Windsor Castle: 10 Things To Know Before You Visit

We love London, but there’s so much more to the UK to explore! If you hop on a train you can experience some of the UK’s most historic sites and beautiful landscapes, like Windsor and Windsor Castle.

A visit to Windsor is an ABSOLUTE must!

Castles are perhaps the most iconic places to absorb the impressive history of the British monarchy. Windsor Castle has been the home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It’s an official residence of the Queen and is open to visitors year-round. The Queen spends most of her private weekends at Windsor Castle and spent the past few months sequestering here during Covid-19 The Royal Family has many other residences around England including Sandringham and of course Buckingham Palace in London.

Visiting Windsor Castle with kids
The Royal Standard is flown at royal residences only when the sovereign is present. If the Union Flag flies above Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or Sandringham House, it signals that the Queen is not in residence. The Queen was home during our visit!

The town of Windsor is roughly 22 miles outside of London, making it a lovely day trip from London. Trains run regularly from Paddington and Waterloo stations, and upon arrival in Windsor it’s about a 10-minute walk to Windsor Castle.

Trains from London to Windsor

We arrived at Windsor and it was simple to navigate since we could see the majestic Castle as we pulled into the station. Windsor is filled with lovely shops and restaurants. We stopped at the Cinnamon Cafe for a quick breakfast. The location was ideal as it’s nestled next to the Royal Windsor Information Center in the Old Station, directly across from Windsor Castle. Their menu was extensive and we opted for their delicious flat white coffee, while Julian chose the most gigantic cinnamon mocha I’ve ever seen.

cinnamon cafe was delicious

Cinnamon cafe in Windsor

They have a marvelous display of cakes and pastries which of course we had to try. Their traditional organic porridge was the perfect start to my day. We felt completely safe with their large outdoor seating area, which their friendly staff cleaned after every person.

Our Visit to Windsor Castle

Windsor is a great day trip from London – it’s a nice change of pace from the bustle of the city. As we approached the Castle, it was impossible not to sense the immense history and majestic energy of this regal area. After clearing security, we picked up our audio tour, and began to explore. Due to Covid there is a one-way system in place that made it easy to navigate.

best day trips from London

best day trip with kids from london to windsor

St. George’s Chapel

Attached to Windsor Castle is the breathtakingly beautiful St George’s Chapel.

St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

St. George’s Chapel has captured the worlds attention since it was the venue for several royal weddings including that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, and most recently Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.

inside of St George's chapel
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

The chapel was built in 1475 and took 53 years to complete. It can hold around 800 guests. You are not permitted to take photographs in any indoor area of Windsor Castle, but I promise it was absolutely magnificent!

As we wandered around, the sense of history was staggering. Among the royalty buried within the chapel are Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Charles I, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, is also buried there alongside her husband King George VI and their daughter HRH Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister. Official chapel website.

St, Georges Chapel

After exiting St. George’s Chapel, we slowly wandered through the spotlessly clean and immaculately presented Castle grounds.

Windsor Castle: Changing the Guard

To see the Changing the Guard ceremony, you need to be sure you begin your visit early, and allow plenty of time to get into the Castle for the 11 am ceremony.

Guard house at Windsor Castle

Typically the new guards march from Victoria Barracks on Sheet Street at around 10.45am through the Town Centre and into Windsor Castle. The Changing the Guard ceremony takes place in the Lower Ward of the Castle, outside the Guardroom at 11am. The old guards then march back to the barracks at about 11:25am. It’s all very regal and rather grand to watch.

changing the guard at royal residences

changing the guard

windsor castle changing the guard

The Windsor Castle Guard still changes, but the handover takes place inside the Guardroom with no band or ceremony.  For timings of the Changing of the Gurd at Windsor Castle Guard check the official website.

The State Apartments

The State Apartments are used today by The Queen and members of the Royal Family for their personal celebrations. The Queen also hosts official visits by Heads of State from other countries among other events.

After entering through the grand entrance, we walked the gilded hall filled with regal swords and and suits of armor. As we followed the ceremonial route, we were shown opulent and luxuriously decorated ceremonial rooms, filled with regal portraits and exquisite art. Like St. George’s Chapel, photographs are not permitted, which forced us to focus on the history and splendor of our surroundings.

the State Apartments at Windsor Castle
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

 

the State Apartments at Windsor Castle
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

A large part of the State Apartments was destroyed in 1992 by a devastating fire. They have been meticulously restored, virtually from scratch. The fire damaged 20% of the castle, including the ceilings of St George’s Hall, the Grand Reception Room, the State Dining Room and the Crimson Drawing Room. The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, and to experience actual history was incredible. More information on the State Apartments.

