Greenwich

Greenwich (gren-itch) lies to the southeast of central London, where the Thames widens and deepens, and there's a sense of space that is rare elsewhere in the city. Quaint, villagelike and boasting the Royal Observatory and the fabulous National Maritime Museum, Greenwich has been on Unesco's list of World Heritage Sites (as Maritime Greenwich) since 1997. A trip there will be one of the highlights of any visit to London, and you should certainly allow a day to do it justice, particularly if you want to head down the river to the Thames Flood Barrier.

Greenwich is home to an extraordinary interrelated cluster of classical buildings; all the great architects of the Enlightenment made their mark here, largely due to royal patronage. In the early 17th century, Inigo Jones built one of England's first classical Renaissance homes, the Queen's House, which still stands today. Sir Christopher Wren built the Royal Observatory in 1675-76 and, with his acolyte Nicholas Hawksmoor, began work 20 years later on the Royal Hospital for Seamen, which became the Royal Naval College in

1873. Considerately, Wren altered his plans, splitting the college into two perfectly formed halves, to allow uninterrupted views of the Thames from the Queen's House.

Virtually everything in Greenwich can be easily reached from the Cutty Sark DLR station. A quicker way to get here from central London, however, is via one of the mainline trains from Charing Cross or London Bridge. An alternative from Docklands is to use the historic 390m-long foot tunnel running under the Thames, built in 1902. The lifts down to the tunnel are open from 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 5.30pm on Sunday. Otherwise you're facing between 88 and 100 steps down and - shudder - up (open 24 hours).

NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM

Map p180

■3 8858 4422, recorded information 0870 781 5189; www.nmm.ac.uk; Romney Rd SE10; admission free; S 10am-5pm Sep-Jun, to 6pm Jul & Aug; (I) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark; ®

Though it hardly sounds like a crowd-pleaser, this museum designed to tell the

GREENWICH & SOUTHEAST LONDON

INFORMATION

Greenwich Tourist Office 1 C3

SIGHTS (pp179-88)

Chapel at Old Royal Naval

College 2 D3

Cutty Sark 3 C3

Fan Museum 4 C3

Greenwich Park 5 D3

National Maritime Museum 6 D3

Nelson Room (see 9)

02 (Millennium Dome) 7 D1

Old Royal Naval College 8 D3

Painted Hall 9 D3

Peter Harrison Planetarium 10 D3

Queen's House 11 D3

Ranger's House 12 D4

Royal

Observatory 13 D3

Compendia 14 C3

Emporium 15 C3

Flying Duck Enterprises (see 15)

Greenwich Market (see 14)

Dog & Bell 16 B3

Inside 17 C4

Royal Teas 18 C4

SE10 Restaurant & Bar 19 C3

Spread Eagle 20 C3

DRINKING BH (pp2 77-96)

Cutty Sark Tavern 21 D3

Mayflower 22 A1

North Pole 23 C4

Spice Island 24 A1

Trafalgar Tavern 25 D3

NIGHTLIFE Q (pp297-310)

02 (Millennium Dome) (see 7)

Up the Creek 26 C3

Laban 27 C3

SPORTS & ACTIVITIES (pp323-29)

Millwall Football Club 28 A3

Harbour Master's

House 29 D3

New Cross Inn 30 B4

St Alfeges 31 C3

St Christopher's Inn

Greenwich 32 C3

YHA London

Thameside 33 A1

GREENWICH & SOUTHEAST LONDON

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long and convoluted history of Britain as a seafaring nation is the most impressive sight in Greenwich. From the moment you step through the entrance to this magnificent neoclassical building you'll be won over. And it just gets better as you progress through the glass-roofed Neptune Court into the rest of this three-storey building.

The exhibits are arranged by theme, focusing on Explorers, Maritime London, Art and Sea and much more. Visual highlights include the golden state barge built in 1732 for Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the huge ship's propeller installed on level 1. The museum also owns the tunic that Britain's greatest sea-faring hero, Horatio Nelson, was wearing when he was fatally shot (including the actual bullet), plus a replica of the lifeboat James Caird used by explorer Ernest Shackleton and a handful of his men on their epic mission for help in Antarctica.

