A day trip to Greenwich

After hearing about Greenwich, the first thing come to mind is the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time. Here you can straddle two hemispheres at the same time standing in two different time zones on the official center of time.

Derived from the Saxon word meaning “green village,” the area now known as Greenwich started as a small farming settlement on the banks of the River Thames, and remained mostly rural until the end of the 19th century. Greenwich is correctly pronounced as “Gren-itch”.

Greenwich is best known for being the home of prime meridian & GMT but there’s a lot more to see and do in Greenwich.

How to get to Greenwich

Greenwich by rail

Greenwich is on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), and your Oyster card will cover for this part of London’s transport system. You have to get off at Cutty Sark DLR station.

Greenwich by Thames Clipper riverboat

The best way to go to Greenwich is through Thames clipper river boat in a relaxed pace. Seeing London from the river is a rare treat and we enjoyed the rich variety of architecture from a full view of the Country hall & Tower of London, to passing under Tower Bridge and then the buildings on the former dockland areas and Canary Wharf. We boarded the ship from Westminster Pier and it take around 40 minutes to reach Greenwich Pier. On board Tea/coffee, snacks were available.

Tower of London from Thames
Tower of London from Thames
Tower Bridge from Thames River
Tower Bridge from Thames River

Oyster pay as you go cards are accepted on Thames Clippers and is the easiest and cheapest way to pay for your travel on this boat services.  Oyster card give you a discount (almost 20%) on most single journeys. There is no card scanner, you have to give your oyster card to ticket office for payment and you will get discounted ticket.

Greenwich is in West Zone. Standard fare for an Adult from Central zone is £10, with Oyster card it is £7.3

After disembarking at the Greenwich Pier, head straight to the visitor center.

Discover Greenwich Visitor Center

The Discover Greenwich Visitor Center provides an introduction to the history and attractions in the Greenwich World Heritage Site. It is located in the Pepys Building near to the Cutty Sark. Admission to the visitor center is free.

Cutty Sark

When you reach Greenwich from boat or by DLR, the first thing you spot after disembarkation is visitor center and Cutty Sark. This 19th-century tea clipper ship is now a museum dedicated to Britain’s seafaring history and trade across the globe.

Cutty Sark first voyage departed from London to Shanghai in 1870 carrying different cargo and returning with tea from China. It was one of the fastest ship during its time. With the arrival of steam ships Cutty Sark business went down and it was sold to Portuguese owner.

After changing ownership and surviving the war, fire and storms, Cutty Sark returned to Britain. For few years it was used a training ship at Greenhithe and later it was restoration to its former glory converted to museum.

Though, the Cutty Sark was severely damaged in a fire several years ago, the ship now stands there is fully restored with most of the original wood and furniture which was removed for restoration.

Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark has everything from a collection of figureheads to a shiny copper hull on display. In the cargo hold areas, there are some hands-on exhibitions about life on the ship which provide further insights into life on a clipper ship. The access to cabins, living quarters, kitchen areas and all the decks in the conditions they were in the 19th century, give you a real feel of life at sea during those days.

Entrance cost:

£ 15 for adults & £ 7.50 for children (Age 4 -15 yrs). 10 % discount if purchased online.

The Old Royal Naval College

Right next to the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College is the most visually appealing buildings in the Greenwich. Now it houses a museum but if you are not interested in museum still the building is worth a visit for its architecture. They were built between 1696 and 1712 & designed by Sir Christopher Wren (of St Paul’s Cathedral fame) and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The buildings were originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich, but opened to public after the Royal Navy departed in 1998. The buildings are best viewed from river Thames. The Old Royal Naval College is a World Heritage Site in Greenwich.

