The Royal Observatory, Greenwich is the basis of modern timekeeping. It is a historical observatory commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II which gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time. It is located just out of London and should be on anyone's bucket list when visiting the British capital. It is an overlooked attraction, that should be part of what everyone should do in London on their first trip.

While in Europe, visit the Top of Europe and the Sphinx Observatory high in the Alps in Switzerland. It is the highest observatory in Europe and is even reachable by train thanks to bewildering Swiss engineering. See how these observatories compare with being historical in London or picturesquely set in the Alps.

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What To Know About The Royal Observatory Greenwich

If one is visiting London then pencil in the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. It has a rich history and has played a large role in astronomy and navigation. It has many attractions as well as historical significance. See the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House, and the clipper ship Cutty Sark

  • Location: Greenwich Park In South East London Overlooking The River Thames
  • Time: Gave Its Name To Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - Now Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)
  • Commissioned: In 1675 By King Charles II

Today the observatory and Greenwich site is maintained almost exclusively as a museum. Here one can place one foot in the west and one in the east at the Prime Meridian of the world.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich is regarded as the home of British astronomy. It was from here that early scientists were able to precisely map the stars to help navigate the seas.

  • National Maritime Museum: Contains The World's Largest Maritime Library and Archive Collection
  • The Queen's House: Home To A Renowned Art Collection and Is Inigo Jones’ Architectural Masterpiece Being The First Classical building in the UK (Entry Is Free)
  • Clipper ship Cutty Sark: A Historical Ship That Visitors Can Even Climb The Ship's Rigging and Masts
  • The Royal Observatory: The Heart Of The Attractions To The Greenwich Complex - One of Britain's Most Historic Observatories Now A Museum

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Royal Observatory Museum

The buildings that were the observatory are now a museum exhibiting astronomical and navigational tools. Some of the notable exhibits include John Harrison's pioneering chronometer (known as H4), as well as his three earlier marine timekeepers. These are actually now the property of the Ministry of Defence. There are many other horological artifacts are displayed that document the history of precision timekeeping for navigational and astronomical purposes. One will also see the 28-inch equatorial Grubb refracting telescope of 1893.
  • Opening Hours: Open Daily from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
  • Great Equatorial Telescope: The UK's Largest Historic Telescope

At the observatory, one will also walk the line of the famous Greenwich Median that's clearly marked on the pavement.

Visit The Cutty Sark Ship

One of the fun attracts is the Cutty Sark. Visitors are able to climb up the famous ship's masts and view the Thames and London with a sailor's eye view.

From the Main Deck, climb the ship’s 'ratlines' (rope ladders) and then make one's way up into the rigging, just as hundreds of sailors did during Cutty Sark’s long and fabled career at sea. One then descends with a  zip-line. The ticket for the rig climb also grants access to all other parts of the ship.

  • Fastest: The Cutty Sark Was The Fastest Ship Of Its Kind
  • Price For Climbing: Adult from £41 | Child (12-15) from £26

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Royal Observatory Planetarium

One of the great attractions at the Royal Observatory is the world-class Planetarium. While other attractions at the Royal Observatory museum are on the same ticket, tickets for the Planetarium must be booked separately.

Here visitors join the Royal Observatory astronomers and leading scientists on a fascinating journey into space. It is a great experience for the whole family with science sessions for the kids.

It is recommended to book the shows in advance as their shows are very popular and they may be sold out. Some of their shows include The Sky Tonight, Ted's Space Adventure, and Meet the Neighbours.

The Sky Tonight:

  • When: Runs Saturday to Monday During School Terms And Daily In School Holidays
  • Age: Suitable for ages 7+ (Not Available for Kids Under 5)
  • Price: Adult £10.00 / Child £5.00

Ted's Space Adventure:

  • When: Shows run Saturdays and Sundays And Daily during school holidays
  • Price: Adult £10.00 / Child £5.00

Meet the Neighbours:

  • When: Shows run Saturday-Monday during term time And Daily during school holidays
  • Age: Suitable for ages 7+ (Not Available for Kids Under 5)
  • Price: Adult £10.00 / Child £5.00

The observatory and planetarium are great options for families.

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