18 Royally Good Things To Do In Windsor
This quintessentially English town is where Her Majesty The Queen calls home, and the cobbled streets, riverside setting and historic buildings, linked to luminaries such as Sir Christopher Wren, means there are plenty of things to see and do. The fact you can get there in just over half an hour from the capital makes it one of the most popular day trips from London. Read on to discover where to eat, drink, visit and relax in Windsor, whether you're heading there for the day, or eyeing it for a weekend break.
1. See where Her Majesty The Queen lives
The official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, and has been in royal hands for more than 1,000 years. If the Royal Standard at Windsor Castle is flying, The Queen is at home. However if you see the Union Flag hoisted, she's not there. Time your trip for either the Easter Court (March to April) or June, as this is when the Queen attends Royal Ascot and the chivalric service of the Order of the Garter in St George’s Chapel.
DID YOU KNOW: William the Conqueror started building the castle in 1070AD, subsequent kings made changes before Edward III splashed out £50,000 to turn it into a gothic palace in the 1370s. A fire in 1992 led to a huge restoration which was finally completed in 1997.
In the summer months you can also take a guided tour of the castle's Round Tower and enjoy views across several counties as well as see the 15m flag pole up close. Frogmore House, a former royal residence bought by George III in 1792 as a country estate for his wife, Queen Charlotte, is still used by the Royal Family for entertaining and can be visited between July and September. Find out more: Website and Twitter
2. Visit Windsor Great Park
The Crown Estate manage this Royal Park, once a Norman hunting forest and home to a 600 strong deer herd today. You've got 5,000 acres to explore on foot, by bike or on horseback. There are formal gardens, grassland and ancient oaks in the famous forests - plenty of space for a picnic. Take the Long Walk, flanked by horse chestnut and plane trees, to get the best views of the estate. Find out more: Website and Twitter
3. Have a day at Ascot...
Royal Ascot is one of the biggest events in the global sporting calendar, with racegoers donning their best bib and tucker (not to mention gravity-defying hats - see dress code) every June. The course is next to Windsor Great Park, and saw it's first race in 1711 and has two tracks, one flat and the other for the Chase and Hurdles event (jumps). There are race events throughout the year, as well as plenty of food and drink festivals.
DID YOU KNOW: During the five days racing at Royal Ascot, racegoers drank more than 50,000 bottles of champagne and eat nearly 3,000 lobsters and 35,000 English asparagus spears.
4. ...Or Royal Windsor Racecourse
One of the oldest racecourses in the country can be found close by to Windsor Castle (the current site has had races since 1866). They have flat racing from April to October - most notably on a Monday night - with live music nights also held during the summer season. Find out more: Website and Twitter
5. Head out on a hack
Saddle up at one of the local stables and go horseriding in Windsor Great Park or the surrounding countryside. Tally Ho Stables and Wayside Stables both offer a range of horses and ponies to suit all experience levels (and are British Horse Society approved). If you want an even more relaxed approach, book a carriage ride round the park, where your driver and guide will teach you the history of the estate.
6. Take a bus tour
See more of the town and surrounding area on an all-day, hop-on, hop-off bus. The circular route takes you round a huge swathe of Windsor Great Park. Dropping off points include Eton College, Datchet Green (where you can pick up a river cruise) and The Long Walk (which is exactly what it sounds like, through the park). If you time it right, you can watch the soldiers and band that make up the Changing of the Guard Parade at Windsor Castle before setting out, as they march past the main pick up point (see websites for times and dates). Find out more: Website and Twitter
7. Go on a walking tour
Walk through this historic town in the company of a tour guide - there are plenty to choose from, but for something different, Windsor Guided Tours do an atmospheric night walk around the town and neighbouring village of Eton.
8. Try boating or rowing on the River Thames
If you fancy paddling down the river, London Kayak Tours have three different experiences to try. Eton College's Boat Club has more members than any other such organisation in the world, and chances are you'll spot members getting some practice on the river.
9. Take it easy on a river cruise
French Brothers have a wide range of boat cruises, running around Windsor or over to Runnymede and Maidenhead. If you are a little pushed for time, take the 40 minute round trip cruise, which takes in Windsor Castle, Eton College and the Racecourse. Find out more: Website and Twitter
10. Watch some water sports
If you loved the London 2012 Olympics you'll have seen the facilities at Dorney Lake, which hosted the rowing and kayak events. The site is privately owned by Eton College, but the surrounding park and Arboretum is popular for picnics, walking and skating. They also hold three major regattas each year - if you want to go and watch the professionals show you how it's done. Find out more: Website and Twitter
11. Visit Eton College
Probably the most famous school in the world, and certainly one of the oldest, Eton College was founded as "The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor" in 1440 by Henry VI. Notable current Old Etonians include Princes William and Harry, Prime Minister, David Cameron and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
DID YOU KNOW? The Eton Wall Game's first recorded match was in 1766. A strange hybrid of rugby and football, the "goals" are a garden door at one end and a tree at the other. They are so uncommon the last one scored was on St Andrew's Day in 1909.
