Anyone seeing Greenwich for the first time from the spot in Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs where Canaletto painted the view across the Thames could be forgiven for thinking that here is a royal palace to rival Versailles. The baroque grandeur, the vistas, the classical arrangement of courtyards — surely these glorious riverside buildings are fit only for royalty? But no, this was the far more humble Royal Hospital for Seamen. From 1606 to 1869, these buildings, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and his pupil Nicholas Hawksmoor, were home to a succession of wounded and retired sailors, their widows and children. Then, between 1873 and 1998, they housed the Royal Naval College. Greenwich, made a royal borough by the Queen during 2012 for her Diamond Jubilee, has been a World Heritage Site since 1997, and the Wren and Hawksmoor buildings, together with the 17th-century Inigo Jones-designed Queen’s House, are all listed Grade I. While Greenwich can boast history’s grandest retirement home, its links with royalty — and its location between the royal dockyards at Deptford and Woolwich — made it the site of London’s greatest collection of baroque architecture. The 15th-century Palace of Placentia was built here, seemingly Henry VIII’s favourite residence and the birthplace of his daughters, queens Mary and Elizabeth. Less favoured by subsequent Stuart kings, the palace was finally demolished.