Greenwich is only about 20 minutes from London, and it offers some unique and fun things to do with kids. It has a strong maritime history and a portion of it is a UNESCO Maritime World Heritage Site, but more people these days know it as the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian. Greenwich also has a strong royal heritage, a beautiful riverside location, and a variety of experiences, both historical and modern. These are some of our top recommendations for things to do in Greenwich with kids.
The Cutty Sark is a clipper ship, built in 1869, that has been restored and put in dry dock. The ship is one big museum to be explored, with lots of exhibits of what life on the ship was like.
Kids will enjoy climbing up and down the ship’s staircases, or riding the tiny glass elevator that makes the ship more accessible. There are interactive displays on each deck, as well as photographs, videos, and artifacts to see.
Younger kids will get an Explorer Trail booklet at the start to give them things to look for and facts about each deck. There are also stamp stations where they can stamp their booklet.
Be sure to go all the way downstairs to see the lower part of the hull of the ship before you leave. The entire ship is raised off the ground, so you can walk all around it.
A glass-roofed building has been built around the ship to house a cafe, gift shop, and visitor’s center.
Best For: All Ages
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum, located near the Cutty Sark, is dedicated to the history of British sea exploration, trade, and the Royal Navy.
This large museum has a variety of different kinds of displays, including full-size ships, miniature models, and artifacts, some centuries old.
There is a Great Map where children can grab a touch screen tablet and use it to explore the world and play interactive games while walking across the map.
There are two play galleries for kids. The AHOY! children’s gallery for under 7’s lets little ones go fishing, work together in an interactive boatyard, and shoot cannons. The All Hands children’s gallery for ages 6-12 lets bigger kids load cargo onto a ship, prepare food in a ship’s galley, and shoot down a pirate ship in an interactive game.
The best part is that admission is free, except for certain special exhibits or ticketed events.
Still, as a whole, this museum is best suited for older kids with an interest in maritime history. But, you can always pop in with little ones to visit the play areas and get a snack in one of the cafes.
Best For: Ages 9+
Greenwich Park, a 183-acre Royal Park, is part of the UNESCO Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site, which includes The National Maritime Museum and Old Royal Naval College. The park is also home to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Peter Harrison Planetarium, Flamsteed House, and the Queen’s House.
Much of the park, however, is open green space, gardens, lakes, and a playground. There is also a wilderness deer park where you can observe red and fallow deer.
I recommend climbing the hill towards the Royal Observatory, if you are able. You will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Greenwich and London. You can grab a quick bite or drink at the Coffee Cabin at the top of the hill before you explore the rest of the park.
Flower fans – if you visit at the height of summer, be sure to check out the Rose Garden located on the west side of the park, near the Ranger’s House. The roses should be in full bloom around this time and they are just gorgeous! There’s also a beautiful Flower Garden in the center of the park.
Kids of all ages will insist you stop at the playground, located at the northeast corner of the park, close to the Queen’s House. The playground is fun for all ages. There are slides, swings, and things to climb. There are restrooms here as well.
And, if you visit between April and October, there is a boating pond next to the playground where you can rent rowing or pedal boats.
Best For: All Ages
The Prime Meridian in Greenwich is the north-south line that represents zero degrees longitude on Earth. Every place on Earth was measured in terms of distance from this line. It represents the place where the Eastern and Western Hemispheres meet.
The Prime Meridian is also the reference line for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). When an international time standard was created, Greenwich was chosen as the center for world time. GMT is calculated at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
You’ll find the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the town. If you walk around the building, you will see painted lines and historical markers showing the Prime Meridian line. It’s pretty cool to straddle the line, with one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one foot in the Western Hemisphere.
If you want to find out more about the Prime Meridian and time, then head inside the Royal Observatory!
Best For: All Ages
If you and your kids want to learn more about Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the Prime Meridian of the world, and check out London’s only planetarium, then a visit to the Royal Observatory Greenwich is in order.
The Royal Observatory was commissioned by King Charles II in 1675 and for centuries, scientists mapped the seas and the stars from this location. Now it’s a museum, and it houses the United Kingdom’s largest refracting telescope as well as a camera obscura and a 4.5 billion year-old asteroid.
There are some interesting displays that explain the history and importance of the Prime Meridian and GMT. In the planetarium, you’ll find astronomy galleries that explain how stars and planets are born. There are also high-definition planetarium shows scheduled throughout the day, at an extra cost.
