Historic Greenwich enters the year as a "royal borough", a special honour conferred to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and which recognises the area's contribution as a "host borough" to the 2012 Olympics.
This is a rare event, as only three other local authority districts in England enjoy this royal privilege - Kensington & Chelsea, Windsor & Maidenhead and Kingston-upon-Thames - and to celebrate its posh new status Royal Greenwich is enticing new homebuyers by opening up acres of previously hidden riverside. Search for property in Greenwich.
The gracious old naval town at the heart of the borough is already a Unesco World Heritage Site. This summer, too, will see the re-opening of the Cutty Sark, the globally known clipper (devastated by fire in 2007), which will sit alongside newly designed spaces for performances and events.
Other highlights include Sail Royal Greenwich, when up to 20 tall ships will ply a scenic route along the Thames offering a daily spectacle during the Olympics, and a major new exhibition at the National Maritime Museum - Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames.
Greenwich's architecture and heritage reflect a long history of royal connections that date back 600 years.
Greenwich will be the largest Olympic venue after Stratford, hosting 34 events in nine sports at three sites. Greenwich Park has the equestrian events and modern pentathlon; the O2 arena has basketball and gymnastics, while Woolwich's Royal Artillery Barracks has shooting and archery.
A new river taxi pier will be unveiled and Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for London's first cruise liner terminal to be built at Enderby Wharf, where 770 new homes are planned.
The spectacle of the Games is triggering construction activity on a riverside strip between the town centre and Greenwich Peninsula, rejuvenated by the O2 arena and regarded as the missing piece of the regeneration jigsaw.
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FOLLOW THE GREEN LINE
For years, the so-called Thames Path was inaccessible because of depots and disused wharves. However, a 12-acre waterfront scheme, which stalled during the banking crisis, is back on track. The first phase of 650 river-view flats is complete, while the second phase will be launched imminently (off-plan, with completions scheduled for next year). Prices from £250,000 to £690,000. Call Jones Lang LaSalle (020 8090 0276).
Called Lovell's Wharf, the development sits on a prominent bend of the river, and has a bright green laser marking the Meridian line from the Royal Observatory cutting through the site. The location has the feel of Docklands during the Eighties development boom — slightly raw but offering excitement and promise to early bird buyers.
The site is next to Ballast Quay, with its handsome listed harbour master's office. Greenwich town centre and the majestic park are less than a 10-minute walk away. Greenwich Peninsula, a new neighbourhood with a Jubilee line station, is a little further in the opposite direction. Here, regeneration on land surrounding the O2 is continuing, with several apartment schemes in the pipeline. Visitgreenwichpeninsula.co.uk
PENINSULA SAYS 'HAVE CONFIDENCE IN ME'
When approached by road, the peninsula looks uninviting and isolated because of the still-visible industrial legacy of gas works and the busy Blackwall Tunnel approach. These eyesores will take some years to be eliminated, but Trafalgar Road, the main vehicle route out of Greenwich, is smartening up. Galleries, gastropubs and delis are opening, while former Greenwich District Hospital is to be transformed by developer Hadley Mace into Heart of East Greenwich — an eco-friendly scheme of 645 homes.
BRILLIANT BANKER BAIT
For decades, an Edwardian pedestrian tunnel was the only quick route between Greenwich town centre and the Isle of Dogs, now dominated by Canary Wharf. Only when the DLR arrived in the Nineties, followed by the Jubilee line extension, did house-hunting bankers target Greenwich, snapping up elegant Georgian homes bordering the park. Fabulous penthouses with commanding views are now on offer, too.
"Greenwich is playing price catch-up with Canary Wharf, but in my opinion it's a much better place to live, more family-friendly, better amenities and yet only a short hop on the train to the towers," says Paul Wright, a financial analyst who recently moved to Greenwich from the Isle of Dogs and intends putting down roots.
A development corridor has opened up to the west of the town centre along Greenwich High Road, which runs into Deptford. This patch is worth exploring.
Pretty Victorian terrace houses in a conservation area cost from about £600,000, while new flats are priced from less than £250,000. Greenwich Creekside has indoor gardens, a theatre space and jazz venue incorporated in the design — crisp, contemporary architecture which has raised the bar. Onebedroom flats start at £247,500. Call Telford Homes (020 8694 8186).
Ashburnham Apartments occupies an improving strip on Greenwich High Road, and is convenient for Blackheath. Prices from £249,950. Call Bellway on 0845 2576062. Galliard, which has the biggest presence in the area, has a mixed-use scheme of apartments, offices and a hotel. Prices, including furniture pack, from £250,000. Call 020 7620 1500.
Greenwich borough extends to the metropolitan green belt. Charlton, not far from Greenwich centre, is something of a secret. It has a village-style heart and an identity of its own, while Woolwich is famous for its military connections. Royal Arsenal Riverside is the new name for the old munitions factory, with its awesome collection of Georgian and Victorian buildings split into flats. Berkeley Homes has launched a new phase. Prices from £250,000. Call 020 8331 7130.
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GREENWICH'S ROYAL CONNECTIONS
Henry V created the Greenwich royal manor in the 15th century, enclosing land which is now Greenwich Park, the oldest of all the Royal Parks. His riverside house was know as the Palace of Placentia, or "pleasant place".
Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor were all born at Placentia. Henry VIII developed the site, creating a chapel and stables, and stocked the park with deer.
The Queen's House was built for James I's wife, Anne of Denmark. After the Restoration, Charles II replaced the original palace with a new classical building, which forms part of the the Old Royal Naval College, established by Royal Charter in 1694.
Charles II also redesigned the park and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory, Britain's oldest purpose-built scientific structure. Queen Elizabeth II was present when her father, George VI, officially opened the National Maritime Museum in 1937. One of the Duke of Edinburgh's titles is Baron Greenwich. He is also a patron of the Cutty Sark.