Blog > Old Royal Naval College

November 27, 2013

A bit more than 5 miles from Safestay Hostel is one of the architectural treasures of British history. It is the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich London. By car you can be there in less than 20 minutes. If you wish to use public transport the total trip will be less than 45 minutes. Walk to Elephant and Castle and take the Northern Line Subway towards Barnet. You will disembark at the London Bridge stop. It will be a short walk to London Bridge. Take the London Cannon Street Train to Dartford. (Stop ID: LBG) From there disembark when you arrive at Maze Hill. (Stop ID: MZH). The train ride will be about 11 minutes. From there you will need to walk to your destination. It will take you less than 9 minutes.

The Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centerpiece of Maritime Greenwich a World Heritage Site. UNESCO describes the area as being of “outstanding universal value” and seen as the “finest and most dramatically sited architectural and landscape ensemble in the British Isles”. The grounds and some of the buildings are open to visitors. The buildings were designed by the famous English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Construction took place between the years 1696 and 1712 in the style of English Baroque.


The original purpose of the site was a hospital for seamen which closed in 1869. Between 1873 and 1998 it was the Royal Naval College. It is now part of the Greenwich Foundation. Parts of the site are now being leased by the University of Greenwich and Trinity College of Music.

Hours of operation are from 10:00 to 17:00 (5:00) Monday through Sunday. The grounds alone open up 2 hours earlier and stay open an hour later. The facility is closed in December from the 24 -26. Admission is free.

The main attractions of the site are the Greenwich Visitor Centre, Painted Hall and the Chapel. At the Visitor Centre one can explore over 500 years of history through a permanent exhibition. It is a good starting point in visiting not only the Old Royal Naval College but the entire Greenwich World Heritage Site. There are a number of temporary exhibitions and an unusual gift shop within close proximity of the Tourist Information Centre. The Old Brewery is also located on site for those who might enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.


Painted Hall has often been described as the finest dining hall in Europe. The beautiful wall and ceiling decorations pay tribute to British maritime power and were created by Sir James Thornhill. The Hall would take a total of 19 years to complete. It is the largest figurative painted interior in the country at an amazing 2612sqm. In 1806 Horatio Nelson's body would lie in state in this hall. Painted Hall is an amazing thing to observe and this writer highly recommends that you take the time to view it.

The Chapel was constructed by Thomas Ripley to the original design of Wren. It was the last major component of the site to be built. A horrendous fire in 1779 lead to a redecoration by James “Athenian” Stuart in the Greek Revival Style. Today it is a splendid example of a complete neoclassical interior. I also highly recommend that you take a look at this remarkable creation.

If time permits you might want to take notice of the Chapel Rope and Anchor, Objects from Greenwich Palace (Henry VIII artifacts from Greenwich Palace once on this site) the Nelson Pediment, Thornhill's Self Portrait, the Old Brewery Wellhead, and the Franklin Memorial.

The grounds open at 8am every  morning. Find more detailed information at