Greenwich-Royal-Naval-College

The Comprehensive Guide to Greenwich

I remember the first time I visited Greenwich quite vividly. I was invited by my manager at the time to join her during a workshop social media marketing in this borough in south-east London. I had no idea what to expect of Greenwich, and my manager just as little (quite surprisingly, as she was born and raised in London, but never made it down there).

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Greenwich?

I stepped out of the DLR station Cutty Sark and found myself in a narrow shopping street. A little bit down the road was a covered market – I love covered markets! Unfortunately we had an appointment at one of the college buildings of the University of Greenwich and we were quite late already, so we had to increase our pace.

Greenwich-market
Greenwich Market

What followed on the way to the college building was the one surprise after the other. The large vessel Cutty Sark overlooked the Thames and the skyscrapers of the City across from it, the University buildings seemed to come straight from a movie (and guess what? When I visited Greenwich a bit later, they were filming Les Miserables here. Yes the one with Russel Crowe proving that he’s not a singer), and a large park was looming up on our right. What is this place? was my first thought.

Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark
Les Miserables set
The Les Miserables set in Greenwich

Well it is Greenwich, being an increasingly popular tourist destination, but not yet the mass tourist attraction like the borough’s brothers Westminster and Covent Garden.

After my first visit, many visits of this beautiful borough followed. Actually, it’s one of my favorite places to take family and friends to.

The Old Royal Naval College

The Old Royal Naval College buildings are the most famous sights. The historic buildings are home to the Greenwich Visitor Center, The Painted Hall and the Chapel. Originally built as The Hospital for Seamen in the 1600’s, this site boasts some of the best architecture of London and is the starting point for most visitors to Maritime Greenwich.

Royal-Naval-College-Greenwich

Especially notable at this UNESCO World Heritage Site are the amazing Painted Hall and the Chapel. Called Painted Hall for a reason, this dining hall (still functioning as a dining hall today) features the best decorative paintings of England and was painted by Sir James Thornhill. It took the man 19 years to complete his work (many thanks to Mister Greenwich for this information) A visit here can take a while, as there is so much to see! Scenes from religion, trade and the monarchy are being displayed, and there is even a mirror provided which you can use to take a detailed look at the paintwork on the ceiling (yay, no more neck pain from having to look up!). The chapel is painted beautifully as well, and I would highly recommend a visit to both attractions.

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Painted Hall

Painted-Hall-Greenwich

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Chapel

Greenwich Park

Another highlight of Greenwich is the Park. Greenwich Park is located on a hill which provides you with the most beautiful views of London. There is also a deer park located in the park and some remarkable attractions.

Greenwich-Park

Greenwich-view

As Greenwich used to be a maritime focal point, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the National Maritime Museum is situated here as well. I’ve never been inside the museum itself, but it apparently has an exquisite collection of galleries and different kind of exhibitions telling all about Britain’s maritime history.

Royal-Maritime-Museum-Greenwich

Also located in Greenwich is the Queen’s House, with a great collection of art. Unfortunately the House will be closed from 27th July 2015 – July 2016, so be quick if you still want to make a visit!

Queens-house-Greenwich

Queens-house-2-Greenwich

The most famous sight of Greenwich is of course The Meridian Line. This line represents the Prime Meridian of the world (Greenwich Mean Time – GMT). You can take a photo on this line when visiting the Royal Observatory.

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You can take a photo on the meridian line

Movie underneath the stars

My most fond memory of Greenwich has to be the night when me and a friend climbed up the hill of Greenwich Park and joined an outdoor movie event organized by Luna Cinema. This organization organizes open air cinema events all over the UK. Unique about these open air events are the locations: all top notch and uncommon, such as the gardens of Kensington Palace, the grounds of Hampton Court Palace and on top of Greenwich Park.

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view-from-greenwich-park

Honestly, I loved the view of London from the hill during the day, but the views during the night are even more special. It’s such a unique occasion to be able to watch a movie on a large screen, having drinks and food on picnic blankets (or rain capes in our case) with the twinkling lights of London as backdrop. The only opportunity to enjoy this view is during this event, as the park normally closes after sunset. The best experience ever!

greenwich-at-night

Greenwich-foot-tunnel

The O2

The O2, or Millenium Dome is not located in Greenwich village like the other sights I just mentioned, but can be reached easily by tube. Just exit the North Greenwich tube station and you’ll find yourself standing in front of one of the most remarkable arenas of the UK. Large sports and entertainment events are organized here. There is also a large cinema complex inside the building and some great restaurants and bars.

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The O2

Just outside the O2 is a relatively new attraction (or mean of transport), which isn’t that successful yet among the locals. The Emirates Air Line (not to be confused with the actual airline. The one I’m talking about is a cable car) connects North Greenwich with the Royal Docks, and is another great way to see London and the Thames river from above.

Emirates-Air-line-greenwich

Want to see Greenwich from a different perspective? Following one of London’s canals, this splendid bike tour will lead you to Greenwich. Note: all opinions and photos in this post are my own. 

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  • Another great post Maaike! SO jealous that you stumbled across the set of Les Miserables… James and I are massive fans (slightly embarrassingly so) of the musical… but definitely agree, Russell Crowe can NOT sing. I’ve been to Greenwich a few times but after reading this, I think I need to go back and give it more time. Love these posts about London – you open my eyes to it’s beauty :).

    Gabby

    • Haha don’t worry Gabby, I’m a huge fan of Les Mis as well (less so of Russel’s singing performances, but I think that’s obvious 😉 )!

  • Such a great round up Maaike, and you were lucky to come across the filming of Les Miserables! I like the way you’ve included details about the 02 as well

    • Thank you! Yes, it was such a coincidence! I actually wanted to write about the British Music Experience at the O2, but then I read somewhere that it closed its doors last year. I visited it twice, thought it was a lot of fun!

  • wow! I didn’t know Greenwich had so many things to offer! I remember just being there at the meridian like 13 years ago with my family 😀 and then 3 years ago I went to take a ride with the Emirates Air Line. The Olympic Games were just happening there so I didn’t do much more because there were so many people. Next time, I have to discover it more 🙂

  • Great post on Greenwich – loved visiting the observatory and the O2; two icons of historic and modern Britain!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by! Absolutely, London at its best combining the old with the new 🙂

  • Mister Greenwich

    Lovely piece on my neck of the woods.

    However, just a quick clarification….. Sir Christopher Wren didn’t paint the Painted Hall at Old Royal Naval College, The masterpiece was actually by Sir James Thornhill and took him 19 years to complete! (1708-1727)

    I hope that you return to visit us again soon. Have a chat with any of the Volunteers, they’ll be happy to show you some of the ‘odder’ things in the Paintings! LOL (Ask about the ghostly hand!)

    • Thank you kindly for your lovely feedback and for the clarification! I corrected it in the post immediately. I will definitely ask them about the ghostly hand… That sounds mysterious!