Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest continually occupied castle in the world, dating back to the 1070s. William I (a.k.a. the Conqueror) chose the location to help protect the city of London, roughly a day’s march to the east. It was located adjacent to the Windsor Forest, a popular hunting ground. Subsequent kings modified and expanded the palace. Henry II rebuilt large portions with stone. Edward IV commissioned the magnificent St. George’s Chapel in the 1470s.
Prior to the English Civil War, when it was occupied and used as a prison, Windsor Castle was mostly used in crises and as a hunting lodge. The conflict left the palace in shambles and Charles II, inspired by Louis XIV and his palace at Versailles, undertook its restoration. In the intervening years it was built up into the largest castle in the world. Windsor Castle began to languish somewhat towards the end of the nineteenth century. When Edward VII became king in 1901, he undertook an enormous renovation and modernization effort. The palace managed to survive World War II and a major fire in 1992. Today, it is the main weekend residence of Queen Elizabeth, and a popular tourist attraction, receiving around one million visitors each year.
If you want to see the changing of the guards ceremony, Windsor is the place to do it. The crowds here are much smaller than those at Buckingham Palace. The ceremony takes place at 11:00 daily from April through June, and every other day the rest of the year. The highlight of any visit is seeing the state apartments. They are superbly decorated, and give a unique glimpse into royal life. King George IV’s apartments are open to visitors from October to March. The East Terrace, also George IV’s, are open in August and September, as is the Round Tower. The doll house of Queen Mary is also very cool, featuring running water and electricity.
The castle is easily accessible from the town of Windsor’s train station, just a few blocks away. Trains arrive regularly from Waterloo Station in London. Windsor Castle should definitely be on your itinerary.
Hours: Open daily except holidays; subject to close during state ceremonies.
- March to October: 09:45-17:15
- November to February 09:45-16:15
- St. George’s Chapel open daily except Sunday.
£14.50 Senior (60+)/Student
£9.50 Children (<17)
Free Children (<5)