London is such a fantastic city, with never ending things to see and do, however, if you want to get a glimpse of the real British countryside, a day trip to Windsor is a must. Located merely an hour away from the capital, Windsor is one of the official homes of the Queen of England. She might even be home if you are visiting Windsor Castle during a weekend.
If you have always wanted to see a royal British castle which is still in use, visit Windsor. I must say that I did wonder quite a few times how it would be to live in a castle…. Is the furniture all Victorian? Would the dinner table be arranged with fine china? Are the walls decorated with art works from all over the world? Quite a few of my questions were answered during my visit to Windsor Castle.
Windsor however, is much more than just a castle as there are plenty of things to do in town during a day visit. The text below was born after my recent day trip to Windsor, just a couple of days ago.[ez-toc]
How to get to Windsor from London
Windsor is very easily accessible by train, making it a perfect day trip from London. There are two train stations in Windsor, with trains arriving from both Waterloo and Paddington Stations.
If you board the train at Paddington, you will have to change at Slough and then continue to Windsor and Eton Central station. The travel time is around 45 minutes and the ticket costs £12 for an off peak day return and £15.50 for an anytime day return (prices correct as of October 2020).
From London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside, the train takes around one hour. An off peak day return ticket for a one day trip to Windsor costs £13:10, whilst an anytime day return is £20.50 (prices correct as of October 2020).
The most central train station is Windsor and Eton Riverside, with a mere 10 minute walk to the castle.
You can buy your train ticket online and collect it at one of the many machines at the station.
Depending on which part of London you are coming from, you will probably be approaching Windsor either from the M4 or from the M25. From central London, you will be travelling directly on the M4. If you are coming from the North, take the M4 exit at Junction 15. If you are driving from the South, take the Heathrow Terminal 5 exit, at Junction 14.
Where to Park in Windsor
There are many car parks in Windsor, however they are all expensive. If you plan to spend the entire day at Windsor, choose one of the long stay car parks: Romney Lock, King Edward VII (£9.30/over five hours), Alma Road or Alexandra Garden (£13/over 5 hours).
There are a few other parking lots more centrally located, but they charge much more. Also, keep in mind that traffic in town is restricted during the Guard March, which takes place on different days, depending on the time of year. Usually the traffic is stopped between 10:45AM and 11:00AM, and again between 11:15AM and 11:30AM, so void driving through Windsor at these times. You can check the schedule of the Guard March by clicking here.
Where to Park in Windsor for Free
Parking in Windsor is expensive but, if you happen to visit on a Saturday, Sunday, or a bank holiday, there is one car park that is free of charge on these days. Located at a 15-20 minute walk from Windsor Castle, near the rugby club, the Home Car Park has plenty of spaces and is a great alternative to the expensive car parks in town. When I last drove to Windsor this car park didn’t appear on the GPS, so for directions I recommend that you put in Romney Lock car park. From here, all you have to do is follow the road for another few hundred yards and you will reach Home Car Park.
The Best Things to do on a Day Trip to Windsor from London:
Windsor is not a big town, which means that all attractions are within walking distance from each other. Even if the castle is the main attraction, there are quite a few other interesting things to do in town on a day trip to Windsor from London.
Visit Windsor Castle
The main attraction in Windsor is, of course, Windsor Castle. Here’s a little tip: if you buy your Windsor Castle ticket directly from the Royal Collection Trust website and tick the “treat this purchase as a donation box”, by getting your ticket stamped at the castle you will benefit from free entry for one year. So, you can return anytime you want if you miss anything. As I visited on a Sunday, the St George Chapel was closed. The Guard March doesn’t happen on Sundays either, and because of the pandemic, some areas of the castle were also closed. Because I got my ticket stamped, I will be able to return later during the year, when they will be open. I did however get to see the East Terrace Gardens, which during the month of September, were open to the public for the first time in 40 years.
Windsor Castle is the home of the Queen of England and has over 900 years of royal history. It is the oldest and the largest occupied castle in the world, and it is where Queen Elizabeth chooses to spend her private weekends. You can always tell when the Queen is home by which flag is flown above the castle: if she is home, then you will see the Royal Standard, if she is not, then you will see the Union Jack.
It takes a good 2 to 3 hours to visit the castle. The ticket includes an audio guide, so don’t forget to pick it up before you enter the castle gates. I have seen quite a few people without it during my visit.
Whilst only a part of the castle is open to the public, it’s still a very interesting visit. Many unique pieces of the Royal collection are on display, many of them being gifts to the English monarchs from officials around the world. Among some of the most important art pieces in the collection is a life size portrait of Charles I painted by Anthony van Dyck, a gold tiger’s head from Tipu Sultan’s Throne, Henry the VIII’s armour garniture for the field and tilt, and a fantastic portrait of Princess Elizabeth I before her accessions, painted by an unknown artist.
A new addition to the collection and on display at the castle at the moment, is the dress Princess Beatrice of York borrowed from the Queen to wear at her wedding to Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, in July 2020.
