Royal Observatory ★★☆
Set your watch by the actual Greenwich Mean Time clock, straddle the Prime Meridian line that divides the eastern and western hemispheres, and tour the fascinating little museum about it all
The Royal Observatory atop Greenwich hill is where they keep the Prime Meridian—well, the marker for it—the line that marks 0° longitude and thus divides the Earth into the eastern and western hemispheres.
Inside are loads of historic scientific devices, including the four clocks, made famous by the book Longitude, that finally helped mariners determine the precise measurement of longitude—the Holy Grail of seafaring for centuries.
A digital clock outside, set right at the Prime Meridian, lets you know down the millisecond exactly what time it is — the original Greenwich Mean Time, by which most of the world sets its clocks.
Also on the grounds are a Planetarium and Astronomy Centre (with a hunk of 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite you can touch)—the only bit of the Royal Observatory that is free anymore.
Make your way to Greenwich Pier, the London Eye Pier, Tower Pier, or Westminster Pier, then jump aboard your sightseeing boat to begin your tour. With cruises departing every 30 minutes from 10am throughout the year, enjoy the freedom to take to the water at your leisure.
During your Thames River sightseeing cruise, admire top London attractions such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and Westminster Bridge from your vantage point on the river. All boats have toilets, bars to buy refreshment (own expense), confectionary, and snacks, and an upper viewing deck for photo opportunities.
Alight at your leisure at Greenwich Pier and stroll up to the Greenwich Royal Observatory for sweeping views over Greenwich Park and the Thames River.
On arrival, learn how great scientists first mapped the seas and the stars, and stand astride two hemispheres at the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the world-famous Meridian Line. Touch a 4.5 billion year-old meteorite, watch how the universe was formed,, and guide a space mission to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos!
Tours of Greenwich that might also include Royal Observatory
Greenwich, just a short trip down the Thames from London, was an important port and center of naval activity for the British over several centuries, famous—of course—for the Greenwich Meridian, against which all longitude is measured. On this Greenwich Tour we'll take a Thames River cruise with a historian, and then spend several hours visiting some key sites in Greenwich, including the Royal Observatory and Cutty Sark.
- Greenwich Tour includes a Thames River cruise
- Visits the Royal Observatory
- Led by a historian
Thames River Cruise
We begin at Embankment in central London where we'll board the Clipper Thames, one of London's riverboats, with our historian docent, heading east. Our journey will take us through the heart of London, and from our vantage point royal palaces and modern government buildings will illuminate the River's role as a power base, while old warehouses and wharfs will illustrate the working river, and bridges will tell the story of the areas previously divided by the River. Along the way our docent will talk about the role of the river, especially as it pertains to Britain's relationship with the sea. Finally, we'll arrive in Greenwich, house of the Royal Observatory, the Queen's House, the newly restored Cutty Sark, and many more important sites.
In Greenwich, we will begin our walk by discussing the world famous ship and last surviving tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, which will function as a frame of reference during our tour. From here, we will move on to other relevant sites including the Old Royal Naval Academy, where we will discuss the history of the site, from its origins as a royal palace favored by the Tudors and birthplace of Henry VIII, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, through its complete Baroque rebuilding during the Restoration, to its transformation into the Royal Naval Hospital, and, finally, into a college under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor. (For those interested, we also run a Christopher Wren Churches Tour.
A Lesser known London
If time allows, our docent will lead us to lesser-known, yet equally intriguing, parts of Greenwich, including Trinity Hospital and Trafalgar Tavern. Then, we will emerge out into Greenwich Park, with scenic views of the first Palladian House in Britain, the Queen’s House, and the National Maritime Museum. Beyond the perfectly manicured lawns of the Park, a path through the trees leads us to a small hill on which the Royal Observatory and Flamsteed House are built. Once we reach the top the hill, we are presented with a wonderful view of London, both old and new, spread out before us with the River Thames cutting a silver ribbon through the city, separating the historic site of Greenwich from the modern buildings of Olympic Park.
Those who wish to learn a bit more about the view may be interested in our London Architecture Tour.
