QUEEN’S HOUSE GREENWICH

Queen Anne of Denmark, Consort to James I decided that she needed a new hunting lodge in the latest style.  The Queen’s House was built in the midst of the great Tudor palace of Greenwich.  Nowadays it is the centre piece of the UNESCO World Heritage site in Greenwich.  

COVID 19 UPDATE:  The Queen's House will reopen on 10 August 2020. Entry remains free but tickets for entry must be prebooked.
View of Old Royal Naval College Greenwich with Canary Wharf beyond taken from Queens House
View from the Great Hall

Queen’s House – the first Palladian Building in England

Imagine, if you will, that Prince Philip took it into his head to build somewhere to rest and entertain friends whilst hunting.  Not only that he wants the building to be in a brand new never seen before in England style.  That is exactly what Anne of Denmark, consort of James I did.  She commissioned Inigo Jones to build the first Palladian structure in England.  Well it was the first to be started but construction stalled when the Queen died before even the first floor was complete making way for the Banqueting House in Whitehall to be the first completed English Palladian building. The completion of the Queen’s House was left to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.

Queen Anne and the shipmakers coat of arms Queen's House Greenwich
Queen Anne
Tulip Staircase – not only an Instagram sensation

Take a look at Instagram and pretty soon you will come across a shot of the Tulip Staircase at the Queen’s House.  Looking up or looking down it doesn’t matter as it looks pretty spectacular either way.  The staircase is not just just pretty set of steps it was the first geometric self supporting spiral staircase in Britain.  That deep blue that the tulips are painted in is called Smalt.

Queen's House tulip staircase
Grand Hall – a perfect cube

At the heart of the Queen’s House is the Great Hall a perfect cube.  Whilst you might not look and say wow a cube you will look and say wow what a fantastic floor.  Those swirling black and white tiles are quite something.

Looking down onto black and white tiled floor in Palladian room Queen's House Greenwich
When I grow up I will have tiles like this.

Look up in the Great Hall and you will see shimmering golden shapes, these are the work of Turner Prize winner Richard Wright.  Back when the Queen’s House was home to Queens the ceiling was painted by Orazio Gentileschi.  Queen Anne decided to give it to her favourite the Duchess of Marlborough who cut it down and installed it in Marlborough House on the Mall.

Balaustrade with doorway beyond upper floor of Great Hal Queen's House Greenwich
Look very closely to see the golden shapes
A road runs through the Queen’s House

Imagine the Old Kent Road running through the middle of Buckingham Palace.  In the middle of the Queen’s House is a curious bridge like structure.  Back when the Queens lived here the main Woolwich – Depford road went through here.  Anybody could walk or ride through the middle of the Royal home.

Stone archway looking onto a colonnade at Queen's House Greenwich
Main Woolwich – Depford Road
A rather fine art gallery

Nowadays the Queen’s House no longer lived in by the Royal family or anybody else it is home to a rather fine collection of paintings.  300 of them ranging from Lowry to Rubens by way of Turner, with a Canaletto thrown in for good measure.  

Portrait of Charles 1 on blue and gold walls Queen's House Greenwich
I would love a room as blue as the King’s Presence Room
Armada Portraits

Open any school text book about the Tudors and you will see the Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.  In fact there are three of them and one of them lives at the Queen’s House.  2020 is special because all three Armada Paintings are together in the same room on public display for the first time ever!  Go now whilst you can to see this historic sight.

All three Armada Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I
Seeing triple

What else to do in Greenwich

You could happily spend a few days seeing all that Greenwich has to offer.  Up the hill the Royal Observatory and the line of the Greenwich Meridian.  From outside the Observatory you can take in what is one of the best views of London.  Next door to the Queen’s House is the National Maritime Museum.  Over the road is the Old Royal Naval College with the splendid Painted Hall at its heart.  Down on the riverside is the Cutty Sark once the fastest tea clipper in the world.

Ornately painted ceiling Queen's presence room Queen's House Greenwich
Look up!
  • Queen’s House, Romney Road, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NF
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5pm
  • Admission: Free
  • Armada Portraits are all together until 31 August 2020

The Queen’s House features in my list of Free things to do in London with Teens and of Cultural Wedding Venues, why not pop along for more inspiration. If you are in Greenwich for the day how about visiting the Painted Hall or stepping onboard the Cutty Sark?

