On the top of the hill in Greenwich Park sits the Royal Observatory and the Meridian Line. At the foot of the hill is the National Maritime Museum, The Queen’s House and Greenwich Park Playpark. A short walk from there is the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College with its Painted Hall and Greenwich Market. These are all part of Maritime Greenwich and you can explore it in a day. Here’s how our day at Maritime Greenwich panned out…
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Maritime Greenwich is a World Heritage Site of major international significance.
Welcome to Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, where internationally significant architecture and landscape, artistic achievement, scientific endeavour and royal association come together to tell the story of Britain at sea, and of world time-keeping, navigation and exploration.
Our day in Greenwich starts like most other outings, early in the morning at the playpark. Kids’ rules, what can we say? There’s also a pond with paddle boats for hire.
Before we hit Greenwich Park we look for The Cutty Sark and find her in pride of place at Greenwich Pier next to the Old Royal Naval College. When we find her it’s still a long way to opening time at 10 am; so a look around and a peek from the outside-in had to do for today.
The short walk from Cutty Sark through the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) is marked with tears and etched in our memories as Kate, on a run-around as usual- in the safe traffic-free zone of the ORNC- fall and hit the corner of her eye on the corner of the Sir Walter Raleigh statue in front of the ORNC visitor center. Thankfully, it’s nothing too serious but she’ll probably have the little scar on her eyelid forever and an interesting story to tell one day.
The Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is one of the last British tea clipper sailing ships to be built in the 1900’s before steam technology took over. The other two ships of her type are kept in Australia and Chile for preservation. She was the fastest tea clipper and held the record time to Britain for 10 years. Today she is part of the National Historic Fleet and is on display at Greenwich Pier to the public.
You’ll save a little bit by buying tickets online rather than at the door. Better value yet is buying the combo Day Explore tickets online for access to Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory and the Meridian Line: £19 Adult £9 Child
The Royal Museums Greenwich includes The Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), the National Maritime Museum (NMM), The Queen’s House and Cutty Sark. bshs.org.uk
Painted Hall Ceiling Tours
I regret not being able to go on a Painted Hall Ceiling Tour at the ORNC. The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, painted between 1707 and 1726 by Sir James Thornhill, has been under restoration since 2013.
Kids under 6 are not permitted access to the tour for safety reasons and I try to avoid guided-anything with toddler Kate by my side anyway. But I think it must be pretty special to go up on the viewing platform to within touching distance of one of the largest painted ceilings in the UK to be told about all its ancient secrets while studying its detail up-close. The thing is; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing because the conservation work ends in September and so will these tours, never to be repeated again for more than a 100 years. I suggest you go if you’re able to and at all interested in art, history and British mystery.
Painted Hall Ceiling Tours Cost £10 Adults, £5 Children (7-12). To book a tour and to confirm details please visit: https://www.ornc.org/painted-hall-ceiling-tours-tickets
The National Maritime Museum (NMM)
Entry is free, but there are donation boxes at the entrance with suggested amounts of £5 or £3 GBP to donate in aid of its preservation.
I’m surprised at what gets and holds the attention of my children in a place like this. When I think I’ll make up time by quickly browsing through and sometimes even try to skip a section they’ll want to linger, read inscriptions and ask questions. Nick was captivated by the large ship replicas located right at the beginning as we entered the museum. He studies each replica closely to identify its main purpose; warship or cargo and passengers carrier.
The only part of the NMM they were not interested in was Turner’s Battle of Trafalgar Gallery. They wanted to get out of the room the minute they set foot in it. It may have something to do with the graphic portrayal of the casualties of war. I guess they’re not ready for the dark side of war and death yet, but they’ll have to face it at some point soon.