By the end of the walk we will have a deeper understanding of the important role that the River Thames has played in British naval and mercantile history. We will also come away with an appreciation of London as a city that constantly changes, but that also prioritizes the preservation of its history—something we will see first-hand in Greenwich, a microcosm of the unique dualities that exist in London.
Learn what we love about visiting: Five Reasons to Visit Greenwich (and Maybe Skip the London Eye).
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
We meet in central London, at Embankment Pier. The tour ends in Greenwich, where you are free to explore on your own or get lunch. It's very easy to get back to central London on your own via the Clipper Thames. Ferries are frequent throughout the day.
Does this tour include the Royal Observatory Greenwich (home of the historic Prime Meridian)?
Depending on the interest of the group, we may or not include the Royal Observatory in the tour. The observatory is on the top of the hill that overlooks Greenwich, so its a bit of a climb. If you are booking a private tour and are interested, we can definitely include it. Tickets are £ 9.50 and can be purchased at the site.
Is this tour accessible?
Yes, the Clipper Thames are fully accessible just like the sites in Greenwich.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but in the case of inclement weather, your docent will modify the tour so more time is spent indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this tour good for kids?
Yes! We have some excellent family friendly docents who can appeal to the learning styles of children. Please book privately if you have children under 13. Feel free to provide us with information about your children such as favorite school subjects, and hobbies. This way we can match you with the best possible docent.
Do I need to pay for tickets?
You are prepaid for the tour but are responsible for the Clipper Thames tickets to Greenwich. Tickets are £7.15 for adults and £3.60 for children 5-15. Under 5 travel free. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time, or at the meeting point. Oyster cards can be used on the Clipper Thames.
Start your guided tour of Greenwich at the Sir Walter Raleigh statue, which is located just outside the northern entrance to the Greenwich Tourism Information Centre.
Visit the Cutty Sark, a beautiful ship that was fully restored and opened to the public in 2012, following a £50 Million restoration. Continue your tour with a visit to St. Alfege's Church, designed by the renowned architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. There has been a church located on this site for a thousand years.
Catch views of the River Thames and enjoy a traditional lunch in a riverside pub. Pub favorites such as fish and chips are on the menu, along with complimentary tea, coffee, or soda. After lunch, explore the Greenwich Observatory and the prime meridian. Visit the prime meridian and head into the historic Flamsteed House, designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren.
Continue your tour to the National Maritime Museum,the largest of its type in the world. Visit the Old Royal Naval College and its magnificent Painted Hall. Conclude your tour at the Greenwich Market, filled with local artisans and international food stands.
This tour is ideal for those who just don't have the time for our full day tour. The tour starts at 12:30 pm daily and we meet at the Sir Walter Raleigh. The first venue on the tour is the Greenwich Royal Observatory dating back to 1675 and designed/built by Sir Christopher Wren.
Stand at the centre of world time and space, on the prime meridian of the globe. We take you right into Flamsteed House where the apartments have been very well conserved and cared for. It is here that you will see the clocks of the genius John Harrison - the man who solved the longitudinal problem after a life-long saga.
Then head down the hill to the National Maritime Museum, largest of its type in the world. Highlights include Turner's monumental painting " Battle of Trafalgar ", Prince Frederick's royal barge, etc. There is a smart cafe located in the Museum, where we break for tea/coffee (own expense).
Onwards to the only teaclipper to have survived: Cutty Sark. After a seven year long, £52 million pound restoration she looks very fine. We take you right on board, into the cargo hold that held most of the 10,000 tea chests enroute from Shanghai to London during her hay day.
The next port of call is the Old Royal Naval College which is now the campus of the University of Greenwich. Your guide takes you to the famous Queen's Gate where Queen Elizabeth would greet her favourites such as Sir Francis Drake returning to England with Spanish gold and silver. Visit the magnificent Painted Hall where movies such as 'Thor 2' were filmed.
The tour normally ends by 4 pm at the Greenwich Market which has been onsite since the 1830's and has been transformed into a great London market complete with art shops, boutiques and fantastic street food!
