London Drum

Greenwich Park – View from Greenwich Hill

Greenwich Park
Where? Greenwich Park, Greenwich · Web: Opening times? 6 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Nov-Feb); 6 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sun, Mar & Oct); 6 AM to 8 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr & Sep); 6 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Sun, May & Aug); 6 AM to 9.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Jun-Jul) Visiting hours may change Price? Free Time required? A typical visit is 30-45 mins Buses: 53, 54, 177, 180, 188, 199, 202, 286, 380, 386 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Cutty Sark DLR Train fares

Craig’s review… I climbed my first hill when I was six (six or seven, something like that). Every hill I ascended before that was either on my dad’s back or in the back of a sputtering car, but then my parents took me on a fun day out to Box Hill which turned out to be not so much fun. I only had little legs, little feet, a pair of flimsy plimsoles, and when I got to the top there was nothing to see. Just the tops of trees as far as the eye could see. So nowadays if I climb a hill then it has to be worthwhile. If I’m going to end up sitting on the soaking grass hyperventilating for five minutes then I want to see a sunset, shooting stars, fireworks, rainbows, the edge of the world, or a decent view of London’s skyline.

View from Greenwich Hill

There are three hills worth climbing in London: Parliament Hill, Primrose Hill and Greenwich Hill, and this one has definitely got the best view because it’s a proper hill. You can tell it’s a proper hill because they’ve built an observatory on top of it. That red brick building is where the Astronomer Royal used to live in the days of Charles II. When Christopher Wren was busy building St. Paul’s he was also doing some work on that – but I’ll be describing all of that in my review of the Royal Observatory. Let’s just stand at the bottom of the hill and admire the view for five minutes. Or ten minutes. Take as long as you like because this walk will definitely knacker you out.

It doesn’t look like very high when you’re standing at the bottom of the slope but trust me, this hill is very steep. You might want to give Tenzing Norgay a quick ring to see if he’s free first because there’s no cable car to the top, no Snowdon stream train. Can you see that tarred path up the front? It’s probably full of tired people bent over double, hauling themselves up hand over hand, using the barrier like a rope, palms pressed against the top of their thighs while they take a two-minute breather. It’s one step at a time up there. One puff at a time. That’s the easiest way to climb it.

But if you’re more adventurous then you can walk straight up the grass ski-slope (they sometimes barricade it off to stop people slipping down it). Just keep your eyes fixed on that statue of General Wolfe and don’t stop till you see the hot dog sausage stand on the summit. That sausage stand is your reward for doing some exercise.

They cook their burgers and sausages from scratch up here so you’ll have to lean against a tree while it sizzles on the grill. I’ve got the smell of cooking burgers and an old David Niven-type geezer blowing smoke from a cigarillo cigar. The conkers are dropping off the trees and landing on the car bonnets and picnic tables all around us.

View of London’s skyline

The view is pretty great, even on a foggy autumn morning. You can usually see The City skyscrapers but it’s all lost in a whitewash today. All I’ve got is the long drop down to Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College, plus the concrete forest of Canary Wharf behind. I can see the wooden masts of the Cutty Sark and the mustard-coloured struts of the O2 Arena but that’s about it, the fog has erased the rest, wiped it all out like a giant mistake. London has gone. There are a few white streaks in the sky and a few white wakes in the water as a boat lines up with the pier but it’s far away to hear. It’s as if you’re spying on the world from a distance. Everything looks like a fudged photo, a frozen photo that doesn’t move.

I always like to give a list of London landmarks to give you a test… see if you can spot the BT Tower and Tower Bridge. If you manage to spot Tower Bridge without looking at the plaque then very well done because it’s nowhere near where you think it should be. The hardest one of all is the London Eye. You might have to use the observatory telescope to see that one.

Worth a visit? Value for money? freeGood for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy this then try Parliament Hill (travel from Cutty Sark to Hampstead by underground) and Primrose Hill (take a tube journey from Cutty Sark to St Johns Wood). Whilst you’re at the top of Greenwich Hill you might like to visit the Royal Observatory

London Squire bookThe owns and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Your comments and questions

DH I took one of the Thames River tours up to Greenwich with the intention of going to the Observatory. Had I known how steep this hill was, I may have had serious second thoughts. As it turned out, it was deceptively easy to go up. I was really glad I went and saw the Observatory and the museum. And then I had to get back down, and that was a different story. Well, first of all, I had no clue how to get back to the dock. I thought climbing down was way harder than climbing up. I was afraid I would fall on my butt and slide down the whole dang thing! All in all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. By the time I get back to London again I'll be 70 and probably should not be climbing steep hills anymore!

Neil Can you watch the fireworks from Greenwich Hill?

Craig Hi Neil. If you mean the New Year's Eve fireworks, then no. I've never known the park to be open at midnight on New Year's Eve. Apparently lots of people watch them from the top of Point Hill instead, which is a small park to the west of Greenwich Park

Jen How much is it to park in the car park?

Craig Hi Jen, at the time of writing the pay and display car park is £1.40 per hour during the week (4 hour max stay), and £2 per hour at the weekend -​parks/​greenwich-park/visitor-information/parking-in-greenwich-park

Paul I'm planning on visiting on Tuesday. I use a rollator to help me to walk. Is this hill step free?

Craig Hi Paul. It's step free if you walk up The Avenue, which is a proper road with pavements that cuts through the middle of the park. It goes all the way up to the observatory. But if you want to climb up the path in front of the hill then from memory I think there might be a couple of shallow steps. It's also very steep (a lot steeper than it looks)

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