With yet another pair of British Royals getting married soon, London is getting more busy as people are looking for the best Royal Britain experiences and discover Royal London places such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and of course Windsor Castle in England.
We were invited by the people over at isango!, a company to find the best tours, sightseeing and other fun things to do around the world, to take a half day trip and discover the history of Windsor Castle, explore the rest of London by hop-on hop-off bus in search for other Royal Experiences and of course meet the Queen.
Ok, maybe not meet the Queen. But we got pretty close!
Today, we’d like to show you some of our best pictures of Windsor Castle and share some tips on how to plan your own #RoyalDayOut.
Windsor Castle Facts
How familiar are you with the Britain Royal Family history and all the facts about Windsor Castle. Well, we didn’t know much about that either before we moved to London in 2013. But since then, we’ve been to quite a few places and are soaking up the country’s history. There is so much to learn about it and all those kings and queens can make the story-line a bit confusing!
Luckily, there was a really good audio guide at Windsor Castle, so we got to learn a bit more about the royal British family. Here are some fun facts:
Who Lives at Windsor Castle?
British Kings and Queens and other members of the Royal Family of England have been living at Windsor Castle for about 1000 years now and even to this day, Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her private weekends at the castle. During Easter, Windsor is her official residence during a time known as ‘Easter Court’. In June, she is here for a week to attend the Royal Ascot and the service of the Order of the Garter at St George’s Chapel.
It’s interesting to realize that Windsor Castle is still a working royal palace when you visit, because besides the ‘airplane security’ kind of check when you enter and some ‘do not enter’ signs, the entire place seems so open and easy to access. I’m sure there is a whole lot more of security into place than we can see… apart from the guards with (probably) loaded machine guns, that is, ok, never mind what I just said. The castle just has a nice atmosphere, I meant to say ;)
The castle is regularly used for ceremonial and State occasions, including official visits from overseas Heads of State. At St George’s Hall they keep the State Banquet and St George’s Chapel, tjhe wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be held.
While it was William the Conqueror who first built the castle (you might remember him from our story of our visit to the Tower of London), he didn’t actually live in the castle, as it was used as a defensive base at the time.
Over the years, the Castle would be enlarged and restructured by different kings and queens during their reigns, of which Henry I was the first British royalty to live at Windsor Castle. Also Queen Victoria (pictured above), who we wrote more about in our review of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, spent the majority of her reign (1837-1901) at Windsor.
There are some amazing details in and around the castle to remind you of the history of the British Royal Family in England
Who Built Windsor Castle?
As mentioned briefly before, William the Conqueror chose the site for Windsor Castle, even though he never lived here. He started construction around the year 1070 and over 16(!) years later the castle was ‘complete’, but many more sections were added over the years after that. He picked this spot, because it gave easy access from London and was close to a royal hunting forest. He didn’t pick it because -as our tour guide said people’s number one question was- it was so nice and close to Heathrow airport. Whaha.
The first addition to the building came in the late 12th century, when the grandson of Henry I added two separate sets of royal apartments within the walls (that were originally made of timber) of the castle. One was a public or official State residence in the Lower Ward and the other was a smaller private residence on the North side of the Upper Ward.
The original Norman keep was rebuilt as the Round Tower you can see on the picture below in 1170 and the entire outer perimeter was renewed over the next 60 years. Also the buildings in the Lower Ward, the Chapel and the Courtyard with Cloister were added by Henry II.
Round Tower Windsor Castle
From the 1350’s up until his death in 1377, Edward III went completely bonkers on the building and turned it from a military fortification to a grand gothic palace for the Great Britain Royal Family. He may or may not have spent £50,000 in the process, which might not seem much these days, but then it was more than any other medieval English king spent on any other single building.
The only major change made by Henry VII in the late 15th century was to build a narrow range west of the State Apartments. His successor Henry VIII added the gate that bears his name at the bottom of the Lower Ward and the terrace of timber along the north side of the Upper Ward, from where he could watch the hunt in the park below.
Throughout the 1570’s, many parts of the building were under repair and Elizabeth I also built a long gallery overlooking the North Terrace, which was incorporated into the Royal Library during the 19th century.
The apartments created by Charles II in the 17th century (which were to rival the achievements of his cousin, Louis XIV, at Versailles in France), survived virtually unchanged to the end of the 18th century, when George III added a touch of neoclassicism to several of the rooms. George IV wanted the castle to be even more imposing and added towers and battlements, a new grand entrance and staircase, new chambers and god knows what else. By the time he finally went to live at Windsor (end of 1828), his improvements had cost about £300,000. Not much has been added since, which seemed like a good plan, right?
Windsor Castle: Definitely one of the most Beautiful of the British Royal Residences!
Check the Inside Windsor Castle Interior of the State Apartments
The State Apartments are the highlight of your visit to the interior of Windsor Castle, we could’t take photos, but expect lots of painted ceilings, incredible carpets, detailed carvings on the furniture and lots and lots of amazing paintings by famous artists acquired by the Royal Family England. We spotted a few works of Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Rubens and were just in awe!
