By day, London is an amazing place: bright red buses trundle across town, the Tube zips below the city streets, and you can find everything from world-class museums to markets where you can shop to your heart’s content. And let’s not forget restaurants with incredible food and drink, theatres showing the world’s best plays, and iconic sights worth snapping at least a few photos at. Can you tell that London is my favorite city on earth?
Once the sun goes down – and you’ve ridden the London Eye at sunset, of course – what else is there to do? There’s certainly nightlife and plenty of pubs to enjoy before they close… but you could also try something completely different: stargazing in London.
London is one of the world (#35 as of 2021) and home to over 9.4 million people. This means there’s a lot of light pollution that affects your ability to see the night sky, but not all hope is lost. If you know where to go, there are some great places for stargazing in London where you can see the night sky, the moon, planets, and stars. Here are 1 great places for stargazing within the Greater London area, as well as six others in Southwest England that you could plan a trip to if you really have your heart set on stargazing during your London itinerary.
Featured photo credit: UlyssesThirtyOne via Flickr
Where to Go Stargazing in London
Stargazing in a city – also called urban stargazing – can be a tricky business. You need to find a good spot where you can escape light pollution and have the sky dark enough to see anything. Here are some tips to help you plan a stargazing trip in London – or any other city:
- Check the Weather – You obviously won’t see anything on a cloudy night!
- Research What You’ll See – There are great apps to help you understand what’s in the night sky right now, including my own, Space Tourism Guide.
- Pick the Right Location – You want to find somewhere that is protected from light pollution – both lights shining in the sky, and lights shining on you directly while you’re trying to stargaze.
For one extra tip, you can always try to attend a stargazing event with a local astronomy club. There are astronomy clubs across London, some of which I mention below. Doing this will be super helpful as they know the best places for stargazing as well as what’s in the sky on any given night. Some even bring their own telescopes to help open up additional wonders of the night sky to you!
Okay, now that you have some ideas and have seen the map, let’s dive into the best places for stargazing in London in greater detail.
1. Blackheath Common
Blackheath Common looks like a nice slice of the countryside in southeast London. Its expansive grasslands appeal to joggers and dog walkers of the area and Londoners looking to catch a glimpse of constellations and nebulae.
With 250 acres, the lovely green space has areas far enough from the lights Georgian homes and the few stately pubs produce. You can join Flamsteed Astronomy Society, whose members hold meetings and stargazing sessions once a month for amateur stargazers who are still learning about the distant sky and its wonders.
As a heads up, Blackheath Common is a private location, and you can access it with a previous arrangement or when public events occur.
2. Blythe Hill Fields
Blythe Hill Fields, a quiet area in South London, is a fantastic place to go stargazing in London. The park doesn’t resemble many of its royal counterparts. It’s an expanse of grass with a few picnic benches, exercise stations, and shade trees. At night, however, the park’s lack of urban facilities paves the way for the stars to shine brightly above.
Another perk of stargazing in Blythe Hill Fields is that the park sits at an elevation of 230 ft, which means there’ll be less atmospheric distortion than in other places. Blythe Hill Fields is one of the most popular London stargazing spots, with many organizations holding events to enjoy the night sky.
Pro tip: point your telescope southwest for the best views.
3. Hampstead Observatory
The UK has a long history of astronomy, and London is home to many observatories that prove it. While a small observatory, the Hampstead Observatory features a stunning 6″ Cooke & Sons refractor telescope that dates back to the 20th century. The telescope had been in service for over 100 years after the Meteorological Service of Canada bought it in 1882. Luckily, Hampstead Observatory bought it back from its last owner, the University of Toronto, in 1984 and began the restoration.
Astronomers from the Hampstead Scientific Society finished the refurbishing in 2017 and now invite the public to enjoy impressive views of the skies above London through the artifact. The observatory provides public viewing of the night sky every Friday and Saturday night from mid-September through to mid-April (during the observing season) and closes during the summer months. Before you go, be sure to check the weather since the observatory states clearly that they don’t hold stargazing sessions if the weather isn’t clear.
NB: the observatory isn’t open to the public due to Covid restrictions. Check out their websites for updates.
4. Kenley Observatory
If you’re wondering where to go stargazing in London for an intimate experience, then Kenley Observatory is your best bet.
Located in South London, Kenley Observatory is a small facility the Croydon Astronomical Society calls home. Its members invite night sky enthusiasts to partake in their night sky viewing sessions through the observatory’s 14-inch telescope for free. They hold meetings every Saturday evening from Autumn through to early Summer – given there’s good weather. The organization keeps the observatory cold and dark, all in favor of providing the best night views. So make sure you bring a jacket and a hot beverage to keep you warm.
5. Morden Hall Park
Morden Hall Park is one of the few spots for stargazing in London that resemble Dark Sky sites. Located in southwest London, Morden Hall Park sprawls over 125 acres which have some of the darkest skies in the city above. This vast meadow escapes the light pollution and skyglow from London’s developed areas and offers high chances of spotting dazzling stars.
Despite being a national trust site, Morden Hall Park is free. My advice is that you get there to enjoy daytime activities, too. The park’s setting looks taken from a fairytale, with charming bridges, pathways, and waterways. You can have a lovely time just wandering around or take some of the free guided walks along the river while you wait for nightfall.
6. Nonsuch Park
Set in the outskirts of southwestern London, Henry VIII built Nonsuch Park as a deer hunting park surrounding the former Nonsuch Palace. Rumor has it that the park got its name as there was “none such place like it” in Europe. It has changed a lot since King Henry’s times, but the park’s allure is still intact, with large tracts of unspoiled scenery and varied wildlife.
