The moment I arrived in Windsor, Storm Jake decided to make landfall and angrily spit rain down onto the town’s charming cobblestone streets. Yes, cobblestones can still be charming even in the rain. And yes, like America, England also likes to name their storm systems! My 24 hours in Windsor was off to an interesting start.
I say interesting because the rain lasted for about 2 hours and then we were rewarded with the most incredible blue skies. That’s English weather for you! Note: you must always carry with you a scarf, umbrella, and sunglasses if you want to survive in this country.
Okay, enough about the weather! Not only am I excited to share with you my recommendations for spending 24 hours in Windsor, I also have the second video in my “60 Seconds In…” series! Like the Salisbury video, I have my friend, videographer, and favorite travel partner Jelayna to thank for this! Again, I’m sure it wasn’t easy cramming everything we saw into a minute long video but I think she’s done a brilliant job. Please let me know what you think in the comments below!
The Royal Borough of Windsor is located less than 30 miles from London which means easy access by car, train, or bus to this historic town. We decided to take the fast train from London’s Paddington Station and arrived in just under 30 minutes. If you’re exploring the center of town, I’d recommend arriving into Windsor and Eton Central Station which is almost directly across from Windsor Castle! The station dates back to the 1800’s and is a beautiful place to spend an hour or two grabbing lunch or exploring the shops.
We hopped into a taxi and drove 10 minutes to the magnificent Oakley Court Hotel. Despite being close to the city center, you feel far away from the world at Oakley Court. This not-so-modest country house is located right along the River Thames, creating a relaxing environment for its guests. From the very moment we arrived, we felt so welcome and it was almost too cozy to leave, but our fabulous itinerary was calling out to us. I’ll have a full review of our stay out next week on the blog but please enjoy this sneak peak for now!
First up on the schedule was to meet Amanda Bryett at the Queen Victoria statue on Castle Hill. Amanda is a lovely Blue Badge Guide who offers tailor-made tours of Windsor and its famous attractions. In case you’re wondering, Blue Badge Guides are the official, professional tourist guides of the United Kingdom. You’ll always be in good hands with them and Amanda was certainly no exception.
We wanted to take in all of the royal highlights in the town center and learn about why this place is so special to the Royal Family. Amanda quickly informed us that 2016 is THE year to visit Windsor. Why, you ask? Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be turning 90 years old on April 21st and Windsor certainly plans to celebrate her! There will be a 21-gun salute in Windsor Great Park to mark the occasion and if that wasn’t enough, there will also be a four-night event in May. From May 12-15, Windsor will be celebrating The Queen’s life which includes her love of horses, her dedication to the Commonwealth, and her deep involvement with the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
Windsor Castle is just one of several official residences to The Queen and her family, but it’s certainly her favorite. Amanda shared with us that Buckingham Palace is considered her office but Windsor is her home. She arrives at Windsor Castle every Friday, or sometimes Thursday if she can get away from “the office” early! She can also be seen riding her horse on the castle grounds which officially makes her the coolest 90 year old woman.
Thanks to a recommendation from Amanda, we decided on The Duchess of Cambridge Pub for lunch. Not only is this pub right across from Windsor Castle, it’s also adorable inside and serves a delicious chicken and mushroom pie. I really can’t fault this place!
The Bel & Dragon also comes highly recommended by Amanda, and I always trust a local’s opinion when it comes to good food!
After a hearty lunch, it was finally time to visit the world’s largest and oldest occupied castle. Windsor Castle is one of the top attractions in England and it’s easy to see why. It was William the Conqueror who chose the site for Windsor Castle and began building in 1070. That’s over 900 incredible years of history!
I was even more impressed when I learned that every monarch since Henry I, from the 12th century, has used Windsor Castle! Just admiring the castle is enough to impress you, but learning about how it’s survived so many tumultuous years throughout history is truly mind blowing.
Being one of The Queen’s current residences, photography is not allowed inside. However, you’ll be occupied enough with the audio guide and simply gawking at the lavish decor in every room.
Admission prices are 20 pounds for adults, with lower prices for students and seniors, and it is entirely worth the money! If you can only see just one thing in Windsor, have it be Windsor Castle.
Every single night at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, you can enjoy Evensong free of charge! Your admission ticket into Windsor Castle allows you entry into St George’s Chapel during visiting hours, but Evensong is available to anyone wanting to visit at 5:15 PM, after the rest of the castle is closed to the public.
Evensong is essentially an hour of evening prayer, mostly sung by a choir. This was probably one of my favorite experiences, not only in Windsor, but throughout my travels in England! Believe me when I say that you do not have to be religious in any way to enjoy this activity. Listening to the beautiful voices of the choir echo in this stunning 14th century church made history come alive for me. I was also sitting above the graves of monarchs such as King Henry VIII. How crazy, weird, and wonderful is that?
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to our first day in Windsor.
After a glorious breakfast at Oakley Court, we returned back to where we met Amanda the previous day. This time we were there to watch the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle!
Every day, at least in the Spring and Summer seasons, you’ll find the Royal Guards marching up to the castle at 11:00 AM with horns blasting! Okay, maybe not blasting, they actually played their instruments beautifully. But if you’re not already awake, you definitely will be after witnessing this fun spectacle!
You’ll find the Windsor Guildhall & Royal Borough Museum just a block or so away from the castle. If you haven’t been able to tell yet, the town center is quite small and extremely walkable!
3 pounds will get you inside the small museum where there’s an interesting and very interactive audio guide that explains the town’s history, while displaying some ancient artifacts. However, our main reason for visiting was to see inside the Guildhall.
This has been the town hall of Windsor since the late 1600’s, when it was constructed by Sir Christopher Wren. Our guide told us a great story about how Wren’s design was questioned by many people who believed his columns wouldn’t be able to support the heavy building above. To prove them wrong, he made the columns slightly short, so that they do not quite touch the ceiling. As the building is still standing in 2016, I think Sir Christopher Wren won that argument!
Inside the Guildhall, you’ll find a few rooms filled with a wonderful (and rare!) collection of paintings featuring some of England’s most notable monarchs. To understand the impressive range, there’s a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I from the 16th century, right up to the current Queen Elizabeth II. The Guildhall also hosts private events such as wedding receptions and civil ceremonies, with the most famous being the wedding of Prince Charles of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005!
Before saying our sad farewells to Windsor, we decided to go on a boat ride on the River Thames which offered beautiful views of the town and local countryside. Also, the dock where you meet the boat is a gathering place for practically every swan in Windsor, and I hear there’s almost 200 of them! Approach with caution. Or better yet, just take pictures of them once you’re safely on the boat. I know, I’m such a risk taker.
The French Brothers offer 40-minute rides, every 30 minutes, starting at 10 AM. Prices start at 6.50 pounds for adults if you book ahead online.
Is it possible to see Windsor in a day? Absolutely. But only if you’re planning on visiting the castle and grabbing a bite to eat. If you want to take in everything this royal town has to offer, I’d highly recommend spending a good 24 hours in order to explore and learn about its fascinating layers of history.
Have you been to Windsor before? Would you like to visit in the future? I’d love to know in the comments below!
*Note: HUGE thanks to Visit Windsor for sponsoring me on this trip! However, opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend somewhere that I actually enjoyed!