#2 in MyCity & MyTown – Appreciating London Series

The second of my five top places in MyCity & MyTown, Appreciating London Series is Greenwich.

For some of you who are my first-time readers, you may wonder what Appreciating London Series is all about. Briefly, earlier this year I started a Series on London retracing my footsteps as a Londoner with the aim to sharing what I now find and how I see them. You can read more on the introduction to the Series by clicking this link  My City & My Town – Appreciating London Series.

You can catch-up with the other two blogs in the series by clicking the links below:

#1 in My City & My Town – Appreciating London Series: What makes St Paul’s Cathedral in London a Special Place to Visit?

What is Next to St Paul’s that has its origins in Medieval times? – Paternoster Square

The current blog on Greenwich is an August Update, so you may want to read my 3rd instalment on the Series

#3 in MyCityMyTown-Appreciating London Series-Royal Palaces and Royal Parks (July 2019 Update)

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy reading my Series and I look forward to your comments. For now, let’s explore Greenwich.

Greenwich, London

Greenwich is a nice little town just a stone’s throw away from London, in the south-east which sits on the banks of River Thames, accessible with a 20-minute journey from London (Bank Station). It is a popular destination for tourists because of its maritime and astronomy history.

The area, Royal Greenwich Park is host to the Royal Museum Greenwich (RMG) which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and consists of four top attractions.

1. Royal Observatory,

Q2. Queen’s House

3. National Maritime Museum

4. Cutty Sark.

All of these attractions are within walking distance of each other and would typically fill a full-day itinerary.

There are a good selection of shops for fashion and jewellery and a wealth of quality food to choose from with many pubs here serving food [see below]. This quintessential town is home to one of London’s popular flea market, Greenwich Market [more on this market below] which is just 2-minutes from the station.

This quaint little town is definitely a Must-Do for families with kids, grand-kids, solo travellers and couples – not only for the over 50’s but at any age! You will experience history, lots of free exhibits and guided tours. You will also save money when buying a combined ticket and there are additional savings when buying online – which means you need to plan your visit at least a couple of days prior – more on this below.

In addition, there is a lot to see and do in this little town and if you only have a day to spare, then you may need a workable itinerary so that you do not miss out on memorable experiences. To help you create a workable itinerary and for travel planning in general, read my blogs on 5 Reasons Why Travel Planning is Important and Pretravel Planning – 25 Top Tips for a Stress-free Vacation

As for me, I wanted to witness the Red Time Ball at 1 p.m. which meant that everything else had to revolve around that. Anyways, please read on and discover how I managed 45 Experiences and More in One Day at Greenwich. Let me know what you think of my day in comments below.

Appreciating London Series: Greenwich - 45 Experiences in 1 Day
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An early start to the day’s itinerary at Greenwich, London

I am familiar with Greenwich as I frequently visit here to meet friends for a meal or for drinks. However, on this particular occasion as I re-traced my steps as an “explorer/adventurer”, my objective was to achieve my itinerary as I planned.

I began my day early to arrive at Greenwich for 09:45. I started the day right 🙂 with a cup of coffee and a Chelsea bun at the family owned Peyton and Byrne Cafe. Oh yes! I do have a sweet tooth although I do not indulge with such treats often. However, on this occasion, with all the walking ahead of me, I felt I needed the sugar!

My first stop was the Greenwich Market. Afterwards, I walked around the town for a bit before making my way along King William Walk and across the Royal Park towards the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium. It was not a very busy morning on that day in the market or the town, so it was a little easier to click away. The following is the itinerary of how I spent the day at Greenwich.

1. Greenwich Market

Each time I visit Greenwich, I take the opportunity to visit the Greenwich Market which is right in the centre of town and today was no different. The aroma of fresh coffee and freshly baked bread and pastries was inviting even as I walked along the road towards the market. It was not busy but the crowd was beginning to form.

Greenwich Market in the morning.
Greenwich Market: Seemed a quiet morning but the crowd was beginning to form.

Greenwich Market was established in 1737 and today, this covered market is fun, colourful and bustling with shoppers from the beginning of the market-day till it closes. There is no shortage of a great selection of antiques shops, handmade gift ideas, arts and crafts, British designer fashion and jewellery.

As with any markets, Greenwich Market offers delicious street food on-the-go that spans the globe, ranging from organic, vegan or gluten-free options.

You can find all kinds of food to satisfy your palate including totally 100% Vegan!
You can find a great selection of food to satisfy your palate including totally 100% Vegan!

There is also a huge selection of freshly baked bloomers, delis and cakes, something for everyone! 

If you are a foodie or if you just want an off-the-beaten path experience with eateries that even the locals don’t know about,  you could join the Greenwich Food Tour where you will experience English and International cuisines. Find out more on Greenwich Food Tour.

Freshly baked bloomers and pastries at Greenwich Market
Freshly baked bloomers and pastries at Greenwich Market

Travel tips and Useful information on Greenwich Market

Greenwich Market:

Opening hours:  10:00 – 17:30,  7-days a week and Bank Holidays

Address: Greenwich Market, London SE10 9HZ

2. In and around Greenwich Town

It is certainly a pleasure to walk around this quaint town! In a little town such as this, you will be surprised to find a variety of shops for fashion and jewellery, on the main street and some tucked away in the nooks of the town.

Nauticalia

A shop that I will highly recommend, is Nauticalia, located on Nelson Road and on the corner of King William Walk – you can’t miss it! It is famously quoted as the First Shop in the World! but this claim is probably not true – it is more accurate to regard that this is the first shop in Greenwich since Greenwich Mean Time was invented, so first shop since time began in 1847.

