What’s it all about?
These days time spent in Greenwich might feel more like a day trip to the seaside than time spent in the centre of the maritime world, but the history of the town is indisputably linked to the river and it's one of only four London boroughs that has Royal status. When the Old Royal Naval College became the University of Greenwich a thriving student community replaced the young naval officers once housed here. An influx of weekend daytrippers combined with families and younger residents give Greenwich a distinctly happy laid back vibe. Sir Christopher Wren firmly stamped his mark in Greenwich, designing the College, St Alfege Church and The Royal Observatory. The latter marks the spot of the Meridian Line, the place where time begins and ends. Despite the prominence of magnificent regal buildings and gracious Georgian architecture, Greenwich has a varied landscape, from the refined greenery of Greenwich Park to the ex industrial peninsula that is now home to The O2 arena. There are Victorian and Edwardian terraces aplenty, as well as modernist midcentury homes. The town centres on the buzzing market square, enclosed by pavement cafes and boutiques, and there are many lovely waterside pubs. There are fantastic transport links to the City and Canary Wharf and the ease of commuting has made the area popular with professionals. The local council invested £20m in regenerating the area at the time of the London Olympics – Greenwich Park played host to the equestrian events – resulting in improved leisure facilities and a new Greenwich Pier.
- The world’s first weather forecast was issued from Greenwich Royal Observatory in 1848 by meteorologist James Glaisher.
- On 28 June 1491 Henry VIII became the first of three Tudor monarchs to be born in the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, followed by his two heirs and future queens Mary I and Elizabeth I. The palace was demolished in 1660.
- Greenwich was made a royal borough by the Queen during 2012 and has been a World Heritage Site since 1997. As home to the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian, it is of course also the benchmark for global timekeeping.
- Built in 1869, the Cutty Sark was one of the last tea clippers to sail and it's now permanently moored in Greenwich. It's been damaged twice in a fire, once in 2007 while undergoing a £25m restoration, and again in 2014.
Architecture and property
The southern part of Greenwich remained mainly rural until the end of the 19th century. The riverside to the north of the borough, however, developed rapidly from the 16th century and was known for its fishing industry. The presence of the riverside palace transformed the area into a substantial town with grand houses. In 1897 the Blackwall Tunnel was built under the Thames to link the Greenwich peninsula with the north bank, and with the tunnel came development. The North Greenwich area thrived for years but gradually industry dwindled and by the mid 1980s the peninsula was left largely derelict. Its fortunes changed again in 1997 when the site was picked as the location for the Millennium Dome.
Georgian and Victorian architecture dominates the centre and west of the area, giving a refined and established feel. The popular Ashburnham conservation area has later Victorian houses and east of the park there tends to be a mix of two bedroom cottages and three and four bedroom Victorian terraces. There are new homes and riverside apartments to be found on the North Greenwich peninsula.
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Eating: Locals have voted Inside the ‘best restaurant in Greenwich’ on numerous occasions. Serving modern European food, it can be tricky to get a table, but worth it. Meat lovers should head for the Rare Steakhouse, while Ajiichiban is a favourite for sushi, and those with a taste for Nepalese cuisine should pop into Mountain View. The Pavilion Tea House in Greenwich Park serves classic cafe favourites in a gorgeous setting.
Drinking: The Old Brewery, housed in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and producer of Meantime ales, is a cafe/bar during the day and a buzzing restaurant in the evening. The Greenwich Union also brews its own beers, and serves them in a more traditional pub. For spectacular views over the river and beyond, try the three storey Georgian pub Cutty Sark.
Days out: The National Maritime Museum is said to be the largest museum of its kind in the world, and has lots of exhibitions and activities for all ages. The Royal Observatory sits astride the Prime Meridian and houses the Capital’s only planetarium. A visit to the Cutty Sark, the last surviving tea clipper, is always a treat. Since a recent refurbishment, this beautiful ship can now be viewed from underneath as well.
