Greenwich is one of the most interesting boroughs in London. Being home to the Prime Meridian of the World and Greenwich Mean Time, you might be surprised to learn that every place on earth is measured from this town. Greenwich really has everything to offer, other than being able to stand on two hemispheres at the same time, and makes a wonderful day out in southeast London.
Greenwich is also home to London’s oldest Royal Park, a World Heritage Site, the Royal Museums and the O2 entertainment centre. You can shop and eat at Greenwich Market or take your pick from one of the town’s many top-notch restaurants. The beautiful views with the river backdrop are just the icing on the cake!
Not only is Greenwich interesting, but it even has two unique ways to arrive, by cable car or by boat, and these are great ways to start your adventure. This guide will take you step-by-step through a full day in Greenwich.
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With so much to choose from, I’ve chosen only the best ways to spend your time in Greenwich. And check out the map at the end!
Fly High on a Cable Car
The Emirates Air Line has to be one of the most exciting modes of transport in London and is a fun and unique way to start your day in Greenwich. Starting at the Royal Docks, you’ll enjoy a ten-minute cable car flight across the River Thames and over to the Greenwich Peninsula, just about five minutes from North Greenwich Tube station.
Right now is the best time to go because you’ll get your very own cabin, where normally you’d have to pay extra for a private flight. The cable car cabins arrive every 30 seconds so the lines are fast-moving.
They even have night flying, where the cable cars are slowed down and the trip is 25 minutes instead of 10, for a relaxing evening out enjoying the skyline. Plan it right and you might make sunset!
You can save a little bit of money by purchasing tickets online, but you can just show up and use your oyster card as well. Choose from a one-way or return ticket. Keep in mind, however, that there are usually long lines for the return if it’s after 4pm so a one-way ticket might suffice.
Also, don’t be surprised when you show up and realize you’re not actually in Greenwich central. I learned this lesson. You’ll have to walk to the bus station and hop a bus for a 25 minute ride to the centre of town. But it’s totally worth it!
Pst. I have a whole video on Emirates Cable Car below.
Arrive in Style on a River Boat
Another exceptional way to arrive in Greenwich in the maritime spirit is by River Boat. Also known as river buses, these are also part of TFL travel in London, so you can again use your oyster card for this mode of transport.
The boats leave from three different locations in London; Tower Pier, London Bridge Pier and London Eye Pier. Travel time is between 20-35 minutes to Greenwich, depending on where you depart from. You can even combine a river boat and cable car experience!
Other than offering iconic views of London, the best part is that the riverboats take you right to the heart of Greenwich, with the pier being next to the Cutty Sark and just a few minutes walk from Greenwich Market.
Peruse Greenwich Market
However, you decide to arrive in Greenwich, the first place to stop is the famous Greenwich Market. There has been a market in Greenwich since 1700 and it’s been at its current location since the first half of the 19th century! It’s no wonder the covered Market is one of Greenwich’s most popular attractions.
This is a great place to grab a coffee and start your day by walking through the rows of stalls offering an eclectic array of arts, crafts and collectables unique to this market. On your way out, stop at one of the many street food vendors and have a bite to eat before hitting the museums.
I’m happy to say that Greenwich Market is back to its normal hustle and bustle after some slow times these past two years, being especially vibrant on Saturday and Sunday. The only day they are closed during the week is Monday.
Find Treasure at Clocktower Market
Just a few minutes from Greenwich Market, you’ll find the Clocktower Market, next to the car park behind Greenwich Picturehouse. Here you’ll find fifty funky stalls of retro and vintage items from a collection of small traders who sell everything from military paraphernalia, musical instruments, mirrors, clocks and antique furniture. This is a fun gem of Greenwich.
Now, it does say on their website that they’re closed indefinitely, but I was there in January 2022 on a Sunday and they were most definitely open and very busy.
Marvel at The Painted Hall
Next, head over to the Old Royal Naval College. How the Painted Hall doesn’t make it onto more must-see places in Greenwich baffles me. It could be that there is an entrance fee for this stop, whereas the other museums on our list are free. But nevertheless, this is a stunning place to visit after you’ve had your coffee, a bite, and have left the markets.
The Painted Hall has one of the most epic Baroque interiors in all of Europe, with the incredible ceiling and wall decorations by British artist Sir James Thornhill. The painting masterpiece, known as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ took nineteen years from the start to its completion in 1726. The scheme earned him a knighthood and £6,685 payment.
In 1869 the Hall became home to the Royal Naval College, an officers’ training academy and from 1937-1997 (not that long ago), it served as a dining space of all things, for trainee officers of the Royal Navy. Imagine eating in the Painted Hall every night? Wow.
A visit to ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ really is worth a visit I’d say.
