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11 Royal Reasons to Visit Greenwich

Whether it's royal death warrants or majestic deer, you don't have to look far to find royal links in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Here are just 12 reasons to enjoy a regal day out in Greenwich that’s fit for a king (or queen).

1. The royals opened the skies here

The Royal Observatory Greenwich on the top of Greenwich Park was founded by King Charles II in 1676 and is today one of the Royal Museums Greenwich. Britain’s first state-funded scientific institution, the observatory (and its adjoining planetarium) is a popular destination for visitors and scientists alike. Not even the Queen could resist a photo opportunity standing with one foot in each hemisphere astride the Prime Meridian of the World.

2. You're walking in royal footsteps

When King George VI opened the National Maritime Museum Greenwich in 1937 he didn't arrive alone. He brought along three queens - Queen Mary; Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; and the present Queen, Elizabeth II. They travelled to Greenwich by boat along the river Thames – a journey you can still make today on one of London's riverboats. Explore the museum's fascinating exhibits (just as the royals did) which include the very uniform that Nelson wore when he was fatally wounded in the Battle of Trafalgar.

3. Two domes are better than one

When famous architect Sir Christopher Wren designed what is now the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, he initially planned just one huge dome. There was a problem: it would have ruined the view from The Queen's House Greenwich nearby and Queen Mary II, wife of William III, wasn’t having that. Which is why the plans were changed to include two towers. Beautiful from the outside, they're even more spectacular when you step inside – especially the vestibule dome above the Painted Hall. Just make sure you look up.

4. Historic royal celebrations (and dramas) happened here

King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I were all born in the Tudor palace, Placentia, built in 1443 on the banks of the river Thames near where the Old Royal Naval College now stands. It wasn't just a royal birthing centre. Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves in the chapel, and later signed the death warrant for Anne Boleyn in the palace. Book an ORNC guided tour to discover more.

5. Nothing says sorry like a new house

Sometimes a bunch of flowers just isn’t enough. When King James I swore in public at his wife, Anne of Denmark, after she accidently shot his favourite hunting dog, he needed to apologise. So he had The Queen's House built for her. Built as a "house of delight", the royal villa was designed by Inigo Jones in 1616. It is Britain’s first classical building and a pioneering masterpiece of 17th-century architecture. The Queen’s House relaunches in October 2017 after more than a year of extensive refurbishment. It will showcase more than 450 works of art by great British and European artists including Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds, as well as the iconic "Armada Portrait" of Queen Elizabeth I.

Flying visit! Promise I'll sort out a meetup next time! #queenshouse #london #sowhatifimnotthefirst

A photo posted by Tim Hatton 🎩 (@the.hat) on

6. Its boats have the royal seal of approval

Docked by the riverside in Greenwich, the Cutty Sark is the world's only surviving tea clipper. Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the ship in 1957 – and again in 2012 after its restoration, during which there was a serious fire. It even boasts Prince Phillip as its patron. See the 19th-century vessel from the exterior then go inside to explore its history and even touch its shining copper hull.

7. Not all the royals were well behaved (allegedly)

The rolling green slopes of Greenwich Park are home to a boating lake, deer, the Royal Observatory and Planetarium, and the bath of Queen Caroline. The estranged wife of King George IV, she was accused of scandalous behaviour and of having an illegitimate child. The allegations were cleared but she was warned her boisterous demeanour was open to "unfavourable interpretations". See if you can spot the bath near Chesterfield Gate in the south west corner of the park.

8. The most notorious King of England grew up here

King Henry VIII spent his childhood at Eltham Palace, an English Heritage site. Although most of the original palace was lost due to neglect, the medieval Great Hall still stands. Adjoining it now is the dazzling Art Deco house built in the 1930s by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld – a monument to the great design of the period. Save time to visit the beautiful gardens too, which stretch over 19 acres.

9. Even the wildlife was introduced by royal decree

Greenwich Park's population of red and fallow deer – a hit with visitors of all ages – was introduced by King Henry VIII in 1510. The royal connection even extends to the surrounding trees: the park's French-style layout was commissioned in the early 1660s by King Charles II – making some of the sweet (Spanish) chestnut trees in its avenues more than 400 years old.

10. Great adventurers are rewarded here

Deptford was once renowned for its shipbuilding and dockyards. It's also where Queen Elizabeth I knighted Sir Francis Drake on board his ship, Golden Hinde, in April 1581. Years later – 384 years in fact – Queen Elizabeth II knighted another explorer in the same spot. Sir Francis Chichester, the first man to sail single-handedly around the world, was even knighted using the same sword that had been used for Sir Francis Drake. Take the Thames Path along the river from the Cutty Sark in Greenwich to Deptford to see signs of the area's old seafaring history. 

11. The royals shop here

When the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Fan Museum in Greenwich in 2015, she left clutching three bags. The quirky museum doesn’t just have a great gift shop, though. It also has a fascinating collection of fans from around the world, displays on the art of fan-making and a beautiful orangery serving afternoon tea. No wonder the duchess is such a "fan".