The environmentally minded are catered for with the Your Ocean exhibit on level 2, examining the science, history, health and future of the sea. Kids will love firing a cannon in the All Hands exhibit or manoeuvring a tanker into port by using the state-of-the-art bridge simulator on level 3. Even fashionistas will be wowed by Rank and Style (uniforms) and the Passengers exhibit (classic travel posters and the mock-up of the cocktail bar of a cruise ship).

ROYAL OBSERVATORY Map P180

■3 8858 4422, recorded information 0870 781 5189; www.rog.nmm.ac.uk; Greenwich Park SE19; admission free; S 10am-5pm Sep-Jun,to 6pm Jul & Aug; (I) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark; ®

In 1675 Charles II had the Royal Observatory built on a hill in the middle of Greenwich Park, intending that astronomy be used to establish longitude at sea (see p182). The Octagon Room, designed by Wren, and the nearby Sextant Room are where John Flamsteed (1646-1719), the first astronomer royal, made his observations and calculations.

The globe is divided between east and west at the Royal Observatory, and in the Meridian Courtyard you can place one foot either side of the meridian line and straddle the two hemispheres.

Every day at 1 pm the red time ball at the top of the Royal Observatory continues to drop as has done since 1833. You can still get great views of Greenwich and spy on your fellow tourists at the same time by visiting the unique Camera Obscura. An ambitious £15 million project has added four new galleries exploring astronomy and time, including one on the search for longitude.

The 120-seat state-of-the-art Peter Harrison Planetarium (@ 8312 8565; adult/child £6/4; S hourly shows 1-4pm Mon-Fri, 11am-4pmSat&Sun), which opened just south of the Royal Observatory in June 2007, has a £1 million digital laser projector that can show entire heavens on the inside of its bronze-clad roof and is the most advanced in Europe. Along with theme shows, there are galleries tracing the history of astronomy and interactive displays on such subjects the effects of gravity.

02 (MILLENNIUM DOME) Map P180

wwp.millennium-dome.co.uk; Drawdock Rd SE10; ■©■ North Greenwich

Since it closed at the end of 2000, having failed miserably in its bid to attract 12 million visitors, the huge circus tent-shaped 02 (renamed from the Millennium Dome in 2005) was, until recently, for the most part unemployed. It has now hosted Bon Jovi and Barbara Streisand concerts and a massive exhibition called Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, but that was little consolation (or cash) for developers Anschutz Entertainment Group, whose bid for it to house Britain's first regional supercasino had been rejected by the government that year. The future of the 380m-wide white elephant on Greenwich Peninsula that cost £750 million to build (and more than £5 million a year just to keep it erect) does look a lot brighter than it did, and it is now scheduled to host the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships and the artistic gymnastics and basketball events of the 2012 Olympic.

If you want to get a good view of what was the latest in tent technology at the turn of the millennium, you can see it from Docklands or Trinity Buoy Wharf (p162), or by taking a River Thames cruise to the Thames Flood Barrier (p184).

OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE Map P180

"3 8269 4747; www.oldroyalnavalcollege.org; King William WalkSElO; admission free; S 10am-5pm Mon-Sat, 12.30-5pm Sun; (I) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark

There are two main rooms open to the public at the college - the Painted Hall and

THE LONG ROAD TO LONGITUDE

It was the challenge of the century. Establishing latitude -the imaginary lines that girdle the earth from north to south -was child's play; any sailor could do that by looking at the height of the sun or the Pole Star on the horizon. Finding longitude, however, was an entirely different matter and had stumped astronomers from the Greeks to Galileo.

As it takes 24 hours forthe earth to complete one revolution of 360°, one hour is one twenty-fourth of a revolution -or 15°. By the 16th century astronomers knew that longitude could be found by comparing local time with the reading of a clock set at the time of home port or another place of known longitude. But that meant two reliable clocks, ones that would keep accurate time as the ship pitched and shook and the temperature rose or fell. Such technology was unavailable until the 18th century.

