Greenwich is a town southeast of London, easily reachable by public transport. We spent about half a day exploring this quaint town, which is mostly known for its rich maritime history and for sharing its name with Greenwich Mean Time, and it does not disappoint! There are many things you can do in Greenwich.

Here we share some of the top places you can visit in Greenwich in a day or less!

— Getting there —

How to get to Greenwich from Central London

Greenwich is easily reachable by public transport. You can get here by bus, the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), or river boat. You can even get here by bicycle (props to you for such stamina!), with a properly planned route. But for travel purposes, we will focus here on the usual modes of transport.

By bus

You can travel by bus to Greenwich from Central London via several bus routes, including the 199 from Canada Water, the 188 from Russell Square, and the 129 that connects Greenwich with North Greenwich. Transport for London has a handy bus route map for Greenwich here.

By boat

There is a regular schedule of river boats sailing from Central London to Greenwich. The boats depart from Westminster, London Bridge City, Canary Wharf, Embankment, and Tower piers. River boat options include Thames Clippers, City Cruises, and Thames River Services.

The fastest route by river boat is via Thames Clippers, with boats usually departing the pier every 20 or 40 minutes. You can use Oyster cards to get on the Thames Clippers.

By train/tube

You can take the train via Southeastern from London Bridge and Cannon Street stations to Greenwich station.

You can also take the train via DLR, then alight at either Greenwich or Cutty Sark stations. Both are connected to major London DLR stations, including Bank, Stratford and Canary Wharf stations.

If taking the Underground, alight at North Greenwich station. This is on the Jubilee line, which is marked silver on the Tube map. The station is right next to The O2 and the Emirates Air Line cable car. You can take the tube from Canary Wharf, London Bridge, Westminster, or Bond Street stations in central London.

The train/tube rides take between around 2 minutes and 35 minutes, depending on where you get on from central London.

Our experience:

We went straight to Greenwich after a work-related meeting at Canary Wharf. After lunch, we walked around Canary Wharf for a bit and then opted to take the DLR. We hopped on the train at Canary Wharf DLR station and got off at Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich DLR station. We used our Oyster cards.

If you’re using an Oyster card or contactless payment card, do be careful with touching in/out at the DLR stations, especially the one in Canary Wharf, where we thought the yellow card reader was in a somewhat odd location. We went up the stairs to the train platform but couldn’t find where to touch in. We went down the stairs again and found it there, somewhere a bit in the middle. Remember to touch in before you go up the stairs to the platform. And don’t forget to touch out after reaching your destination!

— Top things to do in Greenwich —

Here we share a list of places we visited in Greenwich in half a day. We think it’s better to allot a whole day in Greenwich, if you have the time. But if not, half a day works fine too!

National Maritime Museum

Where: Romney Road, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
See where in Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from 10am to 5pm (including Bank Holidays)
Admission: Free

The National Maritime Museum was our first stop after getting out of the Cutty Sark DLR station. It’s about a 6-minute walk from the station. It took us several minutes more because we explored the sights along the way, stopping once in a while to peek at shops and see a bit of the neighborhood.

The maritime museum is part of Royal Museums Greenwich (along with the Queen’s House, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Cutty Sark). There are many things on display and some interactive stuff, such as dressing up as a Greenwich pensioner and a kids’ play area designed like a ship. You can also find a cool, very detailed scaled-down replica of HMS Victory — Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the famous Battle of Trafalgar — in a very large bottle outside the building.

Have a break

There’s also a very large world map on the first floor, where we sat for a bit to share a freshly made cake and have a cup of coffee at The Great Map Café . The map is huge! We had some fun locating our countries and taking some photos. The museum also has another (much larger) café with an expanded menu, including wine and hot meals, and indoor and outdoor seating.

Old Royal Naval College

Where: King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9NN
See where in Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (Painted Hall, chapel and visitor center), 8 am to 11 pm (grounds)
Admission: Free for chapel and grounds. Ticketed entry to Painted Hall (see detailed ticket prices here), free for children

The Old Royal Naval College is one of the fine architectural and historical landmarks that make up Maritime Greenwich, which is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The beautiful Baroque buildings, designed by renowned British architect Christopher Wren, were originally built in the 17th century to serve as the Royal Hospital for Seamen (aka Greenwich Hospital), then became the Royal Naval College from 1873 until the Navy left the premises in 1997. The Old Royal Naval College opened to the public in 1998.

 

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On one side of the college is Queen Mary Court, while King William Court lies on the other. Inside the college complex, you will also find the Painted Hall, also known as “Britain’s Sistine Chapel,” and the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul.

One of the three campuses of the University of Greenwich is also within the college’s grounds.

Queen’s House

Where: Romney Rd, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
See where in Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, including bank holidays.
Admission: Free

Right across the street from the Old Royal Naval College is the Queen’s House, an architectural beauty designed by British architect Inigo Jones. The Queen’s House is home to an impressive art collection, including works by Canaletto and L.S. Lowry, as well as the iconic Armada portrait of Elizabeth I.

The Queen’s House is said to be the first “truly classical building” in the U.K., and inside you can find the famous spiral Tulip Stairs (which you’ve probably seen around in Instagram) and the painted ceiling in the Queen’s Presence Chamber, among other things.