Nauticalia - The first shop in Greenwich since Time began in 1847
Nauticalia – The first shop in Greenwich since Time began in 1847

Nauticalia is a beautiful little shop, which looks more like a novelty store from the outside. It is home to unique nautical gifts and collectables. You will find beautiful clocks and barometers, tools and gadgets, and compasses – all making wonderful souvenirs to purchase. Nauticalia is popular amongst tourists as it is a great part of Greenwich and it is worth a visit when you are here.

Travel tips and Useful information on Nauticalia:

Nauticalia:

25 Nelson Road, Greenwich, SE10 9JB

Places to eat

There is amazingly a wealth of quality food to choose from with many pubs here serving the pub-grub, Italian and French cafes that serves great coffees and fresh pastries,  a choice of Chinese, Vietnamese and of course food-on-the-go. The following places offer a good choice if you are looking for one.

  1. Greenwich Tavern – Is an attractive pub with an elegant interior that serves traditional British pub grub, fish & chips, burgers and sausage & mash. It offers a kids menu for your young ones. This pub offers cocktails and beers as well as real ales. I had visited here on a number of occasions but have not tried the cocktails here  yet. It is definitely a place for me return to on another day during happy hour, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Greenwich Tavern. It is pub that also serves cocktails and offers a family-friendly setting and a kids menu .
Greenwich Tavern is set over two-floors. It is pub that also serves cocktails and offers a family-friendly setting and a kids menu .

2. You can head-over to the Kings Arms, for a traditional pub-grub also if you prefer a different setting.

The Kings Arms at Greenwich Town for your pub-grub!
The Kings Arms at Greenwich Town for your pub-grub!

3. There are a great variety of restaurants such as Bills, takeaways and cafes which caters for all palates.

Greenwich offer a selection of cafes and restaurants to cater for all palates.
Greenwich offer a selection of cafes and restaurants to cater for all palates.

4. The family-run cafe, Goddards of Greenwich, has been here since 1890 and offer delicious home-made pies which you may want to try.

Goddards of Greenwich - Serving home-made pies since 1890
Goddards of Greenwich – Serving home-made pies since 1890

It was easy to be lost in my own thoughts when here but I was mindful of my time and everything that I wanted to see before 6 p.m. Besides the quaint town, the Market and the shops, what makes Greenwich popular are the four main attractions of the Royal Museums Greenwich.

With much anticipation, I began to make my way along King William Walk and across the Royal Park towards the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium, which was my first stop. It was a pleasant, cool morning with the rays of sun coming through between the trees and I just felt that the day ahead was going to be a splendid one.

My plan to visit the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium first was important because I wanted to watch the Planetarium Show at 11:45. So, a walk through the gallery and Flamsteed House before the show worked well because, after the show, I still had some time to explore which brought me nicely to watch the Red Time Ball drop at 1 p.m. Then, a walk downhill to the Queen’s House, followed by the Maritime Museum and then the Cutty Sark.

3. The Royal Observatory and the Planetarium, Greenwich, London

When one thinks of the town Greenwich, one can immediately relate the town to GMT, the Greenwich Mean Time, the Prime Meridian of the world, where zero degree longitude is marked – Yes! it is the home where time begins and ends, where east meets west! Time, the most precious commodity in life, is the Only commodity that we own, according to Baltasar Gracian who once said:

“All that really belong to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.”

So, where better a place is there than Greenwich itself for a day visit to discover the practicality of accurate time and time distribution in everyday life with my young children many years ago. Thus, a visit in the present to the Royal Observatory brings me back to my early ‘Mum’ days when I took my little ones to teach them about Time and where it all began!

Greenwich is important to me because of the simple memories I have treasured during my visits there with my children. As you already know, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich Park is the Home of Astronomy and the Greenwich Mean Time, and it sits on a hill overlooking the Thames River. At the gates of the Royal Observatory, you will find the famous clock, Shepherd Clock.

i) Shepherd Clock at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

The Shepherd Clock at Greenwich
The Shepherd Clock at Greenwich

Although the concept of time and time-scale was conceived throughout many centuries, the practicality and technical ability to distribute accurate time into everyday life did not become possible until 1847 when this famous clock, became the first clock to ever to show GMT to the public. The unique feature of this famous Shepherd Clock is in the original slave dial. You will note that while the minute and seconds hand are conventional, the hour hand goes around the dial once in 24-hours, so at midday, the minute hand points to the top but the hour hand points to the bottom! Have I confused you yet? 😊

ii) Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

Besides the Shepherd Clock, the Prime Meridian of the World passes through here, marking the divide between the Eastern and the Western hemisphere. You can find this in the Meridian Courtyard.

The Meridian Line is one of my kids favourite. I have watched their little theatrics as they competed in trying to find the locations of Cities and discover how far exactly in distance they stood! They have stood astride the Prime Meridian, as if playing hopscotch, with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and the other foot in the western hemisphere. It was fun watching them 😊

The Prime Meridian at the Meridian Courtyard in Greenwich - shows the exact distance to a destination.
The Prime Meridian at the Meridian Courtyard in Greenwich – shows the exact distance to a destination.

iii) Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

More importantly, of course, the Royal Observatory was created in the 1670s spurred on by King Charles II who wanted better navigation system for seamen and traders. He asked Sir Christopher Wren, who was also an architect, to design the building which is called Flamsteed House.

iv) Time and Longitude Galleries at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

It is here, at Flamsteed House, that you will find the Royal Observatory’s Time and Longitude galleries, home to the celebrated John Harrison’s “sea clocks”, H4. This is an interesting gallery especially for those with a scientific mind who wish to explore the history behind the various solutions developed by mathematicians and clockmakers in the 18th century. Also, on display here is the GPS receiver which Sir Robin Knox used on his round-the-world record breaking voyage in 1994.

