It’s hard to overstate how important Windsor Castle is to Britain. It has been the seat of the British Monarchy for almost 1000 years and is the oldest inhabited castle in the world. The ancient fortress protected Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a child during World War 2, and she also recently sequestered herself at Windsor during the pandemic. It is also home to the highest Order of chivalry in England, the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Everyone who visits London should make time to leave the city center for Windsor. With so much history and significance, I’ve made it easy and narrowed down the top things to see at Windsor Castle.
Remember, you don’t have to be into the Royal Family to appreciate Windsor Castle. How many 900-year-old fortresses with a beautiful park have you visited? Here is my list of top things to see at Windsor
Angel’s Pro Tip: Travel these days is all about preparation, information, and flexibility. Help yourself by bookmarking this article on your phone internet browser this way you can quickly retrieve it in London. Also, if you want to get more out of your visit join one of our small group tours of London that include Windsor.
Top Things to See at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is one of the most important sites in Britain. It is a historic fortress, royal palace, and family home. The 11th-century castle has been an official residence to 39 Monarchs since 1110, making it one longest inhabited castles in the world. Over a million visitors see Windsor Castle every year because of its central connection to British History. It’s also in a stunning location on the Thames, surrounded by acres of parkland. I would recommend planning to spend a whole morning at Windsor to see it without rushing. For more on tickets, transportation, and planning information, see my article on How To Visit Windsor Castle in 2022. Here are the Top Things to See at Windsor Castle.
The Upper Ward is where the State Apartments, Semi-State Rooms, and the private residences of Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family are.
It is easy to see this first as it is closest to the entrance and audio guide pickup.
The Lower Ward
The stunning St George’s Chapel dominates the Lower Ward. The changing of the Guard takes place in the courtyard of the lower ward next to St George’s chapel. The 45-minute ceremony has taken place since 1660 and occurs around 11 am every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Tickets to the castle are necessary to see the changing of the Guard.
12. Queen Victoria Statue
You will see a statue of Queen Victoria once you exit the train station shopping arcade. It is a fitting tribute to the longest-reigning monarch (before Her Majesty surpassed her reign in 2015), known as the Widow of Windsor. When her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Queen Victoria fell into deep mourning and depression that lasted the rest of her life. As the Empire grew around her to become a superpower, the Queen sequestered herself mostly here at Windsor. She did not appear in public again for over twenty years.
The entrance to the ticket office is a couple of meters past this statue on the right-hand side.
11. The Round Tower
The site to build Windsor Castle was chosen by William the Conqueror to visibly impose the Norman conqueror’s will on the Saxons in the 11th century. William would recognize this mound today on which the Round Tower sits since it was the castle’s highest point overlooking the Thames Valley. Therefore, the wooden keep that originally stood here was part of the fortress’ design. Henry III replaced the wooden keep with a stone round tower. The Round Tower was the private residence of just one monarch, King Edward III. In the 1820s, the Round Tower extension was added, which we see today. Now, the Round Tower remains one of the iconic symbols of Windsor Castle and is home to the Royal Archives.
10. Equestrian Statue of Charles II
Photo Courtesy of Angel Castellanos
You will get a brief glimpse of the Quadrangle of the Upper Ward when you walk up to the castle from the ticket office or when you exit the State Apartments. At one end of the Quadrangle, on the side of the Round Tower, is the Equestrian statue of King Charles II. During the pandemic, the Quadrangle has been used more by Her Majesty The Queen for State occasions like trooping the colour and welcoming foreign heads of State.
The figure is from the 17th century and honors the King that restored the monarchy after the English Civil War. King Charles II also renovated many of the rooms in Windsor we see today. The figure is unique because it depicts the King, not as English, but in the Roman style of Ceasar, complete with laurel leaf and Roman Armor.
9. View of the Long Walk
One of the best views in England is available once you enter the State Apartments and get a view of the Long Walk. The Long Walk is a beautiful 2.6-mile tree-lined thoroughfare that stretches from the Castle through Windsor Great Park. Originally built by King Charles II, the Long Walk we see today is thanks to the late Prince Philip, Duke Edinburgh. As Warden of Windsor Park, he replaced the diseased original Elm trees with Oak, Chestnut, and various other trees.
At the end of the walk is an equestrian statue of King George III who’s love of Winsdor was well known as he was often called “Farmer George.” A stroll along the long walk to the statue takes about forty-five minutes to an hour.
Top Things to See at Windsor Castle – The State Apartments
You will first see the State apartments once you get inside Windsor Castle. They are a series of grand rooms that give the almost one thousand-year-old castle a palace feel. Her Majesty The Queen uses these rooms for official state functions as Head of State. The current design and aesthetic of State Apartments is due to the vision of King George IV. According to historian David Starkey, this King was “the barometer of fashion and excessive in every possible way.” His love of theatrical pageantry and the French Baroque style led him to renovate these sumptuous rooms. Although the fire in 1992 damaged some rooms, the restoration spared no expense, like the renovations of the 1820s.The state apartments have been open since 1848 when Queen Victoria opened them to the public.
