London has many ‘Church Streets’, yet few manage to pack in Hawksmoor architecture, a nineteenth-century clipper ship, one of the capital’s best markets and more connections to Tudor royalty than Henry VIII had wives. But this is Greenwich Church Street, the main shopping road of the Royal Borough – so called because there’s been a palace here since the 1300s. In its time, Greenwich has been home to Henry VI’s hunting grounds, the HQ where Elizabeth I’s council planned the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the Royal Naval College. That’s quite some legacy.
However, you’d be mistaken for thinking that Greenwich is consigned to the past. Thanks to its meridian, Greenwich is always bang up to date, and despite its ancient roots Church Street has an edgier side. Chic bars and restaurants pepper the antique frontages, the bustling market pulses with activity all year round, and fiercely independent businesses are championed by loyal locals. Whether you come in the winter months for a mulled drink in a cosy nook of the market, or a riverside amble in summer, you’ll find a street as unique as the historic treasures it holds – despite that ten-a-penny name.
A ‘Lethal Lucifer’ hot dog at Heap’s Pop-Up Café: one of 12 bangers from gourmet sausagier Mark Heap, it makes for some of the best baps and fry-ups south of the river.
A Neapolitan-style margherita at the small but cosy Bianco43 pizzeria, for an authentic, thin-crusted taste of Italy in south-east London.
Meat and mash at Goddards pie shop, just off Church Street, which has been serving hungry Greenwichers for 130 years.
A pint of local Meantime ale at The Gipsy Moth. Named after the yacht in which Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handedly around the world, this listed pub honours its namesake with golden mermaid figureheads behind the bar.
Another pint at eighteenth-century waterhole The Mitre, which serves trendy ales and European lagers.
A perfectly brewed cuppa at Peter de Wit’s Café, located in one of Greenwich’s oldest buildings. Take a peek at its pretty courtyard, which dates back to medieval times.
Snoop around the world’s last surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark. It’s perched in a glass box so you can stand underneath and see all her 963 tonnes.
Ogle the oval ceiling at Nicholas Hawksmoor’s baroque church, St Alfege’s, which stands on the spot where the saintly bishop was murdered by the Danes in 1012.
Vintage CDs and vinyl from local hero Casbah Records, round the corner on Creek Road. It began as a stall in Greenwich Market before shacking up with a cute retro shop.
Retro clothing and knickknacks from Joli Vintage Living. Just off Church Street, this quirky boutique is a haven for vintage lovers selling chic furniture, quality clothes and eye-popping costume jewellery.
Bargain sounds at the Music and Video Exchange, where you’ll find a huge variety of dog-eared sleeves to satisfy even the most pedantic of music geeks (who you’ll also find here, don’t you worry).
And if you only do one thing…
Comb the teeming antique, craft and clothing stalls at historic Greenwich Market, a charming mix of quirky stands and permanent shops, accompanied by a rich olfactory hit from the street food stalls.