A guide to visiting Windsor Castle
I guess I’m in a castle kind of mood, between the royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and last week’s post about Himeji Castle. This week we’ll cover one of my favorite British castles: Windsor Castle!
The quaint cobblestone paths and immense stone fortifications make this a very unique and memorable day trip. If you’re a Britophile of any degree, you definitely have to make a stop at Windsor Castle next time you are near London.
History of Windsor Castle
Windsor has been inhabited by the British royalty for over 1,000 years, and is the preferred weekend home of Elizabeth II. Windsor is the oldest continuously habited castle in Europe.
The original castle and fortification was built by the Normans following the campaigns of William the Conqueror. The first king to live in the castle was Henry I, and he replaced the wooden walls with stone.
How to get there
You can reach Windsor castle in about a half hour’s ride from London Paddington Station to the Windsor & Eton Central Station (you have to transfer at Slough) via the Great Western Railway line.
Another option is to ride from Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside via the South Western Railway line, which has no transfers but takes about an hour.
The Long Walk
The Long Walk is a grand three-mile-long pathway lined with trees from the Copper Horse Statue to the George IV Gateway of Windsor Castle. There are about 500 red deer that live in the park, so it’s easy to spot some on your stroll to the castle.
Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard happens every day, generally at 11:00AM, and is quite a spectacle. Britain’s distinctive furry hats and red uniforms make this event something you have to see at least once in your life.
Check this website to see when the Changing of the Guard is during your visit. During poor weather the Captain of the Guard might cancel the Changing ceremony, so keep that in mind during your visit.
The State Apartments are the main reason people visit Windsor Castle. Who doesn’t want to see how royalty lives?
Each room in the State Apartments have been designed with a specific style in mind, ranging from Rococo to Jacobean to Classical & Gothic.
Queen Mary’s dollhouse
This 1920s era dollhouse is one of the biggest and most ornate in the world. The details are really extraordinary, from the running tap water to the mini libraries and paintings, which include specially written mini books by Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
St. George’s Chapel
Commonly known as the famous slayer of the dragon, St. George also has this chapel dedicated to him. You might already be familiar with it already if you saw Meghan Markle’s and Prince George’s wedding, as this stained glass studded Gothic building is the site of many royal weddings.
St George’s Chapel contains many famous royal graves as well, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. One of the stained glass windows in an oriel design was built by Henry VIII for Catherine of Aragon.
The boat tour is an option to consider if you have extra time and want a different perspective on the castle grounds.
The 40 minute tour route takes you down the river around the castle walls. Tours run from 11:00am – 3:00pm on the half hour and cost about £9.00.
Where to go next
Windsor itself is located in a small quaint town with many places for lunch or tea for day trippers.
If you like craft brews, Windsor & Eton Brewery is a local brewery with tours available of the facilities and taproom. The George Inn is another local option if you want a traditional British pub.
For shopping, check out Peascod Street or King Edward Court Shopping Center.
Hours and fares
From March to October, Windsor is open from 9:45AM – 5:15PM, and November through February, Windsor is open from 9:45AM- 4:15PM. Mornings tend to be more crowded than afternoons, so plan accordingly.
Tickets are £21.20 per adults, £12.30 for minors 17 and under, and free for children under 5. There are also audio guides available in nine different languages for free.