Windsor Castle Tours
Windsor Castle tours let you visit the favourite residence of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world, Windsor is built up of an entire complex of buildings, walls, towers and with its’ own chapel. Located on the outskirts of London, visiting Windsor Castle from London is exceptionally easy and makes a fabulous day out for the entire family.
- Where is Windsor Castle | How to get to Windsor Castle from London
- Windsor Castle Tours
- Royal Weddings
- History of Windsor Castle
- Free Tours by Foot London
Windsor Castle is in the village of Windsor, just west of London. It is an easy day trip from London, where you can take one of our many walking tours. The closest train station to Windsor Castle is
- Windsor and Eton Riverside – Trains depart from London Waterloo and London Paddington
It is about an hour train ride if you want a direct train or surprisingly, its faster if you’re willing to change at Slough. We recommend Google Maps for up to date train directions.
The Castle is an easy walk from the station – no transport required. The walk is about 7 minutes and well signed. You should be able to see the castle as you exit the station.
Though this is the residence of the Queen, it is open to visitors. You’ll be able to tour:
If you’re interested in Royal Palaces, check out our post for more information.
When you first enter, we suggest you take the free 30 minute guided tour of the exterior grounds, the Precincts Tour.
- March to October – Daily – 9:45 to 17:15 (5:15pm)
- November to February – Daily – 9:45 to 16:15 (4:15pm)
TIP: Plan on spending 1-3 hours to for Windsor Castle tours. There are fewer queues in winter that can make a visit shorter.
As a primary home for HM Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor Castle is often closed for events and different parts of the complex may occasionally be inaccessible. Always check the website (www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle) before your visit.
- Adult – £18.50
- Under 17 – £11.00
- Under 5 – FREE
- Family (2 adults, 3 under 17) – £48.00
When the State Apartments are closed due to events or plans by the Royal Family, tickets are discounted.
- Adult – £10.00
- Under 17 – £6.50
- Under 5 – FREE
- Family – £26.50
Windsor Castle is a massive complex that spreads out over 13 acres. There are various walls, areas, buildings, etc. but what follows is a list of the primary locations.
As you can tell from the name, the Middle Ward is in the centre of the Castle complex. The Middle Ward is based around an artificial hill in the centre of complex. On top of the man-made hill is the Round Tower – based on an original 12-th century building that stood here. The Round Tower is perhaps the most dominating feature of Windsor Castle and currently holds part of the Royal Archives. Guided tours of the Round Tower are available and provide a stunning view towards Eton College and out over Windsor Great Park.
The Middle Ward is guarded by a Norman Gate house dating from the 14th century.
The State Apartments follow the floor plan of the original medieval foundations dating from the time of King Edward III. Most of the interior dates from the Victorian era but comprises architectural styles spanning over the centuries, including the Rococo Louis XV styled rooms, holding classic works of art and tapestries. These are the rooms where the Queen entertains high profile guests throughout the years and includes reception and dining rooms.
For many, the highlight of the State Apartments, is Queen Mary’s dollhouse – an incredible 1920’s creation filled with an astounding collection of miniature items that all actually work. The house is done to a 1:12 scale and is furnished by the same companies that provided goods for the actual State Apartments themselves.
The spiritual home of the Order of the Knights of the Garter, St. George’s Chapel dates from the 15th century and has seen centuries of royal history. There is a window here built by King Henry VIII for his first wife, Katherine of Aragon and he is, in fact, buried here with his third wife, Jane Seymour. King Charles I is also interred here as is the medieval war-time king, Edward IV. Closer to present day, this is also where the Queen’s parents – King George VI and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – are buried. The chapel is a real gem in the Windsor complex and is an incredible example of the merge of royal history and architecture.
The Home Park is on the edge of Windsor Great Park which spans over 4,800 acres. It boarders the prestigious Eton College and holds some of the oldest broadleaved woodlands in all of Europe. Two working farms are contained in the parkland and it is a favourite location of the Queen who used to frequently ride her horses here.
Just outside the walls of the Castle complex is the centre of Windsor itself. Cobbled streets are lined with Georgian buildings, holding delightful pubs and authentic tea-rooms. A great place to take afternoon tea, go for a stroll in the park, grab some lunch or just to take photos of the quaint streets, Windsor centre is worth exploring on your visit. Keep an eye out for plaques identifying houses of historical note, famous names, and statues that dot the neighbourhood. There is also good shopping at the city centre, as well as at the rail station.
St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is one of the many locations where you can find celebrations of royal weddings in addition to Westminster Abbey (William and Kate) and St. Paul’s Cathedral (Charles and Diana). For his second marriage, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles had their Prayer and Dedication Ceremony at St. George’s Chapel.