Either way, I didn’t get to listen to the audio guide of the Battle of Trafalgar and Turner’s masterpiece while studying the large work of art with the other visitors. No, I was hastily dragged out of the gallery on to the interactive exhibits on the way up to the Great Map, where they conquered the world; continent by continent. After they navigated around the whole world on the Great Map we moved on to more interesting exhibits that covered subjects such as the history of the spice and silk trade routes, the establishment of a port at The Cape Of Good Hope in South Africa, of daring British conquests at sea and the history of slavery.
The AHOY! gallery is an indoor play area for under-7s and All Hands is for 6-12 year olds. The kids did not want to leave. They had so much fun and we stayed here for quite a while – part of the reason why we did not make it to the Queen’s House.
The Queen’s House
The Queen’s House at Greenwich is a historic royal house filled with an extraordinary internationally renowned art collection. Entry is Free. We planned to visit after NMM but never made it as the children had so much fun playing at the NMM, the Astronomy Centre and the playpark.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG)
Royal Observatory Greenwich Entry Fee: £15 Adult. £6,50 Child (tickets at the door) Tickets are slightly cheaper to buy online. Buy the Day Explore ticket online for £19 and get access to the ROG and the Cutty Sark at the best rate.
The Royal Observatory is the home of longitude and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and you can stand on the Prime Meridian line during your visit to the ROG. The Prime Meridian of the world is where east meets west at Longitude 0°. A meridian is a north-south line selected as the zero reference line for astronomical observations.
During our visit, the Planetarium was closed for repairs, but the Astronomy Centre (Free Entry) kept us entertained with many hands-on things to do. Here we got to handle a big telescope to find stars and constellations in space. The kids took part in a simulated space mission as rocket scientists and engineers. Sadly, they failed and the mission was a total disaster. But. They learned more about space here and the beautiful celestial formations in it than anywhere else.
Outside the ROG we saw what remains of the actual telescope built by William Herschel himself at his home in Bath. It was with that very same self-built telescope that he discovered the planet Uranus in 1781 from his home. We first heard of William Herschel when we spent two weeks in Bath, but I did not know that the telescope was at Greenwich and it was a nice surprise to stumble upon the connection. William Herschel’s house in Bath is now a museum that’s open to the public.
London Skyline from Greenwich Park
From the Royal Observatory Greenwich, you’re guaranteed a spectacular view of the London skyline. We rested here on the steps and had lunch in the park at midday. Greenwich Park was quiet early in the morning and got busier from 11 am onwards when the tour and school groups start to arrive in steady droves.
I packed quite a lot of snacks for the day and was thankful for it as always. Be warned: the Park View Coffee Cabin outside the ROG where we bought lunch was unapologetically rubbish and extortionate. Prices are clearly geared to take full advantage of the constant stream of tourists visiting the area and not at returning customers. In hindsight, I should’ve got sandwiches at the Pavillion Cafe at the ROG or, better yet, waited until we got to the Greenwich Market for a meal.
The food stalls at The Greenwich Market cater to almost every nationality across the world. There are predominantly food stalls but we saw craft, gift, jewelry and fashion stalls too. We got here after our awful lunch in Greenwich Park and instantly regretted not waiting till we got here. At the market, we settled for a good coffee from Ideal Espresso and the kids got sweets and slushies from the vintage sweet shop.
I explored Maritime Greenwich with my three children aged 10, 8 and 2. There’s more to do and see in the area than we could fit into our day at Maritime Greenwich. Ideally, you’ll have more than one day to spend here so you’ll get to see it all in detail and at your leisure. Solo travelers, couples, and families with older children can certainly get through most of the sites at Maritime Greenwich in a day.
We highly recommend a visit to Greenwich to see the sites and learn about its significance to the world.
As always, our opinion is 100% our own. We are not affiliated with any of the establishments mentioned in this post. Our opinion is not endorsed by any of them. Facts and information were sourced online from public sites and credit is given where due as far as possible. Please visit the relevant websites to get up to date prices and information before you visit.
- An Afternoon Walk Around London
- A Day At The Natural History Museum in London
- Visit Lacock Abbey – Birthplace of British Photography and Harry Potter Film Location