What to do in Greenwich (by Robert – and Sarah)

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View of Greenwich from the  Royal Observatory
View of Greenwich from the Royal Observatory

Robert and I had a brilliant time exploring Greenwich last week and we couldn’t believe we were still in London! It really is such a beautiful place and much calmer than the centre of town. We loved the views and all the many things we got up to.  In fact we could have stayed for longer.

This is all written by Robert, aged 10:

Royal Observatory

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could stand in two time zones, if you could time travel just by walking a few steps forward? Well you can do all that and loads more at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. As well as finding out the history of clocks, watches and sun dials and even seeing the first ever time telling machine you get to stand on the Meridian Line.

Standing across the Meridian Line at Greenwich Royal Observatory
Standing across the Meridian Line at Greenwich

If you didn’t already know about GMT, Greenwich is the home of time in the world so it’s a very important place. The meridian line goes all the way from the North to the South Pole and splits the world into eastern and western Hemispheres, so if you are standing on the line you are in two different times at once. It is very cool.

After going to the Observatory, we went on to see a show in the only Planetarium in London (the Peter Harrison Planetarium), and played some interactive space games. We also touched a meteorite that dates back billions of years which was very cool. And after all that, we had a rest at the top of the hill and gazed at the wonderful views.

We also went to the National Maritime Museum which was excellent and which I have written about here. You must go here if you come to Greenwich.

Need to know: The Royal Observatory (which includes the courtyard and also Flamsteed House which teaches you all about time) costs £9.50 for adults and £5 for children. You can also pay £18.50 for adults and £8.50 for children and get a joint ticket for the Observatory and the Cutty Sark (see below…)

Entry to the Planetarium is free, but we paid £5.50 for Robert to see a show there. 

Emirates Air Line and Aviation Experience

View of the O2 and Thames from the cable car
View of the O2 and Thames from the cable car

If you wanted to see London’s Landmarks in a different way why not go on the Emirates airline, the only urban cable car in the UK? Travelling all around Britain’s capital city, 90 metres above the Thames isn’t something you do very often. We were put in a pod with four other people and then for the next 20 minutes we took loads of pictures and admired the scenery.

Trying out the Emirates Aviation Experience , near the O2, London
Trying out the Emirates Aviation Experience

The Emirates Aviation Experience is epic as you get to fly a plane (not really though!) The simulation allows you to take off, fly or land a plane in different weathers and countries. In your 30 minute experience you first learn how to use all the different buttons, pedals and levers each one vital to prevent the plane that you are flying from crashing. Then you picked one of the sixteen countries, a time of day and weather, before zooming off the runway and into the air. Steering and accelerating are quite tricky at first but after a few minutes you get the hang of it. You can take a planned path across your chosen city or if you aren’t very good at that, like me, you can just fly around. When landing, you have an easier and harder option so you can do them both if you like. Remember that you can change the country so you don’t have to stay doing the same thing all the time. I really liked the experience even though I didn’t get that good a score.

We took the Thames Clipper from Greenwich to the O2 (North Greenwich). It’s a very quick ride, but such fun to take a bus on the water! You also get the most magnificent views as you drive by.

Need to know: The Emirates Air line (cable car) costs £9 per adult and £4.50 per child (return), with a reduction for Oyster card users. It costs £45 to try out the Emirates Aviation Experience and fly a plane – up to four people can be involved in that session.
Thames Clippers depart every 20 minutes and prices vary, with reductions for Oyster card holders. 

The Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark, GreenwichOne thing better than seeing the fastest and greatest ship of its time, is going on the fastest and greatest ship of its time and that’s exactly what you can do in Greenwich. Inside the Cutty Sark, one of the most famous ships in the world, you can learn all about life on a boat, importing and exporting goods and even have a go at being the sailors.

