With more than 1,000 years of history, Windsor Castle is one of the most impressive royal palaces in and around London. Holding the remarkable title of the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle, Windsor Castle has been home to 40 monarchs and is the final resting place of 11 kings and queens, including Queen Elizabeth II. Whether you’re fascinated by all things royal or are just intrigued by history, Windsor is a wonderful day out from London. The castle is surrounded by an expansive park and the town of Windsor and neighboring Eton are full of classic English charm. Read on to find out more about Windsor Castle and how to plan the perfect day trip to London!
Visit Windsor Castle
It was William the Conqueror who first decided in the 11th century to build a fortress above the river Thames to protect the western approach to London. Windsor Castle has since grown to a 1,000 room estate on 13 acres of grounds and has long been a favourite royal residence. This was where the late Queen Elizabeth II was brought up and a place she loved dearly. The castle has been royal residence for now 40 kings and queens and the exquisite State Rooms are even more impressive than you could imagine. Spend time exploring the treasure-filled Ceremonial Rooms used by the Royal Family, the Historic Rooms that were built for Charles II, and the Semi-State Rooms that were the private apartments of George IV. Along the way you’ll see the remarkable collection of decorative arts and paintings by artists like Hans Holbein, Van Dyck and Rubens.
You can even catch a Changing of the Guard ceremony at Windsor Castle, which takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays. If you need a break while exploring, stop in the Undercroft Café for a break.
St. George’s Chapel
If you were one of the millions of viewers watching Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018, you had a beautiful view of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Many royal weddings have taken place at this ornate 15th-century chapel, which is one of the most important examples of the late-medieval Perpendicular Gothic style in England. Construction began under King Edward IV in 1475 and the chapel built relatively quickly. All the majesty and gracefulness of Gothic architecture is on display when you step inside. It was during the reign of Henry VIII that the spectacular fan vaulted ceiling was added and the chapel finally completed in 1528. Over the crossing is the coat of arms of Henry VIII and along the Quire, the choir area, are the colorful coats of arms of the Knights of the Garter, a senior order of British Chivalry that was established in 1348 by Edward III.
St. George’s Chapel holds the tombs of 11 kings and queens and you’ll want to spend time finding the many royal tombs and memorials. If you’re visiting to see Queen Elizabeth II’s final resting place, be sure to visit the King George VI Memorial Chapel. There you’ll also find King George VI, The Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, and HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.
St. George’s Chapel is an active place of worship with multiple services daily and visitors are welcome to attend.
Windsor Great Park & Savill Garden
Just like London’s royal parks, Windsor Castle once had an enormous private garden. This dates back to the 11th century when William the Conqueror began the fortress that would become Windsor Castle and the surrounding countryside was used as a Norman hunting ground. Today the Windsor Great Park is 5,000 acres of beautiful land. One of the most distinctive features is The Long Walk, which stretches 2.64-miles from the castle gates up to the Copper Horse, an equestrian statue of George III. It’s lined with horse chestnut and London plane trees that turn gorgeous colors in the autumn.
While the Great Park is free to enter, garden enthusiasts won’t want to miss The Savill Garden located within the park. Since it was created in 1935, this 35-acre garden is a haven for nature lovers. You’ll find beautifully landscaped themed gardens as well as peaceful woodland. Stop in the visitor centre for The Savill Garden and Great Park for more information about what to see and do in the park.
Stroll around Windsor & Eton
After strolling through the Great Park, spend some time walking along the Thames as it runs right through Windsor. There are lovely riverside pathways and various types of boat trips along the river. You can also cross the river on the pedestrian only bridge at Thames Street to explore the neighboring town of Eton. Famous for its college, it has a charming high street and just like Windsor you’ll find cute shops and tons of traditional English pubs. Be sure to try the area’s most famous local brews made by the Windsor and Eaton Brewery.
How to get to Windsor from London
Just a bit under 25 miles west of central London, Windsor is an easy day trip to make by train. From London’s Paddington station, Great Western Railway operates trains to Windsor with a transfer at Slough for a final quick ride to the Windsor and Eton Central train station. You can make the trip as quickly as 35 minutes, but it may take a little longer depending on connections. For a direct journey of about 55 minutes, take the South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to the Windsor and Eton Riverside station. Both stations are a short walk from the castle, the quaint centers of both Windsor and also Eton located across the Thames from the castle.
Tips & Best Windsor Tours from London
To avoid disappointment, always check in advance on the Windsor Castle website for any unexpected closures and to ensure the castle is open for your visit. As it is a working royal palace, it can close from time to time. The castle is open throughout the year and is generally closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Entrance to St. George’s Chapel is included in the Windsor Castle ticket, but do note that it is open on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you visit on Sunday, you will not be able to see inside St. George’s Chapel. Book a Windsor Castle entrance and audioguide in advance to have the best experience.
Take all the worries out of transportation and see even more iconic spots near London on a Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath Tour, the Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford tour, or the Stonehenge at Sunrise, Oxford & Windsor Castle tour. They all include comfortable transportation and are a fun and worry-free way to see Windsor Castle from London.