Fodor's Expert Review Old Royal Naval College

Greenwich Educational Institution Fodor's Choice

Built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1696 and 1751 as a rest home for ancient mariners, the college became a naval school in 1873. The site is still used for classes by the University of Greenwich and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, although you're more likely to recognize it as a film location: blockbusters to have made use of its elegant interiors include Skyfall, Les Misérables, and The King's Speech. Architecturally, you'll notice how the structures part to reveal the Queen's House across the central lawns. The Painted Hall, the college's dining hall, derives its name from the Baroque murals of William and Mary (reigned jointly 1689–94; William alone 1695–1702) and assorted allegorical figures. James Thornhill's frescoes, depicting scenes of naval grandeur with a suitably pro-British note, were painstakingly completed 1707–12 and 1718–26, and were good enough to earn him a knighthood. Next door, the Sackler Gallery tells the story... READ MORE

Built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1696 and 1751 as a rest home for ancient mariners, the college became a naval school in 1873. The site is still used for classes by the University of Greenwich and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, although you're more likely to recognize it as a film location: blockbusters to have made use of its elegant interiors include Skyfall, Les Misérables, and The King's Speech. Architecturally, you'll notice how the structures part to reveal the Queen's House across the central lawns. The Painted Hall, the college's dining hall, derives its name from the Baroque murals of William and Mary (reigned jointly 1689–94; William alone 1695–1702) and assorted allegorical figures. James Thornhill's frescoes, depicting scenes of naval grandeur with a suitably pro-British note, were painstakingly completed 1707–12 and 1718–26, and were good enough to earn him a knighthood. Next door, the Sackler Gallery tells the story of the frescoes.

In the opposite building stands the College Chapel, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1779 in an altogether more restrained, neo-Grecian style. It hosts free lunchtime concerts by Trinity students each Tuesday and Friday, beginning at 1:05 pm. The underground passage connecting the two buildings also leads to Skittle Alley, where naval veterans, known as Greenwich Pensioners, played skittles to pass the time. The college's free visitor center includes interactive exhibits on the history of Greenwich, plus an assortment of local treasures and artifacts. Most intriguing among them is a 17th-century "witch bottle," once used to ward off evil spirits. High-tech scans have revealed it to contain a mixture of human hair, fingernails, and urine.

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Quick Facts

London, Greater London  SE10 9NN, England

- 020 - 8269–4747

www.ornc.org

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: Visitor center and chapel free; grounds tours and Painted Hall £12.50

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