Lockdown took many things away from us: One being the ability to soak up all the culture London has to offer. When the announcement came that, with conditions museums and galleries could reopen, you could hear the collective sigh of relief! Museums and art galleries have faced a very uncertain future since their closure back in March, so reopening is crucial to their survival.
The Royal Museums of Greenwich phased the opening of the sites on July 20, with The Cutty Sark first, followed by The Royal Observatory. We were invited over to have a look at how they’d adapted for visitors in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What you need to know in how the venue is Covid safe:
- Tickets MUST be pre-booked. This is to ensure numbers are regulated. Please go to The Royal Observatory’s site to book for an allocated time.
- The entrance desk has a protective screen between the server and customer.
- All staff and guests must wear masks, unless outdoors
- There is a a one way system
- Parts of the exhibition are roped off / signed so as not to touch
- There is plenty of hand sanitiser at many points, and always next to any of the interactive displays
- There are frequent signs reminding you to socially-distance
How this changes the experience:
The reduced number of people mean that actually seeing all the exhibitions is the reduced number of guests makes it much easier to see the exhibits – you can get up close! I felt like we had plenty of time to observe and absorb the exhibitions, giving a chance for both myself and son to take it all in. The bonus was the Instagram spot, of crossing the Meridian Prime line, was that there was no queue and easy to get that Instagram moment!
Sadly, some of the exhibition is closed, this includes the virtual Planeterium shows and the astronomy centre. There is content online, though, that you can access. However, plenty is still open so you won’t feel like you are missing out. Plus, the reduced crowds really make you feel like you’re experiencing something special. Covid-19 has given us little to be pleased about, but this chance of seeing a venue like this without full capacity is truly special.
What we thought of the Observatory:
In a word: Fascinating! The first room talks us through the problem of how to solve longitude, to ensure safe ocean navigation. No, I had zero idea how you would go about this either! A number of artefacts, paintings, interactive displays and information on how the problem was solved. Firstly, a technique using the stars and planets and then a series of time-keeping machines. However clouds and unreliability of clocks keeping good time meant both ways were fallible. I won’t spoil the plot, but for someone who isn’t overtly scientifical, it was presented in an easily-digestible way and who doesn’t like a handwritten log from the 1700s? My 12 year old was more into the interactive displays …
Of course, Greenwich, founded 1675 is synonymous with time and space. Many world-famous astronomers and scientists worked here and the next two rooms are dedicated to how the employees both worked, and in some cases, lived here. Personally, this is the bit I found really interesting. Walking through the Octagon Room, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, no less, I was rather envious of such a beautiful ‘office’ with such incredible views. Additionally, Flamstaad House, housed the Royal Observatory, so we get a little insight to how it was to live there. Again, with Greenwich Park as your back garden, I was a little envious.
Outdoors, in the courtyard, there is the Meridian Prime line, depicted 0 degrees longitude, where Eastern Time meets Western Time. My son spent a considerable time, studying the line and the countries marked and the degrees of longitude that separated him from them. But what also piqued his interest was The Greenwich Time Ball. Lowered daily, since 1833 at 1258 it is raised and dropped, still to this day, at 1300 as a public time signal. Mariners at the port and others in line of sight of the observatory to synchronise their clocks to GMT.
Lastly, you can climb the tower and take a look at the Giant Equatorial Telescope with its live link to the moon (albeit broken when we are there!).
Lastly, the views from The Observatory sell themselves …
Who’s it suitable for?
I would say any child with a strong interest in science would enjoy it from 8, but for general interest, 10+ is a good age.
How to get there:
Full address: Royal Observatory, Blackheath Avenue, Greenwich SE10 8XJ
The Royal Observatory is at the top of the hill in Royal Greenwich Park, there is a wheelchair-accessible route, but please note it is uphill and fairly steep. Once at the top you will be rewarded with stunning views of the city of London skyline and River Thames.
- Greenwich DLR/rail (20 minute walk via King William Walk)
- Cutty Sark DLR (15 minute walk via King William Walk)
- Maze Hill rail station (15 minute walk via Park Vista)
- Blackheath rail station (20 minute walk across the heath)
How to book and cost:
The Royal Observatory is open 1030-1600 every day
Please book on The Royal Museums of Greenwich Website
Adults from £16, children £8. Holders of Bluecards have free entry.
I am working in collaboration with The Royal Museums of Greenwich; I was gifted entrance to the museum for my son and I.