Arts & culture: Greenwich Theatre is a 400 seat local theatre with new productions on every two weeks. There are two cinemas: the Odeon shows all the latest blockbusters, while the Picturehouse provides an arthouse alternative. Visit M1 Fine Art, in the centre of town, for exhibitions and work by local artists, or why not breeze into the Fan Museum, which exhibits examples of fans from the 11th century to the present day.
Events: Greenwich Music Time is a series of concerts held in July each year at the Old Royal Naval College, with music from pop to jazz to classical. The Greenwich+Docklands International Festival has more than 200 performing arts shows to choose from across ten days in the summer, and the Greenwich Early Music Festival in November features musicians from all over the world.
- Greenwich is famous for its antiques market but there are also stalls selling everything from children’s clothes and homemade produce to designer jewellery and fine art, as well as plenty of street food.
- For a chance to become a cheese connoisseur, head for The Cheeseboard, where you can join a ‘Cheese Club’.
- Cedarlia offers a range of French and Nordic inspired homewares and gifts.
- In keeping with the area’s nautical theme, browse Naval and Maritime Books, or drop into Nauticalia to have a look at its huge range of rums.
- West Greenwich Library offers reading groups and creative writing classes, and East Greenwich Library has a knitting club.
- There are large Sainsbury’s and Waitrose supermarkets locally with ample parking and several smaller Tesco stores too.
- As well as being a major concert venue, The O2 arena offers the opportunity for the adventurous to scale the outside its structure to a viewing platform.
- Leisure centre facilities are run by GLL, such as the Arches Leisure Centre, which offers two pools, a 110 station gym and creche facilities.
Greenwich Park is the most historic of all the Royal Parks, dating back to Roman times. Now it is home to the National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory, and the Meridian Line. These, together with rose gardens, herb gardens, the Queen’s Orchard and 180 acres of green space, provide hours of entertainment for all ages. Just down the road in Charlton sits the Maryon Wilson Animal Park, where children get the chance to feed sheep, pigs, ponies and more. With history linked to the Old Naval College, Pleasaunce East Greenwich park is also popular with local residents.
Greenwich on the river
One of the five boroughs of the London Docklands, Greenwich’s history is irrevocably linked with the river. Home to the Cutty Sark and the Old Royal Naval College, lovers of maritime history can find ample to do here. However, if you’re more interested in relaxing, The Travalgar Tavern and Cutty Sark pubs both provide a perfect setting to while away the hours.
Find out more about the perks of living on the river here.
A scheme at Creek Road, Greenwich, will provide 83 homes, of which 62 will be for affordable housing, and commercial space at ground level. The front of the long standing Up the Creek Comedy Club will also get a facelift as part of the plans.
Rail: London Bridge and Cannon Street are less than 15 minutes away by train from Greenwich and Maze Hill stations.
Tube: North Greenwich is served by the Jubilee Line, taking just two minutes to reach Canary Wharf.
DLR: There are two DLR stops, Cutty Sark and Greenwich, both linking to Docklands and the City.
Boat: Many residents prefer to go across the water rather than under it. There are river bus stops at both Cutty Sark and North Greenwich, providing services to Canary Wharf, Blackfriars and London Bridge.
Cycle: The Thames Path provides a traffic free walking and cycling route for the majority of the length of the Thames through Greenwich. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs underneath the Thames to the Isle of Dogs, is part of the UK’s National Cycle Route 1, linking to Dover and the Shetland Islands.
Bus: Bus routes serving the area include the 188 (Russell Square), 199 (Canada Water), 177 (Peckham), as well as the N1 night bus from Tottenham Court Road.
For younger children, Halstow Primary, Millennium Primary and St Alfege with St Peter’s Primary are all popular. For the older age group, St Ursula’s Convent School gives priority to Catholic students, or look to Thomas Tallis School in Blackheath, a large secondary school with a specialist hearing impairment unit. Independent options include the Pointers School at prep level, Blackheath High School for girls or the mixed Riverston School in Eltham.
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