Start your tour at the Ship in a Bottle statue which is located at the
southern entrance ( IE. observatory side ) to the National Maritime
Museum. See and experience Turner's magnificent painting of the Battle
of Trafalgar which he painted in the early 1820's. From there you will
continue on to the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery where you will see the
jacket that Nelson was wearing at the time he was mortally wounded on
board HMS Victory.
Visit the Trade Gallery to learn more about trade with the Far East and its origins with the East India Company. Half way through the tour, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a coffee/tea break at the nice cafe located in the Museum.
Explore the Atlantic Slavery gallery which portrays a brutally honest history of the slave trade and England's role in that trade. Also discover more about lighthouses and their history in the UK.
Kick off your afternoon food tour by meeting your guide in Greenwich — a colorful district nestled along the bank of the Thames River. Then, step off the beaten path and visit foodie spots many visitors miss. As you explore, gain insight into London’s rich culinary and cultural history.
Stop at British and international cafes and eateries, and sample some of the sweet treats and local delicacies Greenwich’s residents love. Visit Greenwich Market if it’s open, and soak up the atmosphere as the busy sellers trade their produce to the hungry crowds.
Listen as your guide sheds light on Greenwich’s thriving cuisine scene and gain insight into the area’s fascinating history.
Start your tour in Greenwich — near the bank of the famous Thames River — as darkness falls, then step through the UNESCO World Heritage–listed streets as your guide shares hair-raising stories of restless spirits and scary specters.
Learn the curse of the 19th-century tea clipper Cutty Sark — the historic sailing ship in dry-dock in Royal Maritime Greenwich — and hear of the poor, unfortunate souls who lost their lives sailing to China and Australia in years gone by.
Illuminated by the street lights, delve into Greenwich Park — widely considered the grandest of London’s Royal Parks — and hear chilling tales of the many kings and queens whose spirits are said to walk the grounds.
Follow your guide along the Greenwich foot tunnel and hold your nerve in case of visitations from beyond the grave! Visit the 19th-centruy Trafalgar Tavern — a local inn once frequented by Charles Dickens — and perhaps enjoy a refreshing pint of English beer (own expense). Then, finish your ghostly walking tour in central Greenwich.
Board a coach at the Victoria Coach Station and relax on the 1-hour drive south to Leeds Castle. Built in 1119 as a Norman stronghold, Leeds Castle is beautifully situated on an island in a lake.
Enjoy a private viewing of this famous castle before it opens to the public. Learn how the property has changed hands and transformed over the years, from a 13th-century royal palace for King Edward I to the residence of Henry VII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in the 16th century all the way up to the last private owner, American heiress Lady Baillie, who is credited for the castle’s remarkable preservation and redecoration.
Following a guide, explore the galleries, bedrooms, chapel, banquet hall and courtyards. Then take time to explore the surrounding gardens, walk around the lake and find your way through the famous maze.
Re-board the coach for a coastal drive to the White Cliffs of Dover, a chalky cliff face that lines part of the English Channel. As you’ll learn, these cliffs are symbolic throughout Britain, as they were the entry point for past war invasions and formed the first sight of England for travelers coming from Continental Europe.
Drive up and over the cliffs to Canterbury. Here you’ll visit Canterbury Cathedral, one of the most important Christian churches in the world and today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Immortalized by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, this striking Gothic church is nearly 1,700 years old!
After a guided tour of the cathedral, enjoy free time to explore the old town and have lunch at one of the many cafés or restaurants (own expense).
Continue your journey to the London borough of Greenwich, notable for its maritime history and as the birthplace of many English rulers from the House of Tudor. Take a walking tour to learn about Greenwich’s history, architecture, palaces and parks.
Arriving back in central London in the evening, hop on a boat and savor the views on a relaxing sunset cruise along the Thames River. Have your camera ready as you pass top London attractions including Tower Bridge and the Tower of London against the sparkling city skyline.
Arrive at Embankment Pier to conclude your trip.
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Cruise from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben all the way to Greenwich and discover London's historical sights along the way on this 1-hour Thames river sightseeing trip. With departures every 30-40 minutes from Westminster Pier and live audio commentary, this is a perfect introduction to the city: upgrade for a return ticket.
