Royal Palaces - Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, which has been the family home of British Kings and Queen's for over 900 years, is an historic castle, Royal Palace and a family home that is open to visitors.

Looming over the town and surrounding countryside Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest continuously inhabited castle in the world and one of the Queen's three official residences.

The site was chosen by William the Conqueror as it was only one day's march from the Tower of London and because it provided a good defence against attack from the west.

Since the 11th century, the castle has been home to 39 monarchs who have shaped the building into what is reputed to be 'The Queen's' favourite official residence.

As well as the home where 'The Queen' spends most weekends Windsor Castle is very much a working royal palace which is regularly used for State and ceremonial occasions.

Royal Standard flying over Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

Visiting Windsor Castle

A tour of Windsor Castle lets you to follow in the footsteps of British Royalty.

After passing through an airport style security check and getting an introduction to the castle you will walk past the moat of the Round Tower, (not open to the public), up to the north terrace where the entrance to the State Apartments is situated.

From the north terrace you get spectacular views, of the surrounding countryside and the Thames meandering past Windsor, which looks a lot smaller from this vantage point high above the town.

At the roped off entrance you can choose to head directly into the State Apartments or start with a visit to the Dolls' House.

Queen Mary's Dolls House, is the largest and most famous dolls house in the world.

Built between 1921 and 1924 it is an exquisite palace in miniature whose tiny rooms ,filled with the work of the finest artists, artisans, craftsmen and manufacturers, give a glimpse into a bygone age.

The State Apartments, follow, furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection and displays of weaponry, including spirals of pistols and the suit of armour worn by King Henry VIII.

The restoration work carried out, after the fire in 1992, bring alive what the original rooms would have looked like on completion.

The Semi State Rooms, are used by The Queen for hosting her guests.
These spectacular richly decorated private apartments are open to visitors in the winter months.

St George's Chapel, a living church where services are held every day, is also home to the Order of the Garter the oldest British Order of Chivalry.

Ten sovereigns, including Henry VIII, his third wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I are laid to rest in the Chapel.

St Georges Chapel is closed to general visitors on Sundays, but worshippers are welcome to attend the services.

Precinct Tour, these guided tours with one of the Castle Warden's, which are included in the ticket price, are a great way to get even more out of your visit to Windsor Castle.

General Information

A typical visit to Windsor Castle last two to three hours.

Guided tours of the Precincts, which are included in the ticket price, depart at half-hourly intervals from the Courtyard and last 30 minutes.

A complimentary audio tour, included in the ticket price, lets you visit the State Apartments, the Drawings Gallery, Queen Mary's Dolls House and St George's Chapel at your own pace.

Windsor Castle Opening Times

  • March to October 2017: Opens 09:30 | Last admission 16:00 | Castle closes at 17:30
  • November 2017 to February 2018: Opens 09:45 | Last admission 15:00 | Castle closes at 16:15

As a working Royal Palace Windsor Castle is used frequently by The Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining, and closures can occasionally occur at short notice.

State Apartments Closed

  • 18 & 20 June 2017

Note: When the State Apartments are closed the Semi-State Rooms will not be open. 

The Semi-State Rooms Opening Dates

The Semi-State Rooms at Windsor Castle are only open between September and March. 

St George's Chapel

St. George’s Chapel is open Monday to Saturday.

As a working royal palace, Windsor Castle is used frequently by The Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining.

You can telephone the Information Office at Windsor Castle on +44 (0)303 123 7304 to check opening arrangements.

 

Windsor Castle Video Visit

©Crown Copyright | Courtesy Royal Collection

Things You Need To Know

  • Suggested visit duration: 2 - 3 hours.
  • On arrival, you and your belongings will be subject to airport-style security checks.
    Some items such as large items of baggage, backpacks and pushchair's will have to be checked in and reclaimed at the end of your visit.
  • An audio guide to Windsor Castle is included in the ticket price.
    Audio guides are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Mandarin.
  • A Guided tour of the Precincts, is included in the admission price.
    These tours depart at half-hourly intervals from the Courtyard and last 30 minutes
  • Food and drink cannot be in the State Apartments or St George s Chapel.
    Bottled water can be purchased in the Lower Ward Shop at the beginning of your visit.
  • Photography and filming (for private use only) are permitted in the Castle Precincts.
  • No photography or video recording is allowed within the State Apartments or St George's Chapel.
  • Mobile phones must be switched off inside the State Apartments and St George's Chapel.
  • For safety reasons, pushchair's cannot be taken into the State Rooms.
    They must be checked in and reclaimed at the exit. Baby carriers and hip seats can be borrowed, subject to availability, free of charge.
  • Most of the coach tours from London arrive to coincide with the doors opening at 09:45.
  • Independent travelers can avoid the crowds, by visiting in the afternoon.
  • Visitors wishing to leave the Castle for a bite to eat in the town centre can obtain re-entry permits from the Castle shops or the audio return point.
  • Windsor Castle tickets offered on this website, from Visit Britain, the official online store of the British Tourism Authority, are open-dated and can be used any time.

