I’ve been going slomadic this year, which basically means I travel extensively, but try to do it at a slow pace where I can really experience a city like a local. This current round has me in London til mid-May.
Today I explored Greenwich, which is in east London and off the beaten path for most tourists. Getting there is a piece of cake. You take the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf, transfer to the DLR, and get out 3 or 4 stops later at Cutty Sark or Greenwich. Total travel time is 25 minutes max.
Our first stop was the market, which is about a 5 minute walk from the underground exit. Like most London markets, there’s a combination of vendors selling local crafts, vintage items, and food stalls. This market in particular is unique because it’s the only market in the city found within a World Heritage Site.
As tempting as all the goodies were at the stalls, we decided to eat at Nando’s (it’s probably my favorite franchise from the UK, only 2nd to Wagamama). This location has an upper deck that has a great panorama of the pier and Cutty Sark, a historic ship that used to transport tea between China and England.
After lunch we walked around the Old Royal Naval College. Architecture nerds will delight in the fact that it was designed by Christopher Wren who is best known for St. Paul’s Cathedral.
After meandering through the campus, we crossed the street to Greenwich Park, which houses the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory.
Make the trek up the hill for a beautiful panorama of Greenwich and London in the distance. If you’re a science lover, you’re sure to geek out at the observatory. It covers the history of British astronomy and features the only planetarium in the United Kingdom. Oh, and it marks the origin of Greenwich Mean Time.
All the tourists were standing in line waiting to take pictures in front of the Prime Meridian. Here’s a secret: you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to the museum or wait in line if you want a touristy photo op. There’s a small gate just past the end of the walking path to your right. Walk 10 feet and you’ll get a glimpse of the Prime Meridian stretching from the wall down to the foot path. Ta-dah!
Rather than take the train back to central London, we opted to take the ferry instead. Your Oyster / Tube card works with the ferry system so no need to purchase separate tickets. Before boarding, we made a quick stop past this light house that reminded me of Moulin Rouge. It had a slide running around the perimeter and well, this happened…
There are a few different ferry options from the pier so be sure to take the boat headed to Westminster if you’re venturing back to central London. Pro tip: If you want the best seat, head towards the back and sit in the last row. There are no glass panels to obstruct your view and you’ll have up close and personal views of London’s most iconic sites.
Here are a couple of time lapses from the boat ride, the first from Greenwich to Tower Bridge, the second from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge.
Neat right? All together, our adventure lasted four hours and ended with one of London’s most iconic sites: Parliament. Before you exit the dock, you can take a pretty great shot of Big Ben without having to worry about selfie-stick-carrying mobs of tourists getting in your way.
Thanks to Raquel for recommending Greenwich and for being my local tour guide for the day! May we always be tourists in whatever cities we choose to live in.