Flamsteed House in Greenwich - Why time and longitude?
Flamsteed House in Greenwich – Why time and longitude?

v) Red Time Ball at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

Another attraction in Flamsteed House which, I think, you should simply witness at least once in your lifetime is the “function” of the bright red Time Ball which sits on top of Flamsteed House.

The Red Time Ball sits on top of Flamsteed House, Greenwich
The Red Time Ball sits on top of Flamsteed House, Greenwich

Historically, this red ball distributed time to ships on the Thames River and many Londoners. The questions you may ask – What does it exactly do? And how does it do it?

Well, since 1833 till today, each day at 12:55, the time ball rises half-way up its mast. At 12:58 exactly, the ball is raised all the way to the top. Then, at 13:00 exactly, the ball falls, thus providing a signal to anyone who is looking. When it was first used in 1833, the ship’s chronometer was accurately set before it set sail.

The Time Ball at 1 p.m Note the time displayed on the Shepherd Clock, Greenwich
The Time Ball at 1 p.m Note the time displayed on the Shepherd Clock, Greenwich
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich The Time Ball being dropped at 1 p.m.
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich. The Time Ball being dropped at 1 p.m.

vi) Planetarium at the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium

While here, you could also take a journey through space by visiting the Planetarium.Royal Observatory astronomer presents you with a journey to explore the night sky by flying to the heart of the Sun, takes you to the distant galaxies and see the birth of a star or land on Mars. This is an exciting ‘adventure’ for both young and old and definitely worth the experience. It is a ticketed event and it costs £8.00

The Planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The Planetarium at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

vii) The View

From the top of Greenwich Park at the Royal Observatory, you will have stunning views across the Royal Park towards the Queens House.

Stunning views of the Queen's House, River Thames and London's Skyline from the top of the hill at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
Stunning views of the Queen’s House, River Thames and London’s Skyline from the top of the hill at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

viii) Stroll across Greenwich Park

It is a pleasant stroll downhill, across the Park to the Queen’s House. When strolling through the park, be sure to keep a look out for the Royal Deer! Yeap! Deer – they are said to be the direct descendants of King Henry VIII’s hunting stock.

*Summary of Experiences at the Royal Observatory & The Planetarium

  1. The Shepherd’s Clock
  2. Greenwich Meridian Line
  3. Flamsteed House
  4. Time & Longitude Galleries
  5. The Red Time Ball
  6. The Planetarium
  7. The View – stunning views of the Queen’s House, River Thames and London’s Skyline
  8. The Park – the chance to see the Royal Deer! 🙂

Travel tips and Useful Information on the Royal Observatory and the Planetarium, Greenwich, London

Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:30

Admission:        Adult: £15.00     Child: £6.50     Day Explorer: Adult – £24.25 / Child – £11.50

Facilities:
Toilets and baby-change facilities are located:

    • on the Lower Ground floor;
    • after exiting the Admission area;
    • on the right-hand side after exiting the Admissions area;
  • at the base of the external staircases in front of Flamsteed House.

Tickets:

For tickets to visit the Royal Observatory which includes an audio guide, click Get your Guide and to Save Money you could purchase the great value Day Explorer Ticket which combines a visit to the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark (see below on Cutty Sark),  click Get your Guide

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4. The Queen’s House, Greenwich, London

The Queen’s House in Greenwich, unlike other buildings with the name “Queen’s House,” really is  a historic royal house which served as a former royal residence. It was Greenwich Palace, where Elizabeth I was born. The House was built between 1616 and 1636 and was designed by the famous architect, Inigo Jones. Jones was inspired by his travels in Italy and the Queen’s House was the first classical building in England and one of the very few surviving designs of Inigo Jones. The building is Grade 1 listed and is an ancient monument and includes the 35 metres (115 feet) axial vista to River Thames.

i) How did it begin?

It all began when James I gifted the building to his wife, Anne of Denmark, by way of an apology for swearing in her presence because she shot one of his favourite dogs whilst hunting. Work on the building commenced in 1616 but halted in 1619 when Anne of Denmark died, with only the first floor completed. Work on the house  continued again after some years in 1629, when Charles I gave Greenwich to his wife, Henrietta Maria. The House was finally completed in 1636.  Additional wings to the building were linked by colonnades built in 1807.

Today, you can wander around this magnificent building for Free which has undergone massive restoration in recent years and imagine what life would have been like all the way back in the 17th century. As mentioned earlier, this building is Grade 1 listed and is an ancient monument and includes the 35 metres (115 feet) axial vista to River Thames.

Colonnades linking the main building, the Queen's House with the additional wings
Colonnades linking the main building, the Queen’s House with the additional wings
Connecting arches between the colonnades at the Queen's House, Greenwich.
Connecting arches between the colonnades at the Queen’s House, Greenwich.

ii) Experience 400 years of history 

There are many reasons to visit this iconic building. The House has a wealth of history, all 400 years! Discover its history through the beautiful art collection that is available for you to view and gain insight into. The art collection spans through the ages especially the iconic Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I which was acquired for the nation in 2016. You will also discover the many stories of England’s past from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I to Charles I and beyond including the history of its architecture.

