Make the most of your visit to Windsor Castle
In the last few years, the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle as well as the birth of their baby Archie, have made the British monarchy as popular as ever. If you’re heading to London and want to see royal life up-close, a trip to Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel, near where Prince Harry and Megan Markle live at Frogmore Cottage, might be in order. Here’s how to make the most of your visit.
Highlights of a Windsor Castle visit
There’s a lot for royal fans to see and do at Windsor Castle. Once they’ve purchased their ticket, visitors can view the vaulted carved ceilings and fine furnishings in the castle’s lavish State Apartments and semi staterooms. They can also view Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, one of the most popular destinations on the grounds, and St. George’s Hall where Harry and Megan held one of their two post-wedding celebrations. Art fans will also want to set aside time to view the priceless art collections which can be found on many castle walls.
Another top tour highlight that is included in the price of admission is St. George’s Chapel where the royal wedding of both Harry and Megan and of Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie took place. Designated as the official place of worship for the castle, It is steeped in centuries of Royal history It holds the remains of ten prominent monarchs including King Henry VIII.
There is also plenty to view and enjoy on the grounds outside of the buildings. One of the best views of the castle can be seen from the three-mile Long Walk that is part of Windsor Great Park. If you time your visit right and are careful to arrive early you can also view the iconic Changing of the Guard. Lastly, the town of Windsor is also worth exploring with charming buildings, shops, and restaurants. There’s so much to see that many experienced visitors suggest trying to stay the weekend if you can. Staying longer will allow you to slow down, better enjoy the grounds and the surrounding areas.
Tips for your visit
There are a couple of tips to keep in mind in order to help you make the most of your visit. One of the first is to be aware that the castle is busiest during the summer tourist season but crowds, which can wrap around the building as people wait in line to enter, diminish some towards the end of the day. Also be aware that if you visit on Sunday, St. George’s Chapel is likely to be closed. It is well worth checking the Windsor Castle website before you go. It will let you know when the castle will be open, which areas are available for the public to view, and which may be closed for an event or for some other reason. It will also let you know the schedule for the changing of the Guard which you should view from The Windsor Guildhall if you can.
The Queen spends many of her weekends at Windsor Castle and if you’re looking to visit when Her Majesty is in residence, there’s a way to tell if she’s home. Look for the Royal Standard Flag to be flown from the round tower when she is there. In terms of logistics for your visit, consider arriving by train and buying tickets online in advance so that you don’t have to wait through lines at the castle.
History of Windsor Castle
Before your visit, it is worthwhile to get a sense of some of Windsor Castle’s history. It was built around 1070 by William the Conqueror who selected the land and started construction. The castle grounds were chosen for their position above the River Thames, access to London, and proximity to lush hunting grounds.
The castle’s initial construction took 16 years to complete and subsequent monarchs made their own additions, including St. George’s Chapel which came into existence in the 14th Century. More than 39 Monarchs have made their home in the castle including the Tudors, Charles II, and Queen Victoria. It is currently the largest occupied castle in the world and is used not only as a residence for the Queen but for hosting state visits and events.
Building upgrades and improvements
Just as monarchs have been improving the castle for centuries, in modern times the structure and interiors are continually being maintained and renovated. Most notably, a 1992 fire caused substantial damage to the building which took five years to repair under the guidance of a restoration committee that was led by the Queen’s husband the Duke of Edinburgh. The castle is currently undergoing renovations that will make it more comfortable for the large number of tourists that visit each year, will offer better education facilities for students, and will provide an improved view of The Long Walk.
Logistics of your visit
Anyone wishing to visit Windsor Castle should know that a basic tour can cost about $27 (USD) a ticket. Pre-planning can vastly improve your experience. Consider arriving by train and buying tickets online in advance so that you don’t have to wait through lines at the castle which can be daunting. Expect sightseeing on the castle grounds to take between two and three hours and then expect to take more time for additional activities. Lastly, don’t rush your visit, enjoy it. This is a unique experience, full of stunning beauty, and steeped both ancient and modern British history. With the right approach, it is a tour you’ll remember.