Things to do in Greenwich: Best restaurants, pubs, coffee and more

Jochan Embley
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Greenwich feels very much like an area of two halves.

On the one hand, there is its historic core, home to the Greenwich Meridian and Royal Observatory, alongside a multitude of centuries-old buildings and a beautiful park. Then, there is the Greenwich Peninsula, a newly regenerated area that has pumped new life —and interest — into the area.

From the best pubs and restaurants, to the most fascinating museums and beautiful parks, this is the complete guide to Greenwich.

Main attractions

Greenwich Park (Getty Images)

Greenwich Park is one of the most pleasant green spaces in the city. Climb to the top of the hill and you’ll be rewarded with a superb panoramic view of the River Thames and central London, while within the grounds there are various picturesque gardens, a pond for boating, museums, cafes and monuments. Greenwich Market, open seven days a week, is a bustling collection of traders, offering up everything from vintage fashion to street food to jewellery. Greenwich Peninsula has plenty going on too, with its own park, a driving range, street art and sculpture, and restaurants.

Food

Rivington Greenwich

Rivington Greenwich, which is part of the same restaurant group as The Ivy, focuses on simplicity with its British dishes, but isn’t without the odd flourish. Try the cod with butter beans, chorizo and spinach, off the a la carte menu. There are more than 200 gins on the menu too, so it’d be rude not to get at least one G&T during a visit. The Hill, meanwhile, offers up Mediterranean cuisine — from tapas to pizza — in a laid-back, family-friendly setting. Be sure to dip into the excellent wine list.

Craft London is a beautiful place to be — its interiors were designed by Tom Dixon — and its ever-changing menu matches the surroundings in terms of quality. If it’s still on the menu by the time you visit, try the wood pigeon with squash, barley, foraged mushrooms and sage.

For the best views, go to The Peninsula Restaurant, based within the InterContinental hotel by the O2, looking out over the Thames and Canary Wharf. The food is pretty special, too, with the delicately crafted dishes coming courtesy of chef Tomas Lidakevicius, whose culinary background includes stints at the prestigious City Social, Corrigan’s and Galvin at Windows.

Goddards at Greenwich does pie and mash the proper way — the family-run business has been perfecting its craft since 1890. The traditional mincemeat pie and mash is its speciality — be sure to make the most of the “liquor” (parsley sauce). For another British classic, fish and chips, head to the Golden Chippy. A couple of years ago it was ranked on TripAdvisor as the best restaurant in the capital, and best believe the hype — nowhere in south-east London does a better battered cod.

For Japanese food, there are two main players. Sticks’n’Sushi has branches all over London, and this conveniently located Greenwich outpost is well worth a visit, specialising in yakitori skewers of meat and fish. Choose the sharing platter for a proper feast. Zaibatsu broadens the horizon slightly, offering pan-Asian cuisine. The surroundings are unglamorous but the food is delicious, especially the sashimi. Taking a trip over to Vietnam is Pho Street. The menu has plenty to choose from, but it’s the pho, unsurprisingly, that stands out, especially the lobster version.

Drink

Greenwich Union

Greenwich has plenty of good old-fashioned pubs, ideal for a liquid refreshment after a day spent exploring the area. Among the most famous is the Cutty Sark, a three-storey Georgian boozer with a good beer selection and a friendly atmosphere. Try to bag a table by the window for a view of the Thames. The Trafalgar Tavern is another golden oldie, first opening its doors in the 1830s. It’s a straightforward place — don’t expect any under-the-radar craft beers here — but it serves perfectly as a meeting point for a catch-up with friends. For more varied beer options, go to the Greenwich Union, a Meantime bar which has plenty of its own beers on tap and a fair few bottled European surprises. Right next to to it is Richard I, a handsome pub with a lovely conservatory area — be sure to head into the terrace during summer, too. The Old Brewery, recently revamped, is another place to visit during the warmer months, thanks to its stellar beer garden, which makes the most of a the pub’s grand setting next to the Old Royal Naval College. The Gipsy Moth is also in a great location, right near the Cutty Sark, and is always a popular place — get there early to grab a table.