Boats run every 30-40 minutes throughout the year, starting at 10am at busy times of year and 10:20am at less busy times, with the last boat between 3:30pm and 5pm. Board at your leisure at Westminster Pier, and enjoy views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben as you do so.
As you glide eastwards down the river, admire sights from the London Eye to Tower Bridge, from Shakespeare's Globe to St. Paul's Cathedral. The audio commentary will help you spot new and exciting landmarks among the icons, among them soaring skyscrapers like the Shard and the Gherkin.
Once you've enjoyed London old and new on your hour-long cruise, make the most of Greenwich. Attractions here include the Cutty Sark sailing ship, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, and Greenwich Market – all within easy walking distance of the pier and available at your own expense.
Upgrade for a return ticket to bring you back to Westminster by river.
Enjoy a sightseeing cruise to the Thames Barrier. Starting at Westminster Pier you will cruise down to Greenwich on a sightseeing cruise before moving onto the Thames Barrier. Opened in 1984 by the Queen, the Thames Barrier is London’s principal defense against flooding.
Board at your leisure at Westminster Pier for your cruise and enjoy the comfort of being on modern or traditional vessels. Enjoy the panoramic views of London’s sights from the open deck of the vessel whilst enjoying a live audio commentary of London's fascinating history.
The full Westminster to Greenwich and Thames Barrier single cruise takes 1.5 hours whilst a return cruise on this route takes 3 hours. See what Greenwich has to offer in the way of attractions with Greenwich Market, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Park and Royal Observatory Greenwich all within walking distance of the pier (on expense).
For being one of London’s most famous regions, Greenwich, in London’s southeast, is surprisingly undiscovered by many. With a distinctly ‘English’ feel, the neighborhood is conservative and traditional due to its royal roots, yet also has an edgier side with exciting attractions, quirky independent shops, street markets and a thriving pub scene – all crying out to be explored!
Your private driver will pick up from your central London hotel, and after a quick chat about suggested attractions, you’ll be on your way. Your exact itinerary is flexible, so you can customize your morning based on your preferences – just let your driver know what you want to see and then sit back and enjoy the ride taking in panoramic views of London!
Most itineraries involve a route that takes in the top sights around Maritime Greenwich – a UNESCO World Heritage-listed area that contains a collection of world-class attractions. Take a stroll and soak up the atmosphere, or perhaps visit some of the top sites (entry fees at your own expense).
Well-known sites inside Maritime Greenwich include the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park, home of Greenwich Mean Time, and the majestic Old Royal Naval College that was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 1600s. The famous Cutty Sark ship can be found in dry dock here, and is definitely worth a visit. The last surviving tea-clipper boat is said to have been the fastest and greatest of her time.
Your friendly private driver will give you plenty of insider tips for the best places to see or have lunch or a snack, should you wish. Greenwich has an array of independent shops that are worth visiting, or if you’re traveling on a weekend, a trip to Greenwich Market is a must. Alternatively you might wish to see the O2 Arena (named the North Greenwich Arena for the Olympic Games) where many athletic events during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were held.
You tour finishes back at your hotel, or you can arrange with your driver to be dropped off at the central London location of your choice.
Leeds Castle sits deep in the heart of the magnificent Kent countryside amid 500 acres of landscaped parkland. The early arrival promises an almost private visit to the Castle, where Henry VIII retreated to escape the plague that raged in London during his reign. As the ultimate Tudor treat, upon arrival at Leeds Castle you will be greeted by an expert guide. Learn about the history of this magical castle and sample a glass of mead as Henry VIII would have had! (During the summer, Mead is unavailable on Saturdays).
Visit Canterbury Cathedral, the home to 104 Archbishops since Augustine, Canterbury is a magnificent medieval city with a wealth of history. Discover the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170. Learn the intriguing history behind this masterpiece of medieval architecture and appreciate the spectacular stained glass windows, many of which have survived from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Lunch packs will be included.