 

quick tipVisitor Tip

Want to watch the Windsor Castle Guard change at 11:00 and still avoid the morning rush

Then, after watching the Guard Mount, get your ticket stamped for re-entry and explore Windsor High Street where you can grab an early lunch, as once the coach tours depart it is a lot less crowded.

 

Is The Queen At Home

When the Royal Standard, is flying, from the flagpole, over the Round Tower at Windsor Castle you know Her Majesty The Queen is at home.

When the Union Flag flies above Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace or Sandringham House it signals that the Queen is not in residence.

No flag used be flown when The Queen was not in residence but following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 there was a public outcry for the flag to be flown at half-mast.

As the Royal Standard can never be flown at half-mast, (as the Sovereign never dies, because the new one immediately succeeds him / her), a compromise was found and since then the union flag has flown above the Royal residences and is used when a flag needs to be flown at half-mast.

Royal Standard flying over Windsor Castle signifies the Queen is in residence
Royal Standard Flying above Windsor Castle

About Windsor Castle

The oldest parts of Windsor Castle were built by the Normans, in wood, following the victory of William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Henry I was the first monarch to use Windsor Castle as a home and it is during his reign that the wooden keep and walls were replaced with stone.

In the 12th century, Henry II upgraded the Windsor Castle walls and added a new stone keep.

Edward III was born in Windsor Castle in 1312 and during his reign spent a vast amounts of money, funded by his military victories in France, adding to and improving Windsor Castle in what was the most expensive secular building project in England during the Middle Ages.

King Henry VIII who regularly stayed at the castle is buried in the Windsor Castle s Lady Chapel.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle their main place of residence. Following Albert s death, Queen Victoria was sometimes referred to as the Widow of Windsor .

Disaster struck in 1992 when over 100 rooms at Windsor Castle were damaged by the worst fire in the castle's long history.

 

 

 

Windsor Castle Fire

A fire at Windsor Castle, in 1992, damaged more than 100 rooms, covering an area of 7,000 square metres.

Despite soaking the crumbling structure in 4,500 tons of water, nine rooms were completely gutted and nearly 100 suffered significant damage, by what remains the worst blaze in the castle s 900-year history.

Members of the Royal Family, including the Queen and Prince Andrew, were reported to have joined a human chain tasked with saving great works of art from the wreckage.

A Restoration Committee, headed by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales, was set up to oversee the repair work.

The committee decided that certain principle rooms destroyed by the fire - the Grand Reception Room, the State Dining Room, and two Drawing Rooms - should be restored to their former state.

The restoration of the State Apartments brings alive how the original rooms would have looked and have arguably improved the visitor experience.

It was this this disastrous fire that led to the opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace as Her Majesty The Queen had agreed to fund 70% of the restoration costs.

Windsor Castle fire which happened in 1992
Fire at Windsor Castle in 1992

 

 

Getting to Windsor Castle

Windsor is 30 miles (50km) West of London.

By Train

From London you can get to Windsor from both Waterloo and Paddington stations.

Trains from Waterloo to Windsor & Eaton Riverside Station depart every half hour throughout the day, hourly on Sundays.
The journey takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
Windsor & Eton Riverside - About a 10 minutes walk.

Trains from Paddington to Windsor Central depart every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day.
The journey takes about 35 minutes. You have to change trains at Slough.

By Bus

Greenline bus numbers 701 and 702 leave from Victoria Colonnades, near London Victoria Coach Station every half hour, approximately, during the day. The journey takes about an hour.

By Car

Windsor is accessible via the major motorway networks of the M3, M4, M25 and M40

The journey time from London is approximately 40 minutes and Heathrow airport is about 15 minutes away.

Parking throughout Windsor is controlled and quite expensive.

Consider the Long Term parking if you are visiting Windsor Castle as a 20 minute walk saves about a third of the cost of short term parking in Windsor centre.

Another option is to use the Park and Ride services at Legoland Windsor or Windsor Home Park. Parking at Legoland is free.
Parking at Windsor Home Park is "pay and display". There is a small charge for bus fare.

Tours / Tickets

Tours and tickets to Windsor Castle can be purchased online through Visit Britain, the official shop of the British Tourism Authority.

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