How to Visit Greenwich and See the Prime Meridian

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Spend the afternoon just outside of London to visit Greenwich and witness the Prime Meridian. This fun family adventure takes you on boats and trains, through tunnels and over and under bridges.

The clock on a brick pillar outside the observatory.

The very best way to get amazing ideas for your family vacation is to talk to friends who have been there, better yet friends who actually live there.

My friend Maggy who lives in London shared with me her top insider tip that she uses to take friends exploring when they come to visit.

We took an afternoon and followed her very-specific suggestions for visiting the Prime Meridian in Greenwich in an exciting journey that took us on boats, trains, the tube, and tunnels over the course of several hours.

This is such an excellent way to see parts of London you might miss if you stay close to the basic tourist areas.

Thanks, Maggy!! This was an experience our family will always remember.

Why You Should See the Prime Meridian

My husband is a total map geek who is absolutely obsessed with precision in time.

Being able to go and witness the Prime Meridian, the line that separates the Eastern and Western Hemisphere and is the starting point for all the world’s time zones, was a chance he couldn’t resist.

The Prime Meridian is marked with the perfect photo op so your family can have fun posing for pictures standing directly on or next to the line.

Greenwich itself is the cutest little city and would be worth spending a dedicated afternoon in for some exploring.

Start at the London Eye Pier

We started our adventure right after visiting the Churchill War Rooms on Day 3 of our 6 days in London.

We walked across Westminster bridge towards the London Eye.

You’re looking for the London Eye Pier, it is located right where you see that bright pink boat in the water in this picture:

The London Eye ferris wheel on the river.

Take the Uber Ferry Boat

When you arrive at the pier, there is a ticket counter to the right that sells tickets to the tourist boats as well as tickets for the public transportation Uber Boat run by Thames Clippers.

If you’ve set up your phones to pay for tapping on and off the Underground, you do not need to stop at the ticket counter. You can head directly down the pier towards the boats.

Just be very sure you’re standing in line for the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. You’ll be able to tap on just before getting on the boat.

An Uber Boat on the Thames river in London.

The ferry runs every 30 minutes or so but there was a delay that afternoon. We stood in line for 45 minutes, so just be sure everyone has used a bathroom.

The peek inside what the Uber boat looks like in London.

Once you’re on the boat, the seats are quite comfy. There’s a snack station on board where you can buy water bottles, sodas, chips, and candies for the ride.

You’ll be on the boat for about 40 minutes on the way to Greenwich.

The Tower Bridge as seen from inside a ferry boat.

The ferry boat goes down the Thames river past Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and then right under Tower Bridge.

This was such a unique way to see the city from a more affordable boat ride as compared to the tourist boats.

Arrive in Greenwich

Exit the ferry at the Greenwich Pier. You’ll have to tap off as you exit the boat to close the loop on your fare.

A father and daughter are walking up the pier towards the "Greenwich Pier" sign.

Walk to the Greenwich Observatory

Head away from the pier and follow the signs towards the Greenwich Observatory.

It is a 15 – 20 minute walk (depending on how slow you’re moving at this point in your vacation) up a fairly solid hill. It’s not very steep, but it is a long and steady incline.

The most direct route was under construction during our visit, so we had to circle around up a rocky set of stairs to reach the observatory. If you are unable to do stairs, I’d check in advance to see if the paths are clear before you go.

The observatory dome is seen from below in a green park.

The Prime Meridian

The official Prime Meridian line runs through the courtyard of the observatory and you can only access it if you buy tickets to enter.

The last entrance was let in at 4:15 pm and we didn’t arrive until 4:45 pm so we missed the chance.

I took this picture of the courtyard from standing outside the gates. You can see tourists posing on the line in the pavement:

The Greenwich Observatory and Prime Meridian line are seen from outside the gate.

The good news is that if you don’t want to pay for entrance to the Observatory OR you arrive too late like we did, there is a free Prime Meridian line for your photo op up against the wall just outside the front of the Observatory:

Two sisters stand on either side of the prime meridian line in Greenwich.

The bad news is that this shot is on a very cramped and tight walkway that becomes a bottleneck of people all pushing to take their turn for the picture.

We had about .2 seconds to pose and grimace for a snap before we were pushed out of the way.

My husband regrets that we didn’t pay for the tickets to enter the official Observatory after all the trouble we took to get to Greenwich, but we would have cut our time short doing other activities that day to make it happen. It’s a good reminder of “you just can’t see it all.”

Other Things to See in Greenwich

A large tea ship in Greenwich.

While you’re in Greenwich, you’ll be able to pass right by the Cutty Sark, an enormous historic sailing ship on display near the pier.

You can purchase tickets to go inside the ship but we were just as happy to take a peek at the outside and keep moving.

The outside of the naval academy building in Greenwich.

You could also tour the Greenwich Naval College and museum or take a rest in the Greenwich park.

I spotted several cute looking pubs on our way out of town, if you’re hungry there will definitely be places to stop in for something to eat or drink before you go.

The London city skyline as seen from Greenwich.

Find the Pedestrian Tunnel

Once you’re ready to start the return journey, head back towards the pier.

Look for this domed red brick building:

The underground tunnel starts at this domed building on either side of the river.

Enter those doorways and choose to go down the stairs or take the lift down.

Walk Under the Thames River

The domed building is the entrance to a pedestrian tunnel that goes underneath the Thames river.

You will literally walk right under the river to the other side!

This was both horrifying and crazy to me but my engineer husband was absolutely thrilled.

A mom and her daughters are walking under the Thames river in an underground tunnel for pedestrians.

You’ll come up on the other side of the Thames river in a building that looks just like the one you started from.

We took a minute to pose for a picture so you can see how far we walked under the river, the domed entrance is to the right of the picture along the water’s edge:

A family poses in front of the Thames river, you can see the dome of the pedestrian tunnel entrance on the other side of the river.

Walk to the DLR Station

From here, either follow the signs to the Island Gardens Docklands Light Rail station or pull up your map app on your phone to find it.

To get back towards central London, take the DLR from Island Gardens to Bank.

You can tap on and off the DLR just like you did with the Uber boat and the tube and all of today’s journey goes towards your daily cap.

The light rail train arrives at the station in London.

The light rail train will take you right through the heart of Canary Wharf, London’s Wall Street-like area, with gorgeous views out the window.

I was distracted with my family and forgot to take a picture of the view, but here’s a great example of the kind of things you’ll see from the train:

A view of Canary Wharf with a bridge over the water and tall buildings in the background.

Take the Underground Back

Once you arrive at the Bank station, you can exit the DLR and cross over to the London underground.

More London Tips

Now that you’re back in London, it’s time to see more fun things! Don’t miss my other great tips here:

The photo collage shows the Prime Meridian line at the Greenwich Observatory.

One Comment

  1. Yay! So pleased you did this trip! My daughter (I think aged 5 or 6 at the time) also was a bit spooked by the tunnel but ultimately enjoyed. It such a quirky little extra to do!!! 😃 sounds like you had the perfect day! We are always ready for a nice cup of tea and feet up after this trip!

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