When visiting the UK, Dave and I are obsessed with castles. Heck, when visiting Europe in general, we can’t get enough of them. So naturally, Windsor Castle is at the top of our list. As the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle draws visitors from across the globe and locals alike. It was thrust back into the spotlight when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married here in 2018 and with the press swirling around “Megxit” and The Crown still going strong on Netflix interest in the royals has never been so high.
So, to help you plan your visit to Windsor Castle we’ve put together some tips and advice to make the most of a day trip from London to Windsor Castle.
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Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle
Make sure to book your ticket entry in advance for Windsor Castle. You can purchase tickets online with GetYourGuide. There is easy cancellation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.
If you want to make it easy and travel from London to Windsor via tour, this highly rated tour from GetYourGuide takes you on a half day tour from London via coach where you’ll visit the historic town of Windsor and visit Windsor Castle at your own pace. The great thing about GetYourGuide is you can Cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund. (no hassles, we’ve done it ourselves)
About Windsor Castle
Before we get started, let’s look into a little background of Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is one of the official residences to the King. Founded in the 11th century by William the Conquerer, Windsor Castle has seen its fair share of history with 39 monarchs occupying its walls for a whopping 10 centuries.
What makes a visit to this castle so unique is that it was used regularly by the Royal Family. It was Queen Elizabeth’s residence of choice during her private weekends. I am not sure if King Charles will choose this residence, but it still cool to know that he might be somewhere in the vicinity. But if you want to know if the royals are home or not, look for the royal standard flag flying above the Round Tower. If that is flying, the King is in. If not, you’ll see the Union Flag flying instead.
How to Get to Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is located in the county of Berkshire in the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. It is approximately 25 Miles (40 Kms) from Central London.
It is easily reached by trains that leave from London Paddington or Waterloo stations where you will transfer in Slough to catch a train to Windsor and Eton Central Station.
Trains from London Paddington take approximately 35-40 minutes while it’s nearly 45-55 minutes from Waterloo station. When you arrive at Windsor and Eton Central train station it is less than a 10 minute walk to the Windsor Castle entrance located at the top of Castle Hill.
Windsor Castle is also just 8 miles from London Heathrow Airport. If you are renting a car, it’s easy to drive to or you can take the bus on the Green Line from Heathrow Terminal 5.
If you want to explore a fun day tour from London this full day tour includes entrance to Windsor Castle and a visit to the State Apartments with free time to St. George’s Chapel and the Castle Grounds. You’ll then stop for a tour of the mysterious pre-historic stone circles of Stonehenge before heading to Oxford for an informative walking tour. This tour includes transportation from Victoria Coach Station in London.
Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle
To visit Windsor Castle it is recommended to purchase tickets in advance as queues can be long, especially during peak times in the summer. With your ticket in hand, you won’t have to wait in line to purchase entry and can walk right on in.
Also take note that like most castles , Windsor Castle is located at the top of a steep hill and covers a lot of ground so leave the heels at home and wear some comfortable shoes for your visit.
It is important to note that Windsor castle is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so plan your trip accordingly. And since the castle is an official residence, expect certain portions to be closed at short notice.
- During the summer months, your ticket provides entry to the State Apartments and St. George’s Cathedral.
- In the winter you will have access the private apartments created by George IV.
Tickets Can be Converted to a 1 Year Pass
If purchasing tickets at the gate or directly from the Windsor Castle website, you can convert your ticket to a 1 year pass. To convert your entry ticket to a one year pass, make sure to do so before entering the Security Hall and Castle. When entering, ask an Admissions Assistant to stamp your ticket to convert it into a 1-Year Pass. Make sure to have your ticket printed off and sign your name in the spaces provided before arriving. (or have a pen on you)
Windsor Castle Opening Hours
- March 1 to October 31 – 10 am to 5:15 pm (last entrance at 4 pm)
- December 3 to February 28 – 10 am to 4:14 pm (last entrance 3 pm)
- St. George’s Chapel is open for visitors on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:15 pm (last entry 16:00)
- St. George’s Chapel is closed for regular services on Sundays.
- Note: Entrance to the State Apartments closes 30 minutes after the last admission time.