It is not allowed to take photos inside the castle, which I think is a good thing because it makes you actually look at the art, rather than just be distracted by taking that perfect picture.
Walk the Long Walk
The Long Walk is a historic avenue, 3 miles long, connecting Windsor Castle with the Copper Horse Statue. Windsor Great Park, through which the avenue passes, used to be a hunting ground back in the 11th century. The long walk was created in 1680 by King Charles II and extended to its current length in 1683.
The Copper Horse Statue was erected in 1831 and it depicts King George III, who contributed significantly to the maintenance of the park. Strolling along the Long Walk and further, down to Windsor Forest, will give you the chance to see ancient oak trees, some of which are 1000 years old. The walk is particularly beautiful in autumn, when the leaves on the the trees are changing to yellow, orange and red.
It’s worth mentioning that bikes are not allowed on the walk, not even pushed. The same applies to rollerblades or skateboards.
Check out the Deer Park
The Deer Park is part of the Long Walk and is home to around 500 red deer that roam freely on its grounds. It is fairly easy to spot them, as they are used to people walking up and down the avenue. I saw around 20 during my walk.
Fun fact, the park ranger is no other than the Duke of Edinburgh.
Take a Boat Trip
As Windsor has a privileged location on the river Thames, there are a few different boat tours that you can take, which will offer you a different perspective of the castle. One of the most popular boat companies is run by the French Brothers, who offer short 40-minute trips, or two hours long cruises. You can check them out and book tickets by clicking here.
A different kind of experience is offered by Windsor Duck Tours, who run both land, and water tours in their amphibious vehicle. This is especially a hit with families with children. You can check out their tour here.
Have a Pint at The Prince Harry Pub
The Prince Harry doesn’t only attract because of its name and the large cut out of Prince Harry and Megan Markle looking down from one of their upstairs windows, it’s also one of the oldest establishments in town. With a history of over 500 years, the Prince Harry has been running as a pub since 1689. Back then it was called an inn and public house.
It seems to be the only pub in England called The Prince Harry, so if not for everything else, this is a good reason to pop in for a pint or a good old Sunday roast.
Find the Crooked House of Windsor
It is not very clear why The Crooked House has its current shape. Some legends say that it was built with poor materials, others blame the demolition of the adjoining buildings in the late 1820s. The Crooked House however is not just a curious photo opportunity. Many local books mention stories of a tunnel that connects the House to Windsor Castle, which was used by Charles II and Nell Gwynn for amorous rendezvous.
Over the years, the crooked house had many uses: a butcher, a jewellery shop, a brewery, an antiques dealer and, until recently, a tea house. These days you will find a pearl jewellery shop inside The Crooked House.
Windsor is a market town with plenty of small independent shops, selling many memorabilia related to the royals. You will find the best souvenirs celebrating Price Harry and Megan’s wedding, plush corgis, plastic crowns and tiaras, cashmere shawls and much more. King Edward Court Shopping Centre is a good place to go shopping in Windsor, as here you will find pretty much everything, from branded shops to independent stores and everything else in between. Plus, many cafes and restaurants.
Where to Eat in Windsor
There are so many great places to eat in Windsor, from independent coffee shops to themed pubs and international cuisine restaurants. I have been to Windsor a couple of times, and below you will find my tested recommendations of where to eat in the town.
My first ever dinner in Windsor was at Mango Lounge. This Indian fusion restaurant serves delicious dishes inspired by the rich culture of the sub-continent, influenced by modern cooking. I would rate dinner here as being in my top three, when it comes to Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom. For a starter I highly recommend the Tiger Prawns Martini, which impresses not only by the taste, but also by its presentation in a cocktail glass. The marinated prawns are coated in rice flakes and deep fried, presented in a glass layered with three different chutneys and a dash of Martini on top. For the main course I had the lamb shank with a masala fig sauce – absolutely divine!
I stumbled upon this Italian coffee shop on my latest trip to Windsor, and upon spotting their aragostine in the window, I decided that if it was still open when I returned, I would pop in. And it was! The family run coffee shop serves proper coffee, paninis, pizza, focaccia and gelato. I ended up buying a pistachio aragostine and a rum baba – which is a Napoletan cake, very hard to find outside Napoli.
I know, it’s a chain restaurant, but their ramen is so good. Living in a place where there is no Wagamama, I looked forward to coming here for lunch during my latest trip to Windsor. And I was not disappointed. I ordered the prawn kushiyaki as a starter and the pork belly ramen as a main course, and both were delicious. By the time I had finished walking the entire Long Walk, the weather turned bad, and I started to feel very cold. The ramen was the perfect way to warm up and taste something delicious as well.
Where to stay in Windsor
If you want to spend the night in Windsor, you should know that there are plenty of hotels in town, to suit all budgets. I personally did not stay overnight, so I can’t recommend you a particular hotel, but I’ll leave you with a few suggestions from Booking.com, below.
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