Address: The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London SW1A 2ER


Time: Generally 10.00am to 17.00pm

Phone: 0844 482 7777, 0203 166 6000, 0203 166 6154/5

Entry Price: £6.60 for adult


500m from Charing Cross

300m from Charing Cross

Banqueting House was part of the old Whitehall Palace which, in its day was the largest palace in Europe. In 1698 the palace burnt down and the only surviving structure was Banqueting House.

The Palace was originally the property of the Archbishops of York. In 1514 it was the palatial home of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII was a frequent visitor. He wanted a palace near Whitehall and took it from the church, renaming it Whitehall Palace and extending the buildings. After Henry died, Elizabeth I built a temporary banqueting house in 1581, James I replacing it with a permanent building in 1609. It was used to host the famous masque events which were a combination of a ball, a play, theatrics and fancy dress. They ran in this house until 1635, when Charles I, who commissioned Rubens to paint the ceiling at enormous cost, felt that the torches and flares that were used in the masques might damage the incredible artwork.

The English Civil War ran 1642-9 after which Charles I was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Banqueting House was the place of his execution and he walked through the hall to the gallows. A scaffold was erected outside and on 30th January 1649 the king stepped out of a removed window frame and onto the scaffold before a large crowd. He made a short speech, gave his cloak to the Bishop of London, put his head on the block and was beheaded with a single blow of the axe. After the end of the monarchy, Cromwell moved in. He died in 1658 and the monarchy was restored in 1660, with Charles II taking residence.

Following the fire of 1698, Banqueting House was used as the Chapel Royal as the Tudor chapel had been destroyed. The House was used by the Horse Guards from 1808 and ceased as a chapel in 1890. In 1893 Queen Victoria turned it into a museum and in 1962 the museum closed. Today it is run as a royal palace and open to the public.

Being opposite Horse Guards Parade and near to 10, Downing Street, it gives tourists the ideal opportunity to view popular London landmarks in the same vicinity.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.