Days Out – Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Before real life started over again after the Christmas holidays and Mr ATWWAH returned to work we ended the first January weekend with another afternoon out.  We’d really enjoyed The National Gallery so on the Sunday decided to head to Greenwich to another ‘museum’, the Royal Observatory.

We arrived to a pretty bleak view with the rain coming down and fog obliterating any of the views of Greenwich and London but undeterred we paid for parking (handily there is meter parking right outside the Royal Observatory with tons of space) and put our heads down to face the rain and find the entrance.

There are loads of different ticket options where you can combine visits to different attractions including the Cutty Sark and the Planetarium.  We went for the Royal Observatory and the planetarium show (adults £12.50, children £6.50) although Mini ATWWAH and myself didn’t get planetarium tickets as he’s a bit too little at six months to sit through a 35 minute show.

Before the show started we had a wander around some of the buildings and looked at the exhibits.  Confusingly some of the exhibits are free and you don’t need tickets at all for some of them.  The free bits include the Weller Astronomy galleries which promise to be interactive.  Interactive is a word used a lot in attractions, especially in museums, and I do think it’s stretching it to say pushing a couple of buttons on touch screens is truly an interactive experience.  You can touch a 4.5 billion year old asteroid there but apart from that it’s a lot of watching films about how the universe was formed and touching a button to answer specific questions.  The volume is so low on the films though that it’s hard to hear any of the answers.  For an adult the subtitles are fine but for young children or where English may not be a language you can easily read I imagine the experience is underwhelming.

The Time Galleries are also a bit dry with lots of exhibits behind glass although Master ATWWAH loved the grandfather clocks.

A visit to the Royal Observatory wouldn’t be complete without standing on the Greenwich Meridian Line, which we did, in the rain, with lots of tourists.

One of the highlights was seeing The Great Equatorial Telescope, which is the seventh largest in the world, and the biggest in the UK.  It was pretty impressive and the journey up the winding, narrow staircase to see it was an adventure for Master ATWWAH.

When it was time for the planetarium show Mini ATWWAH and I headed off to the café.  It is down in a basement and doesn’t look up to much, a bit like a neglected staff canteen, but the food was pretty tasty although unsurprisingly a bit pricey.  They did hot food including soups, pizzas and toasted sandwiches as well as lots of biscuits, cakes and fruit.

Master ATWWAH returned from the planetarium show excitedly talking about all the stars and planets he had seen.  Mr ATWWAH was impressed too.  The show lasts around 35 minutes and is taken by an astronomer in the room.  At three and a half I wasn’t sure Master ATWWAH would be able to keep his interest for that long but apparently he did.  The lady at the ticket office had said we would be fine to take Mini ATWWAH in but Mr ATWWAH said he probably wouldn’t have liked it as it was loud and dark so not ideal.

I’d say it’s definitely worth visiting there if you are going somewhere else in Greenwich too.  And, there are loads of places to choose from including the Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and The Queen’s House as well as all the sights to see in Greenwich anyway.

When we came out of the café the skies had cleared a bit and there were some views of London to enjoy, on a clear day it would look spectacular.

Royal Observatory

A grey day at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The Royal Observatory has a monthly programme of family weekend workshops led by their astronomers, the next ones are Sunday 8 Feb and 8 March 2015 and run throughout the day with a £1 donation required.

For more information on specific school holiday activities check out their site

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3 Comments
  1. This is really interesting to read – Greenwich is somewhere I love, and it’s always been a top choice for summer days out, especially with visitors, as we’d take the boat along the Thames then explore the market as well as the attractions.

    I haven’t done it since my daughter was born though but I know they have great family activities there too, so maybe one to try soon.

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