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The Complete Guide to Visiting Windsor | Things to Do, Where to Stay & Eat, & Top Tips

The final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II is one of the top places to visit in the UK. Windsor Castle is the major attraction in this town on the River Thames, but it has much more to offer. Other reasons to visit include pretty parkland and the cobbled streets lined with lovely pubs and independent shops. 

Visit Windsor, and you could also take the Long Walk, hop on a boat trip, see the Crooked House, witness the Changing of the Guard, dine out at a historic pub or smart restaurant, and much more. 

This ultimate guide to visiting Windsor shares a wealth of information on subjects such as how long you’ll need and when to visit the castle, walking distances, places to stay, where to eat, and taking tours – both within the town and from London. 

Read on to learn all you should know about Windsor – before you go!

If you want to know your options regarding getting to Windsor, then check out our Windsor Castle visitor guide to find out how to reach it by train, car, coach, or organised tour.

There are two train stations in Windsor – Windsor & Eton Riverside, by River Thames, or Windsor & Eton Central, in the centre of town. Both are a short 10 minutes’ walk from the castle. 

If visiting from central London take the direct train from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside in just over 1 hour.

Good to know – OYSTER CARDS are NOT accepted on this route – you will need to purchase a train ticket!)

The next thing you need to know about visiting Windsor Castle is how long to spend there. Though the Royal Collection Trust advises allowing at least 90 minutes to an hour, we reckon you should spend at least two to three hours there.

On a sunny day, you might want to allow extra time to linger over a picnic in the grounds, too. 

So do you need to pre book your tickets to Windsor Castle?

You can choose between booking in advance and simply turning up on the day. When you do the latter, you’ll be allocated the next available time slot for admission, which is of course subject to availability. If you buy tickets from Get Your Guide, you can claim a full refund when cancelling 24 hours or more in advance, should your plans change.

If you purchase a London Pass note that entrance is only after 1:00 pm and is subject to availability on the day.

Something you should know before heading to Windsor Castle is about when the castle is closed. It opens between Thursday and Monday, so is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The castle is open during all seasons, throughout the year, though the popular St. George’s Chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays. 

However, as it’s a working royal palace, Windsor Castle can often close at short notice. So do check before you go to avoid disappointment! Opening hours are generally from 10 am to 4.15 or 5.15 pm. Find out more about Windsor Castle opening times in this guide

Windsor Castle’s top attractions include the State Apartments, the Semi-State Rooms, Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, the Moat Room, and of course St. George’s Chapel. 

The Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle is when the Household Troops hand over the watch to the next soldiers. It occurs at about 11 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Check the Household Division schedule here before travelling if you want to witness this colourful ceremony.

If you want to build your own one-day Windsor itinerary, then why not choose from the following sights to see and things to do? It’s easy to do these as well as – or instead of – visiting the castle, as everything is fairly close together.  

You can see the Long Walk from the State Entrance of Windsor Castle. It stretches for around two-and-a-half miles, and comprises an impressive, tree-lined route. King Charles II created the walk between 1682 and 1685, and following the route will also take you through Deer Park. The latter offers around 500 red deer and ancient oak trees.

Book a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus in Windsor, and you could see the sights from a double-decker bus. As well as the castle, you can see the likes of Eton College – the UK’s most prestigious private school – and Windsor Great Park. 

Jump on and off as you like to explore at each of the 10 stops. Or complete the entire loop in as a little as 45 minutes. 

Click here to book a City Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Windsor

Visiting Windsor and using the hop on and hop off bus to get around as shown in the image.

A lovely way to see more of the Windsor area – and to experience the River Thames – is to take a boat trip. We can personally recommend doing this! One reputable operator is French Brothers Ltd, who are based at the Clewer Boathouse. 

You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Long Walk for a very special way to see Windsor. These are operated by Windsor Carriages, and you can make you feel like royalty!

This 1687 building in central Windsor was rebuilt in the 1700s, yet remains very off-kilter. The tall, narrow, Grade II listed structure has three storeys, and bay windows at the front and rear. Apparently the wood used in its construction warped as it dried out, causing the house to lean. 

In its time, it’s said that the Crooked House on the High Street in central Windsor has been an antique shop, a butcher’s, and a brewery. Today it’s England’s oldest tea house, and a great place to eat in Windsor.  