- The changing of the guards happens at daily at 11:00 am
- Windsor castle is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
- And since the castle is an official residence, expect certain portions to be closed at short notice. So be prepared
When to visit Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is an extremely popular attractions and 1.5 million people visit the castle each year. Crowds and queues can be very long, especially in summer. If you want to avoid queues, winter is a great time to visit the castle.
If you are visiting during the high season, there are better times than others to enter the castle. The best time to visit Windsor Castle in peak season is during the week and after or during the changing of the guards at 11:00 am.
Windsor Castle can be very crowded on weekends and first thing in the morning. While it is tempting to get there for 10 am sharp opening, it is important to take note that most coaches arrive at Windsor Castle for opening. They then stick around for the changing of the guards at 11:00 am.
If you don’t care too much about seeing the changing of the guards in the castle grounds, arriving after 11:00 will offer fewer crowds and will give you plenty of time to explore the castle grounds before closing at 4:14 pm.
Plus, If you wait to enter the castle and still want to see the guards, never fear you can still see the band marching through town as the barracks are 500 metres from the castle. The best place to watch the marching band from town from is at Guild Hall or Castle Approach Road.
How Long to Spend at Windsor Castle
It is recommended to give yourself 2.5 – 3 hours at Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle has a whopping 1000 rooms (not all can be visited) but to make the most of your stay, we recommend picking up an audio tour. This will help you see the best of Windsor Castle. The audio tour is free with entry takes you through the State Apartments, St George’s Chapel and the Castle Precincts and provides commentary about the 1000 year old history. It is introduced by The Prince of Wales and then the staff of the royal residences discuss their duties and preparations for royal events.
What to Expect When Entering Windsor Castle
When visiting Windsor Castle be prepared to go through security similar to airport security. So keep that in mind when packing your bags. No sharp objects, keep your bag small, (no luggage or backpacks) and make sure your water is sealed.
Food and water are not allowed to be consumed in St. George’s Chapel, but water with lids can be used in the State Apartments. There is a cafe on the ground that has a limited menu and you can purchase water and beverages there.
Once you enter the State Apartments, Semi-State Rooms, or St George’s Chapel, no photography and video is allowed and mobile phones must be turned off. But you are allowed to take all the photos you want outside.
What to See at Windsor Castle
St. George’s Chapel
St. George’s Chapel is a stunning Gothic cathedral founded in 1348 by King Edward III. It is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married and it is still working chapel that is beautiful. When you go inside, admire its vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and royal banners. It is also the burial ground to many a royal including 10 English Kings including King George III, and Henry VIII plus his third wife Jane Seymour. It is considered most beautiful Christian church in England and is home to the Order of the Garter which is the senior order of British Knighthood.
It is open to everyone, and if you want to attend a service you can for free any day of the week even on Sundays – but if you choose to attend the Sunday services. Check for details here.
The State Apartments
When visiting the castle apartments, visitors will make their way to the State entrance and inner hall to tour the State Apartments, Semi-State Rooms. The state apartments are only open when the King is not is residence, but you can tour the others when he is there. (look for his flag flying to see if he is around)
Take your time admiring the Royal collection of armour, art. Outside a museum, this is one of hte few places where you’ll have the opportunity to admire paintings by Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Plus, make sure to take note of the fine English and French furniture.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
One of the most popular rooms to visit at Windsor Castle is and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a 1:12 scale replica of items from the 1920s aristocratic home. It was completed in 1924 with remarkable details right down to replicas of books and bottles of wine.
The Castle Grounds
There are plenty of things to admire outside as well. Besides the Towers and castle gardens, there is the Horseshoe Cloisters built between 1478-1481 by Kind Edward IV to house the priests and vicars serving the chapel. But what is not to be missed is the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park. The long walk spans nearly six miles through the 2,020 hectares (5,000 acre) park. Keep an eye out for red deer here.
Address: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ
Telephone: +44 (0)303 123 7304
A visit to Windsor Castle is a fantastic day trip from London but to really make the most of your stay, spend a weekend or mid-week mini vacation in Windsor. There are plenty of things to do in Windsor. The castle alone covers 13 acres with the Windsor Great Park spanning 5000 acres. It’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of days outdoors.