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12 Best Things to Do in Greenwich London By a Local

Greenwich, London, is a place where time literally begins and royal history meets maritime legacy. Nestled along the banks of the River Thames, this charming district offers a treasure trove of attractions, blending rich heritage with beautiful green spaces and cutting-edge culture. 

Greenwich isn’t often at the top of the list for first-time visitors to London as it is located east of the City of London. However, it is super easy to get to Greenwich by train or via a scenic journey on the Thames Clipper, and it contains two attractions in my London top 10: The Painted Hall and the Royal Observatory.

But Greenwich is much more than just these two amazing tourist attractions. In this guide, we’ll uncover the 11 best things to do in Greenwich London, taking you from the historic decks of the Cutty Sark to the fantastic food and shopping at Greenwich Market to a completely unique museum and much more.

🕰️ Most Popular Attractions in Greenwich:
Few things are more frustrating than missing out on a key tourist attraction or waiting in a line for hours. Here are the things to book in Greenwich before you leave home:
1. Old Royal Naval College and the Painted Hall – the heart of Maritime Greenwich and the Painted Hall is my favourite
2. Greenwich Royal Observatory – don’t miss where time begins!
3. Greenwich Royal Museums Pass – if you plan on visiting both the Observatory and Cutty Sark this is the best value ticket and will allow you to skip the line.

12 Best Things to do in Greenwich London

1. Visit the Old Royal Naval College

This 600-year-old Christoper Wren-designed landmark is the center of Greenwich’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally designed as a Royal Hospital for Seamen, this stunning example of Baroque architecture now serves as a cultural landmark and a centerpiece of the Greenwich maritime complex. 

old royal naval college

The Old Royal Naval College is situated on the banks of the Thames, just a stone’s throw from Cutty Sark and Greenwich Market. When you arrive at the entrance, head to the Visitor’s Centre and take a guided tour to uncover the rich history and hidden secrets of the buildings and their famous residents.

anne boelyn gates
chapel of peter and paul.

For me, the highlights of the tour were seeing the gates where Anne Boleyn took the boat to her wedding and later to the Tower of London, the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, which is so pretty with its soft pastel colors, and the old bowling alley that was used by the college’s pensioner residents.

➡️ Book Your Tickets for the Old Royal Naval College

2. Marvel at The Painted Hall

Your ticket to the Old Royal Naval College includes entry and a tour of the stunning Painted Hall. If you only do one thing in Greenwich, make sure you visit this amazing site. 

painted hall

Originally built as a grand ceremonial dining room, it took James Thornhill 19 years from 1707 to 1726 to paint London’s less well-known version of the Sistine Chapel (the poor guy didn’t get paid till it was finished). His artwork celebrates Britain’s naval power and royal sovereignty with an intricate array of baroque murals covering 40,000 square feet.

painted hall

The ceiling features elaborate scenes depicting historical events and figures, such as the Protestant succession of English monarchs and allegorical figures representing the continents. Taking a guided tour of the Painted Hall is a must to learn all the best gossip about who is featured in the ceiling and the stories behind their depictions.

painted hall

The Painted Hall also has a really nice cafe, the Undercroft, and a great gift shop. However, if you are looking for a really special experience I highly recommend taking a yoga class in the Painted Hall. On the last Friday of each month it is possible to do an everyone is welcome vinyasa yoga class at 8am in the Painted Hall. This was a magical experience that I highly recommend.

➡️ Book Your Tickets for the Painted Hall

3. Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark in Greenwich, London, sits on the banks of the Thames and stands as a remarkable testament to the golden age of sail and maritime adventure. This iconic tea clipper, built in Scotland in 1869, was one of the fastest ships of its time, designed to carry tea from China to England at record-breaking speeds. Today, it has been preserved as a museum, allowing visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in the life of 19th-century sailors.

cutty sark

Visitors to the Cutty Sark can explore every part of the ship. The ship’s hull, raised above ground, provides a unique opportunity to walk underneath and admire the innovative design that made it cutting-edge over a century ago. The main deck is the perfect place for fantastic views of London, the Thames, and Greenwich. 

cutty sark 7

You can finish your visit by visiting the Cutty Sark Cafe on the lower ground deck of the ship. For a really memorable experience, why not book in for a traditional English afternoon tea, which you can enjoy while sitting underneath Cutty Sark’s iconic copper-clad hull. 

