Greenwich is a town in England, most famous for the Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich has long been a center for astronomical study, while navigators across the world have set their clocks according to it. Greenwich also has a rich maritime history with prominent landmarks like Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory. Home to the famous Palace of Placentia, Greenwich was also the birth place for several members of the Royal Family from the House of Tudor including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Greenwich is a great idea for a weekend away from London where you can just walk along the River Thames, do a bit of shopping in the quirky shops and street markets, discover the Greenwich Mean Time and sip in a bit of Maritime history along the way.
Greenwich is just 20 minutes away from Central London. You can reach Greenwich via Docklands Light Railway, Tube, Rail, Bus or Riverboat.
Greenwich Tourist Information Centre is in Pepys House on the Old Royal Naval College site next to the Discover Greenwich exhibition center. You can buy tickets and Oyster cards for travel on tubes, buses, trains, the Docklands Light Railway and Thames Clipper boat services from the center. A good idea is to take the Guided Walk organized by them daily at 12.15pm and 2.15pm.
GMT is a Time System at Royal Observatory in Greenwich which has been adopted as a global time standard. Britain had become the most powerful Maritime Power in the world by the 19th Century and most Ships used GMT as the reference meridian on their maps. In the year 1884 it was decided in an International Conference that the modern Prime Meridian (at which the longitude is defined to be 0°) passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The Greenwich Meridian passes through the Airytransit circle of the Greenwich observatory. Today you can spot the Prime Meridian as projected by Green colored Laser from the Royal Observatory. It has also been painted in Red across the Buildings that fall on the way.
National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is the world’s largest museum of its kind. It houses more than 2 million items such as maritime art, cartography, ship models and plans, scientific and navigational instruments, instruments for time-keeping and astronomy. The world's largest maritime historical reference library is also here with over 100,000 volumes. Some of the books date back to the 15th century. The museum also has an interesting collection of ship models and paintings taken from Germany after the World War II. Instituted in 1984, The Caird Medal is awarded annually to "an individual who has done conspicuously important work in the field of the Museum's interests and is of a nature which involves communicating with the public”.
Located on a hill in Greenwich Park overlooking the River Thames, The Royal Greenwich Observatory has played a major role in shaping our understanding of Astronomy and Navigation. It was commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II who also appointed an Astronomer Royal. His role was to "apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation."
The Observatory has several priceless tools of astronomy and navigation including H4, the longitude marine chronometer built by the John Harrison. The history of precision timekeeping for navigational and astronomical purposes is well documented at the museum here. A popular object here is F.M. Fedchenko clock, the Russian made Pendulum clock widely recognized as the most precise in the World.
Build in 1617 The Queen’s House in Greenwich is a former residence of the Royalty. It has great significance from an Architectural point of view as The Queen’s House was the first consciously classical building to have been constructed in Britain. Inigo Jones the Architect introduced Palladianism in Britain with the Queen’s House. Palladianism is a European style of architecture derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). The Queen’s House is also a great place to appreciate maritime paintings and portraits. The grounds behind the Queen's House will be used to house a stadium for the equestrian events of the London Olympics.
The Old Royal Naval College is described by UNESCO as the “finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles”. The building was originally serving as the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. After the Hospital was closed, it was converted to a training establishment of the Royal Navy. During the World War II as many as 35000 Soldiers were trained at the Old Royal Nava College.
Today the Old Royal Naval College is host to several community activities. Musicians from Trinity College of Music play here on important occasions. The Old Royal Naval College is also a prominent feature in advertisement and Feature Films of modern times. You might have spotted it in these popular flicks- Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Madness of King George, The Mummy Returns, The Avengers and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
Cutty Sark is a famous Merchant Vessel designed by Hercules Linton and built in 1869 which is on display at Greenwich Dock. Named after Cutty Sark, the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns' 1791 poem Tam o' Shanter, she was meant to serve the Tea Trade between China and Britain. Cutty Sark shares the distinction with HMS Belfast and SS Robin of being on the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register. Another highlight of Cutty Sark is that it is a rare Clipper Ship with a wooden hull on an iron frame.
Clipper Ships like Cutty Sark were built to make best use of the strong trade winds around the African coast route. Once the Suez Canal opened, they were made redundant by the more powerful Steamer Ships which could pass through the Canal.
The Greenwich Market is considered to be one of the best in London. It is a good place if you are looking for jewelry, fashion, and antiques art works or handcrafted toys. The Greenwich Market is open from Tuesday- Sunday with arts, craft and food stalls on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday with antiques, vintage and collectables on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 10am to 5.30pm.
If you happen to be a biker and are looking for clothing and accessories then J&S is a good option. It is located next to the Somerfield car park. Half Brick Images sells antique images related to cinema, music, sport, travel, transport, politics and artistic styles such as Art Deco.Teljo is for History Buffs. They sell postcards, GB coins, GB and foreign bank notes, GB stamps, first day covers, presentation packs and cigarette cards.Post Script Antiques is a good place for Antiques ranging from collectables, furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, jewelry, vintage toys, paintings, clocks, ceramics glass, military items and curio.
Nauticalia on Nelson Road is the first shop in the world. The rationale is that it is alongside the Meridian Line! It is the place to head for traditional nautical furnishings and instruments like clocks, compasses, barometers, watches and telescopes.
For a travelogue on an English World Heritage site famous for Roman Baths and modern cultural feativals visit Bath.
For my travelogue on places around New York, visit Holiday Ideas around New York.