The White Cliffs of Dover, admire the famous White Cliffs of Dover, with a photo opportunity on the stunning stretch of coastline that faces continental Europe. You'll also get the chance to see Dover Castle, an impressive medieval fortress rising over the English Channel.
Greenwich, set right beside the River Thames, Greenwich is bustling with fine maritime landmarks. See the Royal Observatory and world–famous Cutty Sark, a fascinating 19th–century ship as well as the Old Royal Naval College designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
River Thames boat ride, get a fresh perspective on the city sights with a boat ride on the River Thames from Greenwich to Embankment Pier. Pass Tower Bridge and stunning St. Paul’s Cathedral along the route. Estimated arrival time to Embankment Pier, is around 6.30pm where the tour finishes.
Greenwich is one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of London but is mostly forgotten by most tourists which is a shame as most Londoners would tell you; it is the place to go to.
Greenwich lies to the east of the city and is well worth spending a day at for anyone visiting London. Whether it is visiting the market to grab some tasty street food or bohemian clothing or visiting one of the many world famous tourist attractions, you really should book this tour.
Greenwich of course is home to the Greenwich Meridian where the time of the entire planet is centered upon. Who can miss out on the opportunity to stand on the time-line with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and one in the west.
Greenwich is also home to the Royal Observatory where amongst others Sir Isaac Newton once worked. Even if you don’t want to look in the observatory, the hill offers one of the best views possible of Greenwich, the Docklands and also London itself.
Traditionally Greenwich was also a renowned home of the Royal Navy and every visitor must visit the Royal Naval College to see one of the most breathtaking buildings anywhere with sumptuously decorated and painted interiors which have been used in many a Hollywood and British movie. For the hardcore naval fan there is the chance to visit the Naval Museum too.
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of Greenwich is the Cutty Sark. This tea-clipper sailing ship has a long and glorious history and a few years ago was almost destroyed in a fire during a planned refurbishment. Happily it has been fully restored and now with its keel enclosed under a glass dome, it is even more unmissable than ever before.
For this private guided tour, we will meet you at your hotel and we will then travel by tube and DLR the short distance to Greenwich and explore this wonderful village in the heart of the city. If all the above isn’t enough, there is a Royal Palace to see as well.
• Entrance fee to the Cutty Sark
• Entrance fee to the Royal Naval Academy buildings, including the Chapel and Painted Hall
• Entrance fee to the Naval Museum (if required)
• Entrance fee to the Royal Observatory
Discover UNESCO-listed Maritime Greenwich on this private 2-hour photography tour that's suitable for cameras, tablets, and smartphones. Under the guidance of a professional photographer, your private group will learn new ways to compose your shots and capture the moment as you snap captivating scenes from the Cutty Sark clipper to olde-worlde pubs and shingle-clad beaches.
Your professional photographer guide will meet you near the Cutty Sark clipper at the chosen start time, and find out what you and your group want to learn: be sure all devices are fully charged the night before. After an introduction to lighting, composition, or whatever your group is focused on learning, you'll capture this 19th-century sailing ship in all her glory.
After, you'll make your way along the Thames Path, photographing outstanding river views. Take time to explore the historical surroundings of Greenwich Pier before stopping off in the grounds of the 18th-century Old Royal Naval College to immortalise its outstanding architecture and sense of place and history. Your guide will offer tips on composition as you go.
Continue along the Thames Path and discover quirky alleyways with cobbled streets and quaint houses. Photograph the dome of the O2 Arena from across the river and admire its position in the London skyline. Pass olde-worlde pubs with statues of seafarers like Lord Nelson, discover deserted river beaches covered in sand and shingle, and capture boats and ships on the River Thames. Don't neglect to photograph Trinity Hospital, which dates from 1616 and is the oldest building in Greenwich.
You'll finish your tour by the Cutty Sark pub, just a short walk from Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich DLR.
These might include Royal ObservatoryMore tours
Everyone wants to come up here to straddle the hemispheres and set their watches (or at least check their cellphone to see if it does, indeed, have the correct time). Just to do that—and take the photos—takes all of ten minutes.
If you tour the observatory itself, budget another 20–30 minutes or so for a total of maybe 45 minutes.