Stargazing in London: Where can you see the stars?

You might think that London is one of the worst places to look up to the heavens and enjoy the beauty of the cosmos. It’s one of the most light-polluted cities in the world, it’s always cloudy, and there are no good places to observe the night sky. Contrary to popular belief, though, it’s not true. London is a great city to see the stars, you just have to know where to look.

What do I need to get started?

Firstly, unless you just want to turn your head up and go, “ooh, so pretty”, you’ll need to know what you’re looking at. Is that Orion’s Belt or Orion’s Trousers? Is the North Star (Polaris) the biggest, brightest star? For that, you’ll need a good book. For beginners, we recommend Stargazing, a guide written by astronomers at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Or if you’re looking for a book made specifically for the UK, Dark Skies of Britain and Ireland would be a great choice.

Now that you have some knowledge about astronomy, you’ll need the right tools for stargazing. This depends on how serious you are about looking deep into outer space. If you just want to try something new that you think would be fun, you only need your eyes. If you’re a bit more serious about astronomy and stargazing, you could buy binoculars or a beginner’s telescope (prices range from about £40-200). Or, if you want a professional-quality instrument, there are telescopes available for up to £1,800.

Where can I see stars in London?

The next step is finding the right location. While in London you won’t find dark skies like you will in the countryside, there are still many great places to view Ursa Major or Ursa Minor.

  • Blythe Hill Fields, SE23 1ND: Climb up Blythe Hill, face south, away from central London, and enjoy the great views of the night sky.
  • Hampstead Observatory, NW3 1DU: This is a bit closer to Ingla’s home in north London. It’s a real, scientific observatory, and it’s open to the public at the weekend.
  • Primrose Hill, NW1 4RY: Another north London stargazing location, Primrose Hill is high enough to get good views of stars and meteor showers.
  • Regent’s Park Hub, NW1 4NU: This is very central, but still offers some great views for amateur stargazers.

So, in conclusion, whether it’s on your own, with friends, or at an organised event, stargazing is possible in London. Don’t let the negative talk about light pollution, or the assumption that astronomy is only for professionals stop you. There’s a whole universe for you to discover.

This is Ingla School of English‘s weekly blog, intended as reading practise for our students in Turnpike Lane, in London, and around the globe. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and take a look at the rest of our writing, much of which has activities for teachers to use in the classroom.