Trying out a sailor's bed on the Cutty Sark
Trying out a sailor’s bed on the Cutty Sark

It was so interesting to find out about men’s lives on the Cutty Sark as it was so different to the sea voyages nowadays. You got to touch, see and smell things of the past, play games and even go in various rooms of the ship. It was brilliant and even the cafe was cool – it was underneath the Cutty Sark.

Need to know: The Cutty Sark costs £7 for children and £13.50 for adults.

Discover Greenwich

If you arrive in Greenwich by boat, you get off right in front of Discover Greenwich. It is like a small museum which tells you about the area. It was interactive and interesting and I liked trying on a jousting helmet which was the size of one which Henry VIII would have worn. It was extremely heavy.

The painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London
The painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College was very impressive

Right nearby is the Old Royal Naval College, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who also designed St Paul’s Cathedral). Mum thought this was very beautiful. We went to see the Painted Hall which is probably the largest painting in Europe. It was very impressive, full of things like animals and signs of the zodiac and with King William and Queen Mary painted in the middle. I enjoyed doing my own animal drawing too (you can do this throughout August).

If you come to London you should definitely see Greenwich. The scenery and artwork are beautiful and there are so many things to do. London isn’t all about being busy, noise and crowds; there’s also Greenwich.”

Need to know: The Old Royal Naval College and Discover Greenwich are both free (although they do ask for donations, which we gave). 

Sarah adds:

The Shard as seen from a City Cruise boat to Greenwich
We took a City Cruise from Westminster Pier to Greenwich

Getting to Greenwich:

We got to Greenwich via the River of course! We caught the boat via City Cruises, from Westminster Pier and had a lovely trip down the River Thames, past the many famous sights, including the London Eye, Tower of London, Globe Theatre and more. It is a great way to travel, and takes about an hour. However, you can also go via the train and also the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). We took the DLR back from Greenwich station and it’s good fun too – taking you through the city of London (which looks like New York with all its huge financial buildings). We went on the DLR back to Bank and then the tube from there, but it goes to a number of stations. You can also take the train (for example, from London Bridge station, and it’s only an eight minute ride to Greenwich). Anyway, back to the wonderful sights…

Need to know: City Cruises cost £8 for children and £16 for adults for a return to Greenwich, from Westminster.

Eating:

While we were in Greenwich we noticed that there were loads of restaurants and cafes, plus stalls in the market. We really enjoyed a delicious meal at the Rivington Grill, where the staff could not have been more helpful or the food nicer! Robert loved his fish and chips and mocktail, while I was extremely happy with all my food (a chilled tomato and basil soup was perfect), and in particular (ahem) my two desserts….

Robert and a mocktail at the Rivington Grill
Robert loved his special mocktail at the Rivington Grill

We also found a lovely little cafe right next to Greenwich market. Reddoor cafe even had vegan cake which Robert could eat (and yes, it was good…..)

Staying:

A Union Jack chair at the Mercure Hotel, Greenwich
Robert liked relaxing in this chair at our hotel!

We think Greenwich is a wonderful place to stay when you’re in London as it’s not hectic but easy to get around. There are lots of B&Bs and hotels in the area and we stayed in the Mercure Hotel, which is around 15 minutes walk from the centre. We walked a lot on our short stay and, if you had very small children, you might want to be nearer the centre. However, the hotel is nicely set up for travellers, and is lovely and quiet with very friendly staff. We were also extremely impressed by the breakfast offerings (if you have poached eggs and waffles on the menu, then you’re a winner in my book). Rooms cost from £82 a night.

Delicious waffle with strawberries, eaten at the Mercure Hotel, Greenwich, for breakfast
Delicious waffle with strawberries – (part of) my breakfast

Disclosure: we were lucky enough to have our stay organised in conjunction with Visit Greenwich who covered the cost of our accommodation and the attractions listed in this piece. All our opinions, as always, are our own and Visit Greenwich had no input into this blog post.