Old Royal Naval Collage
Old Royal Naval Collage

The National Maritime Museum

Since earliest times Greenwich has had associations with the sea and navigation. Greenwich has a rich maritime history, home to Naval collage and hospital for injured seamen. The National Maritime Museum displays the British seafaring history across decades and the role of Greenwich in seafaring history. The Museum has the most important holdings in the world on the history of Britain at sea comprising more than two million items. Wander through the rooms full of maps and memorabilia from the great ages of exploration. On the top floor of the museum is a huge the great map of the world where kids can run around on the map exploring each continent.

National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum

Entrance to the National Maritime Museum is free museums and it is a World Heritage Site in Greenwich.

The Queen’s House

Next door to the National Maritime Museum, the 17th-century Queen’s House is another free museum in Greenwich.

Queen’s House
Queen’s House

The queen house is famous for the Tulip stairs, one of the most beautiful spiral staircases.

Greenwich Park

Right behind the Queen’s House is the lovely Greenwich Park. This is wide open space covering 183 acres of lush green land. You will find kids playing and people enjoying their picnic in every corner of the park. This park is also part of the World Heritage Site in Greenwich Maritime.

Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park

Once you’ve had enough of the beautiful view of Greenwich Park from below, go for a hike towards the Royal Observatory which is at the top of the park.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich

No visit to Greenwich would be complete without a trip to the Royal Observatory. Home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, it also houses a museum and planetarium. Inside the observatory is housed an expansive collection of early astronomical and navigational instruments, as well as one of the world’s largest telescopes.

At prime meridian
At prime meridian

The Royal observatory is on the steep hill and It’s well worth climbing the hill to the Observatory for one of the most spectacular views in London right outside the observatory’s gates in Greenwich Park. Looking out over the symmetrical buildings below is one of the most popular things to do in Greenwich. You can see all the way from the O2 center (The Dome), along the Thames river.

The Royal Observatory is home to the Prime Meridian Line, the imaginary line which divide the earth into two half that holds the longitudinal co-ordinates 0° 0’ 0”, which means everywhere else on the planet is measured from this line either East or West (the true location is nearby in the field). And, since the Victorian era, the venue served as the exact point of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), ensuring all time is either officially set ahead or behind this.

You will find the Prime Meridian Line by the crowed of people queuing for their photo, so be prepared to wait patiently while people get their snaps. Visit the museum for the coolest thing to experience having one foot on either side of the meridian line standing in two different time zones and explore the history of maritime timekeeping. There is a planetarium which runs many shows which my kids enjoyed a lot.

Things to Know before visiting the Greenwich Royal observatory, London.

Opening Times: 10.00am – 17.00pm. Last admission 30 minutes before closing.

Cost: £ 16 for adults & £ 8 for children (Age 4 -15 yrs). 10 % discount if purchased online.

Planetarium London Ticket Prices: £ 10 for adults & £ 5 for children

If you wish to visit Cutty sark with royal observatory go for the Day Explorer ticket priced at £ 26.25 for adults & £ 13.15 for children. You can buy the tickets from their website.

To ensure peace of mind, I suggest to book your tickets online before you visit. If you are planning to visit planetarium most of the shows are booked in advance and same day ticket not available from ticket office. Try to combine few sites in Greenwich by better planning and with a day explorer ticket.

Greenwich Markets

One of the best things to do in Greenwich is visit the huge covered markets. Greenwich Market has been in its current location since the early 19th century, initially selling grocery to residents of Greenwich neighborhood. Here you will find everything from antiques, clothing, jewellery, hot food, photographs and artwork for sale.

After visiting the Royal observatory, we went to this market. Hardly we spent ten minutes there and the market start closing. Do remember that the market timing is from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

Greenwich can not be seen completely in one day; it needs at least two days to see most of the things with slow pace. We don’t have sufficient time and this was our last day so we left early in the evening without visiting the emirates airlines flight simulator, Emirates cable car & O2 arena. Initial plan was to visit the flight simulator and return from North Greenwich Tube Station (serviced by Jubilee line), but we cached the DLR from Cutty Sark station. Overall it was a great day in Greenwich and Royal observatory was the highlight of the trip.

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