Inside the Banqueting House, London

Popping into the Banqueting House, or the Bean Bag place as it is known in the Cultural Wednesday household, has long been a favourite of ours. Sadly the Banqueting House is to close for repairs and renovation in June 2024 but should reopen in the summer of 2025. In the meantime come with me and discover why the Cultural Wednesday family have always loved the Banqueting House.

Inside the Banqueting House, Whitehall

I’m ashamed to say that it isn’t the ground breaking architecture or the magnificent Rubens ceiling or even the historical importance of the building that lures us back time after time but the lure of beanbags that scatter the grand hall. We are keeping our fingers cross that they return when the doors reopen in 2025.

Two children on a bean bag at the Banqueting House, Whitehall London with a red throne and canopy of state behind
Junior CW’s reclining on the Banqueting House beanbags

Rubens ceiling at the Banqueting House

When Charles I commissioned Peter Paul Rubens to create paintings for the ceiling of the Banqueting House that celebrated the house of Stuart. Look up and you will see celebrations of the union of the Scottish and English crowns, James’s peaceful reign and his majestic ascent to heaven. What you see is the largest surviving work by Rubens at 22 square metres. The King paid £3,000 and a heavy gold chain for the work. Unfortunately when the painting was delivered it didn’t fit, unfortuately the Flanders foot and the British foot were different lengths and the paintings had been made in Flanders to British measurements. Thankfully so judicious cut and paste saved the day.

Banqueting House, London with a mirror in the foreground reflecting the Rubens ceiling
Rubens Ceiling seen through a mirror

History of the Banqueting House

Banqueting House is the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace, it was the first building that Inigo Jones designed using the Palladian principles that he had seen and admired in Italy.  James I commissioned it to replace an earlier wooded banqueting house to host not only banquets but masques and royal receptions.  Just 27 years after it was completed James’ son, Charles I climbed these stairs on the way to his execution.

Banqueting House
Charles I climbed this stairs to his execution

For many years we have had family membership of Historic Royal Palaces, this means that for a one off payment of £122 a year  we can visit Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, Tower of London and Kew Palace as well as the Banqueting House as often as we like.  As we live less than an hour away from all of these we have made good use of our membership and made just popping in to loll on the beanbags an easy thing to do.

Banqueting House interior

Visiting the Banqueting House

The Banqueting House is run by the Historic Royal Palaces, keep an eye on their website for updates about how the renovation is proceeding. There is one last day to visit the Banqueting House, 19 May 2024 you can book tickets for £5 but be quick!

We were able to visit the Banqueting House on a whim as we had Historic Royal Palaces membership, why not take a look at my guide to London Museum Membership.



  1. April 12, 2017 / 11:38 am

    What a great idea! Those beanbags looks really comfy too.

    • April 12, 2017 / 7:07 pm

      Very comfy. I take a book because the boys are so hard to shift

  2. April 18, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    interesting place #citytripping

  3. April 18, 2017 / 7:15 pm

    Now this is somewhere which has really thought through how to help visitors enjoy it – I definitely think more historic sites could benefit from the odd beanbag. And I never knew that about the canvases, imagine that moment when they realised it didn’t fit. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • April 18, 2017 / 7:30 pm

      I wonder what happened to the off cuts?

  4. April 19, 2017 / 3:00 am

    I was wondering why there are bean bags in a place that looks so elegant. Now, I get it and think they are a great idea. Sometimes, you want to enjoy a place but your feet are killing you. It feels great when you can learn and enjoy comfortably.

  5. April 19, 2017 / 7:16 pm

    I love the familiarity of your family that they call it the beanbag place. Unsurprisingly I can see why it’s tempting. History for the grownups, beanbags for the boys! #citytripping

  6. April 20, 2017 / 4:50 pm

    I’ve always wanted to visit this place, but wasn’t sure what to expect! I’m so happy to have read this post, I’m definitely going during our next visit, and if my boys complain, I’ll just tell them about the bean bags! #citytripping

  7. April 22, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    I’ve occassionally thought we made a mistake in not getting the Historic Palaces membership for at least one year, and now I know it is. Worth it for the beanbags and the story about the missfitting paintings alone!

    • April 22, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      We get incredible value from our membership. There are all sorts of member events too, we went to the Ceremony of the Keys or locking up the Tower of London for the night and one of our boys got turn the key!

  8. July 1, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    The Banqueting House is magnificent and STILL on the list! Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  9. pigeonpairandme
    July 3, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    I didn’t realise this was included as part of the Historic Royal Palaces package. I used to work nearby – lolling on beanbags would have been a good way to de-stress! #FarawayFiles

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