On May 19, 2018, Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle will wed at Windsor Castle in St. George’s Chapel. It is rumored that the reception will take place inside the castle inside the Grand Reception Room, among others.
This will be a well publicized event but much smaller than his older brother, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. St. George’s Chapel only sits 800. The date is also not scheduled for a bank holiday, but the same day as the FA Cup Final – which Prince William usually attends. Indications point that the royal family doesn’t expect, or perhaps want, the same public presence as William and Kate. However, Meghan Markle will be the first person of mixed race and only the second American to join the royal family and has garnered a lot of attention and support.
The history of Windsor Castle is written by the Kings and Queens that have sat on the throne over the years…
Originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has been a primary seat of the royal family ever since. In the 12th century, the Castle complex was expanded and improved by King Henry II and became a base for King John when he was forced to hide from the population before the eventual signing of Magna Carta – at Runnymede, just near the castle.
King Henry III heavily altered and invested into the Castle and he transformed the royal accommodation rooms into the luxurious and opulent rooms that we would today expect to exist inside a royal castle. Much of the layout of the Castle today is because of Henry’s updates in the mid-13th century.
King Edward III was born at Windsor Castle and used it primarily as his base for the rest of his reign. He is the king who established the Order of the Garter and declared Windsor as its headquarters. Edward spent £51,000 on his renovations – the largest amount spent by any medieval monarch on a single building operation. When you consider that Edward’s annual income was around £30,000, it’s easy to see the sheer value he placed on the buildings!
Centuries later, King Henry VI was born at Windsor (and declared Henry of Windsor) and his wife was later held hostage here by King Edward IV during the tumultuous Wars of the Roses. It was this Edward who began the construction of the present St. George’s Chapel in 1475. King Henry VII, eventual and ultimate victor of the Wars of the Roses, completed the Chapel and began using Windsor Castle to host diplomatic events. Ultimately his son, King Henry VIII, who continue additions to the Castle and would eventually come to rest at St. George’s Chapel.
The youngest daughter of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, used Windsor Castle as a safe haven for crises as it was considered the most secure of royal strongholds. She often used Windsor to entertain but by the end of her reign, Windsor was considered too small and improvements were required. William Shakespeare makes light of the constant flow of foreign visitors in his work ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor.’
King James I held a drinking session with the Danish King Christian of Denmark IV in 1606 that became known throughout Europe for the scandalous behaviour of the two Kings and James’s son, King Charles I was the one who finally turned an artistic eye to the Castle and added the much needed expansions to the complex. However, all his work was to be undone during the Civil War when the complex was seized by the Parliamentarians and totally ransacked. It is estimated that a total of 3,580oz – or 101kg – of gold and silver was taken from the Castle at this time. Charles himself would end up buried in the Chapel here – after his public execution in 1649.
After the years of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and Windsor was the only royal residence he modernised during his 25-year reign – showing the importance of the complex at the time. It was Charles who initially brought in the idea of a French design – mimicking the grand palace of his cousin King Louis XIV of France.
The castle fell out of royal favour during the early Hanoverian reigns but was brought back to the forefront of the royal court by King George III in the mid-18th century. George spent over £150,000 to modernise and redesign the complex – equal to over £100 million today – and he is to be credited with the park and gardens there today. Near the end of his reign, when the King descended into madness, Windsor Castle became his prison.
His son, King George IV picked up the work his father had done, managing to spend double what his father did to bring the interiors of the Castle to a modern 19th century luxury design and it is a lot of his work that visitors still see today. George’s niece, Queen Victoria, initially found Windsor to be ‘prison-like’ but she lived here with her husband and it was here that he died in 1861. Both Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were eventually buried in the Home Park here.
Our current queen, Elizabeth II, spent the majority of her childhood here with her sister and the rooms the princesses lived in were specially reinforced during the Blitz and Windsor was considered the best place for them to stay during the bombings. Since the beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth has used Windsor as her principal weekend home.
Windsor was the primary home for the Queen’s children when they were growing up and today it is where she spends the majority of her time. Windsor Castle hosts just as many banquets and state events as Buckingham Palace does, although the latter is far more famous. It is thanks to Queen Elizabeth II that Windsor is such an accessible location for tourists – she has pushed significantly for the building to be maintained and available for the public to enjoy.
St. George’s Chapel is where the Queen invests new members of the Knights of the Garter, a tradition that still continues, and it is in that chapel that the Queen’s son, Charles, Prince of Wales, married the Duchess of Cornwall. Every year from March/April the Queen takes up official residence here at Windsor Castle known as ‘Easter Court.’ During this time period, the Queen has ‘Dine and Sleeps’ where guests, including politicians and public figures, are invited to a banquet…and sleep over!