A huge park, Nonsuch Park covers 250 acres and has lots of places to roam and explore. Go on a cloudless and moonless night, find a nice spot right in the middle to block city glare, and set up your telescope for a starry night in the best London style. The park stays open and night, and you can find plenty of parking at each gate.
7. Primrose Hill
Just north of Regents Park is Primrose Hill, one of London’s most beloved parks. As the name suggests, the park sits on a hill and is famous for granting unmatched views of the city– excellent views over almost the entire skyline of London. It seems that Primrose Hill is also a top spot to go stargazing in London.
Despite being close to central London, the park’s elevated condition helps mitigate the light pollution from street lights and buildings. It served as The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers’ meeting point while Regent’s Park Hub was closed due to Covid regulations. Head to the top of this grassy hill to have some of the best views of the astral show above you.
8. Regent’s Park Hub
Stargazing in London already sounds like a daunting endeavor; doing it in Central London seems downright impossible. The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers are here to prove you wrong. They have made their primary purpose showing you can explore the night sky in a city as polluted as London.
The city astronomers have chosen Regent’s Park – The Hub café as their astral base. Once you go (or see in pictures), you’ll realize their choice wasn’t by mere chance. The lovely café offers stunning 360-degree views of Regent’s Park, besides its delicious assortment of coffee, tea, and pastries. The club holds urban stargazing sessions at the café’s terrace every month. Stargazing with the Irregulars (as the members call themselves) is a communal affair, with loyal members sharing hot drinks and their telescopes with new ones to discover the wonders of the cosmos.
9. Ruislip Lido
The Ruislip Lido is a dark sky oasis for many Londoners. Located in the outskirts of Ruislip, North West London, Ruislip Lido is a reservoir and artificial beach with little light pollution thanks to the surrounding Ruislip Woods, which curtailed much of the glow from nearby areas.
While you might not see the Milky Way (it’s still London after all), you have decent opportunities to spot constellations and planets. West of London Astronomical Society hosts their public stargazing events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings in Ruislip Lido. The park is open to the public day and night and offers parking nearby if you want to go on your own.
10. Royal Observatory Greenwich
Built in 1675, the Royal Observatory Greenwich isn’t a mere stargazing spot; it’s a crucial part of the UK’s heritage in the astronomic field. Royal Observatory Greenwich is one of the most famous observatories globally, being the home of the Prime Meridian and many great scientists.
Today, the observatory has become a must-see for tourists who want to see the planetarium and explore London’s night sky. They hold a ton of events devoted to astronomy, including stargazing sessions through their 18-tonne Victorian telescope. The observatory also publishes monthly astronomy guides on their website, where their expert astronomers pick stargazing highlights occurring each month.
11. UCL Observatory
Located at Mill Hill in North London, the UCL Observatory is home to one of the UK’s largest telescopes, a massive 80cm reflecting telescope. Its impressive telescope isn’t the only highlight of this venue; the observatory features state-of-the-art astronomical facilities.
As part of the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University College London, it is an astronomical teaching observatory. They offer a wide variety of tours for stargazing enthusiasts, including public tours of the observatory on Fridays during UCL’s autumn and fall terms. However, there’s no information regarding their public stargazing sessions. You’ll need to book a ticket in advance to attend their public tours.
Great Stargazing Locations Outside London
As you’ve guessed from the list so far, there are some definite drawbacks to trying to stargaze in London. If you have your heart set on seeing the night sky during your London trip, you might consider going a little bit further afield. An overnight trip to one of these locations in Southwest England will give you an even better opportunity to see the stars – and you can be back in London by morning to continue exploring the rest of the city.
12. Black Down, Sussex
Located 49 miles out of London, you only have to drive one hour and a half to reach Black Down. A top stargazing spot, Black Down sits on the highest point of the South Downs. During the day, enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding rolling landscape. During the day, take in magical views of twinkling stars and planets.
13. Headley Heath, Surrey
Who’d have thought that only 50 minutes away lies such a prime stargazing spot? Headley Heath already has a big name among the stargazers community in London as one of the best places in Surrey for stargazing. The area offers some quite dark rural sky to spot, so you’ll see many local astronomy groups here.
14. Knole, Kent
1,000-acres of grassland enclose Knole, a park located in west Kent. It’s only a one-hour drive away from London and offers excellent stargazing opportunities. There are plenty of areas that escape the city lights. If you want the best views, head to the top of Echo Mount or the car park at Knole. Rumour has it these places offer prime views of the night sky.
15. Slindon Estate, West Sussex
Slindon Estate is home to Bignor car park, a location with some of the darkest and clearest skies outside London. The carpark sits on a high point on the South Downs, and, if you’re willing to drive one hour and forty minutes, you’ll enjoy views of bright stars and even the Milky Way!
16. Toys Hill, Kent
On a free night, pack your telescope, a blanket, and a torch, and head to Toys Hill for supreme stargazing. There are no restrictions to access the area after dark as well as the car park. You’ll get excellent views of the sky looking South from here. Toys Hill is only fifty minutes away from London, making it accessible from the city.
17. Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire
Wicken Fen is an outdoor dream with impressive views of natural wonders day and night. It’s a popular day trip for London families who want to see the stars. You have to drive one hour and a half to reach Wicken Fen. Check out the Cambridge Astronomical Association website, for they host public stargazing sessions here.
Which one of these spots for stargazing in London will you visit? Or, do you know of any other great areas in London to see the night sky? Let me know any questions in the comments, or join my London Travel Tips group on Facebook.