Amidst the peak of the very famous Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory can be seen nestled in its central lap. The observatory gives assurance to its visitors, an educational experience which is worth visiting. It is one of the world’s most significant museums of an astronomical site, where you can learn about on time standardization, about the making of the first telescope and the evolution of science over the years.
Take an enchanting tour through the remarkable history of Britain’s astronomical world, the Prime Meridian of the World and the Greenwich Mean Time. You can also enjoy the beautiful scenic view of the entire London city skyline from the museum.
Greenwich Observatory History
When Europeans started exploring the vastness of the deep blue seas of the world as well as the options of trade with their neighbouring countries, there was a necessity of ample capacity of astronomical information; efficiency to assist cartography, navigation, timekeeping and lastly, how to measure longitude. This was resolved when King Charles II decided to look into investing in astronomy.
On March 4th 1675, the King was recommended by the Royal Commission for the establishment of Britain’s first state-funded scientific institution, an observatory and the assignment of an astronomer. King Charles reportedly called for immediate action and on the same day, John Flamsteed was named ‘astronomer’ and the first part of the Observatory to be built was the Flamsteed House.
In 1818, the Royal Observatory was reassigned to the Admiralty for significant expansion. At present, the Royal Observatory features a record of a working observatory with instruments belonging to the 18th & 19th centuries.
Royal Observatory Greenwich Tickets
Must-See At The Greenwich Observatory
The first part of the Observatory to be built was the Flamsteed House. It was built with the intention to serve as a home for the Royal Astronomer and for the entertainment of their guests. This House has been the home to many astronomers, children, cooks, nursemaids as well as servants. It is considered as one of the most famous spots in the observatory where visitors can go for an audio guide tour to learn more about the house.
Don't forget to watch the red time ball rise and drop at 1 pm, which takes place every day in the yard. In 1833, the first public time signal in England was broadcasted from the roof of Flamsteed House, by dropping a ball at an estimated time. Ever since then, this ceremony takes place each day at 12.55 when the ball hoisted at the centre of a pole, reaches the top at two minutes to the hour and exactly at 1.00, the time ball drops.
Prime Meridian Courtyard
The Prime Meridian Courtyard is a must see when you visit the Royal Observatory. A brass line in the ground is where you find the east meeting the west and you can feel like a superhero with one foot on the eastern hemisphere and the other on the western hemisphere. The Observatory has been the historical origin of the world’s Prime Meridian since the late 19th century. In October 1884, Greenwich was chosen as the Prime Meridian of the World and has also won the prize of Longitude 0º during the International Meridian Conference which was held in Washington D.C.
Great Equatorial Telescope
Gaze upon one of the biggest telescopes in the world as you stand in awe under the stunning fibreglass dome of the Royal Observatory. Land yourself amidst the stars by looking through the telescope during the special Evening with the Stars event. The mount on which the telescope rests rotates on the same axis as that of Earth’s which allows it to follow a star from east to west across the sky. This 28-inch refracting telescope is the seventh largest in the world and should be on your list of places to visit in the Royal Observatory.
Peter Harrison Planetarium
The shows in Peter Harrison planetarium are high quality and the information is absolutely mindblowing. It is highly recommended for everyone, families and couples to visit this planetarium! For the best views of the shows, one can head all the way to the back of the planetarium where the seats are super comfy. If you're an adult who is interested in space then you can also visit some of the night shows. End your day by picking a beautiful picnic spot in the lush green park or stroll around the park.
Plan Your Visit
Royal Observatory Opening Hours:
Daily: 10 AM to 5 PM
- Ride the metro using the Docklands Light Railway with your destination as the Greenwich Cutty Sark stop, which takes about 20 minutes from Central London.
- Hop on a double-decker bus to enjoy the London breeze with bus stops located near the Royal Observatory along the Routes 53, 54, 202 and 380. The observatory is just a short 15-minute walk from here.
- Fancy an oceanic adventure with your loved ones, then you can opt for arriving in style by boat with the Thames Clipper or a sight-seeing cruise.
Rules & Regulations:
Other Popular Greenwich Attractions
An easy to visit spot straight after or before exploring the Greenwich Observatory is the Cutty Sark. Take your kids along to enjoy the preserved ship, games, and some of the remarkable quarters which will surely impress most youngsters and history buffs. It is the only clipper ship left in the world and has travelled across distances that are equivalent to that of the moon and back in its 52-year career as a cargo ship.
Old Royal Naval College
Take a tour of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich to visit the remarkable Painted Hall created by Thornhill which is linked to the Skittle Alley. This one is really worth your time as there is the provision of lots of valuable information. An equally worth visit is to the beautiful Chapel with its grandeur ceiling giving you more options to explore. Wren designed these buildings perfectly. The Painted Hall is where Nelson laid in the state prior to his burial. The grounds are extremely beautiful and a short walk takes you to the visitor centre. The Royal Observatory is not far. Everything else is free.
National Maritime Museum
Explore the National Maritime Museum which is the world’s largest maritime museum. This has an interior which is exceptional with so much to see. It is filled with thousands of artefacts, maps, artwork, chart, and all things marine. The artefacts are well arranged with a perfect blend of objects and pictures. It is spaciously designed and suited for all ages. The museum is easily accessible by bus, boat, train or tube. If you are in Greenwich then this Museum is definitely worth a visit.
Adjacent to the National Maritime Museum is the Queen’s House which has an exquisite artwork and architecture to mesmerise you with. Step through the doors and find yourself in the impressive Great Hall. This perfectly proportioned hall has a striking marble floor, with a monochrome geometric design originally laid in 1635. The best part about the museum is that the entry is absolutely free. A visit to the Queen's House is a must as part of any day out in Greenwich.
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Greenwich Observatory Reviews
"We went with our twin eight-year-old grandchildren and absolutely loved it. There is something magical about standing astride the prime meridian. The science is extremely well explained and the children got a good introduction to time and astronomy. Well worth the £48 for two adults and two children. Greenwich park is lovely and the walk through Greenwich was very interesting. My advice to visitors is to go by boat and get a combined ticket."
- SergeLourie, April 2019 Tripadvisor
“The whole Greenwich area is an amazingly peaceful place, packed with green parks and nice streets. Visit the Observatory, a must see. The nearby maritime museum, too. Allow yourself the whole day for this part of London.“
- barbara_uNovaGorica, April 2019 Tripadvisor
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FAQs: Royal Observatory Greenwich
Since the late 19th century, the Royal Observatory is the historic source of the Prime Meridian of the world, Longitude 0° 0' 0''. The world prime meridian marks the divide between the eastern and western hemispheres. Before this, almost every town in the world kept its own local time.
Visit the free interactive galleries at the Royal Observatory's Astronomy Centre to get answers to all the big questions about space, time and the universe – all completely free of charge.
In 1990 the Royal Observatory moved from Herstmonceux to a new site at Cambridge, adjacent to the University's Institute of Astronomy, where it occupied Greenwich House just to the north of the Cambridge Observatory.
Anyone visiting Greenwich can see the telescope's distinctive 'onion dome' roof when they look up towards the Royal Observatory. But to truly appreciate the scale of the Great Equatorial Telescope, you have to step inside.
The purpose of the Royal Observatory was a practical one: to reduce shipwrecks. At that time mariners had no accurate way of working out their position when out of sight of land. They could find their latitude (north-south position) by observing the sun or stars, but not their longitude (east-west position).