➡️ Book Your Tickets for Cutty Sark

4. Eat and Shop at Greenwich Market

Established in 1737, Greenwich Market is one of London’s oldest markets. Today this beautiful covered market is home to fantastic street food stalls, a classic pie and mash shop, fudge being made on site and some beautiful arts and crafts. 

greenwich market sign

Here are a few highlights of visiting Greenwich Market:

  • Goddard’s has been serving traditional pies, mash and liquor since 1890
  • The Fudge Patch makes delectable fudge in a multitude of flavours onsite daily
  • There are loads of options for street food but I particularly liked Gozleme for its flatbreads and the food truck Pig Dogs and Brisket for their amazing southern-style brisket rolls
  • For a great coffee and lovely pastries and cakes head to Paul Rhodes of Artfix
  • There are so many fantastic arts and crafts stalls at Greenwich Market and they regularly change so I won’t nominate any specific locations but this is a fantastic place to buy unique gifts
  • There are several pubs in and around Greenwich Market but I particularly like Coach and Horses and the Admiral Hardy.

Top Tip: Check out the Royal Museums Greenwich Day Pass. It includes discounted entry to Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory and you can prebook your visits to skip the queue.

5. National Maritime Museum 

The largest museum of its kind in the world, the National Maritime Museum allows guests to discover ships and boats of all shapes and sizes. The museum has a vast collection that spans centuries of Britain’s naval history, and in addition to boats and ships, there are maps, navigational instruments, and other interesting relics. 

national maritime museum

The museum uses interactive displays and storytelling to tell the stories of famous figures like Admiral Lord Nelson and Captain James Cook, as well as the experiences of ordinary sailors. 

national maritime museum

The National Maritime Museum also includes Turner’s famous Battle of Trafalgar painting and the largest boat in a glass bottle I have ever seen. 

national maritime museum

Entry to the National Maritime Museum is free.

6. The Royal Observatory Greenwich

A visit to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is in my London top 10 things to do. Both time and longitude are measured from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich – it is literally the Prime Meridien of the world, home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as well as London’s only Planetarium. 

royal observatory

Visitors will learn about the Observatory’s history through exhibits featuring pioneering scientific instruments, including John Harrison’s revolutionary marine chronometers that solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea.

royal prime meridian

The Royal Observatory is located at the “top” of Greenwich Park (more on that to come). Here are some of the best places to see on your visit:

  • the largest telescope in the United Kingdom, The Great Equatorial Telescope
  • Visit the Peter Harrison Planetarium (planetarium shows are NOT included in your Royal Observatory ticket)
  • See the Octagon Room, the oldest part of the Greenwich Royal Observatory and its astronomical instruments and clocks.
  • Tell the time using the Shepherd Clock, the first ever to show Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
  • Visit Flamsteed House, where the astronomers lived and worked
view from the royal observatory

And the 2 highlights of any visit to the Royal Observatory, in my opinion, are:

  1. Being able to stand with one foot on each side of the Prime Meridian Line and take a photo
  2. The amazing views from the Observatory over the City of London. Not only are the views of London stunning, it is a great shot to see the modern buildings of the City of London against the historical architectural style of the Old Royal Naval College. This is a great place to capture the London sunrise if you’re willing to get up that early!

➡️ Book Your Tickets to the Royal Observatory

7. Take a Walk Through Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park is the most historic of all the Royal Parks in London. You’ll need to walk through the park to reach the Royal Observatory but try to take some time to appreciate this beautiful park. What once was a hunting playground for royals has become the go-to place for scenic walks and picnics under the shade of chestnut trees.

greenwich park things to do in greenwich london

Spread across 183 acres, the park features a stunning rose garden, a pretty pond, and great views over the City of London and the Thames. You might also see deer roaming around, rumored to be descendants from King Henry VIII’s own collection.

8. See the Queen’s House and its Tulip Stairs

The Queen’s House in Greenwich is a masterpiece of 17th-century architecture and an iconic landmark of British history. Designed by the renowned architect Inigo Jones, it was commissioned by King James I’s wife, Queen Anne of Denmark. The house marked the introduction of the Italianate Palladian style to England. 

