Banqueting House

Banqueting House is the only complete surviving building of Whitehall Palace, the sovereign’s principal residence from 1530 until 1698 when it was destroyed by fire.

The London Pass Famed for its rich history and fine architecture, the Banqueting House is Britain's first neo-classical building. Normally £6.50 - Included with London Pass

Banqueting House is the last-remaining part of the Palace of Whitehall, the primary residence of English monarchs between 1530 and 1698. Completed in 1622, it is notable for being the country’s first neo-classical building, for its sublime painted ceiling, created by Peter Paul Rubens, and as the location for Charles I’s execution.

Enjoy access to Banqueting House with The London Pass®

- Pay nothing at the door - simply show your pass.
- Admire the fine architecture of Britain’s first neo-classical building.
- Learn the rich and varied history of this notable building and the royal palace it once served.
- See the much cherished ceiling of Banqueting House, designed by influential painter Peter Paul Rubens, and installed in 1636.



Skip to...

- Banqueting House history

- Banqueting House highlights

- Banqueting House facts

- Don’t miss

- Know before you go

- Getting in

- Make the most of your London Pass

- How to get there



Banqueting House history

The Palace of Whitehall, the grand building of which Banqueting House was a part, was the primary residence of English monarchs between 1530 and 1698. Known previously as York Place, the mansion that stood on the site was seized from Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII. Henry greatly expanded the building to suit his new position as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. He renamed it the Palace of Whitehall.

For years, the royal palace had no official banqueting hall. The palace’s first permanent banqueting house was built for James I, but burnt down soon after in 1619. James was not too displeased about this. He and his wife Anne of Denmark much enjoyed masque performances and hosted them in the banqueting hall. Unhelpfully, the hall was filled with supporting columns which blocked the audience’s view of the masques.

King James I commissioned his Surveyor of the Kings Works to build a new Banqueting House, which is the one we see today. The commissioned architect, Inigo Jones, took great inspiration from the Palladian neo-classical buildings he had seen while traveling in France and Italy. Grand, inspired by classical forms and, perhaps most importantly, devoid of obstructing columns, Banqueting House was completed in 1622. The king was pleased with what he saw.

The crown atop the head of Banqueting Hall is the painted ceiling, created by Peter Paul Rubens. The nine ceiling painting were commissioned by Charles I and glorify the life and work of his father, James I. Showing the former king as a religious figure—ruling his land like Solomon and heading up to the heavens—the works elevate the Stuart monarch and, by extension, his heir to godly status.

13 years after the paintings were installed, on January 30th 1649, Charles I walked under them for the final time, out onto the specially constructed scaffold were he was to be executed. The divine right of kings, celebrated across the nine ceiling paintings, did not come to his rescue and he was beheaded.

In 1698, a fire destroyed all of the Palace of Whitehall apart from Banqueting House. It was no longer useful as a banqueting venue, so was transformed into a chapel, then to a museum of the Royal United Services Institute. It was re-faced in Portland stone in the 19th century. Today, it stands as a prime example of English architecture and regal design, and is particularly notable for being the first structure in the country completed in the neo-classical style. Along with its architecture, Banqueting House’s rich history and famous ceiling led to it achieving Grade I listed status.

Back to top



Banqueting House highlights

  • Explore the Main Hall, admiring the mathematical precision of its design and the rich history contained within.

  • Take a look up at the famous ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens, celebrating the Stuart monarchs.

  • Stand on the spot of Charles I’s execution, located directly outside Banqueting House on Whitehall.

  • Head down into The Undercroft, the vaulted drinking hall under Banqueting House, which James I used for his wilder royal parties.

Back to top



Banqueting House facts

  • Built in the Palladian style, Banqueting House owes much of its design and layout to mathematics. For instance, the Main Hall is a double cube, meaning that it is as high as it is wide, and twice as long.

  • On the day of Charles I’s execution, the public executioner Brandon refused to undertake his duty. His assistant couldn’t be found. In the end, two disguised men completed the beheading. Their identities are still unknown.

  • Photographs for The Electric Light Orchestra’s debut album—including some of the band in 17th century costume—were taken at Banqueting House in 1971.

Back to top



Don’t miss

Charles I’s Execution Site
Charles I was executed on the pavement of Whitehall, directly outside Banqueting House on a bitterly cold day in January 1649. His last words were, “I got from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be.” The execution is remembered each year with a special service at Banqueting House. During your visit, make sure you pay a visit to the spot where the English Civil War came to a head.

Special Events
Banqueting House hosts a number of special events throughout the year, including talks regarding the famous people who built it, used it and (in the case of Charles I) died there. These events are not included with The London Pass®. To find out what’s coming up on the Banqueting House calendar, consult the official website here

Back to top



Know before you go

Banqueting House is usually open daily between 10.00 and 17.00. However, as it is still used for hosting events great and small, it closes early or entirely on certain days throughout the year. To check the schedule and make sure Banqueting House will be open on your planned visiting day, consult the official website here.

The Main Hall of Banqueting House is accessible to wheelchair users by a lift in a building connected to the property. The lift is only accessible on weekdays. It is advised that those with mobility issues contact the attraction directly to check the availability of the lift on your chosen dates of travel. Call 02031 666155 to get in touch with the team at Banqueting House. More accessibility information is available here.

Back to top



Getting in

Show your London Pass® at the main entrance for entry.

Banqueting House is guaranteed to open from 10.00 until 13.00 Monday to Sunday, but we often close in the afternoon at short notice for functions and events.  Please call 020 3166 6155 / 6154/6152 before visiting, to ensure that the Banqueting House will be open.

Back to top



Make the most of your London Pass®

-This is a historically rich part of London, so you’ll find plenty of other storied attractions to explore in the local area. Consider visiting Benjamin Franklin House, the London home of one of America’s Founding Fathers.

- The Churchill War Rooms is just a short walk away. Discover the bunker base of Winston Churchill during the Second World War and learn about life underground during the war.

Entry to both is included with The London Pass®.

Back to top



How to get there

Underground
- Westminster - Circle, District and Jubilee lines (5 minute walk from attraction)
- Embankment - Bakerloo, Circle, District and Northern lines (5 minute walk)

Train
- London Charing Cross Station - 10 minute walk
- London Waterloo Station - 15 minute walk

Bus
- 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88 and 159 all stop close to Banqueting House.

 

For more things to do in London, check out The London Pass® blog.

 

See all attractions

Excellent Couldn't have been better. It made for a most enjoyable visit . I would recommend it to anyone, especially first-time visitors.
Kjersti Board from United States

Learn more

Getting to Banqueting House

Getting to Banqueting House

  • Banqueting House The Banqueting House Whitehall London SW1

Opening Times

Monday 10.00 - 17.00
Tuesday 10.00 - 17.00
Wednesday 10.00 - 17.00
Thursday 10.00 - 17.00
Friday 10.00 - 17.00
Saturday 10.00 - 17.00
Sunday 10.00 - 17.00
Last Admission: 16.15

Closed:

Please check Closures & Notices for changes to opening hours at Banqueting House this month

Attractions Nearby

Trusted by over 3 million customers, here's what they have to say