Plan Your Trip: Windsor Castle

by Paul Stafford  |  Published June 1, 2021

The world’s oldest occupied castle, and home to the British Royal Family since the 11th century, is one of the top sights in England. Here are some tips for planning your perfect visit to Windsor Castle from London.

Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle (Photo: Getyourguide.com)

After William the Conqueror completed his Norman invasion of England in 1066, he set about stamping his authority across the new kingdom. Windsor Castle is perhaps the most lasting imprint of William’s reign. It can be found 21.7 miles (35km) away from Buckingham Palace – the official London residence of the UK’s monarch – in the charming town of Windsor, beside the River Thames.

England, Britain, the United Kingdom. English monarchs have reigned over a bewildering and ever-changing set of lands in the last one thousand years. During that entire time, Windsor Castle has become increasingly central to the lifestyle of the king or queen. Queen Elizabeth II is the 39th monarch to call Windsor Castle home. Most of her predecessors have added touches of their own through the decades.

While Windsor Castle started life as a military fortification, strong enough to withstand numerous attacks, it soon grew in size. A royal palace was added, then the buildings were enlarged, growing upwards and outwards. Next came the Gothic St George’s Chapel. By the time the Tudors, such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, were on the throne, Windsor was considered to be one of the finest buildings in the world.

Windsor Castle’s Long Walk (Photo: JackPeasePhotography via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Henry VIII used Windsor as a place to get foreign emissaries drunk. His remains are buried in St George’s Chapel, along with those of his third wife, Jane Seymour, the only one of his wives whose marriage to Henry VIII did not end due to death or divorce (the marriage with Catherine Parr, Henry’s sixth wife, ended with his death). Therefore, Jane Seymour was the only one of his six wives who was given a Queen’s burial (she died of a post-childbirth fever).

People have travelled far and wide to visit Windsor Castle for centuries, to marvel at its scope, grandeur and eclectic mix of architectural styles. Each addition over the centuries was completed to the highest standards by preeminent architects of the time. As such it is a living monument to the history of architecture, with fine examples of Gothic, Rococo, Georgian and Victorian features.

Today, visitors are allowed into some parts of Windsor Castle, St George’s Chapel and the grounds, following a prescribed route around the interior parts of the building. The lavishly decorated State Apartments are considered a highlight, showcasing the pomp and ceremony afforded to distinguished guests, as well as offering glimpses of the voluminous annals of history linked to the castle. It’s a thrilling window into the rarefied daily life of a royal.

Gothic windows of St George’s Chapel (Photo: davidgsteadman via Flickr / CC 1.0)

Hours, Directions & Parking

Hours: Windsor Castle opens from Thu–Mon at 10am and closes at either 5:15pm from March to October, or 4:15pm from December to February. On all opening dates, last entry is set at 75 minutes prior to closing time (either 4pm or 3pm). Please double-check these opening times in advance of your trip, because the castle can occasionally close at short notice when in use for royal functions.

St George’s Chapel operates on different hours to the castle. Its hours are the same throughout the year, opening on Mon and Thu–Sat from 10am–4:15pm. Last entry is at 4pm. It is recommended that you allow 90 minutes to visit Windsor Castle and an additional 30 minutes to visit the chapel.

Directions from London & Parking: Windsor is about an hours’ drive from Central London. The castle is on the northeast side of town, protectively cradled in a bend of the River Thames. However, there is no car parking available there, so you would need to find a public car park in town. Luckily, there are plenty of great tours that handle the transportation and ticketing for you, so you don’t have to worry about the logistics.

Windsor Castle from the Thames River (Photo: cchana via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

To get to Windsor Castle from Central London, head west on Cromwell Rd until it turns into the A4. After passing through Hammersmith, you’ll reach Hogarth Roundabout. Take the third exit onto Hogarth Ln. Stay on this road as it becomes the M4 and follow for 9 miles (14.5km) until reaching Junction 5, where you’ll exit and follow the signs towards the B470 for about 2 miles (3.2km). Once on the B470, after passing through Datchet town centre, you’ll come to the River Thames. Turn right here and follow the road around to the left. You’re now nearing Windsor Castle, and you’ll see signs giving car parking information.