Embrace Royalty at The Queen’s House
To keep in line with our fancy Baroque theme, I recommend the short walk across the street from the Painted Hall to the Queen’s House. You’ll probably pass by the National Maritime Museum, but don’t worry, we’re going to come back to that.
The Queen’s House has free entry and it’s worth a walk-through for the art enthusiast, to see the layout of a former royal residence, and for the most Instagram worthy staircase in all of London, the Tulip Stairs. These were the first self-supporting spiral stairs in all of Britain.
The House was built between 1616 and 1635 and has extensive views of Greenwich Royal Park, with a grand vista leading to the River Thames. If you’re feeling up for it, there’s an audio guide app that takes you through the House and even a cafe.
And make sure you see the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth l. The painting is on permanent public display in the Queen’s Presence Chamber, on the site of the original Greenwich Palace, also the birthplace of Elizabeth I. It really is spectacular in person.
Go to the Depths at the National Maritime Museum
Now you’ll be off to the National Maritime Museum, located right next door to The Queen’s House. Be warned that this is the largest maritime museum in the world and can take a while to walk through. You can easily spend half a day just here. So I recommend you either pick and choose which museums on the list are your top choices or be prepared to not get through all the exhibits.
I’ll be honest, I was surprisingly impressed with the National Maritime Museum, another free museum in Greenwich. It was last on my list and quickly climbed up in rank.
The Museum is filled with inspirational stories of exploration and endeavours at sea and a boat-load of intriguing objects and you can even research your ancestors on site.
Make sure and snap a photo with your favourite Figurehead and another of the Ship in a Bottle. Then marvel at all the model ships, see a real Fijian canoe, and chill out in the Polar Worlds Gallery.
As you can see, there’s a lot to discover at the National Maritime Museum and it’s also a great museum for kids!
Fill Up on Goddard’s Pie and Mash
Before our final destination, I recommend walking up the street for five minutes and enjoying a proper British meal of pie and mash at Goddard’s. You’ll have to be getting hungry by now!
Goddard’s Pie and Mash is as traditional as you can get. Established in 1890, this is one of the oldest pie and mash shops in London and is conveniently located in the heart of Greenwich.
You won’t find any servers here! Grab a tray and order at the counter amidst the hustle and bustle. If it looks overly crowded, don’t worry, the line goes quickly and there’s plenty of seating at the back and upstairs.
Choose from their signature beef mince pie with liquor, have a speciality chicken pie or if you’re vegetarian like me, there’s vegan and vegetarian pie. And don’t forget to add a delicious homemade fruit pie with ice cream or custard for dessert!
Stand in Two Hemispheres at Once at The Royal Observatory
Now that you’ve gotten your energy back, head over to Greenwich Park, where you’ll follow the path leading up to the Royal Observatory. As of January 2022, the Observatory is closed until April 2022, but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting.
Greenwich Mean Time starts here so it’s worth the climb up the hill through the park, to get to stand directly on the Prime Meridian, or zero degrees longitude, that runs through the courtyard of the Observatory. The very concept of global time was established here and today a laser beam shoots out across the night sky from the Royal Observatory to showcase the location of the Prime Meridian. Pretty spectacular.
You can also still book a ticket for London’s only Planetarium for star gazing, or take an Astronomy Course during this time, even though the rest of the Observatory is closed.
Sample Halva at Sesame Kingdom
You will no doubt pass by Sesame Kingdom as you’re walking through Greenwich, but don’t be tempted to just walk on by. Pop in the shop for a taste of this amazing sweet treat. Halva is like a Middle Eastern type of fudge, with a base of sesame and it’s oh so good. The Sesame Kingdom is a pretty, delightful shop where they offer up free halva tastings every day of the week.
Try Vegan Fudge at The Fudge Patch
Another place to stop for a sweet treat is the Fudge Patch inside Greenwich Market. This fudge isn’t your typical fudge either. It’s vegan fudge made with hemp milk! And you won’t believe how good it is. They offer free samples as well and will even show you how this unique fudge is made right in the shop.
Get Lost in The Junk Shop
Don’t be deceived by the outside of the Junk Shop. Inside is what feels like a never-ending maze of rusty fireplaces, Edwardian children’s beds, a collection of teapots that look like cottages, a 70’s radio and broken dolls.
The owner, Toby Moy, comes from a long line of antique dealers and the Junk Shop was established in 1954, being one of the last remaining shops of its kind in Greenwich. Most of the stock comes from house clearances so your time spent in the shop will be like a little window into the past, both thrilling and interesting.
Even if you don’t buy anything, stay for a cup of tea in the back garden!
Well, that wraps up your day in Greenwich! It’s a full-on day, with so many amazing gems, that you’re sure to walk away with some brilliant memories and will be ready to plan your next visit to the interesting borough of Greenwich.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.