The Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian, is located in Greenwich Park at the top of the steep hill overlooking the Queen's House and the National Maritime Museum. In 1675 King Charles II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory on the site of Duke Humphrey's medieval watchtower. It was named Flamsteed House in about 1720, after John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal.
UK: London – Maritime Greenwich
Greenwich is a borough in London, England, on the banks of the River Thames. Known for its maritime history, it’s home to the Cutty Sark, a restored 19th-century ship, the huge National Maritime Museum, and the classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College. The modern O2 arena sits on a peninsula to the north. Overlooking peaceful Greenwich Park, the Royal Observatory is the site of the Greenwich meridian line
You can literally make a whole day out visiting Greenwich, as there are plenty of sites to see – associated with Greenwich’s rich maritime history including:
- The Royal Observatory
- The Cutty Sark
- The Queen’s House
- The National Maritime Museum
- The Naval College
The historical importance of these sights has resulted in them being entered into the registry of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
1. The Royal Observatory
The Royal Observatory, home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian, is located in Greenwich Park at the top of the steep hill overlooking the Queen’s House and the National Maritime Museum. See our full blog post on the Royal Observatory
2. The Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Built on the River Leven, Dumbarton, Scotland in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development for this type of vessel, which halted as steamships took over their routes. See our full blog post on the Cutty Sark
3. The National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum, the world’s largest museum dedicated to things nautical, tells the long and complicated history of Britain’s relationship to the sea. The museum houses a huge collection of maritime exhibits including maritime art (both British and 17th-century Dutch), cartography, manuscripts including official public records, ship models and plans, and scientific and navigational instruments. See our full blog post on the National Maritime Museum
4. The Queen’s House
Queen’s House is a former royal residence built between 1616 and 1635 near Greenwich Palace, a few miles down-river from the City of London and now in the London Borough of Greenwich. It presently forms a central focus of what is now the Old Royal Naval College with a grand vista leading to the River Thames.
5. The Old Royal Naval College
The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich, is described by UNESCO as being of “outstanding universal value” and reckoned to be the “finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles”. Today, it’s hallowed halls are open to visitors.
Planning your visit to Greenwich
Getting to Greenwich is easy, either by car or using public transport. If the weather is good, as it was when we visited, then the most pleasant way of getting there is by boat. As Greenwich has a strong link to British Naval history then this is almost certainly the most fitting way to arrive.
We took a sightseeing boat by Thames River Sightseeing from Westminster pier, close to the Houses of Parliament. This way you’ll get to see many of the historic sights of London along the way and get a commentary to boot. The journey takes about 45-minutes.
Best time to visit London
The best time to visit London is March through May when the temperatures are mild and the city’s parks are green and blooming. However, late spring – along with summer – is also prime tourist season, and hotel and flight prices reflect the surge.
Other places to visit while in London
1. TOWER OF LONDON
Tower of London, byname the Tower, royal fortress and London landmark. Its buildings and grounds served historically as a royal palace, a political prison, a place of execution, an arsenal, a royal mint, a menagerie, and a public records office. It is located on the north bank of the River Thames.
2. WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Westminster Abbey has been the site of coronation for all British monarchs since 1066 and is home to the ancient Coronation Chair, which is found in St George’s Chapel.
It is also the final resting place of 30 kings and queens with memorials to Edward the Confessor, Richard II, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and more royal tombs found within the abbey.
3. PALACE OF WESTMINSTER
The Palace of Westminster is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece designed by Sir Charles Barry and A.W. Pugin to replace the medieval parliament buildings, which burnt to the ground in 1834. The result of their work is one of the great buildings of the Victorian era and acts as home to the Houses of Parliament
4. THAMES RIVER
On the banks of the River Thames, London has spread out to become one of the biggest financial, entertainment and trade hubs in the world and in part, this is due to the proximity to this large (and famous) river.
With many of the city’s biggest tourist sites being dotted along its banks, London’s River Thames has a lot of history.
5. LONDON EYE
At 135m, The London Eye is the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel. It was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and was launched in 2000.
6. TOWER BRIDGE
An iconic London landmark and one of Britain’s best loved historic sites, Tower Bridge is open to the public 363 days a year. Within the Bridge’s iconic structure and magnificent Victorian Engine rooms, the Tower Bridge Exhibition is the best way of exploring the most famous bridge in the world!
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