Inside the Banqueting House London

Can we go to the beanbag place?  Is a question often asked in our household.  Translated that means can we visit the Banqueting House please.  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.

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

You start your tour in the basement watching a short film explaining the history of the building and the historic events that have taken place here.  It was not only the site of the execution of Charles I but also the venue in which William and Mary had the Bill of Rights read to them before they ascended to the throne.  As you would expect this is not any old basement but a rather fine undercroft.

Banqueting House

Lolling around on beanbags, whilst listening to the audio guide that comes with the entrance fee, is not the only way to admire the Rubens ceiling you can also opt to use the magnifying mirrors that also dot the floor.   Charles I asked Rubens to come up designs that glorified his father.  Rubens drew up the designs in London and then decamped back to his studio in Antwerp to complete the work.  When the finishedcanvases were unrolled ready for installation it was with horror that it was realised that they wouldn’t fit. Careful measurements had been taken, both Belgium and England used feet and inches but each country used a different length for what they called a foot.  Scissors and paste had to be deployed to make significant changes before they would fit.

Banqueting House

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.

Ground breaking architecture, history oozing out of its pores, stunning ceiling, comfy beanbags and some pretty luxurious loos the Banqueting House has it all.  All that it lacks is a café, but that is no problem as a short walk away in St James’s Park has a café.  To get there you walk over the road past the mounted horse guards (if you lucky you might be in time for the changing of the guard) over the parade ground and hey presto there is the park.  Turn around and you will be rewarded with a  stunning view back over Whitehall.

Whitehall, London SW1A 2ER
Open: Closed since Covid but open for Open House London 2022. Check out my guide to Open House London to see what else is open.

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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