In the courtyard, there’s a great photo op where you straddle the Meridian line. Just be aware there is frequently a line for this.
If you or your kids have a strong interest in geography, maritime science, and space, this is a great place to stop in for an hour or two. Younger kids probably won’t get too much out of it, though.
Best For: Ages 12+
Other Greenwich Attractions
For families looking for a little more modern adventure, check out one or more of these attractions just a short boat ride away: Emirates Air Line Cable Car, The O2 Arena, and TeamSport Go Karting.
The Emirates Air Line Cable Car crosses the River Thames between the Greenwich Peninsula in North Greenwich and the Royal Docks. You can travel one-way in either direction or buy a round trip ticket. Each “flight” takes about 10 minutes and offers great views of London. The cable car is great for all ages. And, if your kids are really into aviation, you can also visit the Emirates Aviation Experience, located next to the Greenwich Peninsula cable car terminal. It’s geared towards younger kids, with interactive displays and life-size aircraft models.
The O2 Arena offers a unique and exhilarating adventure for those ages 10 and up (and 1.2 meters/4 feet tall). It’s called Up at the O2, and you actually climb up the outside of the arena dome to a viewing platform at the top. The 90-minute climb is done via a walkway and each participant wears special climbing gear, including a safety harness. If you like heights and great views, this is a great experience. There are other things to do at the O2 as well, including bowling, movies, and special exhibits.
If you want excitement closer to ground level, then check out TeamSport Go Karting Docklands. It features a multilevel indoor go karting track for ages 8 to adult. There’s also a bar area with food and drink. TeamSport Go Karting is located on the Thames, about a 20 minute walk from both the Charlton and Woolwich Dockyard train stations. If you’re coming from the O2 Arena area, they offer a free pickup service from North Greenwich Tube Station, with certain restrictions, if you pre-book. See their website for more details.
Where to Eat
As with the rest of London, there are many amazing restaurants serving a variety of cuisines in Greenwich. I recommend checking out reviews on TripAdvisor as a starting point. Just search London restaurants, then narrow it down to the Greenwich neighborhood. You can also ask the locals what their favorite restaurants are once you get there.
We ended up having lunch at Goddards at Greenwich, located just a couple of blocks from the Cutty Sark. Goddards has been open since 1890, serving up traditional pie and mash at an affordable price. Their kids menu options include a kids size minced beef pie and a sausage roll cooked in a flaked pastry. They have yummy desserts as well!
If you’re not sure what you want to eat, or you want to try a variety of foods, then Greenwich Market is the place to visit. There are numerous food stalls here (in addition to the stalls selling amazing crafts, jewelry, clothing and other goods). You can find pizza, churros, ramen, sausages, baked goods, and so many other delicious items here. Not all stalls are open every day, so check out the Greenwich Market web site for more information.
While you can get to Greenwich from London by train, bus, or the Tube, kids and adults alike will especially enjoy getting there via the MBNA Thames Clippers, the fastest fleet on the River Thames. The trip from Tower Pier to Greenwich Pier can take 10-20 minutes, depending on which service is running. You can get service to Greenwich from other piers, such as Embankment and Westminster, as well.
If you’re traveling to the O2 Arena or Emirates Air Line Cable Car, Thames Clippers runs boat service between Greenwich Pier and North Greenwich Pier as well, making it a fun and convenient way to travel. See the Thames Clippers web site for service details.
If you’d rather travel on land, I suggest taking the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Bank Station to Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich Station. It looks like an ordinary train, but it’s automated, so it’s driverless! Kids can sit in the front car and pretend to drive the train. The Cutty Sark Station puts you right between the Cutty Sark and Greenwich Market, a great place to start your visit.
Another fun option, which we used as we left Greenwich, is the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The approximately 1,215-foot tunnel, built in 1902, goes under the River Thames from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs.
There are 2 elevators, so it’s stroller-friendly (as long as they are working). Otherwise, there are about 80 steps to get down to the tunnel floor and then back up. If you have small children, keep them close, as bicyclists use the tunnel as well. They are supposed to dismount and walk, but as we discovered, some ride through.
The entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is located next to the clipper ship Cutty Sark. Just look for the glass dome! You’ll exit the tunnel at Island Gardens and it’s just a straight two-block walk to the Island Gardens DLR Station.
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