royal observatory greenwich london se10 feature image

Spectacular Royal Observatory Greenwich London SE10

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London SE10, sits atop a hill in London’s Greenwich Park, with the Thames River in view. It played a pivotal role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and today is a museum open to the public. The Prime Meridian, which defined Greenwich Mean Time and later UTC, passes through it. It’s a part of the Royal Museums Greenwich, including the National Maritime Museum, the Queen’s House, and the Cutty Sark. My visit there was enjoyable and educational, offering insights into the evolution of timekeeping. Attractions like the Shepherd Gate Clock, Flamsteed House, telescopes and marine timepieces made for an engaging experience. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Greenwich, the Royal Observatory should be on your list.

royal observatory people at greenwich meantime

Royal Observatory Highlights

royal observatory view on the walk up

I embarked on a picturesque walk through Greenwich Park, following a path to the right that led up a steep hill. Amidst the trees and bushes, the Royal Observatory gradually came into view, a stunning sight to behold.

london skyline from royal observatory greenwich

A picturesque panorama unfolds as you reach the top of the hill, offering a view back towards your starting point. You can admire the National Maritime Museum and the Queen’s House from this vantage point. Your gaze can also sweep across other prominent landmarks like the Shard, the Tower of London, and the O2 Arena.

shepherd gate clock royal observatory

You’ll see the splendid Shepherd Gate Clock displayed at the Royal Observatory’s entrance, your first view of Greenwich Mean Time. It operates as a secondary clock, synced to the primary Shepherd Clock at the Observatory since 1852. Renowned for its influence on time distribution, the clock features a unique 24-hour dial. Initially, it was set to astronomical time, with the 24-hour cycle starting at noon. It was later recalibrated to Greenwich Mean Time, commencing at midnight, and ignores British Summer Time adjustments.

royal observatory standing on the meridian line

Enter the Observatory grounds and the Meridian Courtyard. Greenwich Mean Time is the yearly average of the time each day when the sun crosses the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory. You can stand on the historic Prime Meridian Line with one foot in the west and the other in the east. This line marks the division of the world’s eastern and western hemispheres.

royal observatory octagon room

You can tour Flamsteed House, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, where the Astronomers Royal lived and worked. You’ll discover more about time and longitude through the exhibitions. The Octagon Room captivated me with its historic charm. This oldest part of the observatory, commissioned by King Charles II, was built for uninterrupted celestial observations. Its unique eight-sided design and high windows allowed for a panoramic view of the night sky, though its misalignment with the meridian lines limited its use for positional astronomy.

william herschel telescope royal observatory

Many impressive time and longitude measuring instruments, including telescopes, are held at the Royal Observatory. These include the Great Equatorial Telescope, housed beneath an impressive onion dome, and William Herschel’s Telescope in the Astronomers Garden. Also, the various marine timepieces that allowed ships to determine their longitude at sea by John Harrison. Sometimes, getting your head around what these instruments do is difficult, but you can always admire their beauty. Perhaps join one of the talks to give you some understanding of how unique these instruments are.

Watch My Royal Observatory Video

Helpful Information About The Royal Observatory Greenwich

To find out more, visit the Royal Museums Greenwich website. The Royal Observatory is in Greenwich Park, Blackheath Avenue, London SE10 8XJ. It’s open daily from 10 am until 5 pm, with 4.15 pm being the last entry. Ticket prices are £18 for adults and £9 for children. The closest stations are Greenwich, Cutty Sark Docklands Light Railway and Maze Hill. For gifts, check out the Meridian Gift Shop and Astronomy Shop The latter has a café and a terrace next nearby. It is perfect for a family day out or anyone interested in astronomy. If you have time, book a ticket for the Peter Harrison Planetarium to watch planetarium shows and listen to interesting talks.

royal observatory exterior

If you want to explore the area, you may find these articles of interest:

Best Things To Do In Greenwich:

Greenwich Day Itinerary

Greenwich Helpful Area Guide

Ten Things To Do In Greenwich

North Greenwich To Greenwich Thames Path Walk

National Maritime Museum Greenwich

Queen’s House Greenwich

Cutty Sark Greenwich

Best Places To Eat In Greenwich:

Goddards At Greenwich Pie And Mash

Breakfast At Peyton And Byrne Bakery Greenwich

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London.