 

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Did you know? The so-called flowers on the Tulip Stairs’ banisters are in fact fleur-de-lis (the royal arms of France) rather than tulips!

Entry is free! And that’s another good reason to add this to your list of places to visit in Greenwich.

Our experience:

Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to go inside the Queen’s House or the college to see the Painted Hall. We did, however, get to explore the college’s vast grounds. It was a cloudy but really nice afternoon when we visited Greenwich, and we had a great time strolling around the premises.

Royal Observatory Greenwich

Where: Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich, London SE10 8XJ
See where in Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm)
Admission: Ticketed

If you deal with time zones, you’ve probably heard of Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. And yes, you guessed right—that term originated from this quaint town in London!

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is home to the prime meridian, which indicates 0° longitude, an imaginary line running from north to south that divides the Earth into eastern and western hemispheres. At the observatory, the historic prime meridian line is represented by a brass strip that runs across the courtyard, with various cities’ distances from the meridian written near the line.

The observatory, which also houses a planetarium, sits on top of a hill within Greenwich Park. So right outside the gates, near the General Wolfe Statue, you have an amazing view of the skyline of Canary Wharf and the City of London. It’s one of our favorite spots during our visit!

You can access the observatory by purchasing a ticket. The cost of the ticket generally includes access to the observatory, the meridian line in the courtyard, free museums and a multilingual audio guide. Remember to check their website for updated prices and schedules before you go!

 

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Our experience:

We went to Greenwich a little after lunch time, and we went to the maritime museum and explored the area around the Old Royal Naval College first. By the time we went to the Royal Observatory it was already closed. Consequently, we didn’t get the opportunity to go inside the observatory and the courtyard to see the meridian line and take a photo. At the time, there were several other tourists around the observatory too. We noticed some of them entering a footpath inside a small gate near the 24-hour Sherpherd Gate Clock on the wall, to the left of the observatory’s main gate. Curious, we followed where they were headed and… Eureka! (See our Instagram photo above) 

Apparently, the brass strip representing the meridian line inside the courtyard continues on, going over a wall (which is the side wall of the footpath) and down across the footpath itself. However, this strip doesn’t look as fancy as the one in the courtyard. The sign on the wall is also quite faded. But still, it’s the same meridian line, and we were able to see it as part of our memories in Greenwich. And this little spot was free

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park has a beautiful landscape and gardens It overlooks the River Thames and offers an incredible view of the Queen’s House, the Old Royal Naval College, Canary Wharf and the City of London, among others.

Among the park’s many highlights are the Royal Observatory, the Rose Garden, the Queen’s Orchard and the National Maritime Museum.

Our experience: We absolutely loved the spot right outside the Royal Observatory, near General Wolfe’s statue. We stood there for a while, just admiring the amazing view of the lush surroundings and the cityscape (and took some photos). We highly recommend it!

Cutty Sark

Where: King William Walk, London SE10 9HT
See where in Google Maps
Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, with last entry at 4:15 pm
Admission: Ticketed (see details)

Yes, we know it’s also a brand of whisky, but here we are talking about the famous ship it was named after! 😀

The Cutty Sark is a British ship built in 1869 that voyaged across the globe transporting various cargoes, most notably tea from China to London in its early years. The ship, one of the fastest ones of its day, was towed into Greenwich in 1954 and  opened to the public three years later.

You can explore the ship, including walking around the main deck and steering its wheel. Costumed characters from Cutty Sark’s past that tell stories about its history also roam the ship.

 

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Did you know? The ship got its unusual name from a pretty witch called Nannie, a character in Robert Burns’ poem entitled “Tam O’Shanter” who was dressed only in a “cutty sark”—an archaic Scottish name for a short nightdress. And the figurehead attached to the front of the ship is that of Nannie the witch!

— Some parting thoughts —

For our half-day trip, we went to Greenwich after lunch, following a work-related meeting at Canary Wharf. So we knew we would probably be unable to visit most of the attractions as they would close by around 5:00 pm.

Therefore, our game plan was to pick the places to explore and prioritize and go through them as efficiently as we can, considering our point of entry and exit as well among other factors and personal preferences. After having a chat about it, we agreed to go inside the National Maritime Museum over the others and have a pretty chill coffee break there. We also decided to spend a bit more time exploring Greenwich Park, as well as the Royal Observatory and Old Royal Naval College grounds.

We guess we could have easily gone inside the Queen’s House or the Painted Hall inside the College, but we had a bit too much fun walking around the park and grounds. Consequently, we ended up forgoing these opportunities. On the bright side, it’s something we could do next time!

That said, we personally didn’t feel rushed despite having just half a day to go around and having to pick places to explore inside. We still had a pleasant time exploring Greenwich.

To wrap it up

To sum up, we think it’s better to allot a whole day in Greenwich, if you have the time. In this way, you don’t have to worry too much about opening/closing hours of the town’s attractions, and you can take advantage of visiting more places and not rushing about.

But if you have limited time, fret not. Half a day works fine too! However, we strongly recommend planning your schedule and itinerary at least a day or a few hours ahead of time, if you would like to go inside the museums and observatory, etc. Prioritize the ones you really would like to explore inside to get the most of what Greenwich has to offer during your half-day trip!

Have you been to Greenwich? Which things to do and places to visit would you recommend?

~Safe travels, everyone!
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Traveler, writer, booklover, coffee and tea drinker.

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