Greenwich’s painted gem

The Painted hall is one of the gems of London, designed by Christopher Wren to be the dining hall for naval pensioners who were housed at the nearby Royal Hospital for Seaman.

The halls magnificent paintings, which were created in the early part of the 18th century, and took 19 years to complete, include the clever use of painter’s illusions to give the hall even more grandeur.  The column seen on the right of the image above shows how the plain columns were made grand through the use of painted effects which gave an appearance of much more expensive carved pillars.  The same is true of the architraves around the rooms windows and doors.

The main panel of the ceiling has the UK’s largest figurative painting and at over 5,600 sq feet is often referred to as England’s Sistine Chapel.  The panel pays homage to King William and King Mary and represents the triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny.

This is a great way to spend a few minutes when you are visiting Greenwich and best of all its free to enter.

Get Acquainted with London

The river Thames runs through the heart of London, it was after all the main transportation route into and out of the city until recent times.  As a result much of what makes London, London is ideal placed to be viewed from the river, making it an ideal way – particularly for the first time visitor – to get a an overview of the place.

Rather than a hop on hop off bus it can, especially in the warm summer months when the city is at its busiest, make more sense to make the River your friend and buy an all-day River Roamer (buy online from for GBP14.70 per adult, GBP 7.35 for a child or GBP32.50 for up to 2 adults and 3 children under 16 – prices as at 1 Jul 2015)  This ticket will give you unlimited access for a day to visit anywhere from Vauxhall to Woolwich (they are not valid on RB6 to/from Putney).

Houses of Parliament from River

Houses of Parliament from River

My recommendation for the day would be to have breakfast and head out to your start point at the London eye (closest tube is either Westminster and walk across the bridge or Waterloo).  Although tickets are only valid for travel from 9 am I would aim to get there a bit early to avoid the crowds and to get your day started as there’s a lot to see.  Before heading to the river visit the area around the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey on the northern bank of the river then cross and perhaps look in on the Aquarium and the London Eye on the south bank.

The Globe Theater from the River Bus

The Globe Theater from the River Bus

Once you’ve satisfied yourself here, head to the wharf and hop on the RB1 service to Bankside Pier.  There are three main areas to visit here.  My suggestion would be to start at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre before walking across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral, and then on the way back to the Bankside Pier pop in to the Tate Modern Gallery.  Now rejoin the ferry at Bankside and sail down past the battle ship HMS Belfast to Tower Millennium Pier.  This port is right beside the Tower of London and Tower Bridge and if I were you then don’t miss the opportunity for a coffee/drink in the wonderful St Katherine’s Dock before heading down to Greenwich.

Tower Bridge from River June  2015

Tower Bridge from the river with HMS Belfast on the right hand side of the image.

In Greenwich those looking for a bit of history and culture can opt to visit the Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum or the Old Royal Observatory (Greenwich Mean Time – GMT – anyone!) .  Those looking for a more modern London experience can walk through the park to Blackheath and/or visit the markets in Greenwich.

In reality, if one tried to visit all of these locations it would take considerably longer than one day (even a summers one with long evenings) to “do them justice”. Use it as an opportunity to get a taste of each area in order to decide which ones to return to and spend more time exploring.

I recommend three key areas to revisit for a whole day each from this journey:

  • The area around Westminster,
  • The area around the tower of London and
  • Greenwich

Look out for additional blogs on each of these areas and why not plan to put this trip together with these three day trips to make a great 4 day London short break.

London from the river

Image of the Queen Elizabeth Tower from the Thames River Bus

Image of the Queen Elizabeth Tower from the Thames River Bus

One of the great ways to see London is from the river. Its not necessary to take an expensive tourist trip just have your guide book at the ready but most of the piers are at points of interest that are announced as the river bus approaches so people know to get off – use this as your tour guide.

A trip from Embankment to Greenwich takes you past many of the cities sights starting with the Houses of Parliament and the Queen Elizabeth Tower – home to Big Ben which is the bell in the clock tower.