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Royal Observatory, Greenwich

On November 9, 2010

The Royal Observatory perches on a hill above two estimable museums:  Queen’s House and the Royal Maritime Museum.  The views of these two buildings as well as London, Greenwich and Canary Wharf make the walk up the worthwhile but the Observatory has much more to offer.

Looking toward London and the Gherkin…

Looking down from the Royal Observatory onto the site’s other museums; the Queen’s House is in the center.  The twin domes of the Old Royal Naval College peek out beyond the Queen’s House and across the Thames loom the economic towers of Canary Wharf.

The O2 Arena seen from the Royal Observatory…

A twenty-eight inch telescope and a planetarium are among the Observatory’s many attractions; however, for visitors with only an afternoon to take in the entire Maritime complex the simple pleasures will have to do: enjoy the view, take a few minute to try and figure out the camera obscura. Standing in line to have your picture taken with one foot on each side of the Greenwich Meridian Line can be a long wait but remember, we’re talking Longitude 0 and Greenwich Mean Time, kind of worth the wait.

After finding Nelson’s Trafalgar uniform (now off display until Summer 2011) and scouting out Prince Frederick’s barge, there was little time left to explore Queen’s House which held an unexpected richness and diversity of paintings; it certainly calls for a second visit.

All of the National Maritime Museum’s buildings accept their last visitors at 4:30 p.m. but the grounds themselves are open after dark. Thus, we sat in the breezeway of Queen’s House and this time looked back up the hill at the Royal Observatory.  Dusky clouds outlined Flamsteed House, designed by Christopher Wren in the late 17th century.  The red Time Ball, accurate once a day a 13:00 GMT, slept on its mast atop the House’s tall left tower. With a cold night rapidly enveloping us, we headed back to Greenwich for tapas and a quick train ride back to our hotel.

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