Reading longitude inaccurately lengthened sea voyages, cost shipping companies money and increased the number of sailors' deaths due to scurvy and accidents, as islands, rocks and reefs appeared almost out of nowhere. In 1714 Parliament offered a prize of £20,000 - a king's ransom in the 18th century-to anyone who could discover a method of finding longitude accurate to within 30 miles. It's a long story-one wonderfully (and briefly) told by Dava Sobel in her book Longitude - but Yorkshire dockmaker John Harrison was eventually awarded the prize for a marine chronometer tested from 1761 to 1762 by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

In 1884 the observatory's contribution in solving the longitude riddle was acknowledged when an international conference in Washington designated'the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich as the initial meridian for longitude', or the prime meridian. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was then accepted worldwide as the universal measurement of standard time.

the chapel - which are accessed through the new visitors centre and adjoining Greenwich Tourist Information Centre in the Pepys Building. They're in separate buildings because when Christopher Wren was commissioned by William and Mary to build a naval hospital here in 1692, he designed it in two separate halves so as not to spoil the view of the river from the Queen's House (right), Inigo Jones' miniature masterpiece to the south.

Built on the site of the Old Palace of Pla-centia, where Henry VIII was born in 1491, the hospital was initially intended for those wounded in the victory over the French at La Hogue. In 1869 the building was converted to a Naval College. Now even the navy has left and the premises are home to the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.

The Painted Hall is one of Europe's greatest banquet rooms. In the King William Building, it has been covered in decorative 'allegorical Baroque' murals by artist James Thornhill, who also painted the cupola of St Paul's Cathedral. The mural above the Lower Hall show William and Mary enthroned amid symbols of the Virtues. Beneath William's feet, you can see the defeated French king Louis XIV grovelling with a furled flag in hand. Up a few steps is the Upper Hall, where George I is depicted with his family on the western wall. In the bottom right-hand corner Thornhill drew himself into the picture, pointing towards his work.

Off the Upper Hall is the Nelson Room, originally designed by Nicholas Hawks-moor, then used as a smoking room and recently refurbished. For a week over Christmas 1805, this is where the brandy-soaked (for embalming purposes, of course) body of the great naval hero lay, before his state funeral at St Paul's. Today the room boasts a replica of the statue atop Nelson's column in Trafalgar Sq plus other memorabilia. If you want to view this room you must join one of the 90-minute guided tours (@ 8269 4799; adult/under 16yr£4/free; S tours 11.30am & 2pm) of the Jacobean undercroft of the former palace of Placentia leaving from the Painted Hall.

The chapel in the Queen Mary Building, opposite, is decorated in a lighter rococo style. The eastern end of the chapel is dominated by a painting by the 18th-century American artist Benjamin West showing The Preservation of St Paul after Shipwreck at Malta. It's certainly a beautiful room, but it's more famous for its organ and acoustics. If possible come on the first Sunday of the month, when there's a free 50-minute organ recital at 3pm, or time your visit for sung Eucharist, every Sunday at 11am.

QUEEN'S HOUSE MapplSO

@ 8858 4422, recorded information 0870 781 5189; www.nmm.ac.uk; Romney Rd SE10; admission free; S 10am-5pm Sep-Jun, to 6pm Jul & Aug; (1) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark

This building was first called the 'House of Delight' and that's certainly still true. The first Palladian building by architect Inigo Jones after he returned from Italy, it's far more enticing than the art collection in it, even though that contains some Turners, Holbeins, Hogarths and Gainsboroughs. The house was begun in 1616 for Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. However, it wasn't completed until 1635, when it became the home of Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria. The Great Hall is the principal room - a lovely cube shape, with a helix-shaped Tulip Staircase and a gallery on level 3, where marine paintings and portraits from the National Maritime Museum's fine art collection are shown.

RANGER'S HOUSE Map P180

"3 8853 0035; www.english-heritage.org.uk; Greenwich ParkSElO; adult/under 5yr/5-15yr/senior & student £5.50/free/2.80/4.10; S 10am-5pm Sun-Wed Apr-Sep; (1) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark

This elegant Georgian villa in the southwest corner of Greenwich Park was built in 1723 and once housed the park's ranger. It now contains a collection of 650 works of art (medieval and Renaissance paintings, porcelain, silverware, tapestries etc) amassed by one Julius Wernher, a German-born railway engineer's son who struck it rich in the diamond fields of South Africa in the 19th century.