Public Transport: There are trains running every 30 minutes from Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station. The journey takes 53 minutes and requires a ten-minute walk from the station to reach the castle. If you wish to take the bus instead, the direct Green Line 702 bus to Legoland runs roughly once an hour from outside Victoria Station (on Buckingham Palace Road), stopping in Windsor town centre.

Inside St George’s Chapel (Photo: JackPeasePhotography via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Tickets & Tours

Tickets only: Please bear in mind that Windsor Castle runs a timeslot ticketing service, which means the only way to visit is by making an advance booking and being sure to arrive on time. This is designed to keep Windsor Castle Covid-friendly and improve the experience by regulating and restricting the number of visitors at any given time. Once inside however, you are free to stay as long as you’d like within the opening hours.

At the time of writing, tickets cost £23.50 per adult and teenagers aged 17 or older, £21.20 for students and the over-60s, and £13.50 for children aged 5-16 years. Entry is free for under 5’s. You can book tickets on Getyourguide.com , where you can also find more information about making cancellations, getting refunds and changing your dates.

Tours: However, if you’re visiting Windsor Castle from London, the best option is on a guided tour that will handle all the ticketing, transportation and timings so that you don’t have to. Most tours to Windsor Castle depart from, and return to, London. The best ones make a day of it, adding other experiences into the mix along the way. This can be local, or it can be to top sights elsewhere in the south of England, such as Stonehenge, Bath and Oxford. Below are four of the best tours to Windsor Castle.

Plush interiors of Windsor Castle (Photo: Getyourguide.com)

Half-day Trip to Windsor with Castle Tickets – £64 per person – What better way to see the regal home where Queen Elizabeth II spends most of her weekend than on this half-day tour. Your coach will depart from Earl’s Court in London, giving you around two hours to stroll the castle grounds and explore the lavish State Rooms within, before returning you to London. This tour runs three times a week on average, on Mon, Thu and Fri, whenever Windsor Castle is open to the public. Book at Getyourguide.com

Windsor Castle Tour with Fish and Chips Lunch – £79 per person – If you’d like a little extra time to explore the town of Windsor, and a little more British whimsy thrown in as well, this excellent tour does the trick. You’ll board your transportation, appropriately, outside Buckingham Palace. Access to Windsor Palace is provided, and you’ll have time to explore the State Rooms and St George’s Chapel, which is still used for some of the lower-key royal weddings. Towards the end of the 5.5-hour tour you’ll return to London, where a delicious fish and chips lunch awaits. Book at Getyourguide.com

Fish and chips for lunch (Photo: Getyourguide.com)

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath Full-day Tour – £79 per person – If you’re keen to see as much of southern England as possible in one day, this 12-hour tour is phenomenal value. Not only does the fee include entry tickets and an audio tour of the State Apartments and St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, plus access to the ancient Stonehenge, but you’ll also have time to explore the honey-coloured, Roman-era buildings of Bath Spa. All transportation is included by air-conditioned coach. Book at Getyourguide.com

Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, Bath and Lacock Day Tour – £114 per person – There’s an even more ambitious day trip of southern England available too. Get to Windsor Castle nice and early to experience the opulence with fewer visitors around. After that, you’ll have a panoramic tour of Bath Spa. The really unique treat of this tour is the stop for lunch (included in the tour price) at a pub in Lacock. This historic village is like an open-air museum, with half-timbered houses and National Trust protected status. Finally, you can convene at Stonehenge for a taste of ancient England. This tour runs from Thu to Mon. Book at Getyourguide.com

The Roman Baths of Bath Spa (Photo: Getyourguide.com)