Blog > Royal Observatory at Greenwich in London

October 14, 2013

Less than 6 miles from Safestay Hostel is one of the most interesting places in London to visit. It is the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.  By car the excursion will take less than 20 minutes.  Public transport will be a bit longer. Walk to Elephant and Castle and take the Northern Line Subway towards Barnet. You will disembark at the London Bridge stop.  It will be a short walk to London Bridge.  Take the London Cannon Street Train to Dartford. (Stop ID: LBG)  From there disembark when you arrive at Maze Hill.  (Stop ID: MZH).  The train ride will be about 11 minutes. From there you will need to walk to your destination.  It will take you less than 15 minutes. Your total travel time will be about 45 minutes.

The Royal Observatory is where you will find the Prime Meridian 0 degrees longitude. The site has played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation. From atop the hill in Greenwich Park one can observe an impressive view of the old Royal Naval College and the River Thames. An adult ticket price will be 10 pounds about 16 dollars U.S. Hours of operation are from 10:00 A.M. To 5 P.M. (17:00). The last admission is permitted 30 minutes before closing.

An international agreement in 1884 made the site the Prime Meridian of the world. People come from around the world to stand on the line that divides the West and East. The location of this line was the result of the importance that Britain exhibited in the late 19th century. Today this line can be found in the Meridian Courtyard.


The observatory itself was constructed in 1675 by order of King Charles II. He created the position of Astronomer Royal to serve as the director of the facility. John Flamsteed was given the first commission which is why the building is referred to as the Flamsteed House. The first director was also to engage in scientific study to give the most accurate information in location to assist with navigation at the time. Flamsteed House the original part of the Observatory was designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. It would be the first scientific research facility in Britain.

In 1894 there was an attempted bombing of the site. It was most likely the first international terrorist incident in Britain. The perpetrator was a French anarchist who accidentally detonated the bomb that would kill him. In the 20th century the original scientific work would be relocated elsewhere in stages as the Greenwich site became more of a tourist and museum site than a research facility.


Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was until 1954 based on celestial observations made at the Observatory. Today the site includes a museum of astronomical and navigational tools which is part of the National Maritime Museum. It houses the famous marine chronometer of John Harrison and its three predecessors. There are also a number of precision timekeeping devices for astronomical and navigation purposes as well.

Located on the site as well is the Peter Harrison Planetarium. It is the only public planetarium in London. Here you can view a wonderful introduction to the wonders of the universe. All the shows are hosted by on site astronomers who are available to answer questions after the main presentations are finished. You can also try your hand at being an astronomer or guiding a space mission. One can see and touch a meteorite which is 4.5 billion years old at the Astronomy Centre. It can be found in the Astronomy Galleries. There are special shows and exhibits that are held throughout the year at the facility.

Entrance to the Astronomy Centre is free but you will need a ticket to view the other attractions. If you are not a member of the Royal Observatory a combination ticket might be in your best interest if you plan to spend the day. There are several other attractions nearby that might also capture your imagination. These would include The National Maritime Museum, The Queen's House and Cutty Sark.

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