They also have a Natural History Museum, which is open to the public on Sunday afternoons. They have rare exhibits including a page from On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin as well as surviving plants brought back by botanist (and Old Etonian) Sir Joseph Banks from his trip to Australia with Captain Cook.
12. Entertain the family at LEGOLAND® Windsor
This hugely popular theme park has more than 55 rides, and is on the outskirts of Windsor. Test your sea legs in the Land of the Vikings rapids or try and negotiate your way round the maze that is Loki's Labyrinth. Children can drive LEGO® cars or steer a battery-powered LEGO® boat in LEGO® City and the little ones can play in DUPLO® Valley in a giant replica of a children's toy. If you don't have a car, catch the shuttle bus from Windsor town centre. Find out more: Website and Twitter
13. Go for a nice meal
Meimo in Peascod Street serves Moroccan mezze, or for Italian try Viva l`Italia, which has a huge range of pizza. For afternoon tea, Limes, a dine-in bakery, will whip you fresh scones and a pot of tea right next door to Windsor Castle. If you head a little out of town to Bray, you can find high-quality Michelin starred dining. The Waterside Inn is run by the legendary Roux brothers, and is one of the few restaurants in the UK to hold three Michelin stars. It's probably the best French cuisine you can find in the country.
14. Have a drink in a traditional pub
Right next to the castle and on one of the oldest streets in the town, The Two Brewers has been serving patrons since 1792. This traditional pub is very small, so if you want to guarantee a seat - it's best to book in advance. Another traditional pub in the centre of town is The Alma, which claims to have the biggest beer garden in Windsor. For views of the River Thames, visit The Boatman, which has a large terrace right next to Eton Bridge. If you want to learn more about the drinks you've tried, visit the Windsor & Eton Brewery. With beer names like Magna Carta and the Eton Boatman, you can do some tasting and even take a tour.
15. Spend some time shopping
The Windsor Royal Shopping centre is in a converted Grade II listed Victorian Railway Station, and still has many of the original fixtures and fittings. Along with more than 40 stores, there's a range of places to eat including Bills, Patisserie Valerie and the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, should you need to refuel. If you want to try some local produce, the Windsor Farmer's Market takes place on the first Saturday of the month in St Leonard's Road. You'll also find a range of independent boutiques, shops and delis along here. There's also the Windsor Independent Street Market in Peascod Street, which takes place on the middle Saturday. The Crooked House of Windsor is also worth a look. Built in 1592, it's been a butchers, jewelers and brewery, and has a distinctive black and white facade.
16. See a play
The historic Theatre Royal Windsor often shows new plays (and new stars) before they transfer to London's West End. They have a full programme all-year-round and at Christmas and the New Year, a traditional pantomime. Owner of Everton Football Club, Bill Kenwright is the executive producer at the theatre, whose present building was completed in 1910. Find out more: Website and Twitter
17. Get in the festival spirit
If you're visiting at the end of September / early October, you'll find the Windsor Festival in full swing. With a focus on the arts, events cover music, exhibitions & open houses, talks & plays and walks and tours. Find out more: Website and Twitter
18. Walk down the Thames Path
Strolling down the tranquil riverside in Windsor is one of life's simple pleasures, whether you are watching the swans glide past or see the exertion of the rowers on the water. If you are up for a more strenuous walk, there are a couple of guides for riverside walks you can take via National Trails. Heading out of Windsor towards London, you'll go past Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed by King John (1215) and towards Staines-upon-Thames. Going the other way towards Oxford, you can visit the Cliveden Estate, run by the National Trust and most famous for its involvement in the 1960s Profumo scandal.
If our suggestions have inspired you, why not make your visit a longer one? We have plenty of hotels near Windsor to stay in. Windsor is only an hour away from London, and there are plenty of weekend break destinations to discover, without having to travel to far afield.
You can be in Windsor in less than an hour from London by train. Services to Windsor and Eton Central from Paddington can take as little as half an hour (changing at Slough) via First Great Western. If you want a direct route, London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside station takes c55 minutes with South West Trains. If you are driving, it can take from one hour, to one and half hours, depending on traffic - and the town has a Park and Ride facility. More information: Car parking in Windsor
What are your Windsor tips
Live in Windsor or already visited? We'd love to hear what your favourite things to do in Windsor are. Share your experiences and recommendations by leaving a comment below.