The main attraction of this walk is the World Heritage Site at its centre, encompassing Greenwich Park, the Old Royal Naval College and Royal Museums Greenwich (comprising the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House, Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark). Many of these attractions are free to enter and are well worth a visit, although they need plenty of time to explore in full.
Before reaching these architectural splendours the walk starts along the leafy avenues of Blackheath Park, which itself has many fine Georgian and Regency buildings. It continues across Blackheath, a large open space overlooking the city which has been the scene of rebel gatherings, royal meetings and many other activities over the centuries. Wat Tyler's rebels met here before marching on the city in 1381 and there were further uprisings by Jack Cade's Kentish yeomen in 1450 and Cornish rebels in 1497. In the 17th & 18thC the Heath was a notorious haunt of highwaymen.
The walk enters Greenwich Park at Blackheath Gate and takes a meandering route past its major features, soon coming to a popular viewpoint in front of the cluster of buildings making up the Royal Observatory. This was founded in 1675 to devise a practicable way of establishing longitude at sea by the ‘lunar distance method’, although this notoriously difficult problem was famously solved in a quite different way by the 18thC Yorkshire clockmaker, John Harrison (whose wonderfully accurate chronometers are on display in the museum). Admission to the Meridian Courtyard and the museum collection in Flamsteed House is £16 (2020).
The walk then loops back round the park, going through the Rose Garden next to Ranger's House, managed by English Heritage and the home of an important art collection (open Apr–Oct, Sun–Thu; guided tours only). A longer section through the Flower Garden takes you to another famous viewpoint on One Tree Hill. You exit via Park Row Gate for lunch at a nearby pub.
The first part of the afternoon section is through the impressive collection of buildings known as Maritime Greenwich, much of it designed by the iconic figures of Inigo Jones, Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. The elegant Queen's House was designed by Jones in the early 17thC and is considered to be England's first truly Classical building. It was later linked by colonnades to the neighbouring buildings and the whole complex now makes up the National Maritime Museum (free entry, except for exhibitions).
The walk continues through the grounds of what was originally the Royal Hospital for Seamen, designed by Wren in the late 17thC and completed by Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh and others. In 1874 it became a prestigious training establishment, the Royal Naval College. The Painted Hall has re-opened after a two-year conservation project and admission is now £12 (2020), but there is still free entry to the nearby Chapel. The Visitor Centre has an informative display about Greenwich's rich architectural and maritime history.
Greenwich's final attraction is the famous Cutty Sark, which has been in dry dock since 1954. In 2007 it was badly damaged by fire but painstakingly restored, reopening to the public in 2012. Admission is £15 (2020).
The final section of the walk is along the Thames Path on the north bank of the river, reached via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Much of the Isle of Dog's industrial heritage has been swept away and replaced by riverside apartments but occasional Docklands Heritage panels reveal aspects of its history, notably the site near Masthouse Terrace pier where Brunel's last great ship, the SS Great Eastern, was built and launched in 1858.
The walk ends at Canary Wharf, centrepiece of the London Docklands area which was extensively redeveloped in the 1980s and is now a major financial district. It has a large collection of public art and is the venue for many exhibitions, notably the annual Winter Lights Festival in January.
Greenwich Park closes at 6pm in winter, later in summer (eg. 9.30pm in June & July). The grounds of the Old Royal Naval College close at 6pm.