Winter Holidays in Greenwich

Meri asks:

I am coming to London from Darwin, Australia with my husband and children for Christmas. Staying three weeks. We are visiting my brother and his wife, who live in Eltham. However, we thought we would stay in the Greenwich area. A number of apartments are available for rent.

There are available properties in Bellott Street, Woodland Grove, Blissett street, Westcombe Park Road. Also one in Woolwich (Royal Arsenal apartments). We lived in London about 17 years ago and I worked for a time at Woolwich for the LBG, I remember it as pretty ‘gritty’, not sure whether it has improved, although my brother says Greenwich is a much nicer area. I was wondering if you had any tips. We will be on holiday, but it will be winter. So cosy pubs or cheery cafes (for hearty breakfast) nearby would be nice.

The Phantom replies:

Wow – that’s brave – leaving the sun to come to England in the cold and wet…

I don’t know the specific properties you’re talking about but transport isn’t a huge problem from any of them. Obviously the closer into the centre the easier for movement – but it’s not a big problem.

You know, we all moan about the area going downhill, but I’d still say that Greenwich is one of the safest places in South East London. And Woolwich is changing on a daily basis – I’ll virtually guarantee you won’t recognise it – the Love Lane development has created a huge hole in the middle and the Arsenal is a very different animal indeed.

But onto Cosy.

Good cosy pubs include The Plume of Feathers (Park Row) The Vanbrugh (Columb St) and the Richard I (Royal Hill,) though I quite like the Yacht in Crane Street in winter (over summer when it always feels wrong that the windows don’t open out onto the Thames like at the Trafalgar.) The Kings Arms (King William Walk) also has open fires, and if you can get a seat in the upstairs window, the Cutty Sark (Ballast Quay) has a cosy feel to it with the wind and rain lashing outside.

If Royal Teas (in Royal Hill) is still open you’ll get a good breakfast, though it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s veggie if you’re meat fanatics. If you don’t mind a brisk walk across the heath, both Hand Made Foods and Boulangerie Jade in Tranquil Vale are excellent and the Farmers Market just before Christmas is a very jolly affair.

Since you’re coming around Christmas time there are a few festive things you should look out for. The Live Advent Calendar last year (where various houses and businesses dressed up a window a day) was slightly patchy – but the good ones were superb. I don’t know if they’ll be doing it again but if they are it will make a nice trip each morning. I’ll be flagging it up here if it goes ahead.

The Panto at Greenwich Theatre is always huge fun, but I made a bit of a discovery last year – the tiny Greenwich Playhouse, next to the Station, did a version of A Christmas Carol which was just amazing. I expect them to follow it up with suitably grown-up kids fare this year (I’m hoping for a nice ghost story) but they tend to be rather late in advertising – so keep an eye out. If I hear about it I’ll be posting here – or at least on the Parish News section.

Also worth looking out for are concerts in the Old Royal Naval College Chapel and Painted Hall and also at St Alfege’s Church. There is usually ice skating at the ORNC as well which is fun and festive and the market gets quite frenzied at that time too.

There’s one other, non-Greenwich thing you should be doing if your kids are not tiny (if they’re under-12, get your brother to baby sit.) Dennis Severs’s House in Spitalfields is magical at that time of year – for the two weeks leading up to Christmas, there are candlelit ‘experiences’ of the house called “Silent Night”. It is creepy, exciting, beautiful, moving and unforgettable, but you must book well in advance.

I am sure other people will have suggestions – so for now I’m handing over to the floor…

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