Windsor is the perfect place to spend a short break or a royal day out. Encapsulating beauty and unique history, Windsor is worth a visit for all of its royal attributes.
You’ll find loads of ways to fill your time in Windsor. From visiting the Queen’s castle, beautiful parks, great food and shopping, you’ll get a taste of Britain’s royal high life.
I recommend setting out early for Windsor so you have plenty of time. It’s also become an incredibly popular excursion from London since Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018.
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So let’s get down to it. I’ve broken down the best ways to spend not just any day in Windsor, but a Royal Day out in Winsdor!
How to Get to Windsor
You can spend a day in Windsor easily by train from London. The fastest and easiest way is from Paddington Station. You’ll change over to a Windsor and Eton Central train to Slough and luckily for you, these are very frequent!
Even though you’ll have to change trains, the total journey will vary between only 22 and 35 minutes. Thankfully both train rides are relatively short, so if you end up having to stand, it won’t be too big of an issue. I say this because the trains to Windsor and Eton are pretty tiny, usually only two carriages.
There is another train that runs directly from Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside. It’s only a five-minute walk from the central station and drops you right in town as well. Takes slightly longer, just over an hour but no changes.
The best way to book train tickets is by using the Trainline app.
You can also drive from London in about 2 1/2 hours, depending on what part of the city you start from. There isn’t really any free parking in Windsor so do expect to pay. Download the Ring Go parking app so you can easily pay or increase your parking time.
Naturally, Windsor Castle should be at the top of the list and your royal highlight of the day, with 1,000 years worth of royal history! Did you know that Windsor Castle happens to be the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world? That’s worth a visit in and of itself. Donned as the Queen’s favourite weekend home, the castle is known as “London’s country estate.” Oh so posh.
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle has been the home of 39 monarchs! That’s quite impressive. And means there’s a lot to see and do within the castle grounds.
I recommend starting your day with a 30-minute tour of the Castle Precincts, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn about its past as a fortress and palace. And then pick up a free audio guide for the rest of the castle tour, that was introduced by The Prince of Wales. It’s a really helpful guide as you make your way throughout the castle.
St George’s Chapel is not to be missed! Admire the intricate Gothic architecture of this royal chapel, where the marriage of Harry and Meghan took place. Within the chapel are also the tombs of 10 monarchs, including Charles I, Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.
Explore the State Apartments, where the Queen hosts official visits and you’ll definitely want to see the lavish Grand Reception Room, with stunning crystal chandeliers. How much more royal can you get?
Then you have the Semi-State Rooms, which are mostly used for the Queen’s entertaining purposes, as it’s only open to the public between September and March. I’m guessing she entertains more in the summer?
Then you’re on to the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, where you’ll be astonished by the intricacy of this detailed dollhouse built for Queen Mary in the 1920s. It’s an exact replica of an aristocratic home, complete with electricity and water. What?!
Moving on to the Moat Room and China Museum, you’ll round up your visit to Windsor Castle. And let’s not forget to mention the paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto, Leonardo, Holbein, Michelangelo and Raphael you’ll find throughout the castle. Just a few small works of art 😉
Tip: The ticket that you purchase can give you a year’s entry into Windsor Castle. On your way out you get your ticket stamped to get this validity.
Changing of the Guards
Most people know about the Changing of the Guard ceremony as marking the changeover of duties between two groups of guards at Buckingham Palace. But did you know the same event takes place at Windsor Castle regularly as well?
It’s known to be a privilege to guard the monarch and the privilege traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as ‘the Guards’, who’ve been carrying out this duty since 1660. It’s quite a spectacle to observe!
The ceremony can be watched by Castle visitors on Thursdays and Saturdays, but you can also catch parts of it for free from Windsor high street. The guards will arrive at the Castle just before 11:00, but the schedule has been known to change quite a bit so be sure and check the British Army website for dates and times.
Bel & the Dragon
I’m sure you’re getting hungry by now, so pop into the Bel & the Dragon for a yummy bite to eat after all that walking through the castle grounds. You’ll still get a view of the castle, being just steps from the gates, from this traditional English pub, that’s been serving food and drinks since the 11th century!
It’s worth a visit to Bel & the Dragon if you fancy a royal afternoon tea on the terrace, you’re hankering for a Saturday bottomless brunch, or you’re ready for a good ole’ Sunday roast. Mmmm
Windsor Royal Station
I found the Windsor Royal Station to be absolutely enchanting. It made me feel like I was in Harry Potter world for some reason; just a kind of magical feeling. As the crown jewel of shopping in Windsor, how could it not be?
The partially covered shopping centre was converted from part of the old central railway station built in the 1850s, hence the charm.
In 1997 additional units were built, and waiting rooms and left luggage stores were converted to modern shop units, all in a complementary style of course.
Many of the original features of the Victorian station still remain, like the Jubilee Arch and the characteristic cobbled stones. The building that now houses All Bar One was even built for the exclusive use of the royal family! And you can still find Queen Victoria’s waiting room there.