8. Waterloo Chamber
Like the Alexander Hall in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, there is a room in Windsor Castle dedicated to the heroes and victors of the Napoleonic Wars. The room’s name honors the decisive Battle of Waterloo in which The Duke of Wellington and the Allied Forces finally defeated the Corsican military genius, Napoleon. Wellington, the Czar of Russia, the Archduke of Austria, and even Pope Pius VII have massive portraits in this room. The woven carpet is from India, a gift to Queen Victoria in the late 19th century, also Empress of India. Today, the room is home to official events hosted by Her Majesty The Queen and members of the Royal Family. Unfortunately, the Waterloo Chamber is under renovation at the time of publication, but it’s still a cool room to visit. Currently, the room contains the pantomime portraits that were in place during World War 2.
7. Garter Throne Room
The Garter Throne Room is one of the most influential rooms in the State Apartments because it is where the investiture of the Knights of the Noblest Order of the Garter takes place. The Order was the oldest Order of chivalry in England when King Edward III founded the Order in 1348 due to his love of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. St George, the saint of soldiers and nobles, to whom the Order of the Garter is dedicated, became the patron saint of England. Appointments to the Order are made directly by the sovereign, at their discretion. The Order is limited to twenty-four living members outside the King or Queen and The Prince of Wales. Each June, they gather in this room, built during the renovations of the 1820s, for new investitures and their annual procession to St George’s Chapel in the lower ward.
6. The Crimson Drawing Room
The Crimson Drawing is an eye-catching room in the State Apartments. Dripping with gold and crimson velvet, it is a fine example of the intention of the renovations by King George IV during the 19th century. There are some portraits of his siblings in this room, but the State portraits of the Queen’s parents, His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, dominate this room.
5. St George’s Hall
St George’s Hall in Windsor is a long room used by Her Majesty The Queen for official State Functions and Banquets. You might also remember this room when Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, and his wife introduced their new son, baby Archie to the world. The room contains portraits and busts of the Stuart and Hanoverian Kings & Queens and various busts of notable royals who received the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Each year the Knights of the Order of the Garter assemble here before their annual procession to St George’s Chapel in the lower ward. If you look up, you will see the coat of arms of various Knights of the Order. The missing spots are from Knights who’ve had their Orders revoked during WWI.
Top Things to See at Windsor Castle – The Historic State Apartments
Once King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, the style and splendor of the Baroque replaced the simple Puritanical approach that previously dominated Britain. Windsor Castle was no exception. Like every other monarch in Europe, Charles wanted to rival his cousin Louis XIV Palace of Versailles. He renovated a series of rooms for his Queen, Catherine of Braganza. These rooms are the finest examples of Baroque architecture in England, with exquisitely decorated rooms, frescoed ceilings, and some of the most impressive art in the Royal Collection.
4. Queen’s Presence Chamber
The Queen’s Presence Chamber is one of the series of lavish rooms built for Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. The paintings, rich tapestries, and frescoed ceiling by Italian artist Antonio Verrio will instantly transport you to the late 17th century. The painted ceiling shows Queen Catherine in an allegorical scene surrounded by Virtues. One of the few paintings of Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, is in this room.
This young Prince was the only son of Princess Anne (later Queen Anne) and grandson of King James II. The hope of cementing Protestant rule in Great Britain rested on the eventual succession of young Prince William. Unfortunately, the young Prince didn’t live past his twelfth birthday, and his death changed the course of British history forever.
3. The Queen’s Gallery
Before the 1830s, the Queen’s Gallery was the main ballroom of the State Apartments. Queen Victoria decided to hang several Van Dyck’s in this room, giving it its current appearance. There is usually eleven total in this room, including the masterful Charles I on horseback. Copies of this painting adorn influential stately homes throughout the country. You might recognize it from watching Downton Abbey since a copy hangs in their breakfast room. Do not miss the exquisite Five Eldest Children of Charles I that features the future Charles II, James II, and The Princess Royal, who became the mother of William III.
2. The Queen’s Drawing Room
Although this room was originally a room for Queen Catherine of Braganza, it is now a significant picture gallery of the Royal Collection. The old masters line the room and allow us to come face to face with the actual paintings we’ve only seen in history books of the Tudor and Stuart Monarchs. Holbein & Van Dyck make up a majority of the historic portraits. The triple portrait of King Charles I by Van Dyck was a study for Bernini. The King had the unique picture painted as a study for a commissioned marble bust.
1. St George’s Chapel
St George’s Chapel is the heart and soul of Windsor Castle and is no doubt one of the top things to see at Windsor Castle in 2022. When King Edward III founded the Order of The Garter in 1348, there was already a chapel at Windsor, and it was quickly rededicated to St George to become the Order’s home. Be sure to see the various banners of the members of the Order that hang in the quire and the collection of plaques in the stalls from all the previous members.
The construction of the chapel we see today began in 1475, and King Henry VII added the famous vaulted ceilings. Architecturally, the chapel is one of the most significant examples of the Gothic Perpendicular in England.
The Royal Connection to St George’s Chapel
St George’s Chapel is also the final resting place of ten different monarchs dating back to King Edward IV in 1483. There are various side chapels in which various monarchs, including Her Majesty The Queen’s parents, are buried. In front of the high altar, look for a black stone marker on the floor of the quire that marks the burial place of King Charles I and King Henry VIII. Recently, St George’s chapel was the location for the funeral and internment of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Royal weddings have taken place at Windsor since 1121, and most notably, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, married Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in a grand televised ceremony.
Need a COVID test to return to the USA or travel to Europe? Check out our recent article on Where to Get A COVID test in London.
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