One of London’s quirkier attractions has to be the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which allows you to walk under the River Thames.
It connects Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs at Island Gardens and it’s a popular commuter route in the city.
Opened to the public in 1902, it’s a footpath that is used by over 4,000 commuters daily and over 1.5 million people each year.
Here is a complete guide for the Greenwich Foot Tunnel in London with the history & how to visit!
What is the Greenwich Foot Tunnel?
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is an underground walkway that allows you to walk from Greenwich to the Isle of Dogs in London.
The reason why this tunnel is so special is that it allows you to walk under the River Thames which is the main river that snakes through the city.
It’s around 370 meters long and, although it doesn’t look like much today, it was a revolutionary development of Victorian engineering & commuting!
Greenwich Foot Tunnel history
Construction for the Greenwich Foot Tunnel started in 1899 and was designed by Civil Engineer Sir Alexander Binnie. It officially opened to the public in 1902.
It was built to replace an expensive, crowded and unreliable ferry service that used to allow a crossing for dock and shipyard workers over the River Thames.
It was an impressive feat of Victorian engineering which involved digging out this tunnel by hand! Builders worked tirelessly and often overnight to finish it. 20,000 white tiles were imported to line the walkway.
The creation of the tunnel was promoted by Labor politician Will Crooks, who had worked for the dockyards previously and knew the struggles of commuting there all too well.
A new tunnel would mean a safer commute, whatever the weather. Crossing over the Thames in heavy fog or storms was potentially a huge risk. It transformed thousands of workers’ lives for the better.
It costs roughly £127,000 to build which is around £15 million today. This had to include £30,000 (£3 million) to compensate for the London watermen who lost their livelihoods with the creation of the tunnel.
Lifts were installed in 1904 to prevent the walk down the stairs. During World War II, part of the tunnel collapsed and so that part was reinforced with stainless steel (making it look a bit like a spaceship!).
It’s been renovated since to add modern conveniences like CCTV for security and upgraded elevators. But, much remains the same as it was when it first opened.
Today, it’s both a commuter tunnel and a quirky tourist attraction in London.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel facts
- The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is 1,217 feet in length and about 50 feet deep.
- It is one of two underground tunnels in the Royal Borough of Greenwich that allow you to walk under the River Thames. The other is Woolwich Foot Tunnel.
- It is estimated that over 4,000 people walk under the River Thames via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel daily. There are 1.5 million commuters every year.
- Many people believe that the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is haunted! People have reported seeing a spectre of a Victorian couple who disappear into thin air. Plus, lots of other paranormal activities like disembodied voices, a drop in temperature, flickering lights, and unexplained footsteps.
How to visit the Greenwich Foot Tunnel in London
You can easily visit the Greenwich Foot Tunnel by heading to the East Side of London to either Greenwich or the Isle of Dogs. The best way to do this is by taking the DLR Transport for London train services.
There are two entrances to access the Greenwich Foot Tunnel;
- Greenwich side: you’ll find the entrance to the tunnel in front of the famous clipper Cutty Sark! The nearest tube station is Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich on the DLR.
- Isle of Dogs side: you’ll find the other entrance on the South Bank by Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs. The nearest tube station is Island Gardens on the DLR.
Once you get to either one of these stations, you’ll see the iconic red domed entrances with two doorways that allow passage down to the tunnel. You’ll descend via stairs/lift deep underground to begin your journey!
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How long does it take to walk the Greenwich Foot Tunnel?
It takes around 5-10 minutes to walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel from Cutty Sark on the Greenwich side to Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs and vice versa.
You can speed this up a bit if you choose to take the lift up and down instead of the stairs. Of course, this all depends on how many people are walking through the tunnel at the same time as you.
Commuting rush hours in the mornings (before 9 am) and evenings (after 5 pm) will be a lot busier in the tunnel than during the day. So, this is something to keep in mind.
What to expect on your visit & top tips
- All pedestrians must keep to the left whilst walking through the tunnel.
- Although relatively safe, I would not recommend walking through this tunnel late in the evening, especially alone. It’s super creepy.
- There are elevators at each end of the tunnel to save you from walking up and down the winding staircases. There are over 100 steps that spiral deep underground and I was quite dizzy by the end.
- Cyclists are not allowed to ride their bikes in the tunnel. You need to dismount and walk with your bike. But, that doesn’t mean it always happens so be on alert. Pedestrians get super angry at rule breakers!
- On the first Tuesday of every month, wet cleaning takes place. The tunnel will still be open if a little bit slippy.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel opening times
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is completely free to visit in London and is open 24 hours a day, all year round.
As above, I wouldn’t recommend walking through this tunnel really late at night, especially if you’re on your own. It’s quite creepy at the best of times and I’m not sure how safe it would be.
Looking for more things to do in Greenwich?
After your visit to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, there is plenty to do in the Royal Borough of Greenwich to keep you busy.
Of course, you would have already seen the Cutty Sark clipper ship near the tunnel entrance. Constructed in 1869, this is a famous historic sailing ship that was one of the fastest of its time.
The Maritime theme can be found all over here and the Royal Naval College is a sight not to be missed. This is a Film & TV favorite and can be seen in many productions like Bridgerton, Poldark, Cruella, Skyfall & Pirates of the Caribbean.
You can buy a ticket for their Painted Hall or visit some free attractions like the chapel of St Peter and St Paul and wander around the campus.
Just beyond that is the Royal Greenwich Observatory and you can visit the National Maritime Museum.
Climb the Tulip Stairs at the Queen’s House or shop til you drop in the bustling Greenwich Markets.
You can sail over the River Thames in one of the Uber Boats or, further along, you can visit the O2 Arena. Visit the Royal Docks to take to the skies on the Emirates Cable Cars over London!
Click here to read my complete guide for London cable cars!
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