Besides the State Apartments, there are also the Semi-State Rooms, which are the private apartments created for George IV. These are used by The Queen for official entertaining.
During our visit, the Queen was actually ‘in residence’, so some of the rooms were closed off, but we still got to see a good portion of them, so don’t worry. Just make sure to check the website when you’re planning to visit to see if any section of the apartment rooms in Windsor Castle might be closed off to the public.
Waiting to Tour the State Apartments Windsor Castle!!
Map of Windsor Castle
When you pick up your audio guide, make sure to grab a map, Windsor Castle is quite big! If you’re on a tour from London to Windsor Castle like we were, you’re time here is limited, so you want to make the most of it and plan your visit before you start running around the Windsor Castle Rooms. (ps. don’t actually run guys… remember: if you break it, you take it!)
We decided to first visit the Chapel, then the State Rooms and then be outside for the Changing of the Guards. With our time left, we would explore the town of Windsor a little bit!
The audio guide was really good, so I can recommend to grab one, they are included in your ticket price, so why not? There are numbers on the walls, so you know when to start listening.
Windsor Castle Chapel
St. George’s Chapel is a Gothic building build around 1475 under the reign of Edward IV. The incredible ceiling was later added by Henry VII.
We weren’t allowed to take any pictures here, so I guess you’ll have to admire it during the Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19th of this year :)
Dollhouse Windsor Castle
One of my personal favourites to see was Queen Mary’s Dolls House Windsor Castle. Such a shame I couldn’t photograph it for you, but this life-sized house was build for Queen Mary by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924. Back then, dolls houses weren’t actually for kids, but it was to show off all the rooms and expensive items (and the latest technology) that you owned!
The Windsor Castle dolls house is amazing, because you can walk all around it and see every room with every tiny detail from up close. There are thousands of little objects that have been made by artists, designers and other craftsmen, on the scale of 1:12. There is even a full library, fully stocked wine cellar and complete garden! And if that wasn’t enough, there is actually working electricity, running hot and cold water, working lifts and flushing lavatories. Yah.
Windsor Castle Fire
From all the highlights on our day trip to Windsor Castle, there was also one low point, as we heard about the fire Windsor Castle endured in 1992. I didn’t know this, but the Semi-State Rooms were severely damaged, although their contents had been moved elsewhere at the time, how lucky! Even so, the fire still destroyed 115 rooms, including 9 State Rooms.
The fire started because of a faulty spotlight in Queen Victoria’s Private Chapel. It took 15 hours to finally extinguished it and left everyone with a massive restoration task. The “Lantern Lobby” was created in the space where the private chapel had previously stood and where the fire had started and St George’s Hall was restored to a design close to the room’s original 14th-century appearance, but with a 20th-century reinterpretation. You wouldn’t even know anything had happened at all!
Windsor Castle Gardens
At the castle, you don’t really walk through the gardens, as most of them are closed off by a massive wall, but they are gorgeous to look at, don’t you think? You can definitely picture members of the royal family of Britain strolling around them casually!
Windsor Castle Gift Shop
There are a few Windsor Castle shops within the walls, where you can find exclusive gifts inspired by the British Royal Palaces and the works of art in the Royal Collection. Everything from home-wares, china, clothing and jewelry, children’s toys, books and postcards… you can find it here!
Windsor Castle Changing of the Guards
Maybe you’ve already seen the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace in London, but did you know that you can also watch the Changing of the Guards at Windsor Castle? It’s less crowded than in London, although it’s still crowded enough, believe us!
The ceremony takes place to allow the handover of duties between two groups of guards. This is a military tradition that has been carried out since 1660. Such a great part of the history of Windsor Castle, don’t you think? The guards march through Windsor town into the Castle, where the guard change takes place under the sounds of drums.
Make sure to get outside the State Apartments about 15-20 minutes before 11 AM (on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), because there really is only one fence to see it, and the section behind the wall is only allowed for a select few people, after a certain time they will close that section. We were there exactly at 11 and when the Windsor Castle guards came marching in, we had to jump up and down to get a glimpse of them over the people in front of us (of course all holding their phones up in the air – arg!)
The ceremony takes quite a while, so people will stop watching and walk away, so we did end up finding a bit of a gap and got to see it a bit better. But if you want to be front row – get there in time! If you missed it, or if it’s not on for some reason, there will still be smaller groups of guards marching around the castle and changing with each other, which is fun to watch as well.
For all tips on if, where and when the parade is going on, this site is super helpful: changing-guard.com/changing-guard-windsor-castle
Changing of the Guards Windsor Castle Apartments Courtyard
Above: What they don’t show you in the brochures :)
Exploring More of Windsor
Enough learned about the hundreds of Royals Britain has? After your Windsor Castle visit, we can recommend to take a bit of time to explore the old center of Windsor itself as well. There is a nice shopping street and you can also find shops and restaurants around the train station, where your bus tour started.