An art collection through the ages at the Queen's House

An art collection through the ages at the Queen’s House

iii) Discover why the Queen’s House is also known as “The House of Delight”

The Queen’s House is also known as the “House of Delight.”  Legend has it that it is a “haunted” palace.

More on this below, on the Tulip Staircase.

Guided tours are available throughout the day for you to join. For now, come along with me as I share with you my discoveries of this iconic building. 

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iv) The “White” Queen’s House

This iconic building painted in white was impressive from the outside and it is hard to believe that it was once a red-brick building.

The Queen's House
The main entrance to the Queen’s House. Hard to imagine that it was once a red brick building.

Walking into the building, I began to realise the magnificence of the architecture …

v) The Great Hall

On entering the Great Hall, I found myself standing within the four-walls of a cube, 12 metres x 12 metres x 12 metres that has one of the most beautifully designed ceiling and floor that I had seen. Simple but effective, yet making a statement of architectural genius.

vi) Beautifully decorated ceiling in gold leaf

Standing in the midst of this cubic masterpiece, at first glance looking up, you will notice a simplistic and a beautifully decorated ceiling in gold leaf. It reflected painstaking craftmanship of an intricate and unique design that goes well with the rest of the interior of the House.

I understood from the tour guide that the design was crafted by Richard Wright, a Turner Prize winner. The delicate and ornate work began in 2016 and was completed in nine weeks. This was the first time the ceiling had been worked upon since 1639.

The ceiling of the Great Hall at the Queen's House
The ceiling of the Great Hall at the Queen’s House. A beautiful gold-leaf patterns to match the rest of the architecture.
The intricate detail of the architecture of the ceiling in the Great Hall of the Queen's House.
A beautiful gold-leaf patterns to match the rest of the architecture. The intricate detail of the architecture of the ceiling in the Great Hall of the Queen’s House.

The original decoration of the ceiling were six paintings by Orazio and Gentileschi which were removed very carefully and now belongs to Marlborough House in London.

Queen's House: The original ceiling of the Great Hall, decorated with paintings by Orazio and Gentileschi.
Queen’s House: The original ceiling of the Great Hall, decorated with paintings by Orazio and Gentileschi.

The Great Hall is the heart of the building. From the first floor gallery, you get a closer view of this incredible architecture.

Queen's House: A closer look at the architecture of the ceiling in the Great Hall.
Queen’s House: A closer look at the architecture of the ceiling in the Great Hall.

vii) Walk on the incredible striking black and white marble from the 1630s

When you are on the first floor, you see the squared floor below in a striking black and white marble from the 1630’s. The floor of the cubic Great Hall. The floor measures 12 metres x 12 metres and is decorated in 1630’s black and white marble.

Incredible, isn’t it?

Queen's House: The floor of the cubic Great Hall.
Queen’s House: The floor of the cubic Great Hall. The floor measures 12 metres x 12 metres and is decorated in 1630’s black and white marble.

viii) Views from the first floor gallery of Queen’s House

Although the Great Hall is the centrepiece of the Queens House, a walk through the first floor gallery gives you spectacular views of the exterior. On one side, there is a view straight to the Thames! Queen Mary II ensured that there was uninterrupted view of the Thames and that the closest distance between the College Buildings, situated over the road is exactly the width of the House, see the below photo. Wasn’t she a smart woman!

From this window, is a view straight to the Thames. Queen Mary II ensured that the closest distance between the College Buildings (over the road) is exactly the width of the Queen's House,
From this window, is a view straight to the Thames. Queen Mary II ensured that the closest distance between the College Buildings (over the road) is exactly the width of the Queen’s House,

Then, on the other side of the first floor gallery square, you get the view of the Royal Observatory, high up the hill, across the Royal Park.

From this window, is the view of the Royal Observatory across the Royal Park. The balcony provides an area for the Queen and her ladies to watch riding and hunting taking place in the Park.
From this window, is the view of the Royal Observatory across the Royal Park. The balcony provides an area for the Queen and her ladies to watch riding and hunting taking place in the Park.

ix) The Tulip Stairs

The Tulip Stairs is definitely unique! You need to see it to know what I mean. This magnificent ornate, wrought iron structure is one of the original features of the House. It is the first geometric self-supporting spiral stairs in Britain. The paint, which is a quirky shade of blue is unique, because it was derived from crushed glass.

The Queen's House: The spiral tulip staircase is unsupported except by each step.
The Queen’s House: The spiral tulip staircase is unsupported except by each step.
The elegant, uniquely designed spiral staircase at the Queen's House.
The elegant, uniquely designed spiral staircase at the Queen’s House.
The elegant, uniquely designed tulip spiral staircase at the Queen's House.
The elegant, uniquely designed tulip spiral staircase at the Queen’s House.

In addition to it’s unique features, the Tulip Stairs is popular for another reason which has contributed to the Queen’s House reputation as the House of Delight.

As mentioned earlier, legend has it that the Queen’s House, also known as the House of Delight is haunted. The Tulip Stairs was where the photos taken by Rev Hardy in 1966 showed two or three shrouded figures on the staircase.

[Later sightings of ghosts was in 2002 in the balcony of the House].

[To find out more about seeing the Queen’s House ghost source materials, email Geraldine Charles at GLChar@rmg.co.uk.]

x) The Queen’s Presence Chamber 

This incredible feature of the Queen’s House is on the first floor. The space, used as a public-facing identity was where Queen Elizabeth I would meet her courtiers.

