Greenwich is the home of time, a World Heritage Site, and jam packed with excellent activities to fill your stay. Step aboard the Cutty Sark, pay a visit to the Royal Observatory and straddle the Meridian Line, wander the grounds of Queens House, and visit one of the finest maritime museums in the world. They’re just a handful of things to do in Greenwich. You’ll need a hefty lunch of jellied eels if you’re planning on seeing them all in one go.
Activities in Greenwich
The Royal Observatory is arguably Greenwich’s must-visit activity. It is one of the planet’s most historic places in terms of astronomy and navigation, and best known for being the location of the Meridian Line marking longitude zero. It gives its name to Greenwich Mean Time. It’s the point from which the rest of the planet’s time is measured.
The observatory itself dates back to 1675 and while its heyday for scientific exploration of the stars has passed, it is now a museum where you can find out all about its rich history, including its first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who was charged with ‘rectifying the tables of the motions of the heavens’. Afterwards, go on a journey through time and space with a fascinating visit to London’s only Planetarium.
Old Naval College
Old Naval College
The Old Naval College is jewel in the crown of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site. Sir Christopher Wren is revered as one of the finest architects in English history. He was the man behind the Monument, St Paul’s Cathedral, Kensington Palace, and many more of Britain’s most-cherished buildings. He also gave the world this stunning collection of buildings lining the River Thames. It was originally The Royal Hospital for Seaman, built towards the end of the 17th century by order of Mary II after she saw wounded sailors returning from the Battle of La Hogue. To think such an incredible complex could have been a hospital is truly amazing.
Pay a visit, immerse yourself in the history of the Old Naval College, explore the jaw-dropping neoclassical chapel, and see The Painted Hall in person, where the wall and ceiling murals took nearly 20 years to complete. Not all of the Old Naval College buildings are open to the public. However, there are frequent free tours throughout the day if you want to learn more about the old hospital and you don’t want to risk wandering where you shouldn’t. If you get peckish, there are loads of great places to eat nearby. However, when the sun’s out, the grand green spaces of the hospital grounds are perfect for a picnic.
National Maritime Museum
If you have a lot of time to kill, and an interest in the maritime history of the British Isles, be sure to pay a visit to the National Maritime Museum. It is the largest museum of its kind in the world, with fourteen fascinating galleries to explore. You can see paintings by Turner, as well as the uniform Nelson was wearing when he was shot and killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, and discover the fascinating lives of familiar explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Francis Drake. All in all, if you want to get the most out of your visit, dedicate as much of your day as you can to the National Maritime Museum, it’s facts and secrets come thick and fast as you walk from room to room. The Museum can be found on Park Row, next to Queen’s House, overlooking Greenwich Park.
Architecture buffs will need no introduction to Queen’s House. It was the first Classical building ever to be built in the UK. It was commissioned by Anne of Denmark, the wife of King James I. Sadly, she died before she could see its completion. The finished article shocked London’s upper class by completely breaking the mould from the traditional, red-brick Tudor building style so prevalent at the time in favour of the ancient classical style it went on to influence around much of the country.
Queen’s House makes for a fascinating day out. The Great Hall and the Tulip Staircase are both very popular with visitors. But it’s not just the building which has visitors flocking. It’s home to one of the most celebrated collections of art in the country, which features masterpieces from the likes of Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner and Hogarth.
Another key attraction of Maritime Greenwich is Cutty Sark, the last remaining tea clipper sailing ship of the 19th century. For a time it was the fastest ship in the world. It stems from a period when ‘clipper’ ships would race one another from China to the UK to bring the first crop of fresh tea to the home of the British Empire. The upper half of the ship’s deck is open to the elements, ready and waiting for you to explore. Meanwhile, the lower half of the ship is ensconced in a stunning metal and glass framework and surrounded by a fascinating museum where you can find out all about the ship’s history.
If you want to see classic ships at full mast sailing down the River Thames, try and time your stay in Greenwich with the Tall Ships event which sees historic vessels cruising past the Old Royal Naval College, The O2, Cutty Sark, and many more of London’s most iconic landmarks and attractions.
If the weather takes a turn for the worst and you have a couple of hours to kill, sometimes you simply can’t beat a trip to the cinema. If you want to see a film during your stay at our London Greenwich hotel then you have three Greenwich cinema options.
The Greenwich Cineworld is part of The O2, your number one venue in terms of Greenwich entertainment. For those that don’t know, it’s the iconic dome at the end of the Greenwich Peninsula. The state-of-the-art Cineworld has a total of 11 screens. It features the latest cinema technology. It’s one of just a handful of locations in the UK where you can watch films on a 270º ScreenX, which is three times wider than the norm.
Alternatively, you can pay a visit to the ODEON at the Millennium Leisure Park. It’s an IMAX cinema with 18 screens and all kinds of fast food options on its doorstep. If you fancy a luxury viewing experience, book your spot in the VIP Gallery, or one of the Premier seats while watching all the latest blockbusters.
Your third and final option is the Greenwich Picturehouse on Greenwich High Road. It’s our favourite, largely because it’s closest to the hotel, with some of our favourite places to eat in Greenwich nearby. It has several screens, super comfy reclining seats and regularly has screenings of classic films and art house releases, as well as the latest blockbusters.