Where to Go Next: Windsor Castle and the historic town around it are a great place to visit, but only before or after the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle on the castle grounds.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting this historic market town just 25 miles from London, making it an easy day-trip.
NOTE: This article was published originally in 2018,
and is being republished now because Windsor Castle
is back in the news as the location for the funeral of Prince Phillip –
Harry’s grandfather and the husband of Queen Elizabeth –
who passed away at the age of 99.
Stay overnight to enjoy more than just the castle, the changing of the guard, and St. George’s Chapel, site of the Royal Wedding. Windsor also offers a chance to visit the Gothic mansion featured in the cult classic film Rocky Horror Show, and the world-famous Eton school.
Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Likely the most popular event in Windsor is the Changing of the Guard, which usually happens at 11am days three or four times a week.
You need a ticket to see the handover ceremony, but you can watch the Guards march to and from Windsor Castle for free.
There are good views anywhere on the route, which is along High Street, but one of the best spots is outside the Guildhall building.
Before or after, take a tour of Windsor Castle itself, home to the Sovereign for 900 years. Her Majesty The Queen and husband Prince Phillip spend most weekends in residence here.
Windsor Castle Tour
Allow 2-3 hours for the full tour. A complimentary audio tour is included in the ticket price.
The Windsor Castle tour includes the State Apartments, with some of the finest treasures from the Royal Collection, including arms and armor that line the walls of the Grand Staircase and Grand Vestibule. One of those suits of armor is the one worn by King Henry VII, also known as Henry the Eighth.
You’ll also see Queen Mary’s Dolls House, the largest and most famous dolls house in the world. Built between 1921 and 1924, it is an exquisite miniature palace whose tiny rooms are filled with the work of the finest artists, artisans and craftsmen, and give a glimpse into a bygone age.
St George’s Chapel, a active church where services are held every day, along with weddings, is also the final resting spot of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour, and also Charles I.
It is also home to the Order of the Garter, the oldest British Order of Chivalry. Perhaps the most famous recent recipient of this honor was Winston Churchill.
St Georges Chapel is closed to general visitors on Sundays, but worshippers are welcome to attend the services.
- Windsor has about 27,000 residents and receives around 7 million visitors a year, so expect a wait to enter Windsor Castle, especially between 9:30 and 10am, when sightseeing tour busses generally arrive.
- After watching the Changing of the Guard Mount, get your ticket stamped for re-entry and explore “downtown” including lunch
- Once the coach tours depart around 3pm, it is a lot less crowded.
- The site was chosen by William the Conqueror as it was only one day’s march from the Tower of London and because it’s hilltop location provided a good defense against attack.
What else to do in Windsor
Buy a picnic made up of delicious local products from the Royal Estates and The Great Park at Windsor Farm Shop a more extravagant basket of food and drink from Windsor Hamper
After a picnic lunch, take a long walk – literally. The three-mile Long Walk takes you to the Copper Horse memorial statue depicting King George III at Snow Hill.
Remember to look back for impressive views of the castle and keep an eye out for some of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s red deer peering through the trees.
Walk on to Virginia Water, once a royal playground, with its lake and 100-metre totem pole.
When you reach The Savill Garden Kitchen take a break for tea on the terrace. The café dishes up great British puddings including Eton Mess. For a small fee (free in February), you can also wander the 35 acres of rare plants in The Savill Garden.
Or, take a guided walking tour with one of the knowledgeable local guides from Windsor Walking ToursFamilies will love Windsor’s Legoland Resort. New additions for 2018 include new themed Miniland locations and a digital Lego reef where kids can select a digital fish and watch it interact.
- Or catch a riverboat ride down the Thames before heading to Eton, the world-famous school which offers guided tours in summer
- Alternatively, attend the races at the Royal Windsor Racecourse. There are 27 races, which the Brits call “fixtures”, from April to October including the Best of British Festival and Ladies Day.
Where to stay and eat in Windsor
Feel like a royal, and get a view of Windsor Castle, at the Castle Hotel, which features a royal-themed decor including art and maps.
Or, check in to Legoland’s version of the castle. You won’t meet Queen Elizabeth II here either, but you will encounter 2.1 million bricks and a royal flush of wizarding characters including a knight made of 160,000 Lego pieces at this family-friendly hotel.
Alternatively, go for gothic at The Oakley Court set in a grand Victorian Mansion overlooking the River Thames. If you’re a Rocky Horror Show fan, you’ll recognize it as the home of Frank-N-Furter.
Head into town for some early evening meze specialties at Turkish restaurant, Marmara.
Stroll to Theatre Royal Windsor an impressive Edwardian theatre between the castle and the river, with a year-round repertoire ranging from classics to pantomimes.
How to get to Windsor
Trains run from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central station in the town. It takes around 30 minutes.
There is also a direct train from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside, a short walk from the castle, that takes closer to an hour.
There are regular buses from London Victoria, with several drop off points in the town, and there’s a service to Heathrow Terminal 5. Buses also run to and from Slough.
Or, you could join one of the guided coach tours.
Thanks to Visit Britain for assistance with this article.
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