Top 10 Things to Do in Windsor on a First Visit, UK
Having hosted a flush of royal weddings in recent years, Windsor is once again one of the United Kingdom's most popular tourist destinations. Here's a handy checklist of ten fabulous things to do around town.
Windsor is a destination steeped in history and royal connections.
Situated 160 kilometres west of London on the River Thames, this bustling East Berkshire town is home to Windsor Castle — an imposing edifice that has seen its fair share of blue blood residents — from William I in 1066 through to the late reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. 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 significant points of interest from the past goes on.
Windsor Castle is open to the public all year round; pre-purchase your ticket online and put aside a full day to do it justice. Highlights include St George’s Chapel (which is filled with royal treasures — particularly those of King George IV — an extravagant and renowned collector), the Changing of the Guard (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the time of writing), the State Apartments, and the Moat Room models (which show how the castle has changed over the centuries).
Once you’ve seen the castle, here are ten of the best things to do in Windsor itself on a first visit.
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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.
2. Step back in time at Windsor & Royal Borough Museum
There’s not a lot you can buy with two pounds these days, but it will gain you admission to the Windsor and 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.
3. Enjoy a night at the Theatre Royal
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.
4. Take a trot through Windsor Great Park
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.
5. Spend a day at the races
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.
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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 late 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.
7. Indulge in a helping of Eton mess
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.
8. Whip up a sweet treat
Windsor’s Fudge Kitchen assails the senses from the moment you step over the welcome mat. The smell of this sweet delight being made on the premises is intoxicating, and just looking at the array of confectionery on display will have your mouth watering! Take a workshop and learn all there is to known about the art of fudge-making, before whipping up a batch yourself. What you don’t eat, you can take with you — if it lasts that long!
9. Delight your inner child
You will no doubt have seen Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House during your visit to Windsor Castle; it’s one of the most popular exhibits. Designed to replicate a 1920s aristocratic mansion with immaculate detail, the dollhouse features a fully stocked wine cellar, a library of original literary works, and working elevators. There’s even running water in the bathrooms. Equally, tiny travellers (and big kids at heart) will love a visit to Legoland Windsor Resort. This theme park features more than fifty Lego-inspired rides, attractions and shows. A skip-the-line ticket will see you clicking bricks into place that much faster.
10. Raise a royal toast
If you’re looking for a top spot to relax after a long day of sightseeing, stop in at the Duchess of Cambridge on Thames Street — the first pub in England to be named after Kate Middleton. Feast on classic dishes like fish and chips or the roast of the day, and wash it down with your choice from the selection of traditional cask ales.
Browse our range of Windsor day tours and experiences here.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Windsor on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
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 travellers to explore our amazing planet.