Windsor kasteel

Visiting Windsor Castle: 10 Top Attractions, Tips & Tours

Spectacular Windsor Castle has long been the summer residence of the British Royals. Since William the Conqueror built the first castle here in 1078, royal families have resided for long periods, many leaving their own unique stamp on the property. Much of Windsor Castle – the longest-occupied royal residence in Europe – is open to the public and is one of England’s top tourist attractions. Windsor Castle is built around two courtyards: the Upper Ward and the Lower Ward, with entrance through the Grade II listed Henry VIII’s Gate, built in 1511. Windsor Castle is easy to combine with other nearby attractions, such as Stonehenge, on a full-day tour from London.

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1 St George’s Chapel

St George’s Chapel
 

The chapel of The Knights of the Order of the Garterconsidered one of the best examples of the English perpendicular gothic styleis committed to Saint George and was begun by Edward IV in 1474. The facades are decorated with heraldic emblems of the ruling houses of Lancaster and York – to the north are the stags, bulls, falcons and black dragons of the Yorks, and to the south are the unicorns, lions, swans and red dragons of the Lancastrians. The vault of the fan in the nave and choir is impressive, as is the stained glass window from the west (1503). Behind and above the stalls are the coats of arms, banners and decorative plumes of 700 Knights of the Order.

The chapel has several royal tombs, including those of George V and Queen Mary, parents of Queen Elizabeth II. Henry VIII and Charles I are buried in the vault under the chancel, while Henry VI, Edward IV and Edward VII are buried in the vestry. St. George’s Chapel is the traditional home of the 26 Knights and Dames of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – Britain’s highest order, founded in 1348 by Edward III.

2 Albert Memorial Chapel

Originally known as the Lady Chapel and built in 1500 to contain the tomb of Henry VII (he was buried in Westminster Abbey instead), the Albert Memorial Chapel was dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, after his death in 1861. The interior is elaborately decorated with colored marble, mosaics and sculptures, and contains the sarcophagus of the Duke of Clarence (1864-1892), Edward VII’s eldest son. The marble figure on the west door shows the Duke of Albany († 1884) in Scottish splendour. The chapel is accessed through a passage on the east side of St. George’s Chapel.

3 The State Apartments

The State Apartments Donna Rutherford / photo modified
The State Apartments Donna Rutherford / photo modified
 

Only open when the Queen is not in residence (check that the Royal Flag is flying above the Castle – if so, she’s home), Windsor Castle’s state apartments have changed throughout their history to suit the tastes of the present monarch. Major renovations were done in the 17th century by Charles II (who wanted his palace to rival Versailles) and in the 19th century by George IV. The most notable rooms are the Queen’s Gallery and the Dining room, each with a beautifully painted ceiling and carvings. Art treasures include a large collection of works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Canaletto and Rembrandtalong with antique furniture, armour, weapons and even the bullet that killed Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.

4 The semi-state rooms

The Semi-State Rooms Ian Gratton / photo modified
The Semi-State Rooms Ian Gratton / photo modified
 

Like the State Apartments, the equally lavish private apartments created for George IV are open to visitors between September and March when they are not in use for official entertainment. These are one of the lavishly decorated interiors in the castle and are used by the Queen for official entertainment. The most lavish of this new suite of apartments is the beautiful Crimson Drawing Room, with its damask walls and gold-leaved furnishings. This part of the castle was badly damaged in the 1992 fire, but fortunately the valuable art and decorations had been moved elsewhere when the fire hit. The rooms have been completely restored according to the original plans.

5 Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House

Queen Mary's Dolls' House Rob Sangster / photo modified
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House Rob Sangster / photo modified
 

Queen Mary’s Dollhouse is a masterpiece of craftsmanship presented to Queen Mary in 1924. Designed by the leading architect of the day, Sir Edwin Lutyens, it is furnished with working miniatures created by leading artists, designers and craftsmen. A perfect miniature replica of an aristocratic home, it is filled with thousands of objects, many of which actually work – drawers open, cars in the garage have their engines running, running water flows from the small faucets, the bed linens are monogrammed, and the library is filled with miniature books, all in 1/12 scale. Queen Mary used it as a display to raise funds for charitable causes.

6 Changing the guard

The Security Guard Geoff Clark / photo modified Share:
The Security Guard Geoff Clark / photo modified Share:
 

No visit to Windsor Castle would be complete without witnessing the Changing the Guard ceremony. This traditional piece of British pageant takes place in the Castle Precincts from Monday to Saturday mornings at 11am, from April to July. The rest of the year it takes place on alternate days, weather permitting.

7 The Horseshoe Cloisters

The Horseshoe Cloisters
The Horseshoe Cloisters
 

On the south side of the Lower Ward are the homes of the Military Knights of Windsor, also members of The Most Noble Order of the Garter. Known as the Horseshoe Cloisters, they were built in 1479 in the half-timbered style. The Cloisters of the Dean and the Cloister of Canons, former homes of the Dean and Canons, are also very picturesque.

8 Windsor Castle Gardens

Windsor Castle Gardens Francisco Antunes / photo modified
Windsor Castle Gardens Francisco Antunes / photo modified
 

Due to the castle’s hilltop location, the gardens are relatively small and are on terraces extending east from the Upper Ward. From the end of July to the end of September, when the North Terrace is open to visitors, you can get a good view of the East Terrace Garden.

9 The towers

The Towers Elliott Brown / photo modified
The Towers Elliott Brown / photo modified
 

Built in 1227, the Curfew tower contains some of the oldest stonework in Windsor Castle. Within the tower is part of a 13th-century dungeon, with the beginning of an escape tunnel thwarted by the thickness of the walls.

The Round tower, surrounded on three sides by a deep moat, was built by Henry II and includes a 200-step climb to a viewing platform. The effort is rewarded with beautiful panoramic views.

10 Home Park and Great Park

Home Park and Great Park
Home Park and Great Park
 

Great Park stretches along the south side of the castle for nearly six miles and has an impressive herd of red deer. Home Park is used as a sports ground for archery, rugby, cricket and tennis, and this is also where you can find some of the best views of Windsor Castle, especially at night. Being in the park Frogmore House and the Mausoleum where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried.

Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Windsor Castle

  • Tours at Windsor Castle: A great way to visit Windsor Castle from London and see its highlights is to combine it with two of southern England’s other major attractions on an 11-hour Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London. Your day is packed with fun things to do. On this full-day tour, visit the lavish State Apartments and see St. George’s Chapel with your guide and possibly see the Changing of the Guard. Instead of Bath, you can visit Oxford on a 9.5-hour Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Oxford Custom Day Trip, also departing from London. You can get free audio tours in the castle.
  • For your comfort: Wear good walking shoes as there is a lot of wandering, with steps and a hill. You can leave packs and coats in the cloakroom.
  • What is on: Windsor Castle hosts numerous events and exhibitions throughout the year, so be sure to check out the events section of their website before you arrive.
  • How to get there: Trains to Windsor run regularly from London’s Victoria and Paddington stations, and Green Line buses depart from Victoria Coach Station.

Address: Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire

Official site: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle

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