The opulent ceiling of this room dates from early years of Henrietta Maria when it was used as her bedchamber. The bed was positioned directly under the coat of arms on the ceiling.

The ceiling is ornately painted, and the artwork is another original feature of the Queen’s House. It gives an idea of how this House was decorated and filled with art in the 1630s by Henrietta Maria. This ceiling was restored in 2013.

The Queen's House: The ceiling in the Queens's Presence Chamber features the original artwork of the building.
The Queen’s House: The ceiling in the Queens’s Presence Chamber features the original artwork of the building.

The fireplace in this room is an interesting feature. Above the fireplace, sits the initials of Charles I and Henrietta Maria Regina.

In addition to these two incredible original features of the House, the infamous Armada Portrait is on permanent display in this room.

xi) The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I

The iconic “Armada Portrait” was painted after England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. The portrait was owned by the descendants of Sir Francis Drake. Drake was a sea captain and a pirate who fought against the Spanish invasion.

The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I is a statement of her power as a monarch who was only the second English queen to rule in her own right.

The Armada Portrait is displayed in the Queen's House.
The Armada Portrait is displayed in the Queen’s House.
The features of the Armada Portrait

There are three distinct features of this Portrait:

  • The imperial power following the British defeat of the Spanish Armada, the hopes and aspiration of the people at that time and to reflect female power and majesty. The first feature is the Tudor Rose that is used in the portrait to symbolise the unity in the realm under the Tudor dynasty through the marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Rose also represents religious connotations, which depicts the medieval symbol of the Virgin Mary, to allude to Elizabeth, the virgin queen, as the secular successor of Virgin Mary;
  • Secondly, the Pelican which is Elizabeth’s favourite symbol is used to portray Elizabeth’s motherly love to her subjects;
  • Thirdly, the ermine, its tail of pure white and a black tip symbolised purity and was also a status symbol as wearing it was restricted to royalty and high nobility.

xii) Mask of Youth

Queen Elizabeth 1 was a virgin queen at the age of 55, at the time of the Armada Invasion in 1588.  The portraits during this period became known as “Mask of Youth” because the Queen appeared idealised, ageless and invulnerable, created to portray her intellect, innocence as well as her strength and charisma.

Below is a picture of an animatronic mask displayed opposite the Armada Portrait created by Mat Collishaw, a contemporary artist. Drawing information from various sources, he had created this mask to portray how Elizabeth I may have looked when the Armada Portrait was created.

The Queen's House: Mask of Youth
The Queen’s House: Mask of Youth – created by Mat Collishaw suggests how Elizabeth I may have looked like during the Armada Portrait.

My thoughts on the Queen’s House

My visit to the Queens House was a rewarding experience because I learnt more about its history than I had read. Listening to information from experienced tour guides was an added benefit and I can remember more. Somehow. I had time to admire the architecture at leisure. I found the tour guides extremely helpful and I enjoyed my conversations about the House with them. The entry to this iconic building is FREE, although a donation is recommended. I would highly recommend a visit to the Queen’s House in Greenwich.

*Summary of Experiences at the Queen’s House

  1. How did it all begin and imagine what life was like back in the 17th century as you walk through the 1st classical building in England which is Grade 1 listed which is also regarded an ancient monument.
  2. Experience 400 years of history, the stories behind each painting and each wall…
  3. Discover why it is also known as “The House of Delight”
  4. The “White” Queen’s House 
  5. The cubic Great Hall 
  6. The recently restored beautifully decorated ceiling in gold leaf
  7. Walk on the incredible striking black and white marble from the 1630s
  8. The stunning view directly to River Thames from the 1st floor gallery
  9. The infamous Tulip Stairs
  10. The Queen’s Presence Chamber
  11. The Armada Portrait 
  12. The “Mask of Youth”

Travel tips and Useful information on the Queen’s House, Greenwich, London

Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00

Admission: Free

Tours are ticketed: £9.00 (online/in advance) or £10.00 (walk-in)

NB: Combined tickets are available for all attractions which works out cheaper – Day Explorer: Adult: £24.25    Child: £11.50

Address: Romney Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF

Facilities:

At the base of the Tulip staircase – Toilets, baby-change facilities and an accessible toilet.

External horseshoe stairs – for level access

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5. The Natural Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The National Maritime Museum is a perfect place to visit after the Queens House as it is located next door.

i) A museum fit for both young and old and possibly the largest of its kind in the world

The National Maritime Museum is a museum fit for both young and old. I can assure you that it is a place which will not bore you! 😊 It features popular artworks and space-photography that will capture your interest from the time you walk-in as it did mine.

An interesting venue for both kids and adults, a place where you can stroll at leisure and take a breather while your kids or grand-kids are entertained with the many activities and objects that are showcased here. You will be intrigued and entertained, for sure.

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

I was particularly drawn to the following main five attractions:

ii) Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle at the National Maritime Museum

Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle is a replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory, in a bottle by Yinka Shonibare, MBE. This is located just outside the Maritime Museum building. It is a popular piece of artwork, scaled-down to the very detail of the Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory in which he died during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805;

The intricate details of Nelson's Ship - showcased in a Bottle at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
The intricate details of Nelson’s Ship – showcased in a Bottle at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

iii) Figure Head Collection at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

The Figure Head Collection is a collection of more than 230 figureheads, reflecting ornamental carvings from late 17th century. It tells a story of how it developed through the centuries until early 20th century;

Some of the Ship's Figure Head Collection at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Some of the Ship’s Figure Head Collection at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

iv) The Traders Gallery at the National Maritime Museum

The Traders Gallery tells a story of British history which spanned over 250 years under the powerful East India Company. The East India Company’s trading patterns changed in the late 1700’s. By this time, it made most of its money from the trade in China tea, as tea drinking became popular in Britain.

