With Harry and Meghan’s move to Frogmore Cottage and the birth of Royal Baby Sussex, aka Archie Harrison, Windsor is once again a must-visit destination.
This historic East Berkshire town, located 164 kilometres west of London on the River Thames, is home to Windsor Castle — an imposing edifice that has seen its fair share of royal residents — from William I in 1066 through to the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Any visit to Windsor will be steeped in history. A walk down Church Street reveals a plaque marking the place of execution of King Charles I in 1648. England’s most famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren, supposedly oversaw the completion of the architecturally pleasing Guildhall on the High Street in 1687. And the list of historic points of interest goes on.
Windsor Castle and St George’s Chapel (which is filled with royal treasures — particularly those of King George IV — an extravagant and renowned collector) are Windsor’s key sights. You will need a full day to do the castle justice. Highlights include the Changing of the Guard (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am), the State Apartments and the Moat Room models, which show how castle has changed over the centuries.
Once you have seen the castle, here are ten top things to do in Windsor itself.
Start your tour of royal hotspots as soon as you step off the train and into Windsor Royal Station — a shopping complex housed in the Grade II listed Victorian railway station. Browse in the 40+ speciality stores, cafes, bars and craft markets housed within the heritage surroundings of the arcade. Your footsteps will echo along the cobbled walkways beneath the original steel structure as you pass under Jubilee Arch towards Queen Victoria’s royal waiting room — now an information centre.
There’s not a lot you can buy with two pounds these days, but it will gain you admission to the Windsor & Royal Borough Museum. This small museum in the Windsor Guildhall (which dates back to 1689) presents an informative account of local history through recorded voices of former residents and their descendants (including the mistress of King Charles II — Nell Gwyn). It will give you an understanding of life in Windsor under the monarchy.
From humble beginnings in a muddy barnyard in 1778, Windsor’s Theatre Royal moved to the High Street in 1793 and enjoyed the patronage of King George III and his entourage. Gutted by fire in 1908, the theatre was rebuilt in 1910. It faced further trying times — including the challenge posed by the rise of talking pictures. After a brief period as a movie theatre, the theatre’s fortunes as a live performance space were lifted by the attendance of the future King George VI and his wife Elizabeth. Members of the current royal family continue that tradition. The theatre has become popular for staging its own unique pantomimes. Check their website to find out what’s on during your visit.
Follow in the hoof prints of kings and queens and take a relaxed trot through Windsor Great Park on a horse riding tour. There are several trails which will take you across open green fields and past deer grazing under the trees. One key monument to look out for is King George III. He sits proudly on his horse, forever watching over the castle and its royal occupants.
Put on your best outfit (hats are essential for women) and spend a day enjoying the sport of kings at Ascot Racecourse. Founded by Queen Anne in 1711, horse-racing at Royal Ascot has been an important part of Britain’s social calendar ever since. Take up a prime position trackside to experience the power and excitement of the horses thundering around the track.
OK, this may be one of the less elegant modes of transport you’ll see around Windsor, but it’s certainly one of the most fun! Board a purpose-built amphibious vehicle at the Windsor Duck Tours stop outside the Theatre Royal for a lively and informative land and river adventure. Learn more of the history of Windsor and see landmarks including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Fountain (where local children love to cool off on a warm summer’s day). Your tour ends with a splashdown onto the River Thames.
Eton is a small 15th century village located across the river from Windsor, where storefronts retain their original Victorian heritage. Here you’ll find the prestigious Eton College, which was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 as a school for underprivileged boys. Today it’s one of the finest schools in England. Drop into The Eton Mess restaurant and indulge in their famous namesake — a 19th century dessert of strawberries, crushed meringue and cream.
There is just one rule upon entry to Windsor’s Fudge Kitchen; one must not touch, lick or stroke the table (however tempting that might be!). The sweet smell of fudge fills your nose as soon as you walk into the shop. Take a workshop and learn about 30 years of fudge-making history, before whipping up some delicious fudge yourself. What you don’t eat, you can take with you — if it lasts that long!
Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle is currently undergoing restoration work and is not on public display, but it’s usually one of the castle’s most popular treasures. It was designed to replicate a 1920s aristocratic mansion with immaculate detail. Key features include a fully stocked wine cellar, a library of original literary works, and working elevators. There’s even running water in the bathrooms. Tiny travellers (and big kids at heart) will also love a visit to Legoland Windsor Resort. This theme park features Lego-themed rides and workshops.
To celebrate your visit to Windsor, stop in at the Duchess of Cambridge on Thames Street — the first pub in England to be named after one of the new royals. Feast on traditional English fish and chips or a Sunday roast in the wood panelled dining room, and wash it all down with a pint of beer.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in Windsor? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Linda Botting is a freelance writer, photographer and travel blogger based in Adelaide, South Australia. Her work has appeared in Great Walks, SA Weekend and International Traveller. She has travelled extensively through Western Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia. Linda has lived in London, trekked Peru, practised yoga in Bali, studied Italian in Italy and played polo in Argentina. She seeks to inspire like-minded independent and solo travellers to explore new cultures and learn more about our amazing planet.