Royal Observatory

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© National Maritime Museum, London
© National Maritime Museum, London
© Rob Greig

Royal Observatory

© National Maritime Museum, London
© National Maritime Museum, London
© National Maritime Museum
© National Maritime Museum, London
© National Maritime Museum, London
© National Maritime Museum London
© NASA/JPL-Caltech

Overlooking the rest of the Royal Museums Greenwich from the top of the hill, the northern section of this two-halved attraction looks at Greenwich’s connections with time. Few visitors get much past a photo-op straddling the Prime Meridian in the courtyard of Flamsteed House, the observatory built in 1675 on the orders of Charles II. But the building contains the apartments of Sir John Flamsteed and other Astronomers Royal, as well as instruments used in timekeeping since the 14th century. John Harrison’s four timekeepers, used to crack the problem of longitude, are here, while the onion dome houses the country’s largest (28-inch) refracting telescope – it was completed in 1893. The south site houses the Astronomy Centre, home to the Weller Astronomy Galleries (free entry), where you'll find a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite, and the Peter Harrison Planetarium, which screens daily and weekend star shows. The 120-seater planetarium’s architecture cleverly reflects its astrological position: the semi-submerged cone tilts at 51.5 degrees, the latitude of Greenwich, pointing to the north star, and its reflective disc is aligned with the celestial equator.

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Venue name: Royal Observatory
Address: Blackheath Avenue
SE10 8XJ
Opening hours: Daily 10am-5pm (last admission 4.30pm)
Transport: Rail: Cutty Sark/Greenwich DLR
Price: Astronomy Centre free. Flamsteed House & Meridian Courtyard: £7, £5.50 concs, £2.50 under-16s, free under-fives, £9.50-£16 family. Planetarium: £6.50, £5.50 concs, £4.50 under-16s, free under-threes, £14.50-£20 family
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    • Sunday February 14 2016
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    Tom Bruce

    Greenwich's Royal Observatory is marvelous testament to British science and ingenuity. Astronomy (not to be confused with the black magic, astrology), helioseismology (study of the sun), planetary mapping, and navigation were the primary focuses of the research institution commissioned by King Charles II, and from the 1700s to midway through the 20th century, the most prescient, dedicated scientific minds worked here to revolutionise human understanding of the universe and our place within it. Now it is no longer in active use as a place of study because as the requirements of the field became more advanced the site's researchers moved onto more modern facilities. It is lucky for the public that the observatory has been preserved in such a fine way.

    Anyone can go to the Royal Observatory, which has become more of a historical and architectural curiosity these days. However, most people do not come to learn about the solar system in the planetarium or to view exhibitions about time or the art of navigation and cartography. Most people - that is, tourists - come to straddle the Post Meridian Line, the internationally recognised pinpoint place at which the east and west longitudes are divided and measured from, as well as the centre for Greenwich Mean Time, the only clock measurement worth paying attention to. Getting to the PML costs £10 for non-concessions, which you can avoid either by climbing a twenty foot wall or by tracking down the freely accessible extension which runs down the back wall beyond the obervatory's main courtyard and onto a public footpath to the right of the front hillside approach. 

    Some things are totally free, including various talks given throughout the day, but anyone used to the £0 entry at Central London museums and galleries is in for an unpleasant surprise. All Greenwich's royal museums appear to charge the public, and if you intend to see everything then paying for one of the combination deals (includes three museums, and the Cutty Sark ship tour) would be the best way to do so.

    The atmosphere at the Royal Observatory is lively and fun, as families and groups of tourist groups are all mingling together. Many come to the hilltop for the view alone. On my last visit, Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert was shooting an informational piece about credit cards. On a crisp, cold Winter day such as that one was, it's hard to argue against claims that this offers the best views of the City of London you're likely to get while on terra firma. 

    Kritt N

    I absolutely love coming to Greenwich and part of it’s attraction is the Royal Observatory Greenwich. It’s a real gem!

    You’ll be able to be in two places at once by standing on both side of the Prime Meridian Line, you’ll explore the historical Flamsteed House built in 1695 where astronomer Sir John Flamsteed solved the problem of longitude, and see instruments of timekeeping from the 14th century. They don’t call it the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) for nothing!

    What I love most is the location. Situated above serene Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory also offers a breath-taking panoramic view of London’ skyline (get your camera out moment) and once you’re done exploring the Royal Observatory, head to the Peter Harrison Planetarium which is only moments away, is London only Planetarium, and where you can also see a 4.5-billion-year old meteorite. It’s also free!

    Try to come in the summer if you can when Greenwich is at it’s prettiest (possible picnic in the park too?). It's easy to reach via the DLR and it’s a great place for the whole family to visit and to inspire the kids. I highly recommend a visit.


    Absolutely blew me into space...I cannot believe I only made my first visit at the start of the year. The Astronomy Photography is magical and the shows are beyond breathtaking, presented by a live astronomer, who guides you through outer space. For well under £15 this deserves to be on every Londoners list of 'Places to visit'.


    Chesca R

    The astronomy photographer of the year exhibition is so absolutely incredible and beautiful in equal measures it is well worth a visit. The photographs are spellbinding and good for helping to put things into perspective. In the past few years the tickets have been free so I'm hoping its the same this year. As an added bonus the view when you get outside is stunning.