Fancy feeling like a royal for a day? Or at least walking in the steps of Kings and Queens?
Or maybe you just want to learn a few new things about history, art, architecture and to explore nature while still being connected to the contemporary life. Or even better, maybe you just want to see how the other half lives.
Winsor Castle offers you all these and more. Visiting Windsor is an amazing experience and is actually one of the best day trips from London.
Winsor Castle is the oldest and also the largest inhabited castle in the world. It has been the home of 39 monarchs in the last 900 years and without a guide, a map or a very good sense of orientation you can almost get lost. Imagine living there. Mmm… yes, yeah, I could see how that works, I guess we could get used to THAT, right?
Oh, and while we’re at it, if you love ‘walking through history’ don’t forget to wear comfy shoes. I know, I also like to look fancy when I’m in London but you really need comfy shoes for Windsor. You’ll thank me later.
How to get to Windsor?
By Train: To get to the castle you can take a train to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station or to Windsor Central Station which is a little closer. The best station to take the train from is Waterloo, as it’s with no change. Another good option is from Paddington Station, it’s quicker but you will have to change at Slough. The cost for a return trip is between 10-16£, depending on the time you are travelling. For train schedule, pricing and trip overview, you can use an app that’s very handy all across the UK, it’s called TrainLine.
By Car: If you drive from London, just take the M4. It will take you straight to the castle. There are no parking spaces at the castle itself, but there is a reasonably-priced car park just down the street. It’s called River Street Car Park. A full day is 15£. You can either pay cash or by card.
I want everything served on a plate for me: If you prefer organized tours you can ask your hotel concierge for more details or you can book it online. There are plenty of packages to choose from.
Opening Times & When To Visit
If you are planning your day trip at the Windsor Castle I recommend you to take into considerations that this beautiful castle has a schedule for visitors (people live there). From March to October you will find the castle open daily from 9:30 until 17:30 with the last admission at 16:00. From November to February it’s open from 9:45 to 16:15 (last admission at 15:00) Anyway you could stay here as long as you want but a typical visit lasts around 3-4 hours.
Windsor is one of those places where you want to beat the queues. I’ve been to Windsor three times and only visited the castle once, because of the queues. You’re in the UK, people like queuing and if they don’t like it, it does not matter, they’ll have to adapt and do it anyway. So be there early, take your time to enjoy the castle and then spend the rest of your day in Windsor.
There’s only one downside to being the early bird: some apartments are not open because the castle is sometimes occupied by royalty. That being said, the best time to visit the castle is between September and March when you will find the Rooms open for visitors. That is, except for Christmas when the whole Winsor Castle is closed and the 8th of December, 12 December and from 5 to 19 January. These private rooms were created for George IV and are still used by the Queen in the present.
The St George’s Chapel has some closures on Sunday when services are held for worshippers so if you simply want to visit the chapel at 8:30, 10:45, 12:00 or 17:15 you will not able to enter.
A standard admission ticket for an adult is £ 20 and it costs less (11£) when the State Apartments are closed but trust me, it’s worth every penny.
Here’s what to see and do at Windsor Castle:
Windsor was inhabited by many monarchs and every one of them brought into the castle their own style and taste but the elegance and the taste for the fine art were constant. Classical, medieval, Gothic and Rococo styles, they are all interlaced in this gorgeous Royal Castle.
1. Marvel At The Architecture
Start from the famous Victoria Statue, walk on the Castle Hill Road and enter the Castle grounds. The architecture and the castle grounds are simply breathtaking and definitely worthy of Instagram!
If you prefer large landscapes this is the perfect place to admire the area. Don’t forget that this castle was strategically placed on the highest point so that enemy troops can be spotted from far away. It’s a place where you can enjoy not only the history and art but it’s also an elegant escape into nature. You can take long walks into the castle gardens and into the 208-acre riverside park. Windsor Castle Park also offers picnic and fishing areas or mountain bike trails and even Kayak/canoe paths.
2. Visit The Royal Apartments
Exploring the royal apartments at Windsor is an experience in itself. Each apartment has a story and everything is there, waiting for you to discover the history of The British Empire. The free audio tour is quite useful for that. The apartments are impressive, let alone the fact that all British monarchs have acquired paintings and pieces of art that you will see in the castle.
Once inside, you aren’t allowed to take pictures but what you will find there, is simply memorable. I enjoyed the wonderful details in the paintings, decorations made by the most skilled craftsmen of the time.
3. Get Fascinated By Miniature Objects – Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
You can also visit the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House which has miniature objects from the castle, true, functional replicas of the castle’s fittings and decoration. This aristocratic dollhouse was built for Queen Mary and the finest craftsmen and designers contributed giving life to incredibly detailed pieces of art.
At a scale of 1:12 every object works and this dollhouse has electricity, running water and even small shooting guns. Designers as Worth, Cartier, Lanvin, Hermes and Vuitton have dressed the dolls and you can admire them all, in this cute (and royal) dollhouse.
4. Visit St George’s Chapel
The St George’s Chapel is also something that you should not miss when visiting Windsor. It’s a representative example of Gothic architecture in England. Be ready – it’s massive and impressive. Ten of the kingdom sovereigns are buried inside the chapel and it’s a fascinating thing to see, especially for those who love history and religious art.
5. Experience The Changing Of The Guard Ceremony
The changing of the guard is a well-known ceremony all across the globe. You can see it in Europe, in the Americas and in Asia. This is a great “bonus” to your visit. It’s really interesting and enjoyable (if it doesn’t get too crowded). The ceremony starts at 11:00 so make sure you’re there in time.
Before leaving the castle, you can also buy gifts for your loved ones at the gift shops, but it did feel like they were a bit overpriced to me.
Here’s What To Do In Windsor:
Eat Lunch With A View Of The Castle
Windsor has a lot of great places for eating out. There is an abundance of restaurants, just near Windsor Castle with prices ranging from affordable to ‘OMG, that’s pricey’. You can go for Italian, American, Mexican, Chinese, Moroccan, Indian, Greek, French, British or contemporary dishes in historic or rustic-chic restaurants.
I’m more of a classic gal myself, so I went for some proper fish and chips, with a view of the castle. Not bad, I reckon.
There’s a lot of variety when it comes to food in Windsor, so you better trust your nose and taste buds. Some of the best places for lunch can be found on Thames Street, Eton High Street or St Leonards Road.
Go Shopping At Windsor Royal Shopping
If shopping is on your to-do list (and I don’t mean groceries), there are plenty of shops in Windsor. Clothes, make-up, homeware, souvenirs, you name it – it’s all there. You went to Windsor to see how the royals are living after all, so why not treat yo’self to something nice?
Walk The Streets of Windsor and Explore the Parks
Exploring Windsor on foot is totally worth it. It makes you realise that Windsor is not all about the royal glitzy-glam. Go down Thames street, cross the bridge and get a feel of the local way of living. Also, don’t miss Alexandra Park, it’s a great place for a picnic or simply for a stroll.
Go Out For a Coffee By The River Thames
After all that exploring, walking and shopping, you need to take a break and treat yo’self, AGAIN! I know I have. I went to Cote Brasserie, ordered a cup of coffee and a cake (of course) and took some time to relax, in a royal way, if I might say. There’s no better way than ending a day trip from London to Windsor Castle than with a cup of coffee or tea, with a view.
Are you planning on taking a day trip to Windsor from London?
What is your favourtie thing to do in Windsor?
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