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Greenwich

Greenwich (108)

This district, the historic centre of which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, is located in South London and will surprise the visitor with its naval history, abundant green spaces, architectural harmony and fabulous views of the city. 

But if the name of this neighbourhood sounds familiar, it is undoubtedly because of the Greenwich Meridian, also known as Meridian 0, on the basis of which the longitude lines used in our system of geographic coordinates were established. 

Don't forget to get the classic photo with one foot on each side of the Meridian line. Snapshots like this should definitely be part of your album and will attest to your visit to the British capital.

And here's a little secret we had in store ... an ace up the sleeve ... did you know that the Greenwich Meridian doesn't actually pass through the point where the metal mark between your feet is? The true Greenwich Meridian, which divides the world between east and west, is located some 100 metres from this spot. And now you may ask, where exactly is this imaginary line? Well, it's less-than-glamorous location lies not far away on an unmarked pathway between a rubbish bin and a park bench. 

As researchers have pointed out, the calculation error is due to the fact that current technology has little to do with that used by 19th century astronomers, and it is precisely this modern technology that has enabled us to make a more accurate calculation of longitude. The imaginary line was calculated by focussing a telescope in a straight line towards a star known as a "clock star". The error occurred because the telescope was not exactly perpendicular, due to the characteristics of the terrain where it was sited, and because the shape of the Earth causes minute local distortions in gravity. Current methods use the global positioning system (GPS), which in turn is based on satellite information, and are not affected by these conditions. For this reason they can determine the location of the meridian with far greater precision.

We are left wondering if they will ever decide to update the location of the marker...

Greenwich Park has an area of 74 hectares (0.7 km2) and is London's oldest fenced Royal Park, counting among its most illustrious inhabitants a small community of roe deer. The park is home to some important institutions, one being the Old Greenwich Royal Observatory, beside which you will find the location of Meridian 0, as we mentioned a moment ago. This Observatory acquires special significance as a result of the International Meridian Conference held in Washington DC in the year 1884, as it was at this conference that it was decided to adopt the Greenwich Meridian as the original meridian. The idea was to create a recognizable universal position of 0° longitude in order to facilitate navigation, standardize maps and create time zones. Another important decision taken at the conference was to establish a universal day, which would begin at midnight in Greenwich and have a duration of 24 hours. These two decisions had to be adopted by all countries unanimously and have had universal impact up to the present day. While this observatory is no longer in operation, every day a time-ball located on a needle on the top of the observatory drops at precisely 1 pm, reminding us that we are the institution that established the measurement of time throughout the world. The Centre of Astronomy of the Royal Observatory is open to visitors and houses three modern art galleries focussing on astronomy. Admission is free. 

Don't miss the opportunity to discover the secrets hidden behind these walls, where centuries ago the world's most prestigious astronomers and scientists mapped previously-unknown seas and stars. An amazing journey through the history of British astronomy.

The Peter Harrison Planetarium is located next to the Greenwich Royal Observatory. Coated in bronze, the new Planetarium features a cutting-edge design and is inclined at an angle of 51.5o (the latitude of Greenwich), meaning it is oriented towards the North Star. As part of the Royal Observatory's "Time and Space Project" the Planetarium is poised to become an important educational tool for teaching future generations and motivating them to learn about the universe and beyond. 

From the top of the hill that crowns the park you can enjoy wonderful views of the River Thames and the city of London. Beside the viewing area is a statue of General James Wolfe, an officer of the British army who led and won the battle of Quebec against the French, one of the reasons why he is viewed as a hero in Canada . 

Other emblematic sites of this London district that can be found in the lower part of the park are the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House, the Old Royal Naval College and the Cutty Sark. Very briefly:

- The National Maritime Museum is one of the best maritime museums in the world, housing a vast collection of models, pictures, trophies and all kinds of naval art from the five continents.

- The elegant Queen's House is an imposing, Palladian-style construction, the work of British architect Inigo Jones. It is a residence commissioned by King James I for his wife, Anne of Denmark, to complement the Tudor Palace at Greenwich. Construction finished in 1635 during the turbulent years leading up to the English Civil War, and James's son, Charles I, later presented it to his queen, Henrietta Maria. It survived the destruction of the Tudor Palace at the hands of Cromwell's army to become the focus of attention on which Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of the sumptuous St. Paul's Cathedral, based the grandiose architectural landscape that defines the Greenwich we know today.

- The Old Royal Naval College is a building with more than 500 years of history and was the favourite residence of Henry VIII. The visitor centre opened in 2010. In the interior you will see The Painted Hall, which is probably the finest example of a Baroque dining room in the United Kingdom and was designed by Christopher Wren and painted by James Thornhill.

- And finally, stranded on the banks of the River Thames is the Cutty Sark, the last clipper in conservation. This jewel of maritime construction was the best and fastest vessel of its time. 

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