Aerial picture of Old Royal Naval College building.

  • The Old Royal Naval College is following UK government advice regarding COVID-19.
  • Kids and parents will love Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) set in the centre of Maritime Greenwich, right on the River Thames.
  • Home to The Painted Hall, otherwise known as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’ with a beautiful Baroque interior.
  • Old Royal Naval College was built as a training ground for the Royal Navy. It now serves as a landmark with a wealth of history, attracting around 1.2 million visitors every year. Old Royal Naval College gets its name from the fact that it was once, you guessed it, a Royal Naval College, but the site was used for other purposes before this spectacular centrepiece, like a palace! 
  • A landmark steeped in history, Old Royal Naval College is excellent for budding historians, budding architects and anyone interested in Tudor and Maritime history.
     

Old Royal Naval College Greenwich is a historical building, the main feature of Maritime Greenwich, London. Known by some as Greenwich Naval College, it is a landmark with stunning architectural features, set on historical grounds in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, for its cultural value and unique architectural and landscape features. Greenwich itself is also home to the Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum, Royal ObservatoryThe O2 and the University of Greenwich.

The Old Royal Naval College Visitor Centre will be one of your first ports of call, free to enter and offering boat-loads (pun intended) of information about the Old Royal Naval College, history about its spectacular grounds, along with tours and tickets. There’s even a shop, should you want to culminate your visit with some fabulous souvenirs. The Old Royal Naval College events, held throughout the year, range from concerts, to plays, to Halloween celebrations. The Old Royal Naval College concert capacity is 4,000, to give you an idea of the size of these expansive grounds.

Designed by legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren, the Old Royal Naval College was built on the site of Greenwich Palace after it fell into disrepair. As Greenwich Palace, this was one of the most significant Tudor residences. It was on this site that Henry VIII was born, as well as his two daughters Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. After Greenwich Palace stood the Royal Hospital for Seamen in its place, where it was valued as a hospital for retired servicemen of the Royal Navy, subsequently, it became Royal Naval College, when the Royal Navy of Portsmouth acquired the land. Between 1873 and 1997, the Royal Naval College was renowned across Europe for its quality training, with male and female students from the UK and abroad coming to receive some of the best training you could get.

Don’t miss the Old Royal Naval College Painted Hall, fondly known as ‘Britain’s Sistine Chapel’. Exquisitely designed, its structures and decorations are quite rare to find in London today. The walls up to the ceilings are all lavishly painted by Sir James Thornhill: featuring nautical scenes, royal figures, historical backgrounds and much more, all rendered in fine detail - no wonder it took nineteen years to do so. Incredible for budding architects and artists, the Painted Hall will certainly get some wows. Bear in mind tickets specifically for the Painted Hall are not included with your general entry to the rest of the Old Royal Naval College.

Another impressive work of Christopher Wren, the Old Royal Naval College Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul is short of details that will fail to impress. Observe the delicate details in the design, from the floor to the ceiling. And just so you know, the Chapel is still in service, so feel free to pop into one of their services throughout the year.

Did you know that Old Royal Naval College is one of the most popular filming locations in the world? Find out all about it on the College’s Film and TV Location Tour. You’ll be taken around the whole Old Royal Naval College, the Painted Hall and the Victorian Skittle Alley, where famous productions like The Crown and Les Misérables have been filmed. You can catch this tour on the last weekend of every month. 

If you fancy a tour of the grounds, book a ticket and be guided along. A ticket would be required for a Painted Hall tour, and would include the Victorian Skittle Alley, where you could spend some time bowling too! The Old Royal Naval College also offers some special family tours, called Smartify Tours, great for families with kids aged 5 to 12. Interactive and engaging family tour in the style of a treasure trail, with clues to follow and historical facts to learn about along the way. All you need is the Smartify app, and you’ll be on a tour like no other, in no time.

What to know before you go

  • COVID measures: The Old Royal Naval College is open to visitors with a reduced capacity; visitors are advised to book their tickets in advance; visitors must wear face coverings at all times, unless exempt; hand sanitising stations are positioned around the College; social distancing must be observed; contactless payments are strongly preferred.
  • Tickets aren’t required to explore the grounds and Visitor Centre, only for the Painted Hall and Victorian Skittle Alley. 
  • The Visitor Centre, Painted Hall and Old Brewery all have step-free toilet facilities, which are accessible. The toilets below the Chapel are accessible by stairs.
  • Baby changing facilities are available in the Visitor Centre and Painted Hall.
  • Wheelchair users are welcome at The Old Royal Naval College; the Old Brewery has complete level access, the Painted Hall has a lift, and the Chapel has a Stairmate. There are a limited number of manual wheelchairs for hire in the Visitor Centre, which are free but require a refundable deposit.
  • The Old Royal Naval College has two shops, the Visitor Centre Shop and The Painted Hall Shop, with plenty of options for souvenirs and gifts.
  • You have two choices for eateries, the Painted Hall Café, serving hot and cold treats, sandwiches, salads and cakes, or The Old Brewery, a fabulous gastropub serving British food, and drinks.
  • Fancy a picnic instead? The lawns surrounding The Old Royal Naval College will gladly accommodate you.
  • The Old Royal Naval College loves dogs, and warmly welcomes them on their grounds!

Getting There

  • The Old Royal Naval College Greenwich is located on King William Walk, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 9NN. It’s conveniently located opposite The National Maritime Museum.
  • The nearest station is Cutty Sark Station (DLR). Visitors travelling by Tube can travel to Canary Wharf (Jubilee Line) then can change to the DLR and ride a few stops to Cutty Sark Station.
  • The Cutty Sark Station is three minutes away from The Old Royal Naval College.
  • Visitors to Old Royal Naval College travelling by car can park on Park Row or Cutty Sark Gardens. Parking is limited, and charges will apply at both of these locations.
  • A train from Central London to Greenwich Station would take around eight minutes.
  • Hotels near Old Royal Naval College are Ibis London Greenwich and Admiral Hardy.
  • Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.

Images © Old Royal Naval College, Maciek Lulko and 1081642452, under a Creative Commons licence.

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Hosted by
Greenwich Foundation For The Old Royal Naval College

The Greenwich Foundation is a charity that was established in 1997 in order to conserve the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Featuring gorgeous Baroque artwork in the Painted Hall, iconic regal architecture and picturesque grounds that run right along the River Thames, the Old Royal Naval College is a renowned landmark of London. It sits opposite the National Maritime Museum at the bottom of Greenwich Park and is the centre point of Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and previous home of Henry VIII. Thanks to its historic architecture, the Royal Naval College has been the site of many period blockbuster movies and also hosts Trinity Music College within its walls. With a wealth of volunteers and events and an award-winning learning programme that relies on funding and donation, the Greenwich Foundation is integral to the maintenance of the Naval College and holds a special place within the local south-east London community.

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