. I found that this small room got packed as people stop to watch the movie.
Tickets: Be sure to check their website for further information.
View the London Skyline from Greenwich Hill and Park
The view from the Greenwich hill is one of the best views over London. With a sweeping view of landmarks such as the River Thames to Canary Wharf, all the way to the O2 to the east and St Paul’s Cathedral to the west.
Greenwich Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks. It's famous for hosting the Prime Meridian Line, and the Royal Observatory. The park is part of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site. The park is one of the most historic amongst the Royal Parks dating back to the 15th century.
You might even remember Greenwich park from the 2012 Olympic!
It is where the equestrian games took place.
There is also a deer park and if you want to see the infamous cherry blossoms that bloom in London during spring. Then you’ll need to visit Greenwich park.
It's a prime spot for cherry blossom viewing, and the grounds lining the pathway in the park is covered in pale pink cherry blossom petals in spring.
Eat at Greenwich Market
The Greenwich markets is a relatively unknown London food market to tourist. With stalls selling Thai, Ethiopian, Brazilian, Mexican food, sushi and vegan treats. You won’t go hungry or thirsty at Greenwich market. Don't leave the market without picking up a unique antique find or a good vintage jacket.
But these won’t be at your usual rocket bottom market prices as Greenwich market is a more upscale and expensive flea market
Do yourself a favour and eat from the market stalls inside the market rather than the chain restaurants which line the main road outside. You can also explore more of some of the best markets in London by foot.
Opening Times: Every day - Weekends being the busiest.
Address: Greenwich Market, London, SE10 9HZ.
Ride the Emirates Airline Cable Cars in Greenwich
This is something everyone should do if they are visiting London. The Emirates airline cars is a 5 minutes’ walk from the North Greenwich station. Yes, it’s further away from the main things to do in Greenwich but trust me at only £7 per ticket, it’s an inexpensive way to see London from above.
Far cheaper than the Shard. On the 15 minute ride, you'll see Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, The O2, the Thames Barrier, Maritime Greenwich and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
You can book a private cabin but honestly, if you’re visiting during the weekday or non-peak travel times, then you’ll probably have a cabin car to yourself. Which is what happened to me when I visited at 11 am on a weekday.
Beware that if you have an Oyster card, this will not work on the Emirates line as it is not run by London Transport. I didn’t realise this and tried to take the cable car using my monthly travel oyster card.
There is plenty of things to do and see on a day trip to Greenwich. I would choose the sights and things that peak my interest. A few of my top things to do in Greenwich if you have just 24 hours in London. Would be the Greenwich market, Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory and these are just a few things you can do in Greenwich. You may also like my post a day trip to Oxford.
I would also get to Greenwich early to avoid the major Chinese tour bus that descends upon Greenwich by 11 am.