The Opium Pipe in the Traders Gallery

The Opium Pipe in the the Traders Gallery is the original opium pipe made in ivory and terracotta. It stands as a reminder to Britain’s trade history with China with repercussions felt to this day.

The Traders Gallery depicts the stories of what led to the first and second Opium Wars with China and how the East India Company shaped the trade between Britain and Asia.

The Opium Wars

Britain had resorted to using opium as means to payment in exchange for tea as tea drinking became popular in Britain. Recreational use of, and addiction to, opium became popular and widespread that the Chinese government prohibited the use of opium in 1839. The Chinese authorities seized and destroyed 20,000 chests of opium. This led the British government to insist on compensation, failing which they initiated the First Opium War (1839-42) and then the Second Opium War (1856-1860).

The East India Company

The stories in the gallery continued to illustrate the rise and fall of this majestic East India Company, the end of the Company that changed the world, the effect of its lasting legacies which is felt even today. There are more details on the trade with India and the far east. It was a good history lesson and brings to light the good, the bad and the ugly side of Britain’s trade in the East.

The original Opium Pipe displayed in the Traders Gallery, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
The original Opium Pipe, made of ivory and terracotta, displayed in the Traders Gallery, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

v) Great Map of the World at the National Maritime Museum

The Great Map of the World is a super large map drawn on the floor. You can find it on the second floor, at the North Wing of the National Maritime Museum. This huge Map makes a nice playground for children from age 1 to 99!

The North Wing provides a nice area to relax, take a break, stop for snacks and coffee. There is a cafe here which provides a selection of sandwiches and cakes if you need to take a break while watching your kids play.

The Great Map, North Wing, National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich: The Great Map of the World printed on the floor. Makes a nice playground for kids while parents can enjoy their coffee and snacks.

vi) Prince Frederick’s Barge at the National Maritime Museum

Prince Frederick’s Barge is a colourful barge which was designed by William Kent, built by John Hall and completed with carved decorations by James Richards between 1731 and 1732. It has a flat mid-section to accommodate the cabin. It was rowed by 21 oarsmen and steered by a barge-master. It is gilded with small square sheets of 22-carat gold leaf applied over a thin layer of glue.

The barge enhanced the royal status of Prince Frederick and the carved decorations symbolised his position as the heir to the British throne and suggests the maritime power of the nation.

vii) Exhibitions and Other events at the National Maritime Museum

Currently, the museum features The World’s Best Space Photography with amazing space photos and it is a ticketed event. Prior booking is highly recommended.

There are a number of scheduled shows and events that takes place daily which you can check on the day of your visit at the reception or you can ask any of the tour guides there who are extremely helpful.

What do I think of my visit to the National Maritime Museum?

I found my visit here rather enjoyable probably because I was not as distracted as I was when on my first visit with my kids. I especially liked the Opium Pipe in the Traders Gallery. It is something which I recall seeing but now I noted its beautiful and intricate details – made of ivory and terracotta.

I would highly recommend that you visit this National Maritime Museum as it is educational for kids and for adults. It brings us back in time and reflect on the World’s history. No matter how you see it,  it is good to fit this into your itinerary for completeness as part of a nice little day trip!

Summary of Experiences at the National Maritime Museum

1. Possibly the largest of its kind in the world 

2. Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle

3. Figurehead Collection 

4. The Traders Gallery – British history over 250 years

5. Map of the World – various continents

6. Prince Frederick’s Barge

7. Exhibitions – at the moment it is on “Space Photography”

Travel tips and Useful information on National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Opening hours:  10:00 – 17:00

Admission: FREE  /  Special events and exhibitions are ticketed.

Toilets and baby-changing facilities are accessible.

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London Series_ National Maritime Museum
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My final stop on my itinerary at Greenwich was the Cutty Sark.

6. The Cutty Sark, Greenwich

The Cutty Sark, Greenwich is the only surviving tea clipper in the world today. It was an absolute delight to re-visit this legendary 19th century sailing ship that was the fastest ship in her time. Besides, my kids had a ball here, loved it every time and brought back many happy memories.

The Cutty Sark, Greenwich - the world's only surviving tea clipper.
The Cutty Sark, Greenwich – the world’s only surviving tea clipper.

i) A Family Fun Day at the Cutty Sark, Greenwich

A fun day at the Cutty Sark is really a day filled with fun suitable for family and children from three-years upwards. Fun for kids as they have a splendid time learning how to steer the ship’s wheel and taking the 963 tons of Victorian tea clipper through storms and the drama of sea-life. They also get to meet various characters from the past such as Captain Woodget, Nannie the Witch, James Robson who was the cook and Jock Willis who built the Cutty Sark.

ii) History of the Cutty Sark, Greenwich

There is no doubt that the Cutty Sark is a state-of-the-art Victorian tea clipper that was built to overcome the challenges of the sea, go at great speed of 17 knots and has had a dramatic life around the globe, visiting every major port. She was built in 1869 to challenge other tea clippers on the China tea run, to bring the finest and freshest tea back to London.

iii) The Wheel, Cutty Sark, Greenwich

The wheel itself has undergone restoration work but the original steering mechanism had been preserved. The design reflects an ingenuity for it is smaller and takes-up less space within the ship compared to other tiller designs in a cargo ship of that time.

iv) The name “Cutty Sark”

The name “Cutty Sark” – is said to have been inspired by a poem called Tam O’Shanter, which was written by Robert Burns in 1791. It is a story about a farmer, Tam, who was mesmerised by the beauty of a young witch called Nannie. Nannie was clothed in a revealing outfit, a short shift called “cutty sark.” He was then chased by this witch and he fled for his life on his horse, Maggie.