Queen's House Greenwich first Palladian building in England designed by Inigo Jones. Now a free art gallery with an instagrammable spiral staircase #London #DayOut #LondonArchitecture
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30 Comments

  1. October 20, 2016 / 9:59 am

    That staircase! I’d go just to see that. Beautiful photos.

  2. October 25, 2016 / 1:23 pm

    beautiful staircase #citytripping

  3. October 25, 2016 / 1:59 pm

    I love that staircase and I’m definitely pinning this for something to do in London! #citytripping

  4. October 25, 2016 / 7:24 pm

    Oh gosh, that’s beautiful! Sometimes it’s strange to be in a building and think about all of the historic figures who’ve stood there before you.

    • Catherine
      Author
      October 25, 2016 / 7:28 pm

      It is! I love walking along ancient trackways for that reason!

  5. October 25, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    A fascinating read. I really enjoyed this – thanks! #CityTripping

  6. October 26, 2016 / 4:54 am

    I love the tulip staircase! #CityTripping

  7. October 27, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    Your photo of the tulip staircase is beautiful!

    • Catherine
      Author
      October 27, 2016 / 2:40 pm

      Thank you!

  8. October 28, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    That spiral staircase is beautiful! I love the tulip details! #citytripping

  9. Sage Scott
    February 29, 2020 / 12:31 am

    And who doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide they need a new “hunting lodge?” But seriously, that staircase! (And you’ve captured it beyond perfectly!)

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 2, 2020 / 4:33 pm

      I have often thought just that but so far failed to build one

  10. Jan Banerjee
    February 29, 2020 / 6:24 am

    Impressive house! I love the perfect spiral staircase, the blue tulips and the shimmering gold shapes. I am going to London next month and will plan a visit t to this beautiful place. 🙂

  11. February 29, 2020 / 9:38 am

    The thing I love most about visiting London is that so much is free to visit. It’s accessibility isn’t based on whether you can afford to go or not and that’s absolutely right! I would love to see the Armada paintings, as a student of Tudor history, I’ve seen those in text books many times, but never in real life!

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 2, 2020 / 4:32 pm

      We are very lucky in London to have so much that is free

  12. Bliss
    February 29, 2020 / 2:58 pm

    I’ve never actually heard of this place, even though I’ve been to London multiple times. It looks super interesting.

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 2, 2020 / 4:32 pm

      It has royal history and architectural history just oozing out of every brick

  13. February 29, 2020 / 4:09 pm

    I love Greenwich, and will definitely look out for this palace on my next visit. Spectacular and free – a winning combination.

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 2, 2020 / 4:31 pm

      Two of my favourite words, especially when combined

  14. February 29, 2020 / 5:05 pm

    A friend and I are committed to doing one cultural activity a month so this is certainly being added to my list when its time to plan. Thanks, it looks beautiful. Visited Greenwich but never here

  15. February 29, 2020 / 5:09 pm

    A friend and I organise monthly cultural activities – this is being added to my list. I love Greenwich but never heard of here and its beautiful. Thank you for sharing

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 2, 2020 / 4:30 pm

      Weekly outings is how Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays started!

  16. March 5, 2020 / 11:45 pm

    This building is beautiful and not one I’m familiar with. That staircase is gorgeous, but don’t you wish you could just remove those ropes…then it would be perfect! And the feature wall in my lounge is that exact shade of blue and I love it. Couldn’t do the whole room in it…but maybe go for one wall like me! Thank you for putting this place on my radar. I really must visit sometime! #FarawayFiles

  17. March 7, 2020 / 9:41 am

    I love your posts, they always give me a whole other view of London than in the Streatham Hill days of my youth!! This sounds like such a fascinating architectural and historical storybook; the stairs, the paint, the Queen’s death, and a road runs through it! Gotta love the rich. #FarawayFiles

  18. March 7, 2020 / 10:14 am

    Ahhh – didn’t know the Danish royal connection to Greenwich! That staircase is decidedly swoony. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles. Cheers from Denmark!

  19. March 7, 2020 / 5:22 pm

    I have to confess I went just to see the stair case earlier this year but was totally blown away by the incredible art collection. Queen Liz was still solo when I was there though! #farawayfiles

  20. Trish Burgess
    March 12, 2020 / 1:38 pm

    On my next visit to London I must do a proper Greenwich explore – this will definitely be on my list. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      March 12, 2020 / 1:46 pm

      There is so much to see in Greenwich

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