While London attracts most visitors with its iconic sights of Big Ben, The London Eye, Harrods, and more, there is a place in South-East London that will offer you the time of your life – literally. It is Greenwich home of the prime meridian line and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Together with other sights, Greenwich is worth taking the train or boat rise to see.
The Royal Observatory – Open daily 10 am to 5 pm
Located in Greenwich Park at the top of the hill is the Royal Observatory, recognizable by a massive green dome. Built in 1675, it is here that maps began their existence. Scientists studied the stars, navigation, and timekeeping with longitude as a baseline and produced maps for sailors. Visitors can walk around the inside, which now has a tourist shop on the ground floor that showcases a fascinating collection of clocks and navigational equipment on its walls. From April 1st, 2022, they have reopened their doors to informative tours, which allow access to planetarium shows, astronomy courses, and learning programs.
Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian Line
Just a little way down the hill from the observatory is the imaginary line between the North and South poles that runs right around the earth through Greenwich and is designated as zero degrees longitude. Look for the big unique clock on the wall. It is known as The Shepherds Gate Clock. It was the first clock to show Green Mean Time and has a face showing 24-hours instead of 12. Just below on the ground, you will find the Prime Meridian Line. Look for a physical brass track on the ground to show the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
Greenwich Park – Open daily from 6 am until sunset
Before you descend the hill to see the attractions of the Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market, or the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, take some time to stroll through the 74 hectares of the park. Check out the three cafés’, the concert stand and the tea pavilion. Feed the ducks and swans at the park pond enclosed pond area, and for those of you who knew it had an enclosed deer area, it has been moved to Richmond Park and no longer exists. The Victorian-style flower beds showcase uniformed plants and flowers bursting with color and fragrance. Depending on the season, there are red and yellow tulips, sunshine yellow daffodils, colorful hydrangeas, and the striking purple of the iris. Fragrances waft through the air, and the manicured grass beckons you to take a seat to admire the floral display.
Cutty Sark – Open daily 10 am to 5 pm
The Cutty Sark is a ship that sits at the bottom of Greenwich Park in a drydock. Built in 1869, it’s a tea clipper and used to carry tea from China to ports around the world; the majestic ship has a mast that towers 153 feet into the air and 212 feet long. Having been restored in all its glory, you can now take a 45-minute paid tour where you get to walk under the helm and take the captain’s wheel. You can visit the café on the lower deck and order a typical English afternoon tea, including finger sandwiches, macaroon, brownie, and British scones served with cream and jam. There is a visitors’ shop for commemorative plaques, sundial compasses, or a packet of butterscotch crunch biscuits from a lovely assortment of luxury biscuits.
Underground Thames Walk – Open 24/7
Have you ever wanted to walk underneath the River Thames and live to tell the tale? Well, you can do just that at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Located near the river’s edge, housed in a green-domed-shaped building, is the shaft that leads to a spiral staircase that will take you 50 feet down. There is also an old-time elevator to make it easier. You then approach the tunnel, which is about 9 feet cylindrical and made of cast iron with a white tiled exterior. It takes about 15 minutes. It is free, and once you get to the other side, you can admire Greenwich!
Greenwich Market – Open daily 10 am-5:30 pm
When you are ready to eat, head to the Greenwich Market. It is in the heart of the busy center. There you will find culinary delights from across the globe. Try Brazilian churros, Ethiopian vegetarian food, and Andes Empanadas, to name a few. There are also souvenir stalls, handicraft and art stalls, and homemade jewelry. Although it’s not very big, it can keep you occupied with lots to see and try. There are also surrounding shops, restaurants, and pubs.
From London Bridge, you can take an 8-minute train ride from London Bridge or Cannon Street stations to Greenwich station. You can take a 25-minute riverboat ride from Westminster, Embankment, London Bridge City, Canary Wharf, and Tower piers that will drop you by Greenwich Pier.
Nadia Ali is a freelance writer born in London, UK and now lives in the Caribbean. Her work has been published both online and in print.