With Season 3 of The Crown out on Netflix, the world is buzzing about British royalty. Windsor Castle is one of the three official residences of The Queen and has been home to the crown for nearly 1,000 years. It was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has been the home to 39 monarchs. As can be expected, it is one of the biggest attractions in the United Kingdom.
Are you ready to visit? We've gathered everything you'll need to know about how to visit Windsor Castle right here.
Where Is Windsor Castle?
Windsor Castle is located within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which is just 12 miles from London Heathrow Airport. Whether you’re visiting Windsor for a few days or taking a day trip from London, its location near the UK capital makes it a convenient destination.
How To Get To Windsor Castle
Seeing as it is so close to London, there are more than a few easy ways to get to Windsor Castle from anywhere in the world.
Easy! Windsor is just 12 miles from London Heathrow airport and is easily accessible from London's other airports, including London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, or London City. If you're flying into any of London's airports, you can get to Windsor directly from there.
If you're going to Windsor directly from the airport, the Green Line 703 provides a fast and direct link between Windsor Castle and Heathrow from Terminal 5. (There are free trains and buses to Terminal 5 if you are flying into another terminal.) For up-to-date information, you can download the Green Line app, which gives information on timetables and ticketing. You can even buy mobile tickets on the app and track the status of the buses.
If you're traveling to Windsor from Luton Airport, take the Green Line 757 bus to Baker Street, then the Bakerloo Line underground train to London Paddington Station. From there you'll take a train to Slough and then a branch line train direct to Windsor and Eton Central Station. This trip takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
To take the train from Heathrow, change at Hayes and Harlington and board a train toward Reading/Oxford. Change again at Slough for the branch line to Windsor and Eton Central. There are two changes, but the entire journey takes less than an hour.
If you're traveling from Gatwick Airport, take the train to Clapham Junction and change for a train to Windsor and Eton Riverside. The journey is about an hour and a half.
From Stansted Airport, take the Stansted Express train to Liverpool Street Station, then the Circle Line underground train to London Paddington. From here, take a train to Slough and then a branch line train direct to Windsor and Eton Central Station. The journey takes about an hour.
From London City Airport, take the Docklands Light Railway to Canning Town and then the Jubilee Line underground to London Waterloo. From there, you will take a direct train to Windsor and Eton Riverside Station.
There are many private tour and coach operators that bring groups into Windsor, so if you're planning to make London your home base, you can certainly join a group trip to get yourself there. Get Your Guide offers a half-day tour from central London. Hop aboard a coach and be chauffeured in comfort from the town to the castle.
On Foot Or Two Wheels
Since it’s just around 20 miles from London City Center, the really ambitious could get there on foot or by bicycle. And if you think we’re kidding, think again! There’s actually a Thames Path designated by the National Trails network that allows visitors to follow the River Thames for the entire journey, which includes passing through the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Finally, visitors can drive themselves to Windsor Castle. The drive from central London is about 1 hour and 15 minutes via the M4.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Windsor Castle?
From March through October, castle doors typically open to the public at 10 a.m., seven days a week, and close at 5:15 p.m. From November to February, opening time is 10 a.m. and closing is 4:15 p.m. The last entrance is 1 hour and 15 minutes before closing. It may be tempting to get there as soon as it opens, but bear in mind most of the coach tours arrive for the opening and stay until 11:30 a.m., after the Changing of the Guard. To beat the crowds, arriving around 11:30 would be best.
If you're visiting during the summer, it's a good idea to visit the other attractions of Windsor in the morning and the castle after lunch. Weekend visitor numbers are obviously much higher than during the week.
On Sundays, St George's is closed for religious services.
Note that the castle is completely closed on December 25 and 26 and between January 6 and 17. In 2020 it will be closed April 9 and 10.
