Guide To Windsor Castle, Day Trip From London

Windsor Castle is a striking 11th century castle that’s the official home of the royal family. The palace is the longest occupied royal residence in the world. It’s been the symbol of the monarchy for 1,000 years.

At the castle, you can see the sprawling grounds, take the “long walk,” admire lavish staterooms, and visit a magnificent Perpendicular Gothic chapel.

Grand Reception Room
Grand Reception Room

Not only is Windsor an authentic medieval castle, it’s home to some of the finest and most famous paintings in the Royal Collection.

You’ll find master works from English portraitists, the Northern Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance, and the Baroque eras.

In this guide, I tell you everything to see at Windsor Castle and give you tips for visiting. Among other things, you can expect to see:

  • Queen Marys’ Dolls House
  • St. George’s Hall
  • State Room & Semi-State Rooms
  • Waterloo Chamber
  • Garter Throne Room
  • Queen’s Gallery
  • St. George’s Chapel
  • The Long Walk
the exterior of Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle & Its Royal Residents

900 years ago, England’s first king William the Conqueror began work on Windsor Castle. The layout of the castle was a central tower or keep with two flanking baileys (fortified enclosures).

Both Henry I and Henry II expanded the castle. In 1225, the wooden keep was replaced with the stone Round Tower.

In the 14th century, the castle made its transition to a royal palace thanks to the castle building king Edward III. He added the Gothic lower ward and a suite of royal apartments in the upper ward. Edward also instituted the chivalric Order of the Garter.

pin for guide to Windsor Castle
Pinterest pin for guide to Windsor Castle

In 1475, Edward IV began building the beautiful St. George’s Chapel. The next major period of development came after the bitter mid 17th century English Civil War between the Crown and Parliament.

After the Crown prevailed, Charles II and his architect wanted to make a statement after the power and authority of the crown. They altered the exterior of the castle and added some opulent Baroque state rooms.

Charles also acquired some valuable Leonardo da Vinci drawings. Unfortunately, you can’t see them because they’re under tight security in the Royal Library.

When George III inherited the throne, Windsor became his favorite residence. During George’s reign there was a renewed interest in Gothic architecture.

Thomas Lawrence portrait of George IV
Thomas Lawrence portrait of George IV

George eliminated many of the castle’s 17th century Baroque features and began restoring the castle. He also added over 40 Canaletto paintings to the Royal Collection.

The next king, George IV, was a rakish lover of women and wine. But he also became the monarchy’s greatest art collector. George IV continued to transform Windsor in a Gothic revival style.

He chose not to use the traditional state apartments. Instead, he added a private suite of glittering rooms that are now called the “semi-state rooms.” Elizabeth II formerly used these rooms for formal entertaining.

Windsor was at is heyday during the reign of Queen Victoria. This is where she met her husband Albert. They chose to make Windsor their principal home.

the Long Walk to Windsor Castle
the Long Walk to Windsor Castle

Victoria invented the tradition of “dine and sleep.” She would invite prominent society figures to dine and spend the night at Windsor Castle. She held small dances and musical events in the Crimson Drawing Room.

Since the time of George IV, very few changes have been made to the castle.

When Edward VII succeeded to the throne, Windsor was looking a bit tired and dreary after Queen Victoria’s long widowhood. He did some redecorating, modernizing, and smartening up.

When Edward VII abdicated to marry American Wallis Simpson, George VI took over. His two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret grew up and were educated at the Windsor Castle.

Nowadays, Windsor is owned by King Charles III. He inherited it from his mother Elizabeth II.

interior of the medieval St. George's Chapel
interior of the medieval St. George’s Chapel

Order of the Garter

The Order of the Garter is the most prestigious order of chivalry in Britain. It was founded in 1348 by Edward III.

The order’s patron saint is St. George. The order’s motto is “Shame of he who thinks evil of it.”

Originally, the order consisted of the king himself, the Prince of Wales, and 24 senior members of the royal family and aristocracy. Today, knights are also chosen from men and women making significant contributions to the nation.

The Garter Day Procession takes place at Windsor Castle in June. Accompanied by marching band, members proceed from the state apartments to St. George’s Chapel.

They wear the velvet robes of the order and ostrich plumed hats, echoing the medieval costumes that were once worn.

view of Windsor Castle on the Thames River

Tickets & Tours For Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is a popular place and one of the best day trips from London.

So you need to plan in advance. Ticket lines can be very long in the summer months.

Click here to book a skip the line admission ticket. Windsor Castle is also included in the London Pass, if you have that card.

Click here to book a guided day tour to Windsor from London. You can also book a private guided tour from London.