With such royal history, the Windsor Royal Station is a great place to have a coffee and pastry and watch the people bustling by with their shopping.
Alexandra Gardens & Royal Windsor Wheel
After all that time indoors and now that you’re belly is hopefully full, it’s a great time to check out the Alexandra Gardens. Even upon arriving in Windsor, you’ll notice how beautifully green the village is. The River Thames flows right through town, giving it a distinctly peaceful atmosphere.
The pretty Alexandra Gardens are at the front of the river, and in summer, the Royal Windsor Wheel goes up, offering superb views over the town and castle. This is Windsor’s answer to the London Eye and a fun attraction in the middle of your busy day.
Dorney Court is regarded as one of England’s finest Tudor Manor Houses. And this Grade-I listed stately home is worth a visit for all the history buffs, for sure. It’s home to the Palmer Family, who have cared for the property of Dorney Court and the surrounding Estate for 500 years!
Today, you’ll find a property full of character nestled within landscaped gardens and overlooking green parkland full of ancient yew hedges. And you’ll even see horses, cattle and sheep grazing! I never get over how cute the sheep in England are.
Inside Dorney Court, spend your time wandering through the spectacular Great Hall, browsing artworks, tapestries and eccentric architecture. You might even catch a glimpse of a ghostly apparition of a bald woman stalking the landings. Gasp
The House and grounds can even be somewhat recognisable for regular appearances on the screen. Now it gets even more interesting with most recent acts including David Copperfield, All Is True, Belgravia, Endeavour, Midsomer Murders and The Last Dragon Slayer. So exciting. Old and new history-making.
The church of St. James the Less towers over next to Dorney Court and dates back to the Norman Conquest. This church has been on this particular patch of land, north of the River Thames, since at least the 12th century. What that means is that today’s active congregation continues a tradition of worship going back nearly 1,000 years!
The prestigious Eton College is known for having royals on its honour roll. Princes William and Harry, as well as numerous British prime ministers, novelist Henry Fielding and poet Percy Shelley are among them.
With a visit to the College, you can tour the Museum of Eton Life, Museum of Antiquities and Natural History Museum; great for those eager to explore the college’s scholarly history.
Further A Field Activities in Windsor
You’ll need a car and allow a bit more time to fit these activities into a day.
A visit to the world-famous Ascot Racecourse is a pillar of British sporting and social culture. Queen Anne first saw the land that had the potential for horseracing in 1711, while riding out from Windsor Castle.
Since then, twelve different monarchs have helped make Ascot one of the world’s best-loved racecourses in the world. It now covers 179 acres and welcomes 630,000 guests each year.
The Royal Windsor Racecourse is set on its own island, within 165 acres of stunning Berkshire countryside. Residing on the River Thames and in the shadow of Windsor Castle, it’s an exciting atmosphere for a memorable royal British experience.
Arrive in style by catching a riverboat from Windsor Town centre. And beforehand, grab a drink on the River Thames as you step off onto the racecourse’s private jetty. How royal.
Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park covers an impressive 4,800 acres and is home to 500 free-roaming red deer as well as a lake, an abundance of walking trails, a bridleway and gardens. Once a popular hunting spot with kings gone by, this is a land that the monarchy has enjoyed through the ages.
The Great Park includes Royal residences, formal gardens and trees that have stood for over 1,000 years. As you wander through each twisting path, you’ll know it’s steeped in England’s history.
From William I using the landscape as a hunting ground a thousand years ago, to the original planting of the Long Walk by Charles II, Queen Victoria entertaining on the shores of Virginia Water, to the stewardship of H.R.H the Duke of Edinburgh as Ranger of the Great Park for nearly 70 years, our Royal connections have remained strong throughout the years.The Story of Great Windsor Park
The Savill Garden has magnificent horticulture displays. The Valley Gardens is an enchanting woodland trail and the Virginia Water has impressive views of its lake and cascading waterfall.
And then of course there’s the iconic tree-lined path from Windsor Castle to the Copper Horse statue, where you might just encounter the deer herd grazing in this ancient parkland.
No matter which area you decide to explore, you’ll have a relaxed and inviting time visiting Windsor Great Park.
Legoland Windsor Resort
Okay, I know what you’re thinking; Legoland isn’t very royal. Well, maybe not, but it’s worth adding to the listing of things to do in Windsor because it’s just so much fun! And they did create a special display for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton…that’s royal.
Being situated just outside the city centre and with a variety of lands to discover, Legoland Windsor Resort isn’t just for kids. If you’re wanting to get in touch with your inner child, this could be your answer! I wonder if the Queen has ever visited…
Check out Duplo Valley with its water park, Knights Kingdom with its castle, Adventure Land with its submarine ride and Lego Ninjago with its 4D interactive ride. There’s plenty to keep you entertained with or without kids!
So, what do you say? Are you feeling more royal just after reading about Windsor? I hope this list has you hopping on a train or in a car for a royal day out. You really can’t immerse yourself in British royalty much more than you can in this charming village, just a stone’s throw from London or Heathrow Airport. Channel your inner royalty in Windsor!
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.