London – The Home of Greenwich Mean Time
In London, you can straddle two hemispheres at the same time and stand upon the official centre of time. East is east and west is west, but the twain meets at The Royal Observatory in Greenwich – home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian of the world and known in technical terms as Longitude 0º.
A bronze line embedded into the pavement represents the division of the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth and from this everywhere on the planet is measured according to its distance east or west of this ‘line’, just how the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres.
From the Greenwich DLR station, The Royal Observatory is signposted and only a 10-15 walk, the majority of which is up a picturesque hill.
You will find the Prime Meridian Line instantly by the droves of people queuing for their photo, so be prepared to wait patiently while people get their snaps in various poses as they strategically place arms and legs accordingly in East and West.
The observatory even had pictures showing you how to stand on the line properly to ensure you place a foot either side of the line. This is of upmost importance, obviously, so that you can time travel by nanoseconds. Because really, when you think about it, one foot is a little behind the other in time. Kind of.
How to ‘Officially’Stand in Two Times Zones – For Free
For budget travellers and the more frugal amongst us there is a very small section of shiny bronze line goodness you can stand on and pose for free. It’s behind a black iron gate just next to the enclosed area where the longer line is.
The pleasure of the bigger option comes at a price of £10, which also includes people jumping in your grave as soon as you move, so be quick as you potentially only get one shot. However, this cost does give you entry to The Royal Observatory’s historic Flamsteed House, Time Galleries, Meridian Line Courtyard and Meridian Building.
Luckily the gating surrounding the larger Meridian line has large spaces big enough to look through, stretch both arms in and take a photo. So, really, you get the best of both worlds, at no cost at all.
What is the Prime Meridian and Why is it in London?
It is said that before the 19th century, all towns kept their own record of time, which was probably a great excuse if you were running late for a meeting. But then came the rise on infrastructure like public transport and so the world (your clockwatching boss, and people who like to moan if a train is one minute late) needed a standard measurement of international time.
And so The Greenwich Meridian was chosen as the Prime Meridian of the World in 1884, decided by 41 people from 25 nations, and because by the late 19th century 72% of the world’s commerce depended on sea-charts which used Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, choosing this location would benefit a lot of people. As well as keeping Londoners, like me, amused with funny photo opportunities.
So, on your next visit to the Capital, why not come and stand on the centre of world time. Next stop for me… the equator line!
Opening Times 10.00am – 17.00pm. Last admission 30 minutes before closing.
£10 for adults (£7.50 concessions). Entry for children under 16 is free. The £10 entry is an annual pass (visitors are able to return as many times as they like within 12 months for no additional charge). Admission to the Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Centre which houses three state-of-the-art modern astronomy galleries is free.
Planetarium tickets prices: £6.50 adults, £4.50 children and concessions