You may want to read the full story and you can do so on the official website of the Royal Museum Greenwich by clicking here.

Cutty Sark, Greenwich: Image of Nannie, in a cutty sark, chasing Tam O'Shanter
Cutty Sark, Greenwich: Image of Nannie, in a cutty sark, chasing Tam O’Shanter

v). Traditional Afternoon English Tea at Cutty Sark, Greenwich

A traditional afternoon English Tea was the highlight of my visit this time. There is a  café, located underneath the original hull of this iconic ship. I was pleasantly surprised at the relaxed atmosphere and the selection of sandwiches, raisin scone, mini cakes and a pot of English breakfast tea offered as part of the traditional English tea experience .

The cost of this experience was £27.00 per person. This price includes the price of admission to the Cutty Sark which is otherwise £13.50.

My final thoughts on Cutty Sark, Greenwich

My overall experience at the Cutty Sark was a positive one. I did not spend a lot of time watching the tour with the kids as I had none of my own on this visit. The traditional English tea and the cakes was definitely what I needed after all that walking in Greenwich.

Summary of Experiences at the Cutty Sark:

  1. Family fun-day with characters from the past.
  2. Discover the history of the World’s only surviving tea clipper.
  3. Steer the Ship’s wheel and imagine going through storms and the drama of sea-life.
  4. The story behind the name “Cutty Sark”.
  5. Traditional Afternoon English Tea.
  6. Value for money!

Travel tips and Useful information on Cutty Sark, Greenwich, London:

Opening hours: 10:00 to 17:00 (Last admission: 16:15)

Admission:      Adults – £13.50          Child – £7.00

                        Cutty Sark Afternoon Tea – £27.00 (includes entry to Cutty Sark

Day Explorer ( includes Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory, Meridian Line, &  Free               Museums)  –    Adults – £24.25     Child: £11.50

[Day Explorer does not include Planetarium shows and Special exhibitions]

Make the most of your day and save money by purchasing your Day Explorer ticket by clicking Get your Guide

Facilities:

  • Toilets and baby changing facilities are wheel-chair accessible.
  • Located on the lower ground floor, near the Even Keel Café.

Getting to Cutty Sark:

Address: Cutty Sark, King William Walk, Greenwich SE10 9HT

Nearest stations: Cutty Sark DLR

                            Greenwich Rail Station and Maze Hill Rail Station

                            Greenwich Pier

Oyster Cards are valid on all local journeys via trains and buses.

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Pinterest Graphics: London Series_ Cutty Sark, Greenwich
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My final say on 45 Experiences and More in 1-Day, Greenwich, London 

Greenwich certainly offers a lot of experiences, and it is a visit that requires careful planning. With planning, you can enjoy 45 Experiences in One Day at Greenwich, London. 

These are:

  1. I call this a typical English Experience – Coffee + Chelsea bun in a British owned cafe, Peyton and Byrne.
  2. Greenwich Market – one of the oldest flea market in England dating back to 1737.
  3. Enjoy and experience the authentic, freshly made food from all around the world, plus 100% vegan option was also available.
  4. Go back in time and walk through the little nooks and narrow alleys where you will be pleasantly surprised with artisan shops and boutiques.
  5. Visit the “First Shop in the World” – Nauticalia, since 1847. You would probably want to give it a quick browse in the morning and visit later in the day or just visit once, perhaps at the end of the day.
  6. Note the amazing places to eat – Experience the traditional British pub-grub and grab a pint or two.
  7. The Royal Greenwich Park is host to the Royal Museums Greenwich, designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  8. Experiences at the Royal Observatory & The Planetarium.
  9. The Shepherd’s Clock.
  10. Greenwich Meridian Line.
  11. Flamsteed House.
  12. Time & Longitude Galleries.
  13. The Red Time Ball.
  14. The Planetarium.
  15. The View – stunning views of the Queen’s House, River Thames and London’s Skyline.
  16. The Park – the chance to see the Royal Deer!
  17. Experiences at the Queen’s House.
  18. Imagine what life was like back in the 17th century as you walk through the 1st Classical building in England which is Grade 1 listed and is an ancient monument.
  19. Experience 400 years of history, the stories behind each painting and each wall…
  20. Discover why it is also known as “The House of Delight”
  21. The incredible art collection.
  22. The cubic Great Hall.
  23. The recently restored beautifully decorated ceiling in gold leaf
  24. Walk on the incredible striking black and white marble from the 1630s
  25. The stunning view directly to the River Thames from the 1st floor gallery
  26. The infamous Tulip Stairs
  27. The Queen’s Presence Chamber
  28. The ceiling of the Chamber is the original feature of the House
  29. The “Mask of Youth”
  30. The Armada Portrait – discover the significance of the Tudor Rose, Pelican and ermine that is featured on the portrait.
  31. Experiences at the National Maritime Museum
  32. Possibly the largest of its kind in the world
  33. Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle.
  34. Figurehead Collection
  35.  The Traders Gallery – British history over 250 years
  36. Map of the World – various continents
  37.  Prince Frederick’s Barge
  38.  Exhibitions – at the moment it is on “Space Photography”
  39. Experiences at the Cutty Sark
  40. Family fun-day with characters from the past.
  41. Discover the history of the World’s only surviving tea clipper.
  42. Steer the Ship’s wheel and imagine going through storms and the drama of sea-life.
  43. The story behind the name “Cutty Sark”.
  44. Traditional Afternoon English Tea.
  45. Value for money!