Here is a quick impression:
Exploring More of Royal London
Besides our Windsor bus tour, we spend the rest of our afternoon exploring London by the Golden Tours hop-on hop-off bus, which took us all around London via a series of stops you could go off. From our departure point at Victoria Coach Station, we walked over to the Buckingham Palace bus stop to start our sightseeing tour.
Here is a quick photo impression of our afternoon, with suggestions of activities to add to your Royal Day Out:
The Queen’s Gallery is a public art gallery at Buckingham Palace. It exhibits works of art from the Royal Collection on a rotating basis (about 450 works are on display at any one time)
There are many different routes, all marked by a colour. We were on the Red Route, which shows you all the highlights & buildings of the the Royal Family Britain!
The Horse Guards is a historic building between Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade. Here you can watch the changing of the Queen’s Life Guard and visit the Household Cavalry Museum.
Getting to Windsor Castle from London
If you’re planning on visiting Windsor Castle London, then here is your complete guide to help you out with tips on getting your tickets, how to get from London to Windsor Castle by bus, where to eat and drink, and much more:
Where to Get Tickets to Windsor Castle?
The Windsor Castle entrance fee is £21.20 for adults and £12.30 for kids under 17. Children under 5 go for free. With these Windsor Castle prices, a multimedia tour is included, which we highly recommend.
You can get your Windsor Castle tickets at the door from when it opens at 09:45 (1 November – 28 February) or 09:30 (1 March – 31 October), but I would HIGHLY recommend to arrive at least half an hour before the doors open, because the queue’s are going around the block. Another option is to visit after 11:30 when the groups have all gone in, but then of course you’ll miss the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle, which is really quite fun to watch. You can also get your ticket in advance from Isango.
If you decide to go on a group tour (more information below), of course the Windsor Castle admission is included in your ticket and you don’t have to buy anything on arrival, so that’s quick and easy!
With the London Pass, Windsor Castle is included! You can get a London Pass here: visitbritainshop.com/…/the london sightseeing pass
More information on your visit to Windsor Castle Engeland can be found on: royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle
Windsor Castle Tours from London
Where is Windsor Castle located? Windsor Castle can be found in the English county of Berkshire, close to London.
How to get to Windsor Castle from London? If you’re ready to take your own Royal tour of Windsor Castle, there are different options, such as visiting on a half-day morning tour or afternoon tour or a tour with lunch. You can also choose to go on a Windsor Castle and Stonehenge tour or even continue onwards to Oxford (check that tour out here). Some people on our bus were doing that – means you’re on a bus for over 12(!) hours, so I would recommend doing this on separate days, really.
How far is Windsor Castle from London? The bus from London to Windsor Castle left at Victoria Coach Station and only took us about 45 minutes on the way over, but on the way back, we had quite a bit of traffic and definitely took over 1,5 hours, so think about that if you’re planning any other activities in the afternoon when booking the morning tour.
TOP TIP: Please note that Victoria Coach Station is super-mega-crazy busy, so things can be a bit confusing when you arrive. Make sure to find out what the tour number is that you’re on (our half day trip bus to Windsor Castle was tour #9 for example), because that’s what they will be calling out, so you know you’re on the right bus. It’s written on your voucher! Just make sure you get to the bus station well in time, so you can find out where to go and not be stressed-out.
You can check all Isango tours to Windsor Castle from London here: isango.com/london/windsor-castle
Our Tour Windsor Castle Guide was Super Funny. Too bad he only guided us during the bus trip, not in the castle itself!
More group trips to Windsor Castle are arriving!
Busy much? Luckily our Tour Guide knew to get here on time, so we were the first group!
London to Windsor Castle by Train
To get the train to Windsor Castle from London, you’ll have to check with National Rail for departure times and fares. The Windsor Castle train station you’ll be going to is “Windsor & Eton Central” (best option) or “Windsor & Eton Riverside”.
TOP TIP: If you are planning to arrive by car, please note that there is no visitor car parking at the Castle, so you’ll have to use the public car parks in the town centre, which I can only see up ending in a disaster, to be honest. I would highly recommend to go by train or get yourself onto a relaxing coach trip.
Windsor Castle how to get there? I would pick this locomotive as my ride! HootHoot!
Events at Windsor Castle
At Windsor, there are regular exhibitions, performances and other special events going on all year round. One of the best special seasonal events has to be Christmas at Windsor Castle, when you can listen to “A Christmas Carol” performances and many other great family storytelling events.
For all the Windsor Castle Events, check the website: royalcollection.org.uk/whatson
Windsor Castle Afternoon Tea
At the moment, there are no facilities to eat at Windsor itself (they are still planning their first cafe), but you can pick up a re-entry permit from the Castle shops or the multimedia-guide return point to have a meal and come back.
For a nice Windsor Castle Tea, you could go to:
Restaurants Near Windsor Castle
We only managed to grab a cheeky donut at Krispy Kreme, but here are some Windsor Castle restaurants that you might enjoy:
Pubs Near Windsor Castle
We didn’t have time to go to the pub (it was still before midday as well!), but here are some suggestions:
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