Things to do in Greenwich and Blackheath

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Greenwich is located in south-east London, a riverside area steeped in maritime history. A stroll across Greenwich Park brings you to in neighbouring Blackheath.

Greenwich and Blackheath remain ever popular, offering much for visitors to enjoy.

The history of Greenwich was acknowledged when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. This recognised the importance of Greenwich’s maritime and scientific history, plus the desire to preserve it for future generations. From the Royal Observatory to the National Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark to the Painted Hall, Greenwich has many jewels in its crown.

Charming Blackheath Village is full of independent shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. It retains a village feel in the heart of modern London, a reason why so many visitors flock to its streets. Blackheath common has always been an important historical gathering place in London, and was the site of the Peasants Revolt of 1381.

Greenwich and Blackheath are modern areas too, with the iconic O2 a prime example of moving with the times. Riverside and park walks offer an escape from city life when required, with Greenwich park one of the eight Royal Parks.

The following are 10 of the best things to see and do in this part of London.

1. Royal Observatory

The view of Greenwich Park from the Royal Observatory
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The time ball at Greenwich Observatory

You can not come to Greenwich without seeking out the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory, with the chance to have one foot in the west and one foot in the east. The Royal Observatory was established in 1676 from the need for more accurate navigation and better time-keeping to aid globe-trotting sailors.

At the heart of the Royal Observatory is the 28 inch Great Equatorial Telescope, one of the biggest in the world. You can gaze up at this telescope from within the striking Onion dome. Further historic treasures include the Harrison Clocks, a beautifully crafted series of clocks designed to aid sailors chart their position and time at sea.

The Christopher Wren designed Flamsteed House contains the stunning Octagon Room, where the Astronomer Royal of the day could observe the night sky. It is one of the few examples of Wren’s interior designs in London still visible today. The observatory’s Planetarium is another popular venue, where expert led shows help you get up close with the stars.

The Royal Observatory is close to Greenwich and Maze Hill stations and is open every day from 10am. The Planetarium shows are not included in the general admission price and cost an additional £4 to £16. If you are also intending to visit the Cutty Sark, a Royal Museums Greenwich day pass will save you money.

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2. Parks and Heaths

Greenwich Park is full of wonderful features, such as this rose garden.
Greenwich park with its wide grass areas

Greenwich and Blackheath are blessed with large, open green spaces. They offer over 450 acres of parkland and heath, ideal for family strolls and picnics, or for a spot of nature watching.

Greenwich Park

Greenwich park is one of the Royal Parks and a grade 1 listed landscape, offering a wonderful variety of parkland, gardens, wildlife and monuments. The park is home to some of Greenwich’s most famous attractions, including the Royal Observatory, whose elevated spot provides some of the finest views across London.

Greenwich park’s landscape includes the popular rose garden and the show piece flower garden with its seasonal flower beds and striking cedar trees. The flower garden also offers views across the deer park and the lake.

Three cafes, children’s playgrounds and a summer boating lake make Greenwich Park a place to head for the whole family.

Blackheath

Adjacent to Greenwich Park is Blackheath, one of the largest areas of common land in the capital. A gathering place through history, the heath is still used to host festivals and fairs, and is the starting point for the London Marathon.

Blackheath is relatively level and contains various memorials, including the Greenwich war memorial. The pond on the heath is a pleasant place to sit and break up your walk, while All Saints Church is a striking building sat on the edge of the heath.

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3. National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum's (NMM) main entrance (© Katie Chan, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The National Maritime Museum's interior (© Cristian Bortes, CC BY 2.0)
Portrait of Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance at the National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum houses a wide range of maritime treasures and historical artefacts spread over three floors. Begin your journey by admiring Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, a much photographed art installation by Yinka Shonibare.

Nelson features heavily within the museum. One of the prize exhibits is the jacket Nelson was wearing when fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar. Take a good look and you will see where the bullet struck.

From the maritime world of the Tudor age, through to the Pacific encounters gallery and Polar exploration, the museum has a vast breadth of stories to tell. Their collection of 230 wooden figureheads is always popular, as is the museum’s collection of art. This includes JMW Turner’s largest artwork, The Battle of Trafalgar.

Entry to this fascinating museum is free, although there may be an admission charge for any special exhibitions. The Parkside cafe has indoor and outdoor seating, and is also a good place to pick up items for a picnic in Greenwich Park. The Great Map cafe is located on the first floor, where you can enjoy drinks, sandwiches and freshly made cakes.

4. Blackheath Village

A row of houses in Blackheath village (© Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Blackheath village attracts thousands of visitors every year by successfully retaining a true village feel despite its proximity to central London. Blackheath village is a charming part of London with a vibrant cafe culture, cosy pubs, quality restaurants and a mix of high street chains and independent stores.

Blackheath Village has many pretty streets to wonder along within easy walking distance of the railway station. The station car park plays host to a bustling farmers market each Sunday, where you can by fresh, local produce.

