Top five real European labs open to visitors

Welcome to 2016. Where will this year take you? We have a few ideas.

The following list includes some of the most amazing laboratories in Europe that are open to visit. We have also included links to their research papers in case you want to stay and make yourself useful. 

1. Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN)

Courtesy of Paul Downey (
Courtesy of Paul Downey (

CERN is synonymous with the biggest questions in physics. What is the universe made of? What happened after the Big Bang? Physicists at CERN just so happen to use the world’s most powerful particle accelerator to tackle these questions. CERN welcomes tours and visitors. There is also a scientific circuit where tourists can see the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) called “Passport Big Bang”.

Where: CERN is located on the French Swiss boarder so it has a Swiss and French address. This means that while you’re there, you can pick up some Swiss chocolate for your croissant. Or open a bank account in your new beret.

How to get there: Plane, Train and Car.

Inside scoop: Interested in searching for the dark photon in π0 decays? Take a step into the real CERN and have a read of the publications here.

2. Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), Germany

Courtesy of Marius Brede (
Hamburg - courtesy of Marius Brede (

DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) studies all things tiny – from biomolecular processes to particles and nanomaterials. DESY houses the world’s most intense X-ray light and particle accelerators that have achieved record speeds. DESY, and the over 3000 guest researchers it attracts every year, are uncovering new windows to the universe.

Where: DESY has locations in Hamburg and in Zeuthen.

What it offers: Both locations offer guided tours, which include a lecture, models and exhibits. Hamburg & Zeuthen

Inside scoop: The secret guide to asking impressive questions during the tour can be found here. Why not ask how those atomic-accuracy models from 4.5-Å cryo-electron microscopy data are doing?

3. Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS), Italy

Courtesy of Antonio Cinotti (
Courtesy of Antonio Cinotti (

Gran Sasso National Laboratory (Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso - LNGS) lives up to its amazing name—it’s the world’s largest underground laboratory devoted to neutrino and astroparticle physics. Below 1400m of rock, 950 Scientists from 32 countries are either searching for dark matter, uncovering the secrets of life and the universe or wondering what the weather above is like.

Where: Located between L’Aquila and Teramo, about 120 kilometres from Rome, the underground structures are on one side of the 10-kilometre long highway tunnel which crosses the Gran Sasso massif (towards Rome); the underground complex consists of three huge experimental halls (each 100-metre long, 20-metre large and 18-metre high) and bypass tunnels.

What it offers: The Gran Sasso National Laboratory offers guided tours on Saturday and Sunday as long as you make a reservation.

Inside scoop: Now we aren’t saying you need to read all 10,850 publications from the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (of which LNGS is a part) before you visit, but you could give it a try. For starters, here’s one on a new fast scanning system for the measurement of large angle tracks in nuclear emulsions. Can’t get enough? Here you go.

4. Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK

Courtesy of Magnus Hagdorn (
Courtesy of Magnus Hagdorn (

The beautiful and historic Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE) was first established in 1786 when the University of Edinburgh’s first Chair of Astronomy was announced. The current ROE sits on Blackford Hill and is home to UK Astronomy Technology Centre and the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy. Together they study planet and star formation, nearby galaxies and all things cosmology.

Where: ROE can be found on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, just south of the city. More information can be found here.

What it offers: The visitors center offers Public Astronomy Evenings and Winter Talks.

Inside scoop: Exploring the universe is now possible without a US$250,000 up front deposit. Find over 1000 ROE publications on infrared color selection of massive galaxies to the nature and characteristics of optically red galaxies. The rest can be found for free here.

5. National Physical Laboratory, UK

Courtesy of John Blower (
Courtesy of John Blower (

The National Physical Laboratory is the largest applied physics organization in the UK. It is partly housed in the former royal residence, Bushy House, in one of London’s largest royal parks. In 2008 the established institution opened its new, state-of-the art laboratory.

NPL  0013
Courtesy of NPL

This new laboratory can be visited on May 17th 2016 when the NPL will open its doors to the public for Open House 2016. Over 2500 people attended the last open day in 2014 and registration is essential for 2016. You can register for the free event here.

What it offers: Over 40 labs open for you to explore, including: atomic clocks, acoustic & anechoic chambers, lasers and achieves.

How to get there & Where: National Physical Laboratory, Hampton Road, Teddington, Middlesex. NPL is well served by London’s public transport. More details can be found here.

Publications: Make Sheldon Cooper proud and brush up on the NPL’s over 1500 publications here. A Single-Ion Trap with Minimized Ion-Environment Interactions anyone?

Featured image courtesy of CERN.