You can also visit Windsor on a guided day tour with Oxford and Stonehenge. Another lengthy (but awesome) day tour combines Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath along with lunch in the Cotswold village of Lacock.

aerial view of Windsor Castle
aerial view of Windsor Castle

What To See At Windsor Castle, The Complete Guide

Here’s are the top things to see at Windsor Castle on a day trip from London.

1. Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is a 100 year old rendering of the royal household. It was designed by Britain’s leading architect of the time, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and presented to Mary in 1924.

It wasn’t intended to be played with. Rather, it was built to reflect the best in British craftsmanship. Everything in the house is designed perfectly to scale with an astonishing level of detail.

The dollhouse has electricity, running water, and working lifts.

ceiling of St. George's Hall
ceiling of St. George’s Hall

2. St. George’s Hall

This is the grand room where state banquets and functions are held, though there hasn’t been one since 2014.

When they do happen, the queen sits in front of the bust of Queen Victoria. Microphones are hidden in the floral arrangements.

The vaulted ceilings are covered with emblems of the Knights of the Garter. Some of them are blank.

Those are the naughty knights, who were convicted of high crimes or treason. This mostly took place during the Tudor era when they also stripped off their heads.

Above the two doors are portraits of Queens Mary and Anne. At the end of the hall, you enter the Queen’s Guard Chamber. There, you’ll find weapons and busts of British war heroes from Nelson to Churchill.

the North Terrace
the North Terrace

3. State Rooms and Semi-State Rooms

You enter the state apartments from the North Terrace. You can’t take photos in here, so I only have a couple stock photos to show you.

As was traditional, the king and queen had a separate set of state apartments. Visitors would move through a succession of rooms. Each one was designed to limit access to the monarch, according to his or her rank.

The rooms are dripping with chandeliers, beautifully furnished, and strewn with art collected by a long line of kings and queens.

Major renovations to the state rooms were made in the 17th century by Charles II (trying to rival Versailles) and in the 19th century by George IV. 

In 1992, a fire devastated the castle. It destroyed much of the southern part of the State Apartments, which are now restored to their original splendor. 

There are so many rooms, one just can’t cover them all in a single blog post. So I’ll give you some of the must highlights.

Waterloo Room
Waterloo Room

Waterloo Chamber

The Waterloo Chamber is a magnificent wood-ceiling room. This is where some of the most famous paintings in the Royal Collection at Windsor are kept.

You’ll find a who’s who of popes, monarchs, statesmen, and commanders. The portraits celebrate the victory over Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo.

Many were painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was the court painter of George IV.

This room is also where you’ll find Claude Whatham’s “Pantomime” pictures. They are murals he painted in the rooms of the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret after their paintings were removed for safekeeping during the Blitz. 

Garter Throne Room

The Garter Throne Room served as Queen Victoria’s principal Throne Room. It’s also the room where new Knights and Ladies of the Garter are invested by the Queen.

In this room, there’s a famous portrait of Elizabeth II in her coronation robes.

the Garter Throne Room

Crimson Drawing Room

One of the most eye catching rooms in the palace is the Crimson Drawing Room. It features beautiful red damask walls and gold-leafed furnishings.

This part of the castle was severely damaged in the fire of 1992. Luckily, the valuable art was salvaged. The rooms have been fully restored according to the original plans.

You’ll find a portrait of George VI and a portrait of the Queen Mother.

Green Drawing Room

Originally designed as a library, the Green Drawing Room follows George IV’s favorite plan — a long room with a bay window in the center. The room has a magnificent carpet, which survived the fire in 1992.

The room is filled with Morel and Sedon designed furniture. The display cabinets contain one of the finest Sevres porcelain dining service ever made. 

This was ordered by Louis XVI of France for his own use at Versailles and later bought by the king.

Van Dyck, Charles in Three Positions, 1653 -- in the Queen's Drawing Room
Van Dyck, Charles in Three Positions, 1653 — in the Queen’s Drawing Room

Queen’s Gallery

This is one of the castle’s most important rooms. Until the creation of the Grand Reception Room and Waterloo Chamber in the 1830s, this was the principal ballroom of Windsor.

The room was redecorated by Queen Victoria. She hung it exclusively with portraits by Anthony van Dyck

There are usually 11 paintings hung, including a famous one of Charles I on horseback. You may recognize this painting because a copy of it it overlooks the dining room in Downton Abbey.

Anthony van Dyck, Charles I with M. de St. Antoine, 1633
Anthony van Dyck, Charles I with M. de St. Antoine, 1633

Queen’s Drawing Room

This room is home to some of the finest Tudor and Stuart portraits in the Royal Collection. 