** I suggested that a visit to the Queen’s House after the Observatory, however, if you are needing lunch or a break, the Greenwich Tavern is a good place to go to. It is just across the road from the Park, where you can easily resume your visit to the Queen’s House afterwards. Alternatively, you can visit the Cafe at the National Maritime Museum.

Travel tips and Useful information on Greenwich, London:

Getting to Greenwich

There are several ways to get to Greenwich. Oyster cards are valid on all Underground and bus journeys from Central London to Greenwich. The following is the three main transportation mode that can be used to get here:

  1. Docklands Light Railway (DLR) – DLR can be accessed from Bank Station which is on the Central Line from Central London. Greenwich is just 20 minutes journey from here.
  2. Southeastern Trains – From London Bridge, it is less than 10 minutes                                                                  From Cannon Street Station, it is less than 15 minutes
  3. MBNA Thames Clippers – The catamarans depart every 20 minutes from:                                                                   London Eye pier – 40 minutes to Greenwich                                                                         London Bridge pier – 25 minutes to Greenwich                                                                      Tower pier – 20 minutes to Greenwich

Royal Museum Greenwich

For more information on the Royal Museum Greenwich, look-up their official website: https://www.rmg.co.uk

Suggested tours to enhance your experience when visiting Greenwich, London

Get your Guide here

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Appreciating London Series_ Greenwich - 45 Experiences and More in 1 Day
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Update: Aug 2019

https://www.rmg.co.uk

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28 Comments

  1. I am super glad that you liked my blog and found it to be thorough, inspiring you to visit. I am sure you will enjoy all the experiences Greenwich has to offer. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

  2. Such a thorough guide, I didn’t realize there was SO much to see in Greenwich. You have inspired to add it to my ever-growing bucket list 😉

  3. You are very welcome. Love sharing my adventures 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post especially the spiral staircase. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, appreciate it very much.

  4. Such a thorough guide to Greenwich, perfectly complimented with beautiful photos! Love that spiral staircase!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Thank you so much, Patricia. Glad you enjoyed the 1 day itinerary in Greenwich and it is a beautiful part of London. Hope the itinerary will entice you to visit Greenwich when you are next in London.

  6. Thank you so much Karen. Glad you enjoyed the post and feel inspired to visit London again. As and being a Londoner, after all these years, I am still discovering London…

  7. Thank you so much Sharon! I am super glad that you are inspired to visit Greenwich and I hope you will do so soon! I think to have a guide for any town or City is helpful to all travellers. There is often the little things you pick-up that is overlooked by others. I am sure your guide to Nairobi will be an awesome one. I appreciate your positive and thoughtful comments.

  8. Thank you so much, Cristina! There is so much more to London that should be discovered and I am glad that you found the post interesting. Hope you get to visit Greenwich when next in London. Really appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

  9. Thank you so much, Mo and I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Glad you enjoyed it and loved my photos! It is a long blog post and some may feel it is too much to do in a day, but what I discovered is that this one day itinerary is doable.

  10. Thank you so much Gabby. Glad you found the blog interesting and brought back happy memories for you. There is no maritime background in me or my family but I am completely curious about anything nautical and maritime history. There is definitely lots more to Greenwich – may seem like it is a lot to do in a day, however, it is doable. To answer your question,, a bloomer is a loaf of bread, usually crusty at the top, rounded ends and with a couple of slashes on top. They are so much tastier than the normal rectangular ones – in fact there is no comparison.

  11. There’s so much more to London that meets the eye (if you pardon the pun). I feel a visit is in order to reacquaint myself with my home capital. Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. So much to see, you’ve really inspired me to want to come see Greenwich and challenged me to do a guide for my town Nairobi!

  13. I didn’t know about Greenwich but it’s amazing to find other places around London! I love the details in this post 🙂 So glad I found it

  14. Georgina,
    This is a great comprehensive post. I love that it is detailed, and your photos are awesome!

  15. This was such an interesting read for me! A lot of this reminded me of my dad who spent most of his life at sea, kinda brought up things he taught me as a kid ❤️
    And there’s so much more to Greenwhich than I realised!! I do have to ask though …. what’s a baked bloomer??!!

  16. Thank you, Jenny! Yes, Greenwich is a fabulous place to visit and to make the most of 1 day. I am certain that you will visit us one day 🙂

  17. I really didn’t know anything about Greenwich before reading this post (apart from GMT). It definitely sounds like worth visiting if I ever make it to London and the Uk! 👍

  18. Thank you so very much, Marilyn. So happy that it brought back happy memories you. Greenwich is Greenwich and ever so popular till now and believe it will always be. I love walking through Greenwich Park and enjoy it. I appreciate your lovely comments.

  19. An enjoyable, interesting and memorable read Georgina. My very first trip overseas was to London (way back when) and on the top of my list was Greenwich, the Cutty Sark, and the royal observatory and planetarium. Wonderful memories, as was lunching at the Kings Arms hotel. 🙂

  20. Well, I certainly did!. It was a full-on kind of day. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

  21. While we have visited London a couple of times we have never been to Greenwich – or even thought about visiting. But the fact Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 4 top attractions has my attention immediately. We will definitely visit Greenwich on our next visit to London. Plus there looks to be a lot to see and do around the town as well. And so close to London. Big ticks 🙂

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