Why Greenwich is London’s Friendliest Borough

Londoners may have earned themselves a reputation for being surly – no talking on the tube, thank you – but Greenwich was recently voted as London’s friendliest borough in a survey by Vivo Property, and here’s why

Words: Alexandra Twohey

A bustling historic market, one of the world’s fastest tea clippers, a riverside setting and one of London’s most famous parks – there’s no wonder Greenwich, a Royal Borough, no less, was voted London’s friendliest borough in a survey by Vivo Property.

Here, people stop to chat in the street, pet one another’s dogs and flock to Goddard’s, the family-owned pie and mash shop – all to be welcomed and greeted enthusiastically by 43-year-old ‘born and bred’ Jo Cranston, who says the typical East End charm of residents is prevalent.

‘There are a lot of old school people that live here, and they’re very friendly, very outgoing and get on with everybody,’ she smiles. ‘I absolutely love Greenwich – I’ll only go out of here in a wooden box!’

Goddard's at Greenwich is a traditional pie and mash shop - and there aren't many of those left in London

Goddard’s at Greenwich is a traditional pie and mash shop – and there aren’t many of those left in London

Cranston isn’t alone when it comes to having strong, sentimental ties to the borough. Many of the independent businesses, such as Beadoir, traded in the market long before moving to a more permanent location. Abby Herring, who owns the jewellery boutique on Turnpin Lane, says that while business can be a struggle due to the reliance on tourist-heavy weekends, everyone in the area takes care to ensure they’re not competing for the same pound.

‘There’s a lot of community spirit. Down this alley we all know each other really well and we’re good in the fact shops always try and make sure they’re selling something different so that they don’t overlap; everyone has a pretty fair chance here,’ she says.

Greenwich is one of the only places in London where you will be regularly greeting people as you meet them in the street

‘I think they’ve kept it quite family orientated in Greenwich – it’s not gone completely high street and there’s not really anywhere around London like it now, so we’re quite fortunate that it has stayed just like this.’

The sanctity of community spirit radiates through everyone I talk to. Jacob Moss, who has worked at the Fan Museum on Crooms Hill for seven years, says continuing support and engagement from locals has had a positive impact on one of the borough’s smaller attractions.

‘I live in Lewisham and have become very aware of the friendly atmosphere in Greenwich, it’s one of the only places in London where you will be regularly greeting people as you meet them in the street,’ he says.

‘We often see locals visit again and again, coming in to see the different exhibitions we have and bringing their families to have afternoon tea in our Orangery.’

The somewhat laid-back lifestyle of residents combined with a subtle buzz of tourism keeps this historic town alive, and with vast greens, marvelling culture and enough royal history to put Buckingham Palace to shame, Greenwich has well and truly affirmed its status on the map.

Henry VIII and both his daughters, Elizabeth I and Mary I, were born here, while King James I famously gifted his wife, Anne of Denmark, the Queen’s House in Greenwich Park after he swore at her for accidentally killing his favourite hunting dog – or so fable will tell you.

Just a short walk to the top of the hill will find you at the spectacular Royal Observatory, renowned for quite literally setting the time by which the world once revolved. Having played such a major role in history, it’s no surprise that locals love to live somewhere under the shadow of something so beautiful and exemplary.

The fact that it ‘doesn’t feel like London’ is Greenwich’s unique selling point

Aside from this picturesque vision of village life, what is it about Greenwich that sets it apart from other sought-after regions in the capital? Guy Epps, Branch Manager of Winkworth Estate Agents, believes a vibrant atmosphere, great transport and the fact that it ‘doesn’t feel like London’ is Greenwich’s unique selling point.

‘Without a doubt it is the best place to be, it has fantastic restaurants and brilliant pubs,’ says Epps. ‘Nightlife is livelier than its neighbours, but isn’t rowdy – you aren’t getting police cars rushing through every two minutes.’

Home to the University of Greenwich, some may presume a fresh stream of new faces every year would disturb the peace, but Epps insists it’s quite the opposite.

‘The students add to the area, they hold art exhibitions and such like, and it’s because of them we have a good, young vibe – it creates a brilliant mix of people.

‘Greenwich is also full of some of the UK’s most interesting sights – you want people to come and see what the fuss is all about because it’s wonderful,’ continues Moss. ‘People here are very welcoming and appreciate that Greenwich is about shining a spotlight on the place, encouraging visitors with open arms and showing them what a wonderful community it is.’