Eltham's not somewhere that features on the tourist radar much, burrowed between the better-known areas of Greenwich and Bromley. But it's not to be overlooked. Here are some reasons why this corner of zone 4 is worth a visit.
Visit Henry VIII's old home
If you have been to Eltham, it's likely you visited Eltham Palace and Gardens. Located midway between Mottingham and Eltham stations, the 1930s art deco house was inhabited by the Courtauld family and their pet lemur, Mah-Jongg. The other part of the building, the Medieval palace, is over 500 years old, and best known for being a childhood home of King Henry VIII. Today it's owned by English Heritage with many rooms open to the public. If you do swing by, make sure you see the fascinating 1930s map room, rediscovered during renovations in 2015.
The gardens are worth a visit in their own right, home to a moat, rose garden and water features. There's a decent range of events at the palace throughout the year, from medieval jousting reenactments to art deco fairs.
The Tarn Bird Sanctuary
Next to Mottingham station is The Tarn bird sanctuary, a protected wildlife area, butterfly garden and lake which is run by volunteers. It's open to the public year-round, although no dogs are allowed (sorry, Fido), with special events and volunteer sessions on certain days.
Well Hall Pleasaunce
It's often overshadowed by the grandeur of Eltham Palace, but Eltham is also home to a Tudor barn, dating back to the 16th century. It's situated in Well Hall Pleasaunce, a 13th century pleasure garden with flower beds, water features and a bowling green — how quaint.
E Nesbit, author of The Railway Children, lived in the barn for a time, and alludes to it in some of her writing. These days, the barn is open as a restaurant and events venue, and anyone can wander round the garden.
Visit a castle
If you don't mind a bit of an (uphill) stroll, Severndroog Castle should be on your to do list. It's a 40-minute walk from Eltham station (or hop on the 161 or 122 bus), but you can see seven counties from the top on a clear day, so it's worth it. The tearooms at the bottom are an added bonus.
Avery Hill Park
Did you know that Eltham is home to a tropical conservatory? The free-to-enter Winter Garden at Aviary Hill is owned by the University of Greenwich and set in Avery Hill Park, featuring formal gardens, sports pitches, a cafè and more. Perfect for picnicking and letting off steam if the weather's on your side.
A night at the theatre
Just off Eltham High Street is the Bob Hope Theatre, an intimate venue where local amateur theatre productions are performed. A traditional pantomime rolls around every Christmas, with other crowd-pleasers sprinkled throughout the year.
Get your walking boots on
Away from the high street, Eltham feels a bit like (whisper it) the countryside, so it's no surprise that there are several walking routes cutting through the area. Section 2 of the Capital Ring, the four-mile stretch between Falconwood and Grove Park, passes through Eltham, as does the Green Chain Walk.
Eating and drinking in Eltham
For name alone, we'd suggest The Eltham Yeti, but if Nepalese cuisine isn't your thing, there are plenty of other options. The White Hart pub and steakhouse has an excellent reputation. As previously mentioned, the Tudor Barn is now home to a gastropub and steakhouse, or for something more exotic, try Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar El Mojitos. The high street has a decent balance of chain restaurants (Prezzo, Costa, Wimpy(!)) and independent joints.