Visiting Windsor Castle
What to see at Windsor Castle, how long to stay, best time to visit, tickets and tours
Windsor Castle is one of three official residences of The Queen and has been home to the Sovereign for over 900 years.
The Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world and the oldest in continuous occupation. The imposing towers and battlements of the Castle loom large from every approach to the town, creating one of the world's most spectacular skylines.
Windsor & Eton
Getting to Windsor
What strikes many people used to visiting historic ruins or attractions with a 'preservation' or museum like atmosphere is that Windsor Castle is in pristine condition and fully working. There around 150 people for whom Windsor Castle is their home, the Queen herself is in residence many weekends.
You are truly a guest when visiting, as a visitor you are not the sole reason for the place being open.
Windsor Castle - opening times and when to visit
From March - October the doors open to the public at 9.30am every day, including Sunday, and close at 5.30pm.
From November to February opening time is 9.45am, closing 4.15pm. Last entrance is 90 minutes prior to closing time.
Sightsee within 2 hours of London
Tours from London
Tours from London visiting
Sightsee from London
Within 2 hours
Tours from London
Changing of the guard happens between 11am and 11.30am also adding to the morning rush. Many of the coach tours will commonly stay until around midday departing after the changing of the guard.
On Sundays St George's is closed for religious services.
It follows that if you're an independent visitor during the summer months, a good strategy is to visit the other attractions of Windsor & Eton during the morning and visit the castle after lunch. Visitor numbers are also much higher at weekends than during the week.
Lastly, the castle may close for state visits etc. Do consult the Windsor Castle official website, (link at top of page). This also states the days during the winter when changing of the guard takes place and seasonable closing times.
Windsor Castle location
Windsor Castle is very easy to find. Coming out from Windsor and Eton Central Station, or Windsor and Eton Riverside Station, the castle walls can be seen in front of you.
The main entrance to Windsor Castle is at the top of Castle Hill, on the right.
Castle Hill, Windsor SL4 1PD.
How long your visit will take and queues
During the winter months when there are no queues, the average visitor will take 90 minutes to two hours in the Castle, although the official Windsor Castle website suggest three hours or more.
At peak times during the summer there are often long queues to the entrance of the State Apartments.
Entrance, exits and security at Windsor Castle
Inside Windsor Castle
On paying your admission you pass through airline style security where bags are put through an x-ray machine and you empty your pockets and pass through a detector door. Once through the security you pick up your audio phone at the kiosk opposite.
There is an information desk, toilets and gift shop here too. By the audio kiosk is a sign that details the times of the guided tours that day. It is from here these tours start.
Please note, the exit is from the main Windsor Castle Henry VII Gate, not the entrance with the ticket desks.
Audio Guides and photography at Windsor Castle
An audio tour is part of the admission price, available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin. You simply key in the number of the room or place you are in and a full commentary is given. There are many optional commentaries within some commentaries that go into great detail about individual items.
There are also classic guided tours that leave regularly from near the entrance on a schedule.
No photography or video recording is allowed within the State Apartments or St George's Chapel. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the State Apartments or St George's Chapel. You will be asked to place drinks and food in closed bags before being admitted to the Castle. You can purchase bottled water at the Courtyard Shop at the beginning of your visit.
Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle Changing Of The Guard
Many visitors like to time their visit so they can view the Changing of the Guard. This is very similar to that practiced in Central London at Buckingham Palace or Horseguards.
Changing of the Guard at Windsor usually takes place at 11am within the Castle grounds Mondays to Saturdays from April until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting.
If you're not visiting the Castle you can still see the band marching through the town around 11am. The barracks is about 500m from the castle, the band passes the Guildhall and Old Town before turning into the castle at Queen Victoria's statue.
If you're in the Castle, congregate in the parade ground by the main exit in front of St George's Chapel.
The whole thing takes around thirty minutes here.
State Apartments, Windsor Castle
Most people after getting their introductions and briefings about the castle on their tour will make their way past the moat of the Round Tower (not open to the public) up to the north terrace. It is here that the entrance to the State Apartments is situated.
From the north terrace you gaze down to Windsor town below and get far reaching views of the surrounding countryside. Windsor town looks much smaller from up here.
The entrance is roped off into two options. One gives entrance direct into the State Apartments, one precedes this by giving you access to Queen Mary's Dolls' House. The Dolls' House is precisely what you'd expect, a single miniature dolls' house suitable for royalty complete with miniature crown jewels. The viewing area is quite dark. On exiting there are display cabinets of costumes.
The State Apartments follow this. Much of the southern part was destroyed by fire in 1992 and has been restored. Arguably your experience is much the better for it; some of the rooms that were beginning to look faded and antique now really do bring alive what the original rooms would have looked like on completion.
Such are the treasures that you can perhaps look at an obscure painting only to realise that your are inches from an original Rubens when looking at the information on it.
St George's Chapel
St George's Chapel
St George's Chapel is a working church with services every day. St. George's Chapel is open daily but closed to visitors on Sundays as services are held throughout the day. Worshippers are welcome to attend the services. The church also closes earlier than the rest of the castle to prepare for the evening service.
If you're entering the castle from early afternoon onwards it is worth making St George's your first port of call.
Within the chapel are the tombs of ten sovereigns, including Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I. The Gothic architecture is particularly impressive, particularly the roof.
Perhaps most fascinating and differentiating the chapel from similar churches and abbeys is the Order of the Garter, the world's oldest national order of knighthood in continuous existence, with a history stretching back to King Edward III in medieval times.
Membership of the Order is extremely limited and includes the monarch of the United Kingdom, the Prince of Wales and not more than twenty-four companion members. St George's is home to the Order, as St. George is patron saint and also patron saint of soldiers and also of England. Members are each assigned a stall in the chapel choir above which his or her heraldic devices are displayed.
Windsor Castle - tickets
Windsor Castle has straight forward ticketing with concessions for children and seniors as well as family tickets.
We are not aware of any discounted tickets available to visitors priced below that of the walk up price.
However it is very worth your while purchasing advance tickets on-line for the summer months. At peak times you can wait in line to buy a ticket for up to an hour.
Those with pre-purchased, heritage tickets and the London Pass by-pass the queues and have their own fast track entrance within the ticket hall building.
Windsor Castle & London's attraction passes
Railways 2 for 1 Promotion - The railways 2 for 1 entrance promotion is not valid at Windsor Castle.
The London Pass - Windsor Castle is supported by London's most popular attraction pass, for full details follow the banner link below.
Windsor Castle tours
There are many different tours visiting Windsor Castle, just a couple of them are half day tours only to the castle, not including another attraction. However, because Windsor is relatively close to London many tours have Windsor Castle as part of a day long tour, including other attractions such as Hampton Court or further afield, Stonehenge.
Hampton Court & Windsor Castle shuttle
Hampton Court & Windsor Castle are only 19 miles (30 kms) apart but there is no convenient public transport option connecting them.
Both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court have train links from Central London and in 2016 a shuttle service started connecting both together allowing you to spend half a day at each.