| |

Maritime Greenwich

By Anne Fraser

What is Maritime Greenwich?

The World Heritage site called Maritime Greenwich consists of a collection of buildings and the park in which they are located. The complex includes the Queen’s House and the Royal Naval Hospital, and the park contains the old Royal Observatory.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. Making a purchase through an affiliate link will mean a small commission for this website. This will not affect your price.

Text: Maritime Greenwich, UK. Images: above the Royal Naval Hospital; below, the Royal Observatory.
Save this image to Pinterest for future reference.

Why is Maritime Greenwich a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Maritime Greenwich is a World Heritage site because the buildings represent the high point in the careers of architects like Inigo Jones (the Queen’s House), Sir Christopher Wren (the Naval College) and Nicholas Hawksmoor (the Royal Hospital, together with Wren). The park was laid out by André Le Nôtre. It retains much of its planned design as well as some of the original trees. The buildings and park “symbolize English artistic and scientific endeavour in the 17th and 18th centuries,” according to UNESCO.

The ensemble represents an important period in British architecture which went on to inspire architects in Europe for the two centuries following its construction.

The UNESCO World Heritage designation also recognises some of the important scientific work carried out at the Royal Observatory by scientists like Robert Hooke and John Flamstead. Their work permitted accurate measurement of the earth’s movement and contributed to the development of global navigation. The observatory is now the base line for the world’s time zone system and the measurement of longitude around the globe.

Seen across a green field, a classical building with columns and two domes.

Three other UNESCO sites are nearby in London: the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, and Kew Gardens.

What can you expect on a visit to Maritime Greenwich?

There is a lot to see at Greenwich and a visit could easily take all day. There are several restaurants where you can stop for refreshments.

The main elements of the site are:

  • The Queen’s House: first Palladian building in England, and originally part of a royal palace. It houses an art museum today.
  • Royal Naval Hospital: a group of elegant Baroque buildings, sometimes also called the Royal Naval College. Today you can view the “Painted Hall,” the chapel, and it also houses a visitor centre.
  • The Old Royal Observatory: a Jacobean-style building, and the base of the world’s time zones. It is now a museum of astronomy and navigation. Book tickets ahead of time here.
  • The Royal Park: in French Baroque style.
park land, with a small hill in the background and the Royal Observatory in the distance on the hill.

The National Maritime Museum is on the site as well, in a grand building that was once the Royal Hospital School.

I am a member of a local group in Bristol who combine our love of history and rambling. We visit London a couple of times a year to explore one of the parks and places of interest nearby. My son, Richard, joined me for this walk. He now lives in London and knows Greenwich quite well, having studied at the University of Greenwich for part of his degree. I was surprised at the sheer scale of the buildings and the size of the park.

A hilly park with a view of London's tall buildings in the background.

Is Greenwich worth visiting?

Quite apart from the chance to take an iconic photo with one foot in each hemisphere, a day trip to Greenwich provides a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of London. It has world-class architecture and a beautiful Royal Park. For history lovers it provides a chance to learn more about British maritime history. You will also get some of the best views over London.

What sort of travellers would like Maritime Greenwich?

I think it would attract a wide range of travellers. The park itself is great for walking and it has a large boating lake. From the hill you get superb views over Canary Wharf.

Children and adults who are interested in boats would enjoy the Maritime Museum and the tall ship moored nearby, the Cutty Sark.

Whatever your age, it is cool to take a photo with one foot in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere at the Royal Observatory. If you are visiting with children be sure to check the website for special activities especially during the school holidays.

A red brick buildings with tall windows and a turret.

Tips for visiting Maritime Greenwich

The best way to arrive at Greenwich is by boat down the Thames. If you want to take photos from the other side of the river you can walk through a tunnel under the river. The observatory is on one of the highest parts of London and there is a hill to climb too. If you don’t fancy the climb, you can find the Prime Meridian at other places nearby.

Although not part of the World Heritage site, visitors can also take a tour of the Cutty Sark, a former tea clipper, and keen shoppers will enjoy nearby Greenwich market.

You can book a combination ticket to the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. If you’re using a GoCity pass to see lots of London sights, the Royal Observatory and the Cutty Sark are included on the pass. The Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum are free.

Use the map below to book accommodations near Greenwich, or zoom out to see places closer to the center of London:

Where is Maritime Greenwich?

Greenwich is about four miles (6.5 km) downriver from central London. The easiest way to get there from central London is by boat. The Greenwich pier is next to the Cutty Sark and is a five-minute walk from the National Maritime Museum. Uber boats depart from London Eye pier every twenty minutes and the journey takes 45 minutes. Or take a sightseeing cruise from Westminster pier to Greenwich.

If you prefer to travel by tube, the Docklands Light Railway takes you to the Cutty Sark Station and connects with underground lines at Bank station. Transport for London has details of bus routes. There is only limited parking and spaces should be prebooked.

For more information about Maritime Greenwich opening hours, prices and how to book tickets see The Greenwich Museums website or the Maritime Greenwich website.

Text and photos provided by Anne Fraser, a retired nurse from Bristol. She is married with five children, two grandchildren and three cats. She blogs at The Platinum Line

Have you been to Greenwich? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *