Royal Museums Greenwich
Royal Museums Greenwich includes the National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory and Queen’s House in Greenwich, London. The historic area of Maritime Greenwich is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Since 1884 Greenwich has been the location of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Do you know what the Prime Meridian is? It’s the line of longitude that divides the earth into two hemispheres, east and west. Unlike the equator, the Prime Meridian is arbitrary. Did you know the antimeridian (on the opposite side of the earth from the Prime Meridian) is the International Date Line?
At the Royal Observatory you can actually stand on the meridian line. As well as splitting the world into two hemispheres, the meridian acts as a zero reference for astronomical observations. A map of the sky is created by comparing many repeated observations taken from the same spot.
Inside the Royal Observatory you can learn more about astronomy and understand how Greenwich Mean Time and clocks have changed the world. Book an audio tour of the Royal Observatory here.
Admission to the Royal Observatory is not free, but you can access a portion of the Prime Meridian outside the gates. Be prepared to wait in a long queue to get your selfie with the line.
National Maritime Museum
Greenwich has long been associated with maritime navigation and is therefore a fitting location for Britain’s National Maritime Museum. If you arrive in Greenwich by ferry on the Thames you will immediately notice the Cutty Sark, a wooden sailing ship. You can go onboard the Cutty Sark and learn about the ship from the crew.
The National Maritime Museum has collections of ship models and parts, maps, navigational instruments and more. The museum is the most important collection in the world on the history of seafaring Britain. My favorite pieces in the museum were probably the figureheads.
Admission is free to the National Maritime Museum aside from special exhibitions.
See the famous portrait of Elizabeth I known as the Armada portrait in the Queen’s House, a 17th century classical building. The Queen’s House exhibits the paintings and art from the Royal Museums Greenwich collection which includes portraits, paintings and murals such as Working Boats from Around the British Coast by Alan Sorrell.
If you visit the Queen’s House be sure to look up and admire the fanciful patterns created in gold leaf on the ceilings by Richard Wright in the Great Hall.
Did you know that King Henry VIII was born in Greenwich?
How to get to Greenwich by tube? The nearest stations to Greenwich are:
- Cutty Sark DLR
- Greenwich rail station and Maze Hill rail station
- Greenwich Pier
How to get to Greenwich by boat?
- Take a sightseeing cruise from Westminster to Greenwich
- Buy a Red Rover hop-on-hop-off boat ticket for the Thames
Want to enjoy amazing views of London after your visit to Greenwich? Combine a river boat cruise there with a trip back flying over the river on a cable car ride high in the air.
Royal Museums Greenwich is a wonderful place to spend the day. Visit the exhibits then enjoy a stroll through the gardens or have a picnic on the grass. While you are here, be sure to also check out the beautiful buildings of the Old Royal Naval College. Better yet, do it all on a half day guided tour of Greenwich.
Royal Museums Greenwich
Greenwich, London SE10 9NF
Do you like maritime museums? Then be sure to check out Het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam too.