These include the famous Charles I in Three Positions by Van Dyck, a Holbein-esque portrait of Henry VIII, and William Scrots’ portrait of Elizabeth I as a princess.

The latter portrait is the finest painting of Elizabeth I before her succession. It was probably painted for her father Henry VIII.

King’s Closet

This room was Charles II’s dressing room. The ceilings were painted by Anthony Verrio, with mythological frescos glorifying the monarchy.

The room is also filled with paintings from the Netherlands, including works by Breugel and Cranach. You’ll find Cranach’s famous Apollo and Diana.

the king's bed
the king’s bed

There’s also a rare and famous portrait of Richard III tugging at his ring. The painting was doctored to make him look like a hunchback and murderer of the Princes in the Tower. There’s also quite a few portraits of other monarchs.

King’s Bedchamber

The King’s bedchamber was a formal room where the king met with his advisers and discussed matters of state. Only the most powerful members of the court were allowed to enter the room.

The room features walls covered in red damask and a plaster ceiling decorated with the Stuart coat of arms.

The elaborate bed was part of the ritual of dressing and undressing the king in the presence of nobles. It was created by French woodworker Georges Jacob.

It’s draped with green and purple fabric similar to those used when French Emperor Napoleon III came for a State visit in 1855.

Bronzino, Portrait of a Lady in Green, 1528-32 -- in the King's Dressing Room
Bronzino, Portrait of a Lady in Green, 1528-32

King’s Dressing Room

This room is where the king actually slept. It’s home to the important Northern Renaissance paintings in the Royal Collection. 

There are portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Albrecht Durer. The most famous work in the room is Pieter Breughel the Elder’s The Massacre of the Innocents.  

There are also famous Italian Renaissance paintings by Bellini, del Sarto, and more. I was riveted by Bronzino’s beautiful Portrait of a Lady in Green.

King’s Drawing Room

This room is also known as the “Rubens Room.” It’s full of paintings by the Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens. A painting of the Holy Family hangs above the fireplace.

Charles II used the room to receive guests and hold court assemblies.

changing of the guard
changing of the guard

4. Changing of the Guard

The changing of the guard usually takes place at 11:00 am on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The famously stoic guards are clothed in the same red tunics and bearskin that they sport at Buckingham Palace.

The new guards are led by a marching band. They march from their barracks on Sheet Street up High Street into the castle’s parade ground on the lower ward (by the main exit).

After a half hour of music and photos, the old guards march back the way the new ones came.

If you want a front row seat to watch the ceremony, you should plan to arrive around 10:30 am.

the beautiful St. George's Chapel
the beautiful St. George’s Chapel

5. St. George’s Chapel

St. George’s Chapel is a stunning medieval chapel. It’s in the Perpendicular Gothic style of architecture, just like the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

It was begun by Edward IV in 1474. More recently, this is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in 2018.

The nave has classic fan vaulting. Banners of the Most Noble Order of the Garter line the nave.

The banners honor living knights. The 800 golden panels on the choir seats honor departed knights.

Under the upper stained glass windows is a frieze of 250 angels carved in great detail.

The chapel holds a number of famous royal tombs. Heading up the left side of the nave, you’ll find the chapel dedicated to George VI. He’s buried there with the Queen Mother.

St. George's Chapel
St. George’s Chapel

Both Phillip and Elizabeth II will eventually be buried with them. Phillip rests in the Royal Vault right now. But when the queen dies, he will be transferred to the the chapel with the queen.

On the floor, you’ll find a plaque marking the burial spot of Mad King George III (of the American Revolutionary War era).

Henry VIII is buried with his third wife Jane Seymour in the chapel’s Royal Vault, which is behind the choir and underneath the Albert Memorial Chapel. This public cannot enter this area.

Henry VI, Edward IV, and Edward VII are also buried in the sacristy.

On your way out, stop to admire the Albert Memorial Chapel. It was dedicated to Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, after his death in 1861. 

The interior is elaborately decorated with colored marble, mosaics, and sculptures. It contains the sarcophagus of the Duke of Clarence, the eldest and rather wayward son of Edward VII. 

Be sure to admire the decorative ironwork on the 13th century Gilbertus door in the east end of the chapel. It’s a stunning medieval work signed by the smith who created it.

the Long Walk
the Long Walk

6. The Long Walk

If you want to stretch your legs after ogling the elegant castle interiors, take a stroll down the Long Walk. You can see it from the state entrance of Windsor Castle.

It’s a 2.6 mile tree-lined street created during Charles II’s reign. It’s part of the Windsor Great Park. Views of the castle from the walk of some of the most iconic shots of Windsor.

The Long Walk is especially beautiful in autumn when the oak and chestnut trees break into autumnal colors.