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27 Responses

  1. Lorraine

    This post!!! I have been looking for new things to see and do in London and those review just gave me some ideas that my boyfriend and I can do when he comes down next. I thought the Royal Observatory was free? Either way it’s where I’m headed off to next!

    • Sarah Ebner

      It isn’t free, but it’s definitely worth a visit! The planetarium is free and Greenwich itself is definitely, definitely worth visiting. Hope you enjoy it 🙂

  2. Sonya Cisco

    Yay – looks like you had a brilliant time too – plus you had blue skies and packed some extra stuff in – next time we will have to follow your lead and have an overnight stay so we can have a bit more time to have more fun – my boy would love the aviation thing I reckon!

  3. Charli

    Wow, Robert, this is such an informative guide to Greenwich! You look to have had the most fantastic time exploring!

  4. antonette - we12travel

    I’m off to London on Thursday and planned on seeing lots – unfortunately though the tube is on strike so I’m afraid I won’t be able to move around too much. Will keep in mind for a next visit though – there’s always going to be a next visit for sure!

  5. Fiona @ London-Unattached

    Greenwich is often overlooked because it isn’t ‘central’, but you are right it is a fascinating place to visit. I’m glad you got to see the Cutty Sark too, it only re-opened a couple of years ago.,

  6. Karla

    I have done the royal observatory. Love that you can finally be in two places at once and also in different time zones. How often does that happen ?

    • Robert

      It was really cool to be in two places at once, especially because you can’t do it anywhere else in the globe!

  7. Hugo Cura

    I live in London and have been to Greenwich a few times. Love the views from the observatory and surrounding area. Still need to visit a bit more in depth.

  8. Cathy (MummyTravels)

    One of my favourite days out with visitors is to take the boat to Greenwich. I still haven’t visited the Cutty Sark (it’s a little while since I was last there and it was still being restored) or the cable car but I love hopping across the meridian 🙂

    • Robert

      You should definitely go and visit the Cutty Sark. It was fascinating, and there is sometimes a market outside!

  9. Christine

    I always think the best way to arrive at Greenwich is by boat, seems fitting. As always sounds like you packed loads into your visit, I really must get around to seeing the Cutty Sark!

  10. zof

    Seems like Greenwich is fun no matter how old you are. Also, I think Robert has some serious writing skills. I want to read more posts from him.

  11. Travelwith2ofus

    A lot of things to do in Greenwich. When next I am in the UK I will definitely try to visit. The Cutty Sark, I have not heard about that for many years, brings back memories when I was in school …History. I have got to try flying that airplane. Always wanted to do it. All-round balanced trip.

  12. jen

    I hadn’t considered Greenwich, but now seeing pictures of your son with that huge grin enjoying the place gives me reason to reconsider. And even getting here on the boat sounds like a fun adventure.

  13. Mel (Footsteps on the Globe)

    I’ve been to London so many times but never to Greenwich, how could I not know how much there was to do?! I’m going again in November and would love to try the Emirates Air Line and Aviation Experience, always trying to think of quirky things that will keep the family entertained when we meet up. Thanks for the heads up, you look like you all had so much fun! 🙂 x

    • Sarah Ebner

      So glad we have given you food for thought. We were really amazed by how gorgeous it was, easy to get around and not too manic like most of London (and we live here!). Definitely worth a visit.

  14. Lois

    The last time we babysat our 4 year old grandson (who lives in Blackheath) and we took him across to Greenwich park with his scooter, he lead us straight to a really lovely children’s playground – well worth a visit if you have young children. There are special shows in the Planetarium for young ones too.

  15. Trish Burgess

    Still not been to Greenwich and really must. I tend to do the Prime Meridian line-straddling most days as the line travels north through my town!

  16. Mums do travel

    I have to go back to Greenwich soon, there’s so much to do there. As you say, it’s hard to believe that Greenwich is actually part of London as it almost feels like a small city in its own right! It sounds like you had a great time and it’s really interesting to read about all of the things that you did.

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