For something a bit different, go to Champagne and Fromage. Mostly, it’s all in the name — plenty of fizz and oodles of cheese is on offer — but there are a few other French favourites thrown in for good measure, such as duck confit or a plate of snails. Davy’s Wine Vaults has an extensive wine list, which is worth spending some time over (but don’t feel afraid to ask the staff for a recommendation).

Coffee shops and cafes

Plumtree Cafe is great place for parents and kids, with scrumptious homemade baked goodies and Allpress coffee, alongside a special play area for the little ones. Keep an eye out for the regular restaurant pop-ups it hosts, too. Peyton and Byrne has three London bakeries: one on Great Portland Street, another in Covent Garden and this one in Greenwich. Everything it bakes, from the breads to the tarts, is incredibly moreish, and there’s plenty of great teas and coffees to wash everything down. Arapina, which appears in Greenwich Market at the weekend, adds a Mediterranean twist to proceedings, offering treats that cater for the vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free market. If you’re strolling the park, make a beeline for Pavilion Cafe, found at the top of the hill near the Royal Observatory. It works as a place to lunch, with a range of hot dishes from pizza to soup, but we’d recommend going for a spot of afternoon tea.

Music and nightlife

Adele performs at the O2 in 2016 (Getty Images)

One venue dominates the area — the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena. It consistently draws the biggest pop and rock acts on the planets to perform on its stage, and also plays host to numerous sporting events, from tennis to boxing. There are two smaller music venues within the dome too: Indigo at the O2 and Hollywood Bowl. Both host a range of events, from gigs to stand-up comedy.

Oliver’s Jazz Bar is much lesser-known, but no less of a gem. It’s a cosy little place that boasts a genuinely impressive line-up of international jazz acts, alongside regular jam sessions. Plenty of pubs in the area put on live music, with the Pelton Arms and Morden Arms among the favourites.

Studio 338 dominates the clubbing scene in Greenwich. It hit the headlines in tragic circumstances in 2016 after being ravaged by a fire, but has since reopened and is strong as ever, boasting some of great club nights, such as Sankeys and Defected. The outdoor terrace is the club’s USP though — ideal for summer raving and open throughout the winter (it’s covered and heated, don’t worry).

Arts

Iconic: Cutty Sark (Getty Images)

Cutty Sark is Greenwich’s most iconic attraction. The 19th century ship which upon completion was the fastest in the world, is now the focal point of a museum. It’s perfect for a family day out — kids will leave meeting the “crew”, as well as walking beneath the hull of the historic vessel. In keeping with the seafaring theme is the National Maritime Museum, which tells the story of the seven seas and those who have sailed them. It runs regularly changing exhibitions — for spring and summer 2018, there was a photography collection dedicated to the great British seaside. Queen’s House is home to a wonderful art collection — chief among it is the famous Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. The Royal Observatory, meanwhile, is the home of time itself. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) provided the framework for how we live and organise ourselves today, and you can find plenty of info on that and more at this museum. There’s a wonderful planetarium to enjoy, too.

Greenwich Theatre is the best of the area — it’s a lovely building and, although you won’t find the latest cutting-edge plays here, it’s great for a family day out.

Most Instagrammable spots

Old Royal Naval College

The view from the Royal Observatory

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Cutty Sark

The Tulip Stairs at Queen’s House

And one more thing…

“Celebrating the history of fans and the art of fan making.” Need we say more? The Fan Museum has more than 5,000 exhibits packed into its relatively small space, taking you through the various iterations and styles of fan that have appeared over the centuries. It also offers afternoon tea in its orangery. Delightful.

How to get there

Tube: North Greenwich (Jubilee line)

Rail: Greenwich, Maze Hill

DLR: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich, Greenwich

Bus: 129, 177, 180, 188, 199, 286, 386

Boat: Greenwich (RB1, RB1X), North Greenwich (RB1, RB1X)