Greenwich is a place I had been looking forward to visiting for a long time. Partly because I had always run out of time on previous visits to London and never made it. But mostly because I had recently been getting very interested in astronomy and I was excited to visit the Greenwich observatory and experience my first ever planetarium show (highly recommended, and not just for astro-nerds like myself).
It was a beautiful day in Greenwich (pronounced ‘Gren-itch’ and not ‘Green-witch’ as I’ve been doing for the past several years!) and when I hopped off the train from London, I could immediately see why it’s considered a must-do. Greenwich is such a lovely place to just wander around, with quaint little shops lining the streets, and lots of green spaces to get your nature-fix – tourist heaven basically.
You can buy a combination ticket for both the observatory and Cutty Sark ship, which is what I did. I ummed and ahhed a bit beforehand, as I’m not really all that interested in ships and it was a bit expensive for a budget traveller. But it was still interesting to see and short videos play inside the ship explaining the history of the Cutty Sark and the tea trade. I wouldn’t pay to see it again, but I’m happy to have done so once.
Sometimes, especially when you’re travelling on a budget, it can be hard to decide what is worth visiting and what isn’t. You can read thousands of rave reviews of an attraction, but ultimately we are all different and what one person finds absolutely amazing and unmissable, bores someone else to tears. You really have to know yourself and decide what is of interest to you personally, and sometimes that just comes through trial and error. For example, I love visiting museums, science exhibits and national art galleries with pre-19th century art, but I just don’t get modern art. I went to the Musee D’Orsay later on in this trip, which is rated as one of the best art galleries in the world, and I did not enjoy it. Sure, Monet’s water lilies were nice and all, and the building is pretty impressive (old train station), but overall I was pretty disinterested. Others are the complete opposite and can’t get enough of modern art and culture and get bored stiff when looking at science exhibits and museums, and that’s OK! Because we all enjoy different things and not everyone is going to like all the attractions a city has to offer. You just have to decide what it is you do enjoy and use that information to decide what to spend your time and money on and what to skip.
After Cutty Sark came the real attraction for me – the Greenwich Observatory. The observatory is situated on a hill, so it’s a bit of a trek to get there, but you are rewarded with stunning views over Greenwich and wider London. There was a long line of people waiting to have their photo taken with the prime meridian. I didn’t really see the point, and headed straight inside after taking a few photos of the surroundings.
Inside the observatory I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t all that much to see – a few sparsely furnished rooms and then a few large telescopes. But that didn’t matter too much as it still gave a good insight into how astronomers of the past lived and worked. The real highlight for me was the planetarium. I’d never been to a planetarium before. The show was narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson (host of the new version of ‘Cosmos’ and the excellent podcast ‘Startalk Radio’) and took you on a journey through the universe, discussing dark energy and dark matter. Coming up this year, they are showing Sci-fi films, so check that out if you’re in London at one of the show times.
As it was such a lovely day and there was still plenty of afternoon left, I took the long way back to the train station, wandering through the park. There were a lot of families out and about having picnics and walking their dogs.
I’m also sure that at some point on the way back I went in to the Maritime Museum, but I can’t for the life of me remember much about it and I have no inside pictures so….. yeah. It was my last day in London (for now) and I was looking forward to hiring a car the next day to drive up to Scotland. I went back to my hostel to get a good night’s sleep, to prepare for the long day ahead.