A cable car crossing the Thames at sunset
Ian Packham

Things to do in Greenwich London

History seeps from every cobblestone street and blade of grass in Greenwich. An area first recorded more than a thousand years ago in 918, it sits on the south bank of the River Thames to the east of central London, stretching around the banking center of Canary Wharf and docklands.

Overflowing with royal heritage, and the meeting point of the eastern and western hemispheres, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is not to be missed. From its parks to its panoramas of London, here are the top things to do in Greenwich London.

Head back in time

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Standing proud in dry dock close to the entrance of Greenwich foot tunnel, the Cutty Sark was once one of the most important ships in Britain’s merchant fleet – tasked with transporting tea from Shanghai as quickly as the winds would allow. Becoming the fastest vessel to ever undertake the 3.5 month journey, it is the only ship of its kind in the northern hemisphere and provides an immersive way of experiencing what life must have been like on the high seas during the 1800s.

Pass through the colonnaded central avenue of the Old Royal Naval College – created so views of the Thames from Queen’s House weren’t obstructed – and you’ll reach the National Maritime Museum. With the navy integral to Britain’s history, the museum has managed to collect over two million objects since it was opened in 1934, including Turner’s largest ever painting and the jacket that Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Take in the views

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Views back towards central London’s neighborhoods aren’t hard to find, with Greenwich Park providing ample. However, Greenwich doesn’t disappoint when it comes to vistas beyond the ordinary either.

Those with a head for heights can scale London’s O2 Arena for uninterrupted 360° views not only of Greenwich, but also Canary Wharf and the 2012 Olympic Park – including the AcerlorMittal Orbit Tower. Or you could drift over the Thames with the 10 minute one way journey on London’s only cable car, the Emirates Air Line.

But given its naval heritage and being so close to the river, the top way to take in the sights has to be aboard a Thames sightseeing cruise departing from Greenwich Pier. With three additional points to hop-on and off, they provide an alternative route to the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s than the city’s Underground network.

Enjoy a park full of treasures

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Despite this range of attractions, Greenwich is most famous for its Royal Observatory, located within Greenwich Park. Commissioned by Charles II in 1675, it became a major center for astronomy and navigation, before also being designated the site of the prime meridian in the nineteenth century. A plaque and green laser mark the point at which the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth meet.

Turn south towards the deer park to take in another of the park’s sights – The Wernher Collection at Ranger’s House. (Forget about any signs to the park’s Roman Ruins, which aren’t visible). The red brick edifice of Ranger’s House, by contrast, couldn’t be a better place to explore the 700 piece collection of Sir Julius Wernher. An extraordinary private collection of paintings, Renaissance jewelry, bronzes and carved ivory, it’s a museum which deserves better recognition than it usually receives.

Explore modern Greenwich

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Walking distance from the main historical sites, Greenwich Market brings additional vibrancy to the neighborhood. Protected from the weather, this covered market contains around 120 stalls loaded with antiques, handmade arts and crafts from local creators and street food picks from around the world, including a good range of gluten-free and vegan options.

Whilst some of the dishes these stalls produce are worthy of gallery space, the exhibitions at North Greenwich’s NOW Gallery will impress all the more. Its usual focus is on the area’s diversity, sharing the work of artists, designers and creatives from a range of backgrounds. Contemporary art, fashion and photography are all included.

To see the latest in funny, check out the Up the Creek Comedy Club, who combine old and new world beers brewed on a daily basis using batch micro-brewing techniques with some of the UK’s top talent. Blackout nights add a talent show feek to the open mic nights. Its Sunday Special nights have been going strong since 2005, and often sees unadvertised performances from household names including Michael McIntyre and Flight of the Conchords.

Get involved with special events

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Sometimes compared to a riverine version of the London Marathon, the Great River Race sees up to 300 oared craft race each other in a handicapped competition from Greenwich to Ham. Growing in popularity each September, every vessel is required to fly a flag and winners are not just those who cross the finish line first 34 kilometers later, but also those with the best fancy dress. Move over the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race!

September also sees the city wide Open House event, revealing usually hidden parts of Greenwich to the general public. Sites that have previously welcomed visitors for this special event have included Joseph Bazalgette’s Pumping Station from 1859 and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Church of St Alfege.

Earlier on in the year, at the start of the summer festival season in June, there’s the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. Celebrating the performing arts, the 10 day event has around 200 different individual performances, from small-scale theatrical shows to huge outdoor acrobatic displays.

What to do in Greenwich London

When it comes to things to do in Greenwich London, visitors don’t have to look very hard, with the complex of royal museums, park and market providing a worthwhile pull east from the center of the British capital.

Travel with Go City and you’ll also get incredible savings on attraction admission for many of the neighborhood’s top sites. That way you can straddle the globe’s hemispheres at the Royal Observatory and enjoy a cruise along the Thames towards the Houses of Parliament safe in the knowledge that you could be saving hour after hour and attraction by attraction.

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