You access the Long Walk from the George IV Gate close to the south front of the castle.

pub in Windsor Village
pub in Windsor Village

George III loved the park. He commissioned a famous equestrian statue of George II on horseback. It stand on one end of the Long Walk on Snow Hill.

7. Windsor Village

A small village is built up around the castle.

It’s full of lovely shops, restaurants, and pubs. Be sure to wander down High Street, Thames Street, and the pedestrianized Peascod Street.

The Windsor Royal Shopping Center is near the railway station. There are over 40 shops.

me enjoying my tour of Windsor Castle
enjoying my tour of Windsor Castle

Tips For Visiting Windsor Castle

Here are some must know tips for visiting Windsor Castle. I also tell you other attractions you can visit in the area.

1. How To Get To Windsor Castle

By car:

Windsor is only 20 miles from London and takes about 45 minutes. The town is off the M-4 highway. It’s well signposted.

There are long stay car parks less than a 10 minute walk to the town center and castle. There are short stay car parks in the center of the town that cost a bit more.

By train:

London’s Paddington Station connects with the Windsor & Eton Central Station. It’s a high speed train that takes 30 minutes, but you have to change trains at Slough.

London’s Waterloo Station connects with Windsor’s other train station, Windsor & Eton Riverside. This train is slower and takes about 55 minutes.

From either train station, it’s a 5 minute walk to the castle.

You can also visit on a guided tour, which I explained above.

Queen Victoria statue outside Windsor Castle
Queen Victoria statue outside Windsor Castle

2. Where To Stay Near Windsor Castle

You might consider staying overnight in Windsor after the daytime crowds have gone. You can better enjoy the village’s charm and perhaps even attend evensong in St. George’s Chapel.

The Castle Hotel Windsor is a luxury boutique hotel just .2 miles from the castle itself. You should also check out the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel and the Fairmont Windsor Park, where you can get the royal treatment.

Windsor is a good place to overnight if you’re flying out of London the next day. The town is only 15 minutes from Heathrow Airport. You can book a private transfer to get you there from Windsor.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1565 (KIng's Dressing Room)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1565 (KIng’s Dressing Room)

3. Is Windsor Castle Worth Visiting?

Windsor Castle is 100% worth visiting.

It’s an authentic medieval castle with a wow factor that’s an official residence of the royal family. I found it much more fascinating than Buckinghman Palace or Kensington Palace.

In fact, the art collection alone merits a visit. And St. George’s Chapel is stunning.

The real question is whether to visit on a combination tour or allot more time to visit the castle. I think Windsor really warrants a half day visit, so you’re not rushed. Come in the afternoon as most of the guided tours seem to arrive in the morning when the castle opens.

the Round Tower
the Round Tower

Practical Guide & Tips For Visiting Windsor Castle

Address: Windsor SL4 1NJ

Hours: March to October 10:00 am to 5:15 pm, closing at 3:00 from November to February.

Ticket price: 28.00 pounds. The ticket comes with a complimentary audio guide, which is narrated by none other than King Charles III when he was the Prince of Wales.

Pro tips:

There is no photography permitted inside the castle or St. George’s Chapel, which is a tad disappointing. Photos of the interior above are stock photos.

The staff in the state rooms are incredibly knowledgeable. You can grill them for more information.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to visiting Windsor Castle. You may enjoy these other London travel guides and resources:

If you’d need a guide for Windsor Castle, pin it for later.

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1 thought on “Guide To Windsor Castle, Day Trip From London”

  1. Hey there! Just finished reading your article on visiting Windsor Castle, and I couldn’t wait to drop you a line. First of all, kudos on this comprehensive guide; it’s evident that you poured your heart into it. Your writing made me feel like I was right there exploring the castle, from the stunning architecture to the rich history. Windsor Castle has been on my bucket list for a while, and after reading your article, I’m more determined than ever to make that trip a reality.

    Your tips and recommendations are incredibly helpful, especially the part about booking tickets in advance to avoid those long lines – a real lifesaver! And the mention of St. George’s Chapel and the State Apartments got me all excited; they sound like must-see attractions. Plus, your personal anecdotes and insights added such a lovely touch to the article. It’s like I had a friend guiding me through the entire experience. Thanks for sharing this valuable information, and I can’t wait to read more of your travel adventures in the future! Keep up the fantastic work.

    I also loved your photos; they’re simply breathtaking! They complement your words so well and give readers a real sense of what to expect. The details about the Changing of the Guard ceremony and the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House were fascinating. All in all, this article has made me even more eager to explore Windsor Castle, and I’ll definitely be referring back to your guide when I plan my trip. Thanks again for the great read, and I look forward to more travel inspiration from you soon. Cheers!


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