Princess Beatrice’s Wedding Dress

Princess Beatrice of York’s wedding dress, first worn by The Queen in the 1960s, is currently on display at Windsor Castle from 24 September – 22 November 2020.

Princess Beatrice Wedding Dress on display
Photo credit: STEVE PARSONS / PA MEDIA

The lovely display also features Princess Beatrice’s wedding shoes, made by Valentino and a replica of the bridal bouquet made from artificial flowers. Princess Beatrice’s Wedding Dress exhibit was for a limited time.

Afternoon Tea in Windsor

After spending the morning in such majestic surroundings, we felt it only fitting to stop for Afternoon Tea. Julian chose Dr. Choc’s Windsor Chocolate Factory. This is the PERFECT place to spend an afternoon with a teenager.

sr chocs windsor chocolate factory

We were given the option of  being able to select a wrap instead of being presented with finger sandwiches, as an entree to the delicious scones with jam and clotted cream, and cakes.

afternoon tea at dr. chocs chocolate factory in windsor

We were also able to select three choices of the delicious handmade chocolate created on site. The flavors were non-traditional and I opted for Bee Happy: Dark chocolate infused with honey and sprinkled with pollen, Jettsetter:  White chocolate infused with matcha green tea, bergamot oil and wafer and Chaicolate: milk chocolate infused with chai spice and honey. We enjoyed their house specialty hot chocolate made with real chocolate, and appreciated our surroundings overlooking Windsor Castle.

Afternoon tea in Windsor with kids

After our Afternoon Tea, Juan shared with us his knowledge of the cocoa bean, it’s history, and how chocolate is made. We were able to see him work his magic in his factory and get a true sense of his passion for chocolate.

juan making chocolate in dr. chocs windsor chocolate factory

What a treat, we enjoyed every minute! The staff were friendly and welcoming and it felt very clean and Covid secure. I highly recommend you visit Juan when you are in Windsor.

Walk from Windsor to Eton

Thoroughly refreshed, we wandered through this picturesque town, stopping at the famous crooked house of Windsor (photo below). Yes, it’s on a slant!

famous crooked house in windsor

After walking through town we crossed the Thames into Eton. You may have heard of Eton College as it’s been described as the most prestigious high school in the world. The school is known for educating Prince Harry, Prince William, and several future Prime Ministers, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Windsor and Eton are the perfect places to spend a day filled with spectacular history, stunning architecture, and are a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of London.

10 Things to Know Before You Visit Windsor Castle

  1. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance to avoid a long queue. You can get them from the official Windsor Castle website
  2. After purchasing a ticket you are able to visit again at no charge for up to 1 year after your initial visit.
  3. You are not permitted to take photographs in The State Apartments or St George’s Chapel. They are stunning and you’ll wish you could… but you cannot.  (and don’t even try to sneak one!)
  4. Be sure to arrive before 11am if you’d like to see the Changing the Guard ceremony.
  5. If the Queen is in Windsor Castle you’ll see the Royal Standard flag flying above the Round Tower. If she isn’t, the Union Flag will be flying.
  6. If you plan to visit St. George’s Chapel and The State Apartments, be sure to check opening times online since they are often closed.
  7. Many iconic photographs have been taken in the Green Drawing Room, including Archie Harrison’s official christening photographs, and also Prince Harry’s Christening photographs.
  8. While still a working palace, there are lots of homely touches around the castle, including paintings and framed photos of family members.
  9. The Queen records her annual Christmas broadcast from Windsor Castle.
  10. Be sure to save time to explore the town of Windsor and Eton across the Thames.  You’ll be sad if you miss this opportunity.

Windsor Castle Travel Tips

How far is Sandringham from Windsor Castle?

Sandringham Estate, located in Norfolk, and Windsor Castle, situated in Berkshire, are two of the British Royal Family’s most famous residences. The distance between them, if you’re travelling by car, is roughly 115 to 130 miles depending on the route you choose. The journey could take around 2.5 to 3 hours, again depending on traffic.

What’s the best way to get to Windsor Castle?

We took a train from London Waterloo. The train station is on the lower side of town, but it’s just a short uphill walk to get to the castle.  There are many regular services, check Trainline for times and prices.

Have you visited Windsor? What did you enjoy the most?

Let me know by leaving a comment below, and join me on Instagram and Twitter!

*** This article is sponsored but all opinions are my own***

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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