Windsor is an ideal day trip from London, just 30 minutes away from the city and full of royal history. The town’s main attraction is undoubtedly Windsor Castle, one of the Queen’s official residences. But beyond the castle walls, the riverside walks, shopping streets, and great restaurants and pubs make Windsor worth a visit. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Windsor, UK:
One of the UK’s top attractions, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. William the Conqueror first chose the site for a wooden fortress in the 1070s; the outer walls of the structure there today are in the same position as that original castle. Thirty-nine monarchs have lived at the castle since it was raised as a royal palace. The Queen spends a great deal of time at Windsor: she uses the castle as a private home for weekends away from Buckingham, and as an official royal residence where she hosts State Visits from overseas monarchs and presidents.
There is a good chance the Queen will be in residence when you visit. Look up at the flag to see — if the Royal Standard is flying, she’s home.
At Windsor Castle, take a guided self-guided audio tour of the property. Roam the grounds and the State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms. Take a look at paintings by famous artists — including Rubens, Rembrandt, and Canaletto — and elaborate China pieces on display.
Changing the Guard
If possible, try to time your visit with the Changing the Guard. This ceremony allows the Household Troops, the ‘Guards’ to hand over their duties to the next group. The Guards have been carrying out this duty since 1660.
The Changing of the Guard takes place at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but as the times can change, check the British Army website for updates.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
This famous dollhouse was built between 1921 and 1924 for Queen Mary, wife of George V. The house is extremely lifelike — the tiny house even has electricity, running water, and working elevators. It includes contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists and craftsmen of the early 20th century.
St George’s Chapel
While at Windsor Castle, make sure to check out St George’s Chapel, with entrance included in your ticket. King Edward III founded this chapel in the 14th century. Many royal weddings have taken place here, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.
Tombs of some of the most significant royals in English history lie in St George’s Chapel, including King Henry VIII, Edward IV, George III, Charles I, and the Queen Mother.
For a free trip to the chapel, attend Evensong — a choral tradition that dates back 500 years.
Windsor Great Park
After touring the castle, take the long walk in Windsor Great Park. This 2.65-mile path flanked with trees leads to a huge 5,000-acre park — the former hunting grounds for Windsor Castle in the 13th century. The long walk also has great views of the castle: it is easy to imagine what visiting dignitaries from centuries past would have felt when arriving at Windsor for the first time.
Windsor is situated on the bank of the River Thames. Up until the 1800s, English monarchs would travel between Windsor, Westminster, Hampton Court, the Tower of London, and Greenwich Palace on the river.
Walking along the bank of the Thames is a great way to explore the town, but taking a boat cruise along the river is even better. Windsor Duck Tours offers sightseeing tours of both the town and the River Thames — the vehicle divides its time between both roads and the river. Kayak tours are also available on the Thames, if the weather cooperates.
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While in Windsor, make sure to cross the River Thames to Eton, Windsor’s sister city. Eton is home to Eton College, one of the most prestigious boys’ schools in the country. Nineteen British prime ministers were educated here, along with many famous British actors. Prince William and Harry are also Eton alumni.
Wandering down Eton’s historic high street is an essential part of a trip to Windsor. Browse quaint antique shops and art galleries on your way to take a look at the Eton College grounds. On Sunday afternoons, the College’s museums are also open for visitors.
Food, drink & afternoon tea
In between castle tours and strolls along the Thames, stop for a pint at one of Windsor’s best watering holes. Just outside the gates of Windsor Great Park, Two Brewers is a classic English pub with great food. Or visit the Bel & the Dragon, a historic restaurant that has been serving food since the 11th century. The Afternoon Tea at Bel & the Dragon is perfect for a treat. Lilly’s Café is also an excellent stop for sandwiches, brunch, cakes, and coffees.
For local beers, visit Windsor & Eton Brewery. Tour the brewery, learn about the beer-making process, and check out what makes Windsor beers unique. The brewery also has a flagship pub, The George, which is located just across the Thames. The George is known for its great beer garden in the summer months.
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Windsor is an easy train trip from London: take a train from Paddington Station to Slough and change at Slough for a train to Windsor and Eton Central. In the summer months, taking a hop-on, hop-off bus through Windsor is an excellent way to see as much of the town as possible.
Visit the Savil Garden in Windsor Great Park, 35-acres of interconnected gardens with rare plants from around the world. If you are escaping the hustle of London, these gardens are the place to relax and connect with nature.
For a more luxury getaway, consider visiting Cliveden House, a National Trust building that has been turned into a hotel and spa. The estate is only about a 15-minute drive from Windsor, so if you have a car, Cliveden House is worth visiting for a wander around the grounds — the Cliveden Maze has almost 500 metres of paths to explore — or a fancy dining experience.
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Though Windsor is known for its royal history, kids might be more excited to learn that Windsor is the home of LEGOLAND, one of the UK’s best theme parks. There are over 50 LEGO-themed rides and attractions, and even a resort hotel with themed bedrooms.
From ancient royal history to over-the-top theme parks, visitors of all ages will enjoy a day out in Windsor.
For more day trips from London, check out this guide; and to make the most of your time in London, read our tips for creating the perfect itinerary, sticking to a budget, and visiting the liveliest neighborhoods.
What is your favorite royal destination in the UK? Let us know on Twitter!