Today, this former royal residence is home to an impressive collection of fine art, including works by great British and European artists. The House’s most famous feature is the Tulip Stairs, Britain’s first geometric self-supporting spiral staircase and an Instagram favourite.

Entrance to the Queen’s House is free but you must book a ticket. 

9. Visit the O2

The O2 Arena is one of the most popular entertainment venues in the world and popular with locals and visitors to London alike. Originally known as the Millennium Dome, this iconic structure offers  lot more than just blockbuster concerts. Some of the things on offer at the O2 include:

  • a state-of-the-art cinema
  • games like Crazier Golf, Shuffleboard digital darts and Beer Pong at the Boom Battle Bar
  • Indoor skydiving
  • Virtual world entertainment zone
  • Bowling Alley
  • Huge range of restaurants
  • ICON outlet, which is home to great deals on 60 well-known brands
  • Selfie Factory

But the best thing to do at the O2 (besides seeing an amazing concert) is to climb its famous roof. Choose to climb in the daytime, sunset, or twilight, and you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of London and an unforgettable experience. 

➡️ Book O2 Roof Climb

10. Walk Under the Thames

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel in London is a fascinating pedestrian passageway beneath the River Thames. Connecting Greenwich on the south bank with the Isle of Dogs on the north. I wouldn’t normally include a walkway in an article about things to do but this one allows you the unique experience of walking under the Thames River.

greenwich foot tunnel

Constructed in the early 20th century, this remarkable engineering feat was designed to facilitate the daily commute of dockyard workers living on opposite sides of the river. Spanning approximately 1,215 feet, the tunnel is lined with white glazed tiles, creating a slightly eerie atmosphere as you walk between the two historic areas of London. 

The entrance to the tunnel is marked by distinctive circular domed buildings, which house the original lift shafts and spiral staircases. Approximately 4,000 people use the tunnel each day.

11. Visit the first Museum dedicated to Fans

The Fan Museum is a unique spot. It’s the first museum in the world dedicated to celebrating hand fans. It’s got the thumbs up from the Arts Council England, and it’s tucked away in two stunningly done-up Georgian houses with Grade II* listed charm.

Greenwich fan museum

Inside, it’s like an encyclopedia of fans. You’ll dive into the whole shebang—the rich history, the varied cultures behind them, and the crafty artistry that goes into making these breezy beauties.

12. Greenwich Vintage Market

greenwich vintage market

Open Friday to Sunday, Greenwich Vintage Market is home to over 40 antiques and arts and crafts stalls. It is located in the heart of historic Greenwich on Greenwich Church Street. The market has a friendly atmosphere and an eclectic mix of goods, as well as a few food trucks.

greenwich vintage market

How to Get to Greenwich 

The best way to get to Greenwich from Central London is by using the Thames Clipper catamaran. I almost included this as another one of the best things to do in Greenwich as I love getting this speedy boat along the Thames. If it’s a nice day you’ll get some fantastic views of the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Greenwich. 

thames clipper

The Thames Clipper has multiple stops along the river from Putney in the West to Barking in the East. And in Greenwich it conveniently stops next to the Cutty Sark. 

Thames Clipper

Another easy way to get to Cutty Sark and Greenwich is on the DLR train line. Docklands Light Railway, or DLR as it is best known, has two stations in Greenwich: Greenwich station, where national trains also arrive; and Cutty Sark, located close to its namesake, the historic tea clipper. 

canary wharf DLR station

Or take a Thames Link train from London Bridge Station – the journey takes just 10 minutes.

If you’re heading to the O2, take the Jubilee line to North Greenwich station on the tube. Or take the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf and then hop on the DLR.  

Wrapping Up on Visiting Greenwich

Greenwich is one of my favorite areas of London. It is super easy and fast to get to Greenwich but feels like a day trip. And it has so many interesting and unique attractions in a relatively small space from the Painted Hall to where time is measured at the Royal Observatory. There are some great pubs and so much delicious food at Greenwich Market. And you can cruise down the Thames to get there and back. This unique corner of London is a must visit.

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