Ask any native Londoner which side of the river is better and you’ll instantly get a definitive answer (as well as the obligatory slagging off of the other side). I am a south Londoner born and bred, so naturally I think it’s best. But generally speaking it doesn’t have the best rep – Donald Trump claims he cancelled his trip to the UK because the new US embassy is “off location” (it’s in Battersea, just south of the river) and, after all, he’s the definitive authority on everything these days.
But despite this, south London has some real gems. And one of my favourite places is Greenwich. Known for its historic landmarks such as the Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum, as well as its market and the O2, the south east London world heritage site is often swarmed by tourists. But there’s a lot more to do and see in Greenwich – and I should know, I live there.
So here are my favourite places and things to do in Greenwich if you want to explore it and avoid the tourist traps:
I’m not sure there are many other places that have so many pubs in a square mile. Most people go to The Gypsy Moth as it’s right by the Cutty Sark, but I prefer The Mitre. It’s an 18th century pub with a quirky vibe, and often has live music. And because it is around the corner from the market, it doesn’t get crowded by tourists. They do a great (but difficult) pub quiz on Sunday nights too and the staff are super friendly. Plus there’s free WiFi – win.
If you really want to get away from the touristy area, you can’t beat the Cutty Sark pub which, despite its name, is not by the Cutty Sark. Take a short leisurely stroll along the river and you’ll find this stunning Georgian pub. It’s cosy in the winter, and has tables overlooking the river in the summer. And if you want something more substantial, there’s a dining room upstairs, But be warned: it’s very popular so you may have to scramble for a table!
One of the pitfalls of Greenwich being such a honey trap is that most of the restaurants are chains. But there are a few great places. For a delicious pizza, head to Bianco 43; whilst technically a chain, it’s only one of 3, and the charming restaurant offers delicious wood fired pizzas.
If you’re looking for a bit more variety, head to the Sail Loft. The European food is decent, but it’s the views that really make it as it’s bang on the river just along from the Cutty Sark. It’s also nice for a drink after work.
Alternatively if you’re in the mood for some good traditional surf or turf, the Rivington is the place to go. Its one of the Caprice Holdings restaurants (owners of The Ivy, J Sheeky, Sexy Fish, La Caprice and 34 Mayfair) so you know you’re in good hands.
The final place that deserves a shout out is Zaibastu on Trafalgar Road. If you’re looking for fancy, just stick with Sticks’n’Sushi, but if you just want delicious sushi this is the place to go. It looks somewhat dubious on the outside, and it’s very basic inside, but the sushi is super tasty and excellent value. The first time I went I was so shocked by the prices, I ended up ordering enough for 2 very hungry people as I was assuming each dish would be tiny! It’s also BYO which keeps the cost down even more. Make sure to book as it’s popular.
Other things to do
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it’s one of my top 2 favourite parks in London. It has stunning views of London (forget the London Eye), a deer park, a gorgeous rose garden and the observatory. You can even see the Meridian laser which marks ‘Greenwich Meantime”.
The Fan Museum
This adorable niche museum houses an extensive collection of fans from around the world, as well as exhibitions; at the end of last year, they hosted a “Street Fans” exhibition where they asked leading street artists to design fans. There’s also a lovely tea room for an affordable afternoon tea.
Watch a film at the Greenwich Picture House
Regularly rated as one of the best cinemas in London, it has plump reclining seats, artisan snacks and shows both blockbusters and arthouse releases. It also has a basement bar that hosts music and comedy gigs, and a chic upstairs cafe.
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Take a class at the Laban
The Laban is a part of the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and is the world’s largest purpose build contemporary dance centre with 13 studios. As well as offering full and part time courses, they have a programme of adult dance and fitness classes for all abilities, including ballet, yoga, pilates and contemporary. You don’t have to sign up for a full term – you can just drop in whenever you fancy.
Laugh at the Up The Creek
The famous stand up comedy club is home to shows every Thursday – Sunday. And, if you’re feeling brave, on Wednesday there’s improv. Even if you don’t watch a show, it has a vibrant bar that’s always buzzing.
Enjoy live music at the Admiral Hardy
Despite being on the edge of Greenwich market, this bar rarely attracts tourists as it has grungy rocker vibe. But if you can get over the intimidating exterior, it’s actually a very friendly bar with a quirky cocktail area in the back. They have fantastic live music and djs (that you can dance to) and it gets packed out on Friday and Saturdays. Plus, on Wednesdays they host salsa classes upstairs!
Watch a play at the Greenwich Theatre
Ok I’m going to admit the last time I went there I fell asleep (in my defence I was watching the Duchess of Malfi), but they do put on a variety of productions, both by national companies and local amateurs.
Walk up Royal Hill
Tucked away from the main area, Royal Hill runs up the side of the Greenwich Library and has a string of independent shops, including a florist, cheesemongers, traditional sweet shop and butchers. There’s also the Buenos Aires Café that’s ideal for relaxing over a cup of coffee.
So next time you’re in Greenwich, try to resist the ‘obvious’ things to do, and make sure to check out these places. And keep an eye out for any upcoming festivals too as Greenwich has a calendar full of them!
You can find all the locations mentioned here and others in Greenwich and London on the London Lamppost Map