Manicured gardens stretch beyond the Gothic turrets of the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle, a weekend home to royals.
For about 1,000 years, the kings and queens of Britain have lodged in the 11th-century Windsor Castle. A flag hoisted from the central Round Tower informs visitors when the queen is in the building on one of her private weekend escapes. Borrow an audio guide for a detailed description of the castle’s history and context.
Stroll through the elegant gardens of this 13-acre (5-hectare) compound, which is large and developed enough to form a small village made up of wards. At the front is the main castle body, while the elegant St. George’s Chapel dominates the Lower Ward.
For a glimpse of the castle’s regal charm, watch the Changing the Guard ceremony, featuring unflinching guards in bearskin hats. Tour the State Apartments in the Upper Ward to marvel at the Georgian architecture, period décor and historic portraits. Enter Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, comprising minuscule replicas of stately rooms and gardens.
Visit St. George’s Chapel and attend a Sunday service in the building, where some of the royal family’s most notable members have been baptized, married and buried. Sculptures of emblematic animals cover the pinnacles rising from the roof, while the interior fan-vaulted ceiling is a notable highlight.
The church’s history extends as far back as the Normans, when William the Conqueror founded it. Imagine the changing faces of the structure in the intervening centuries, when Georgian, Victorian and Gothic touches were added to medieval stone foundations.
The castle is open to visitors daily from morning until late afternoon, with an extra hour in summer. Purchase tickets and ask for discounts for youths and seniors.
Windsor Castle is in the heart of Eton, roughly 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of London. Arrive at Windsor & Eton Riverside or Windsor & Eton Central stations, take a water taxi to Windsor Promenade or ride a bus to a nearby stop.
Explore other sites near the structure, including the Royal Theatre, the Soldier’s Statue and the Bachelor’s Acre.