A fun and delicious diversion in Windsor is Dr. Choc’s, a chocolate factory and cafe. You can take an express workshop here to make a trio of chocolate bars to take home. 

Click here to book Dr. Choc’s Express Chocolate Making Workshop

If you want to enjoy a different sort of shopping experience in Windsor, visit Windsor Farm Shop. It lies on the fringe of the Home Park, within the Windsor Estate. It has a cafe, and sells all sorts of local goods, including meat, fruit and vegetables, freshly baked goods, and preserves. 

You could pick up a picnic here to enjoy in the castle grounds, or at Windsor Great Park.

Delve into local history at Windsor & Royal Borough Museum. The small depository is housed at Windsor Guildhall, which is packed with original, character features. You can learn about local history at this family-friendly museum via collections, exhibits, and interactive displays.

While in Windsor, you really can overdose on royalty if you want to! Head to the 17th century, Grade I listed Frogmore House, which isn’t open to visitors, but you can of course see it from the outside. This has housed Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie, plus many other royals historically.

Other buildings to see include Prince Andrew’s 30-room home the Royal Lodge. There’s also Fort Belvedere, which still belongs to the Crown, but is now rented out privately. 

There are lots of lovely, independent stores in Windsor where you can pick up unique gifts. Whether for yourself or others, find a one-off item to wear or take home while shopping in Windsor. 

If you want to see Windsor the easy, no-stress way, then taking a guided tour from London can be the best way to go. 

Day trips typically include all transport, last between 6.5 and 11 hours, and may include other locations – such as Stonehenge or Bath – as well as Windsor. Some also cover London landmarks, like Buckingham Palace or Westminster. 

Why not check out our preferred partner Discover Real London Black Cab Tours who do a Discover Royal Windsor Tour – you will be sure of an amazing day out with Ollie and his team.

Find out all about the best Windsor tours from London here. You can also discover the best guided tours within Windsor in the same article. 

If you want to enjoy an overnight stay in Windsor, here are our recommendations. 

This four star riverside property is located in the heart of Windsor, so it’s within walking distance of the train station and castle. It’s got a restaurant with a terrace for dining by the river, and 133 guest rooms. The historic 17th century building also has the wow factor for sure.

Click here to book a room at the Sir Christopher Wren

The Castle Hotel is situated opposite Windsor Castle, and offers four star accommodation. It’s convenient for everything, and provides both character and luxury. It’s only a few minutes’ walk from both train stations, slap-bang in the town centre, and has a newly-opened restaurant.

Click here to book a room at The Castle in Windsor

If you don’t mind being just two to three miles from central Windsor, you get access to over 40 acres of landscaped grounds. De Vere Beaumont Estate offers four star facilities, including two restaurants and an indoor pool. 

Click here to book a room at the De Vere Beaumont Estate

Royal Adelaide Hotel in Windsor is right opposite the Long Walk, and close to the castle and other attractions. The elegant 19th century building offers a range of boutique accommodation, plus a bar and restaurant.

Click here to book a room at the Royal Adelaide Hotel

When location matters, the Macdonald Windsor Hotel is unbeatable. It’s right by the castle on Windsor High Street, and offers four star stays in individually styled rooms. Accommodation is comfortable, and there’s a restaurant and 24-hour room service.

Click here to book a room at the Macdonald Windsor Hotel

Here are a few suggestions for a memorable meal out in Windsor. You could also ask at your hotel for a local’s recommendation. 

  • The IvyA contemporary, beautifully located brasserie from a leading UK restaurant brand (and look at their gorgeous bathroom!)
  • Windsor Farm ShopMeat, pies and other produce from the royal estate with a cafe and great deli
  • Leaf at the Castle Locally sourced produce and a fantastic afternoon tea
  • MeimoTasty Moroccan cuisine
  • The BoatmanA historic pub on the river offering home-cooked meals and a fab Sunday roast
  • Honest Burgers WindsorPopular burger chain

As you can see, there’s a lot more to Windsor than the famous royal castle. This compact, historic town is very walkable indeed, and easy to reach by public transport from London and other locations. 

Whether you tour the castle, join a Thames boat tour, take the Long Walk, make chocolate, dine out in style, shop til you drop or stay over, you’re guaranteed to have a great time in Windsor!

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