One of the places I wanted to visit the most on our trip to England was Windsor Castle. Twenty-one miles west of London sits one of the great homes of England's Royal Family. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world and is an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen.
Windsor is an easy day trip from London. You can get there from London by train or car. If you fly into Heathrow airport, Windsor is about a 20 minute drive.
My family and I took the train in to Windsor from London and enjoyed the pretty 5-minute stroll from the train station up to Windsor Castle. The trains leave the station often but if you're planning a trip to visit Windsor Castle, I would suggest you first check with National Rail Enquiries for departure points and times.
We purchased our tickets at the castle. Our tickets included visits to The State Apartments, Queen Mary's Dolls' House, St. George's Castle (where King Henry VIII is buried) and an exhibit of Queen Elizabeth's personal photographs and letters. We were able to pick up a free audioguide to use while we toured the grounds which gave us a description of what we were looking at. These audioguides are available to guests in many different languages. Also offered are 30-minute guided walks around the grounds and a family audio tour in English, aimed at children aged 7-11.
We arrived at Windsor Castle just in time for the Changing of the Guard. My kids were really looking forward to seeing this so we rushed on to secure a good spot. The Changing of the Guard takes place Monday through Saturday at 11:00 (April-July) and on alternating days the rest of the year. Check the website to confirm the schedule.
The actual ceremony takes a little over 30 minutes to watch. After the guards march out, the band follows.
Although we couldn't take photographs inside the exhibits, we saw Queen Mary's Dolls' House which was designed for Queen Mary by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. This magical dollhouse is a replica in miniature of the palace. Each fork, knife and spoon on the exquisite banquet table is made of real silver and the pipes running through the dollhouse actually have running water.
Inside the State Apartments we walked through halls and beautifully furnished rooms where the Queen entertains visiting dignitaries. Inside is an extensive display of beautiful paintings and art by some of the world's most famous artists including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Numerous royal tombs can be found inside St. George's Chapel including 10 of the Kings of England and the wife of King Henry VIII, Jane Seymour.
Windsor Castle is a real, working castle. Vehicles drive through the castle streets making deliveries, tending to repairs and delivering important guests.
There aren't places to eat lunch on the grounds of Windsor Castle. You can find ice cream and snacks but since we were ready for lunch and had already been at the castle for several hours, we decided to take a leisurely walk through the streets of Windsor.
We discovered Browns Bar and Brasserie and enjoyed a lovely lunch and a glass of wine on the patio with a pretty view of the Thames.
We made our way back to the train station after lunch for our ride back to London.
If you're planning a visit to Windsor Castle, check the website for updated opening times and admission prices. You should allow between 2 1/2 to 3 hours to explore the Castle.
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