London is one of the most popular travel destinations. It has loads of history, top notch museums, the allure of royalty, and much more. While many travelers never leave the city center, venturing out leads to some great experiences. One of the best examples is Greenwich.
Greenwich enjoys a long and distinguished history, particularly naval history that lives onto this day. Originally called green wic (wic meaning port) it began as a Saxon fishing village and later became affiliated with royalty. Henry VIII was born at a palace here. It also has a lot of maritime history and home to the prime meridian.
The Royal Observatory was built in 1675, followed by the Christopher Wren designed Royal Hospital in 1694. The Royal Hospital was specifically for naval officers and features the painted hall. They spared no expense to make seamen recovering from injuries at sea in the lap of luxury. The building was converted into the Royal Naval College in 1804.
As sea navigation improved there became a need to map the earth so you can accurately coordinate where you were at sea. The Royal Observatory was chosen to be 0 degrees longitude. Today you can visit the observatory and straddle the prime meridian allowing you to simultaneously be in the northern and southern hemisphere. This photo op makes it a top draw in Greenwich.
Today you have many things to see and do in Greenwich. In keeping with the naval theme, the National Maritime Museum takes a fascinating look at the history of Britain’s famous Royal Navy. The largest Maritime museum in the world is full of historical artifacts such as a uniform from Admiral Horatio Nelson from the Battle of Trafalgar.
Th Cutty Sark is on display at the edge of the Thames River. The tea clipper ship was the fastest ship when she first hit the seas in 1869. The museum allows you to tour the ship along with artifacts. You may also tour the old Naval College/Naval Hospital buildings, including the can’t miss painted hall.
Naval history is not the only thing you can see. The Queens House is an example of classical architecture. You can tour the house that now houses several pieces of fine art. If shopping is your thing check out Greenwich Market. Home to everything from arts, crafts, antiques, and food, Greenwich Market is a great place to grab a bite to eat and shop.
Greenwich Park is home to many of the top sites. At the top of a large hill sits the observatory. From here you can look down at the rest of Greenwich Park, the Thames, and get a commanding view of the city including the O2 area, docklands, and Canary Wharf. Heading down the grass filled hill you reach the Maritime Museum, Old Naval College, Cutty Ship and finally the Thames River.
One of the best things about touring Greenwich is being able to do so on a budget. No question London is an expensive city to be in. Greenwich can become a great budget day or half day out. The Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, and Old Naval College are all free. The Royal Observatory which includes access to the Prime Meridian is £9.50. If you don’t care about taking your picture on the Prime Meridian you can view it for free from behind a fence. The Cutty Sark is currently £13.50 and of course the wonderful views of the city are also free. If the weather cooperates, it is a great place for a picnic.
Greenwich is easily accessible by train or boat. I recommend using both methods, one way to get there and the other getting back. By train you can use the SouthEastern line and get off at Greenwich station. An easier option could be using the Docklands Light Railway (DLR.) After arriving to Bank station via subway take the DLR to Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich station. You may also use the use the Thames River Clippers to get to and from Greenwich by boat. By using one of the many piers located along the Thames, get off at the Greenwich Pier and you are right next to the Cutty Sark. You may use an Oyster card to pay for transit by any of these methods.