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.
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.
When To Visit Windsor Castle
The doors open to the public at 09:30 every day, including Sunday, (09:45 November to February). Closing is 17:30 and 16:15 respectively with last entrance 90 minutes prior to closing time.
Changing of the guard happens between 11:00 and 11:30 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 web site, (link at top of page). This also states the days during the winter when changing of the guard takes place and seasonable closing times.
How Long To Visit Windsor Castle & Logistics
During the winter months when there are no queues the average visitor will take 90 minutes to 2 hours in the Castle, although the official Windsor Castle web site suggest 3 hours or more.
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.
Inside Windsor Castle
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.
At peak times during the summer there are often long queues to the entrance of the State Apartments.
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 gateway, not the visitor entrance.
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.
If you’re not visiting the castle you can still see the band marching through the town around 11:00. 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 30 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 St Mary’s doll 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 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 its 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, an English order of chivalry with a history stretching back to 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-five companion members.
Members are each assigned a stall in the chapel choir above which his or her heraldic devices are displayed.