CUTTY SARK Map P180 @ 8858 2698; www.cuttysark.org.uk; Cutty Sark Gardens SE10; 8 Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark

Rust and rot had been eating away at this Greenwich landmark, the last of the great clipper ships to sail between China and England in the 19th century, and she was undergoing £25 million repair work when disaster struck in May 2007. A fire, believed to have been deliberately set, damaged about 50% of the vessel. Luckily half of the ship's furnishings and equipment, including the mast, had been removed for conservation and were safe. The tragedy struck a chord among the citizens of the capital of this traditionally seagoing nation and contributions to bring the ship back to life began to pour in. We are assured that the Cutty Sark will rise, phoenixlike, from the ashes but it will take time and lots more money. All donations are gratefully accepted; see www.justgiving.com/cuttysark fire for details.

FAN MUSEUM MapplSO

@ 8305 1441; www.fan-museum.org; 12 Crooms Hill SE10; adult/7-16yr&senior£4/3; S 11am-5pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun; (1) Greenwich or DLR Cutty Sark; ®

The world's only museum entirely devoted to fans has a wonderful collection of ivory, tortoiseshell, peacock-feather and folded-fabric examples alongside kitsch battery-powered versions and huge ornamental Welsh fans. The 18th-century Georgian town house in which the collection resides also has a Japanese-style garden with an Orangery (h a lf-/f u 11 tea £3.50/4.50; S 3-5pm Tue & Sun) serving afternoon tea.

GREENWICH PARK Map P180 @ 8858 2608; www.royalparks.gov.uk; S dawn-dusk; (1) Greenwich or Maze Hill, DLR Cutty Sark

This is one of London's largest and loveliest parks, with a grand avenue, wide-open spaces, a rose garden, picturesque walks and impressive views across the River Thames to the Docklands from the top of the hill. Covering a full 74 hectares, it is the oldest enclosed royal park and is partly the work of Le Notre, who landscaped the palace gardens of Versailles for Louis XIV. It contains several historic sights, a teahouse, a café and a deer park called the Wilderness in the southeast corner.

DEPTFORD & NEW CROSS Map P180 Like most world-class cities where property is more valuable than bullion, London has a plethora of'up-and-coming' areas and neighbourhoods, many of which simply end up going away. That doesn't seem to be the case with Deptford and its southern extension, New Cross, just over the Deptford Creek west of Greenwich. In recent years it's become something of a 'Shoreditch South' and nicknamed Rocklands due to its many music studios and shops, art galleries, the celebrated Laban (p313) dance institute and other cultural centres and creative outlets. But this neighbourhood's sights - most famously the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlow was stabbed to death here during a drunken brawl - are best seen on foot (see p186).

BLACKHEATH

ill Blackheath

Though it might appear on the map as a southern extension of Greenwich Park, Blackheathand the 'village' of that name to the southeast is very much a world of its own. Known locally as the 'Hampstead of the south', this 110-hectare expanse of open common has played a greater role in the history of London than its much bigger sister to the north. The Danes camped here in the early 11th century after having captured Alfege, the archbishop of Canterbury, as did Wat Tyler before marching on London with tens of thousands of Essex and Kentish men during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. Henry VII fought off Cornish rebels here in 1497, and the heath was where Henry VIII met his fourth wife, Anne of Cleaves, in 1540 (he had agreed to marry her based on a portrait by Holbein, but disliked her immediately in the flesh and divorced her six months later). Later it became a highwaymen's haunt, and it was not until the area's development in the late 18th century - the lovely Paragon, a crescent of Georgian mansions on the southeastern edge of the heath, was built to entice 'the right sort of people' to move to the area - that Blackheath was considered safe. The name of the heath is derived from the colour of the soil, not from its alleged role as burial ground during the Black Death, the bubonic plague of the late 14th century.

Today the windswept heath is a pleasant place for a stroll, a spot of kite-flying or a drink at one of a pair of historic pubs to the south. The heath is also the starting point for the London Marathon in April.

To reach Blackheath from Greenwich Park, walk southward along Chesterfield Walk and past the Ranger's House (or southward on Blackheath Ave and through Blackheath Gate) and then cross Shooters Hill Rd.

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