windsor castle

Windsor Castle: The Ultimate Visitor Guide

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One of the Monarch’s principal, official residences and also one of the most iconic British landmarks, Windsor Castle is much more than just a famous English attraction. With its over 950 year history, Windsor Castle is one of the most continually occupied and also one of the oldest castles in the world, making it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Britain.

Windsor Castle Visitor Guide

Your essential guide on what to see, how long to stay, best time to visit, ticket and tour prices at Windsor Castle

With a bit of advanced planning, you’ll be able to create an awesome itinerary for sightseeing at Windsor Castle. Let’s help you make the most of your time with some handy hints and tips:

When to Visit Windsor Castle

During the winter months, King George IV’s Semi-State Rooms are usually open to visitors, which means that this might be the best time to visit the castle. You may still visit the castle anytime between the months of March through October. The doors open to the public every day at 09:30 and close at 17:30. During the months of November through February though, the opening times are 9:45 with the doors closing to the public at 16:15.

How to Get to Windsor Castle

Located roughly 25 miles from Central London, Windsor Castle can easily be reached via car or public transport systems.

Getting to Windsor Castle by Train

There are direct services, operated by Southwest Trains, which run to Windsor &Eton Riverside Station from the London Waterloo Station. Trains depart every 30 minutes of the day and should get you to the station in just under an hour.

You may also choose to use a faster option, the First Great Western, which runs a more frequent service to Windsor Station from Paddington Station every 10 minutes throughout the day. Taking this train will get you to the station in about 30 minutes, but keep in mind that you’ll have to change trains at Slough.

Getting to Windsor Castle by Bus

The Green Line express Coaches, which run on routes 701 and 702, travel between London Victoria Station and Windsor bus station, several times per hour. Taking the bus should get you to the castle in roughly an hour.

Getting to Windsor Castle by Car

From Central London, take the M4 to exit 6 and simply follow the signs to Windsor Town Center. Keep in mind that parking lots fill up quickly, especially during the summer months, so if you have to self-drive, make sure you get there early. You may choose to park in the Long Stay Parking areas since they cost roughly half the price of regular parking, albeit Long Stay Parking is located further away from the actual castle and may call for a leisurely 20-minute walk to the castle.

How Long to Linger at Windsor Castle

When you pop over to Windsor Castle’s official website, they suggest that the average tour of the castle should take you a good three hours. If you visit the castle in winter though, you may find that the lines for entry are significantly shorter and an average tour takes a mere 90 minutes or so.

If you plan on visiting the castle during the summer months, keep in mind that the queues are often very long, especially if you plan on seeing the State Apartments.

Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

Seeing the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Windsor Castle is a great experience to be had and is very similar to those on display in Central London at Buckingham Palace or the Horse Guards.

Changing of the Guard
Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle

Windsor’s Changing of the Guard normally takes place at 11:00 a.m. on the Castle grounds from Mondays to Saturdays. Visitors that wish to witness the Changing of the Guard should congregate in the parade ground by the main exit, which is located in front of St George’s Chapel.

If you’re not there to witness the ceremony you may still see the band marching through town at around 11:00 a.m. With the barracks being located 500 meters from the castle itself, the band passes the Guildhall and the Old Town before returning to the Queen Victoria statue on the castle grounds.

Windsor Castle’s State Apartments

As you trail through the tour of Windsor Castle, you’ll be passing by the Waterloo Chamber before heading through an area known as the State and Semi-State Apartments.

Windsor Castle’s State Apartments
Windsor Castle’s State Apartments / Royal Collection Trust

The State Apartments were created for Charles II and Catherine of Braganza between 1675 and 1678. These sequences of rooms reflect the baroque tastes of the times and are always open to the public, displaying some of the Royal Collection’s greatest treasures. Some of the highlights of the State Apartments include:

  • The King’s Drawing Room – This is where you’ll get to see paintings by Van Dyke and Rubens alongside a captivating musical clock.
  • The King’s Bed Chamber – Although Charles II never slept in his bed, this room was used for the courtly ceremonies performed nightly before the King retired to his smaller room nearby.
  • The King’s Dressing Room – Paintings, including Breughel’s painting of the Massacre of the Innocents, are kept in this room alongside other important Northern Renaissance paintings in the Royal Collection.
  • The Queen’s Drawing Room – In here, the most remarkable painting is the Portrait of Charles I in Three Positions by Van Dyke.
  • The King’s Dining Room – This room was created for Charles II’s private entertainment. The dark and masculine room, covered in rococo decorations and wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons is a must see.
  • St. George’s Hall – Often used for state banquets, the St. George’s Hall is well worth seeing. Measuring in at 185 feet long, this room can hold a table big enough to seat 160 guests.
  • The Lantern Lobby – What was once a private chapel, the Lantern Lobby is now being used to display gilded silver objects from the Royal Collection.

St. George’s Chapel

Built between 1475 and 1528, St. George’s Chapel was completed under Henry VII and is considered a true masterpiece of Late Medieval Perpendicular Gothic.

St. George’s Chapel
St. George’s / The Enchanted Manor

Officially, the chapel is known as a Royal Peculiar, meaning that it’s not part of the usual Anglican hierarchy which falls under the supervision of a bishop or archbishop. Instead, the clergy for the chapel is appointed by the Queen herself.

As the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, St. George’s Chapel is home to several important royal tombs as well as host to the occasional royal wedding ceremony. Here are some of the notable tombs you can look forward to seeing while visiting St. George’s Chapel:

  • The Tombs of King George V and Queen Mary
  • The Carved Memorial to Princess Charlotte
  • The Memorials of Queen Elizabeth II’s parents
  • A Stone Slab in the Center Isle of the Quire (which is actually the entrance to a vault housing the tombs of Henry VII, Charles I, and Jane Seymour.

Ticketing Info for Windsor Castle Sightseeing Tours

Depending on whether the Royal Apartments are open to visitors, ticket prices for entrance to Windsor Castle may vary.

Tickets are priced accordingly and include a range covering adults, seniors over the age of 60, students, children under the age of 17, and families (which include two adults and three children under the age of 17). Children under the age of 5 do not pay for entrance. For the latest prices, you may refer to the Royal Collection Website.

Keep in mind that visitors are permitted to register their tickets for unlimited re-entries to the castle, valid for a full year from the date of their first visit after they are done with their tour. To help avoid the hassle of waiting in line to purchase your tickets, you may also buy them online.

Seeing Windsor Castle on a London Attraction Pass

If you have a valid London Attraction Pass, you qualify for free entrance to the Windsor Castle, among the many sightseeing destinations included in your packaged deal. You can check the London Pass website for more information on this offer.

Little Known Facts about Windsor Castle

  • The castle grounds at Windsor cover roughly 5 hectares of land
  • During World War II, the royal bedrooms were reinforced, and windows of the castle were blacked out to help strengthen the castle, should it be targeted.
  • Deemed one of England’s most impressive and beautiful buildings, the St. George’s Chapel is also the burial place of 10 great monarchs.
  • Just south of the castle, there’s an area known as The Long Walk, a paved avenue of trees which trails down a 3-mile long straight line.
  • Windsor Castle officially employs and houses 500 people on an annual basis.

Final Thoughts

Open year-round, Windsor Castle is a majestic vision of battlements and towers. Used for state occasions, the Royal Standard flies from the Round Tower. Whether you’re joining a guided tour of the wards or taking a handheld multimedia tour of the lavish State Apartments and beautiful chapels, you’re bound to be captivated by this royal castle.

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