The Royal Observatory of Madrid!

Let me show you another gem that is a must to visit if you are into architecture, history and especially the stars as I am. This is again in my beloved Madrid, very nice area and a bit hilly but worth it.

Let me tell you a bit or lot more on the wonderful Royal Observatory of Madrid!

The Real Observatorio is a scientific institution located in Madrid. The national astronomical observatories are one of the oldest institutions for research that the governments of the world created with a defined and important purpose.  The Real Observatorio of Madrid is perhaps the part of the Retiro Park less frequented by the public. It is located in the southwest corner of the enclosure, the closest to the Atocha train station, a few meters from the National Museum of Anthropology. The Royal Observatory is located on a small hill, the San Blas hill. Here was the hermitage of San Blas. This place was chosen precisely because of its elevated location, then on the outskirts of Madrid, a secluded spot ideal for astronomical observations and for study. To visit the Real Observatorio (Royal Observatory), it is necessary to register in advance. The visits are made in groups of maximum 25 people and last approximately one hour and a half. On the tour, visitors access only three buildings. The address main entrance is at Calle Alfonso XII, 3. Located in the Cerro de San Blas, next to Retiro Park. You can also reach it from Atocha up the Agriculture Fishing and Environment ministry building on Calle  Dr Velasco.


A bit of history I like

As Spain needed astronomy for its application to navigation, having to control a huge overseas empire. The art of sailing became the science of navigation, Jorge Juan being one of the main architects of this transformation. It was precisely he who suggested to King Charles III the establishment of an Astronomical Observatory of the Navy in southern Spain, founded in 1753 and dedicated to solving the problem of longitude at sea, teaching modern methods of astronomical navigation and maintaining the hour.  The French invaders of 1808 (Napoleon I) destroyed the observatory, burned the Herschel telescope and spoiled the books, although a part of the collection of instruments, which had been purchased in specific commissions in Europe, was saved. The purely astronomical activities were later transferred to a new institution, the Real Observatorio of Madrid. The main building of the Real Observatorio of Madrid begins to be built in 1790 in the old San Blas hill. located next to the current Parque del Retiro in the Calle Alfonso XII, and at the same time, the astronomer William Herschel is responsible for the construction of a reflector telescope with a mirror of 60 cm in diameter. However, this initial push ends with the war against Napoleon’s France, which involves the dispersion of personnel and the destruction of equipment, libraries and temporary buildings. In 1834 the Queen María Cristina de Borbón-Dos Sicilias appointed Director of the Royal Observatory of Madrid to the illustrated Domingo Fontán, author of the first map (of Galicia) made in Spain with scientific methods. The activities in the Royal Observatory are resumed in 1845, and the construction of the building is completed the following year. In 1865, the official name of the institution will be that of the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory of Madrid, until 1904, the year in which the Observatory is integrated into the National Geographic Institute (IGN), forming part of it since then and continuing to this day today.

The reservations and information are done here: IGN official site for the reservations of the Royal Observatory

The various buildings and pavilions of the Real Observatorio is detail below as briefly as possible.

Edificio Villanueva (building). Of neoclassical style, the Villanueva building is the main one of the enclosure and also the oldest one. Inside, you will enter the library, with antique furniture and a collection of more than 6,000 books mainly on astronomy and geography. Next to it are several old measuring objects, as well as two original Herschel telescopes from 1796.

The Pabellon Herschel (Pavilion) is a recent construction with a more modern design. exclusively to house the replica of the large telescope 60 centimeters in diameter that William Herschel designed and built for the Observatory around 1798. Ten years later it was destroyed during the Napoleonic occupation.


The Sala del Circulo Meridiano or Room of the Meridian Circle, which receives the name of the instrument that presides over it in the center, just up some stairs. It was built by the German astronomer Johann Georg Repsold in 1853 and acquired by the Royal Observatory the following year, thus being one of the most important elements of the institution and the main one of this type when measuring the position of the stars and fixing the hour

The Edificio Gran Ecuatorial (Great Equatorial Building), completed in 1855, besides being able to accommodate the homes of the astronomers and their assistants, had to have a rotating tower in its center to install the telescope equipped with equatorial mount from Merz. In 1922, having been outdated this equatorial telescope; it is replaced by another more modern from the house of Grubb.  At present, both the National Astronomical Observatory and the Central Geophysical Observatory have their headquarters.

The Pabellón del Astrógrafo (Pavilion of the Astrographer) is another of the buildings that you will find in the tour of the Royal Observatory. The name, logically, it takes from the fact of having housed an astrograph inside, having been made from its dome systematic observations of asteroids. For some years it was used as accommodation for several atomic clocks.

The Sala de Ciencias de la Tierra y del Universo (Room of Sciences of the Earth and the Universe). This room is also a recent building and was designed to house a museum. Inside and divided into four different themes such as Astronomy, Cartography, Geodesy and Geophysics, we can see a sample of the valuable collection of instruments used by the Royal Observatory and the National Geographic Institute over the 19C and 20C.

The Pabellon del Sol (Pavilion of the Sun)  is a construction from 1901 The purpose of its construction was to have a building where to place the two glasses of the house of Grubb bought to be able to follow the total eclipse of the Sun that occurred in 1900. Currently, this instrumental has been removed from the domes and taken to the Room of Sciences of the Earth and the Universe for exhibition.

The webpage of the tourist office of Madrid: Tourist office of Madrid on the Royal Observatory

And there you go another gem, and why not while passing by Atocha transports hub which I know many do, and take a hilly but nice area walk up to the Real Observatorio? And if you give yourselves time, you can come and see this marvel ,come back and get your train,ideas for an off the beaten path fantastico de mi Madrid. Enjoy it

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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