The historic route within the State Apartments will be closed January 18 to 24, but all other rooms in the State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms are open. The Semi-State Rooms close December 3, 13, and 16. The Semi-State Rooms are open from fall until spring and are not open on days when the State Apartments are closed. The State Apartments are closed when the Queen is in residence.
The most popular times of year to visit Windsor Castle are the holidays, when the rooms are draped with shimmering lights, twinkling decorations, and festive cheer.
The castle also has a year-long calendar of events, including historic talks, special programs, and more.
What Is There To Do In Windsor Castle?
With more than 1,000 rooms and 484,000 square feet, there is no shortage of things to do in Windsor Castle. But to help maximize your time, there are definitely highlights you will not want to miss. During the winter there are usually no lines, so expect to spend between 90 minutes and 2 hours touring the castle. During the summer there are longer lines to the entrance of the State Apartments, so plan for a little more time. An audio tour is part of the admission price, but bear in mind that there is no photography or video recording allowed in the State Apartments or St George’s Chapel.
Accessibility note: While Windsor Castle says it is fully accessible, there are some things to note. It sits at the top of a steep hill and there are some long distances to be covered on site, and they do not have a dedicated staff to help push wheelchairs. There are nine stone steps up to the entrance door and another 11 steps up to the Inner Hall. The Grand Staircase that leads to the State Apartments has 39 steps. That said, if you require a companion to travel, their access is free of charge. There are manual wheelchairs available to borrow free of charge. Access to the Inner Hall and State Apartments for wheelchair users is from the elevator on the North Terrace. There are also many wheelchair accessible bathrooms inside the castle.
St George’s Chapel
Within the grounds of the castle is what is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in England. Chapel construction began in 1475 under King Edward IV. The stone ceiling was added by Henry VII. But its roots are even deeper than that.
The Chapel is the home of the Order of the Garter, which is the senior order of British Chivalry, founded by King Edward III in 1348. Many royal weddings have been held here, including the most recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. There are a variety of tombs within the chapel, as well, including Henry VIII’s and his third wife, Jane Seymour’s , and Charles I’s.
The State Apartments
The State Apartments are simply stunning works of art. Their styles have changed over the decades to reflect the tastes of whoever is currently reigning. The most beautiful rooms are the Queen's Gallery and the Dining Hall, each with an ornately painted ceiling.
You won't want to miss the art collection in these rooms, with pieces from Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt, and more. Make note that these rooms are only open when the Queen isn't in residence. If you see the royal flag flying, you know she's checked in.
These sumptuously decorated rooms are used for official entertaining. Since the Queen still uses them, they are only open to the public between September and March. The rooms were commissioned by George IV, and are some of the most opulent and lavishly decorated, with furnishings taken from George IV's former London home. The room that is the most breathtaking is the Crimson Drawing Room, which features the most elaborate and expensive interior decoration ever done in England.
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
When you tour the State Apartments, be sure not to miss Queen Mary's Dolls' House, which was built between 1921 and 1924 for Queen Mary. It was designed by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and features pieces designed by more than 1,500 of the best artists, craftsmen, and manufacturers of the time. Notice the library with works by the top writers of the day and the fully stocked wine cellar. No detail was overlooked. The house even has electricity, running water, and working elevators.
Changing Of The Guard
This is one of the most popular things to see at Windsor Castle. The tradition is the stuff of British history and no visit to the castle would be complete without it. The ceremony takes place in the Castle Precincts Monday through Saturday mornings at 11 a.m. from April through July. The rest of the year the Changing of the Guard takes place on alternating days and is dependant on the weather.
Work is being done as part of a £37 million series of castle-improvement projects. A new permanent cafe will open in the original medieval Undercroft (crypt). George IV's Inner Hall is being restored for its original use as an entrance hall. The State Entrance, where the Heads of State and guests arrive, will become part of the visitor route and will allow a view of the 2.5-mile Long Walk, which was created by Charles II in the 1680s.
Spending time in London? Here’s how to visit Buckingham Palace, too.