Tips to explore Greenwich

By traveller John Letford aka Juan Ríos

I can still remember the day that London was confirmed as the host city for the Olympics 2012. The interim 7 years proved to be worth the wait.

As one of the most vibrant cities in the world, it was difficult to predict just how much more incredible the city would become within those 7 years.

The O2. Foto © John Letford

In the last 7 years Londoners have seen the tallest building in the European Union spring from the banks of the Thames (The Shard), the opening of the UK’s largest undercover shopping centre on the very site of the 1908 London games (Westfield White City) and of course a gold standard Olympic park which has unfurled itself across industrial land the size of 350 football pitches. The recent Olympics provided the perfect stage for London to display some of these recent exciting developments that have put it at the forefront of city break destinations for global travellers.

With the excitement of “London 2012” I have recently found myself actively exploring more and more of London’s attractions- old and new. Having lived in London for 10 years (I celebrate my first decade next month) I am more than familiar with a slow spin on the London Eye or being a culture vulture at the Tate & the Tate Modern. However, until recently, I had never found the excuse to explore the Greenwich area and see London from the easterly perspective.

In 2011, my partner and I selected Greenwich as the location for our civil partnership and the resulting party for over 100 of our friends and family. It was on our first anniversary that we decided to go back and spend the day exploring an area which neighbours the site of the, then, forthcoming Olympic games.

We decided to take the Thames Clipper from central London in order to see London from the river. The Thames Clipper is a waterbus service that runs between east and Central London and we departed from Embankment- a short walk from Trafalgar Square.

Foto © John Letford

For only £6 each, we enjoyed a smooth, air conditioned ride down the Thames, taking in the immense historical sights of The Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral & London Bridge in contrast against the modern architecture of the London Eye, The Shard and the Tate Modern. It is worth taking this route for a traffic and tourist free view of some of London’s greatest buildings.

We disembarked in Greenwich after just over 30 minutes, where we were met with the imposing buildings of the Royal Naval College (dating back to the 17th century) with Canary Wharf towering over us from the opposite side of the river. This standoff of old versus new is absolutely worth seeing.

From there, we strolled around the Cutty Sark, one of only three remaining clipper ships from the nineteenth century and a symbol of Greenwich’s naval heritage. We then made our way through the grounds of the naval college before having a relaxing drink at The Trafalgar Tavern.

Trafalgar Tavern. Foto © John Letford

This quintessential London pub has both indoor and outdoor seating and is perfect for taking in the sights along the edge of the Thames. The views of Canary Wharf are amazing.  In the distance we could see The O2 (formerly The Millennium Dome) nestled onto the bend in the River Thames.

We made our way there (a short tube ride) where we had booked a climb over the roof of the structure. We had previously only ever found ourselves under the roof of the O2 so the prospect of being on top of the roof was pretty exciting!  Named “Up at the O2”, it is definitely worth the few hours and the £22 cost. Following the safety briefing, we started our ascent…

John Letford and José Ayala at the O2. Foto © John Letford

Aside from the feeling of climbing one of London’s most famous landmarks, we got a really different perspective of the surrounding London. We were free to unclip and take in the 360 view that includes the new cable car (also DEFINITELY worth trying) and the Thames Barrier, the lighthouse straight across the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to the west.

We could even see the Anish Kapoor helter-skelter standing in the expectant Olympic Park.

We were lucky enough to visit the Olympic Park when the 2012 games took place and saw that helter-skelter up close. Just another reminder of how many different perspectives, different angles and different views there are to see London’s greatest landmarks.

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3 Responses to “Tips to explore Greenwich”
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