The village is a cultural hub too. The Blackheath Halls is a concert and entertainment venue that has been hosting a variety of performances since 1895. Next door is the Blackheath Conservatoire, a focal point for arts education and performances in this part of London. Art lovers can also find the world class Wernher art collection at the elegant Rangers House.

Blackheath Village complements Greenwich and is well worth a visit. This cosmopolitan village offers an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of central London.

5. Food and Drink

Goddard's Pie House in Greenwich, London. A traditional pie mash and liquor shop established in 1890 (© Goddard's Pies Limited, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Greenwich and Blackheath provide an excellent choice of places to dine out or to have a drink. The following are a selection of the quality venues available.

Everest Inn

Traditional Nepalese and Indian cuisine is given a modern twist in this fine dining restaurant located on Montpelier Vale. An elegant interior awaits visitors, plus roadside tables with views toward All Saints church on the heath. The extensive menu includes traditional Indian dishes from £11.95 as well as signature Nepalese dishes from £13.95.

Ardoa

This Spanish kitchen and wine bar in Greenwich applies a modern adaptation to traditional Basque cuisine. Seasonal menus include dishes such as crispy duck teriyaki salad from £13.50 and pepper crust beef sirloin tataki from £16.50, with every plate designed to share. Bar snacks are also available, which you can enjoy as you sample their extensive selection of wines and beers.

Zero Degrees

Zero degrees provides pizzas cooked on wood fired ovens, washed down with beers from their own micro brewery. This Blackheath restaurant has an outside terrace which is ideal for the summer months. Pizzas start from £10.95, with the menu also containing pasta dishes and a selection of vegan and vegetarian meals. The hand-crafted beers share the drinks menu alongside a range of cocktails and wines. Goddards at Greenwich

If it is tradition you like then head for Goddards at Greenwich. They have been supplying traditional pie and mash to customers since 1890. Today, Goddards offers a complete range of pies to suit all tastes, including vegetarian and vegan options. Any meat used in their pies is 100% British, and each pie is served with mash and a choice of liquor or gravy. Prices start from £4.60.

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6. Cutty Sark

Visitors exploring the main deck of the Cutty Sark
The majestic Cutty Sark on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich

The iconic Cutty Sark forms part of the Royal Museums Greenwich group. This sleek ship is the last remaining tea clipper, but it was nearly lost to fire in 2007. However, it has since been restored to its former glory and visitors can admire all areas of this historic ship.

One of the many impressive parts of the visit is the chance to look up from beneath the ship. The Cutty Sark rests in dry dock, over three meters off the ground, meaning you can reach up and touch the hull. Other popular features include the Captains Cabin and the ship’s figurehead, ‘Nannie’ the witch.

Interactive games and a ship’s crew of colourful characters make the Cutty Sark a family day out. You will also be rewarded with stunning views across London from the elevated decks, where you will learn all about life aboard this famous ship.

The Cutty Sark opens daily from 10am to 5pm. Adult admission is £15, while entry for children costs £7.50. A Royal Museums Greenwich day pass can provide savings if you also plan to visit the Royal Observatory. A cafe is uniquely situated underneath the ship’s hull, serving deli style sandwiches, cakes and snacks.

7. Rangers House

Ranger's House is a medium-sized red brick Georgian mansion in the Palladian style, adjacent to Greenwich Park in the south east of London (© Katie Chan, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Ranger's House, as seen from the southeast angle, from inside the Rose Garden at Greenwich Park. (© Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Blackheath & Ranger's House (© CherryX, CC BY-SA 3.0)

There are over 700 artworks housed within this elegant Georgian villa bordering Greenwich park and Blackheath. This important art collection was gathered by the nineteenth century businessman Sir Julien Wernher, and is open for public viewing.

The collection is beautifully displayed across 12 panelled interior rooms and includes Renaissance paintings, medieval sculptures and jewellery, Italian ceramics and 18th century French furniture. The scope and quality make it one of the finest private collections of art.

Highlights include Madonna of the Pomegranate from Sandro Botticelli’s workshop, the Emperor of China tapestries, the Sevres vase and a mechanical travelling cabinet. There are many unique pieces among this eclectic collection of medieval and early European art.

Rangers House is a fifteen minute walk from Blackheath station. Adult prices start from £9, with a choice of two family ticket options from £16. Guide books and postcards can be purchased on-site, and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic which they can enjoy in the garden at the side of the house.

8. Painted Hall

The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich (© Prioryman, CC0)
The Painted Hall from its vestibule (© Depthcharge101, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Painted Hall, Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich by Christopher Wren (1698-1705) (© Steve Cadman, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Painted Hall is the jewel in the crown of the historic Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Lovingly restored and re-opened to the public in 2019, the Painted Hall lets visitors admire one of the finest Baroque interiors in Europe. The stunning wall and ceiling decorations earn the hall the title of Britain's Sistine Chapel.

