Address: Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich, London SE10 8XJ


Time: 10.00am to 5.00pm

Time Information:

Phone: 0208 858 4422

Entry Price: £9.50 for adults


1000m from Greenwich

1000m from Greenwich

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is one of the most important historical buildings in the world. It’s the home of the Prime Meridian line where you can put one foot in the official east and the other in the official west. This is based on an imaginary line running from the North Pole, through Greenwich and to the South Pole. It was established in 1851 and adopted internationally at a conference in 1884. Positions of ‘longitude’ are taken from this point eg Paris 2 degrees east, Sydney 151 east, Honolulu 157 west, New York 74 west.

The 17th century saw an increased amount of maritime activity and there needed to be an accurate way of navigating at sea. Charles II appointed John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal in 1675 and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the observatory. It is known as Flamsteed House.

In 1714 Parliament offered the equivalent of £2m today to anyone who could aid navigation by finding longitude at sea. 60 years later a Yorkshire carpenter turned clockmaker, John Harrison claimed it with his H4 design and today his four famous timepieces are in the Harrison Museum.

Time is also measured from Greenwich, hence Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Before this most places in the world kept their own time.

The Observatory was built on the site of the old Greenwich Castle, which overlooked Greenwich Palace, both favourite places of Henry VIII. But being situated in such a busy city wasn’t ideal for the sensitive equipment used and in 1958 the Royal Greenwich Observatory moved to Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex. In 1990 the Observatory moved to Cambridge and closed in 1998. In 2007 the site was redeveloped with a Planetarium, astronomy and time galleries and an education centre.

It forms part of a World Heritage site with other nearby historic buildings and these popular London landmarks form an ideal destination for tourists.

The museum images below form only part of the exhibits on show and displays can often change.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.