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Why Greenwich in London is a grand day out with kids

Ask any Londoner how they breeze their way around a city of 9 million people with kids in tow and I’ll bet my Big Ben fridge magnet that they’ll tell you the beauty of London is that it’s a city of villages. The leafy, lovely village of Greenwich ticks all the family-friendly boxes.

Greenwich in London has lots of green space for the kids to run around and it is stuffed with activities that please both kids and grown-ups – something that’s essential for travellers – and it offers an authentic flavour of historic and modern London. What’s more, everywhere in Greenwich is walkable, and it’s mostly accessible too.

Here is an insider’s guide to what makes Greenwich a day out in London for families.

1. Travel along the River Thames

Travelling to Greenwich in London on a Thames Clipper river bus is a massive winner with kids. And it’s one of the most convenient ways to travel to Greenwich because you can hop on at various central piers, including Embankment Pier (close to Trafalgar Square), Westminster Pier (near the Houses of Parliament) and the London Eye Pier.

If you’re travelling with babies and toddlers buggies (prams) can be rolled on board via a ramp. Once on board, kids are free to roam around and there are even toilet facilities.

Practicalities aside, it’s a fun trip on an actual boat. And the boat goes under Tower Bridge! Grab the best seats at the front of the clipper if you can, for uninterrupted views of the river route ahead.

Read more: River cruising with kids

2. A tale of two clippers (and the Cutty Sark)

The Thames Clipper river bus arrives at Greenwich Pier right beside the Cutty Sark, a 19th-century merchant-ship-turned-museum that set records for its speed circumnavigating the globe with cargoes of tea, Aussie wool and more.

Take the kids on a tour of the Cutty Sark and experience the clipper ship deck-by-deck with the Tween (middle) Deck offering interactive exhibits around cargoes and the challenge of sailing a round-the-world route against winds and tides. The Main Deck is where the restoration shows its beauty, with towering masts, crew quarters, and the polished wood and brass ship’s wheel.

As of April 2022, kids aged 12 and up (grown-ups don’t be shy now . . .) can take part in a rigging-climb experience.

The Dry Dock at basement level, which runs underneath the hull of the ship, is a striking, open space with a buggy park, toilets and a café, The figurehead collection is displayed here too. For families travelling with toddlers, the up-and-then-down again staircase that surrounds the colourful figureheads creates a fun challenge for littlies learning to walk.

Read more: Things to do in the UK with kids

A woman and two young children walk beneath the Cutty Sark hull in Greenwich, London
Walking beneath the Cutty Sark hull. Credit: A. Joseph

3. The world is seen from the sea at the National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is well worth a visit if you’re visiting Greenwich as a family. Focusing on exploration, world cultures and the legacy of the British empire, the museum has a clever balance of interactive exhibits and displayed collections, designed to appeal to all ages,

On the second floor, the polar worlds room is a highlight, and on the first floor, little ones will be thrilled with the giant world map with its push-along ships. Kids 7 and under will have a rollicking time in the Ahoy! play zone, but make sure you book a time slot in advance.

When you’re ready for a break there is an airy café with indoor and outdoor seating and baby-friendly facilities.

A young boy and girl point to London on a giant map on the floor at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London
Exploring the world on the giant world map. Credit: A. Joseph

4. Pies, picnics and playgrounds

When my kids were tiny it was at this point in the day – post Cutty Sark, and post National Maritime Museum – that they were itching to let off steam. Hurray for expansive Greenwich Park, handily located on the doorstep of the National Maritime Museum.

There’s a newly upgraded playground (playpark) in the north-eastern corner and plenty of grass to lay out a picnic and lounge. If your family is ready for a longer rest (or an indoor one) pick up a classic London pie and mash at Goddards. Right next door to this Greenwich food institution is the daily Greenwich Market where families can pick up all sorts of picnic treats from the food stalls.

Read more: Free stuff to do with kids in London

5. Greenwich in London is where time starts

After you and the kids have taken a break in Greenwich Park, walk any of the ascending paths to the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill. The spectacular city-skyline views alone are worth the 10-minute climb.

Exhibits like the Great Equatorial Telescope are probably most interesting for older kids (though the Planetarium does offer a show for kids under 7). Here the focus is on the life of an Astronomer Royal and the invention of tools to measure space and time.

The Greenwich Meridian, longitude 0 degrees, a stainless-steel strip across the Meridian Courtyard, is certainly worth a hop, skip and a jump even if the concept of time zones is still a bit tricky to grasp for the younger kids.

A woman with two young children are walking outside the National Maritime Museum, about to go through Greenwich Park with a view of the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill.
Heading off up the hill to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. Credit: A. Joseph

6. Head back down to the River Thames

From the Royal Observatory, your day out in Greenwich London is all downhill, especially for those families pushing a pram or wheelchair.

Roll back down through the park to Greenwich Pier and enjoy the return Thames Clipper journey into central London. As you head back into the hustle and bustle of the city you’ll travel under Tower Bridge again and spot landmarks like St Paul’s, the London Eye and Westminster.

Insider tips for tickets to the attractions in Greenwich, London

Joint tickets for the Cutty Sark and Royal Observatory are available and good value; entry to the National Maritime Museum is free.

At the time of writing, May 2022, it was advised to pre-book time slots for all sites, free and ticketed. See the Royal Museums Greenwich website for up-to-date information.

Other family-friendly activities in and around London and the UK

Sleep like royalty in these English castles

The UK’s secret summer spots

22 top things to do in the UK with kids

Winter in London? It’s more fun than you expect.

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