The hall has had many functions since its conception by British artist Sir James Thornhill, including the site of Admiral Nelson’s lying-in-state. A plaque on the floor marks the spot where the coffin was placed.

The Old Royal Navy College has five centuries of history to narrate and is an architectural master-class in riverside design. Visitors are welcome in the chapel which holds regular services, or you can even try your hand on the Victorian skittle alley if you are feeling a little competitive.

Tours, specialist talks and multimedia guides help maximise your visit to the naval college and the Painted hall. Online admission costs £12.50, with free entry for children aged 16 and under when accompanied by an adult.

9. Shopping

Millennium Dome, The O2 - is a large dome shaped building on the Greenwich peninsula in south east London, (© zakgollop, CC BY-SA 2.0)
North Greenwich tube station from Peninsula Square (© David Jones, CC BY 2.0)

Greenwich and Blackheath have plenty to offer if you fancy a little retail therapy. The pretty streets of maritime Greenwich house a range of independent stores, while Greenwich Market is open daily with stalls featuring everything from beauty and grooming products, to art, market food, crafts, antiques and more.

The famed O2 in North Greenwich is the place to head to find the super brands. You will find over 60 of today’s biggest brand names including Kurt Geiger, Moss Bros, Crew Clothing, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger and Ted Baker.

Blackheath also has a good mix of brands and independent stores, including clothing boutiques, butchers, bakers, greengrocers and more. Stores you will find in Blackheath include Oliver Bonas, Jigsaw, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Space NK, Holland & Barrett and Sweaty Betty.

10. Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace. The original palace goes back to medieval times, but what you can see here is largely the restoration by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, in the 1930s (© [Duncan, CC BY 2.0)
The Art Deco entrance hall at Eltham Palace (© Tom Parnell, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The dining room at Eltham Palace (© Tom Parnell, CC BY-SA 4.0)

This former Royal palace was a childhood home of Henry VIII, but was turned in to an ultra modern art deco mansion during the 1930’s. The interior design is a masterpiece of its period, each room a pleasantly unusual treat. From the moment you enter the stunning circular entrance hall you know this will be something different.

The glitzy rooms chart the lifestyle of the palace’s former millionaire owners, while the basement bunker is a reminder of the war years. For all the art deco design, the incredible great hall was retained in all its medieval glory. The hall and its magnificent hammer-beam roof was built in 1470 for Edward IV.

Eltham Palace also houses many works of fine art, including 13 paintings by JMW Turner, plus a collection of Italian Renaissance paintings. The beauty of the palace extends out to the 19 acres of gardens, where more medieval influences are integrated in to the landscape.

Currently open on weekends only, adult admission prices start from £14.10 with family tickets available. Visitors have access to free multi-media guided audio tours. A lovely glasshouse cafe is located by the play area, where a picnic area can also be found. A gift shop provides souvenirs of your visit.

11. More things to do in Greenwich and Blackheath

Queen's House is a former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635 near Greenwich Palace, a few miles down-river from the City of London (© Bill Bertram, CC BY-SA 2.5)
The Tulip Stairs and lantern; the first centrally unsupported helical stairs constructed in England at Queen's House (© Robin Webster, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Blackheath Halls is a 600-seat concert hall on Lee Road in Blackheath and claims to be London's oldest surviving purpose-built cultural venue (© Mcginnly, CC BY-SA 3.0)

There are so many things to see and do around Greenwich and Blackheath. Here are a few more places to visit when you are in the area.

Emirates Aviation Experience

State of the art technology and immersive displays provide a fascinating insight in to modern commercial flight. Life size aircraft models are part of the 300 square meter exhibition, while four flight simulators are prime attractions. If you ever wondered what it is like to land a Boeing 777 then here is your chance to find out. The Emirates Aviation Experience is located next to the Greenwich end of the Thames cable car crossing. Admission is £10 for adults with concessions £7.80. If you do not fancy arriving by cable car, North Greenwich station is just a five minute walk away.

Queen’s House

Designed by Inigo Jones, Queen’s House in Greenwich is an architectural gem. The house contains an important art collection, including the iconic Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Famed artists whose work can be seen at Queen’s House include Canaletto, Gainsborough and Rembrandt.

From the Tulip stairs to the gold-leaf ceiling fresco of the Great Hall, the Queen’s House oozes with history. The house is free to enter and there are maps and language guides to help you make the most of your visit.

Blackheath Halls

Blackheath Halls is an entertainment venue with a wide ranging program of concerts and shows. Music, comedy, theatre, talks and exhibitions are all staged at a venue which has been entertaining the public since 1895. The Great Hall is the main performing space, with the Hearn Recital room ideal for smaller events.

Ticket prices vary according to the performance. Blackheath Halls has played host to many well known names, orchestras and choirs. The venue has its own bar where you can enjoy a pre-show drink, with a selection of snacks also available.

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