The Banqueting House is the only surviving building of the vast Whitehall Palace, destroyed by fire nearly 300 years ago. The Banqueting House is a welcome retreat from the bustle of the city and a hidden treasure for anyone interested in art and architecture – its Rubens ceiling painting is just one of the artworks on display.
Other sites include King James I’s great hall, the undercroft (designed as a drinking den for King James I and his mates) and the site where Charles I was executed on 30 January 1649.
The building is architecturally significant as it was the first building in England to be built in the neoclassical style. It was designed by Inigo Jones drawing inspiration from Andrea Palladio and completed in 1622. It is considered a landmark building that changed the face of British architecture.
What to see at the Banqueting House
The ceiling of the Banqueting House is one of Sir Peter Paul Rubens most famous works and it is the Flemish artist’s only surviving in-situ ceiling painting.
In addition to the Rubens ceiling painting, the Banqueting House is also home to a painting of Charles I by Daniel Mytens and a bronze bust of James I, made by Hubert Le Sueur in 1639.
The undercroft of the Banqueting House was designed as a drinking den for James I. Visitors to the undercroft can watch a video about King Charles I and the building’s history and there are also some displays about Inigo Jones and events that took place here.
Visiting the Banqueting House
The Banqueting House is located on Whitehall right across the road from the Household Cavalry Museum and Horse Guards Parade. It is a five-minute walk to Charing Cross tube station and not much farther to Charing Cross railway station and Embankment and Westminster tube stations.
Admission is free for visitors with a valid London Pass as well as Historic Royal Palaces members.
Despite being a fairly small attraction, it is after all just one big room plus the undercroft, the excellent audio tour is very informative and will keep you busy for anywhere from 40 minutes to 1½ hours.