Living in London, you often find yourself becoming a tour guide as friends and family visit, and what better place in south London for a great day out is there than Greenwich. The historic buildings, the views, the museums and the riverside pubs all add up to a winning combination that never fails to impress. So here we give you, in no particular order, our Top 5 Greenwich ‘Must-Sees’.
The Royal Observatory
The steep climb up the hill through Greenwich Park is rewarded, firstly with one of the best views in London, and secondly with a visit to the Observatory and its museum. Here you can learn all about Greenwich Mean Time and how the ‘Longitude Problem’ was solved by a clockmaker from Lincolnshire, John Harrison. He won the competition, in 1773, to produce a reliable marine chronometer that enabled mariners to plot their exact position, revolutionising navigation – it was the GPS of its day. The brilliantly presented exhibition appeals to all ages and of course the tour ends with the obligatory photos in the courtyard with one foot either side of the Greenwich Meridian.
The Old Royal Naval College
Firstly a royal palace, then a seamen’s hospital, an officer training centre and now mainly used by Greenwich University, the ORNC was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and forms the centrepiece of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site. This grand architectural masterpiece contains two gems, the Painted Hall and the Chapel of St Peter & St Paul – do not miss these two magnificent interiors. You can go on a free guided walk or just pick up a walking tour leaflet from the visitor centre on site.
The Cutty Sark
Built on the Clyde and named after a character in a Robert Burns poem, the ship was built as a tea ‘clipper’ but was also used as a general cargo ship. One of only three remaining wooden hulled clipper ships in the world, she was put on exhibition in dry dock by the river in 1954. Badly damaged by a fire in 2007, a multi-million pound restoration project saw the ship re-opened to the public in 2012. The Cutty Sark is a fascinating exhibition for all ages and you can have afternoon tea under the hull in the ‘Even Keel’ cafe.
The National Maritime Museum
The largest of its kind in the world, this museum can satisfy everyone from the serious scholar to the casual visitor and goes a long way to explaining how an island on the edge of Europe controlled an empire which spanned the world. One of the surprising elements of the NMR is the art – galleries of paintings, and portraits in particular, by world renowned artists.
The Queens House
Currently closed for restoration but re-opening this summer, The Queens House was designed by Inigo Jones and built for Queen Anne, wife of James I. This beautiful house, at the centre of two striking colonnades, houses art by great masters including Gainsborough, Reynolds and Turner. Look out for the re-opening to celebrate its 400th anniversary.
There’s so much to see in Greenwich, but when you’ve had enough of art, architecture and the like, there are plenty of good pubs to retreat to. We went to the Trafalgar Tavern, right on the river, where we enjoyed traditional fish and chips – absolutely delicious!