A few weeks ago we were gladly able to join in by celebrating the UK’s national Bank Holiday here in London. With the day off work for my husband and my good friend visiting us in town, we knew that we had to go and visit someplace special for the holiday. All three of us had never been to historic Windsor Castle before, so we booked our tickets ahead of time and made arrangements to see the longest-occupied palace in Europe!
We took the tube to Paddington Station, where we hopped on a short 40 minute train ride out to the little town of Windsor. Thanks to buying our admission tickets in advance, we were able to avoid all the long lines and get right into the castle. From first glance, Windsor is quite impressive. The large buildings and fortifying brick walls make you realize just how important and meaningful this palace really is. Windsor Castle is the Queen’s main residence of choice and the estate truly does feel like it was made for royalty! Lucky for us, the Queen was away in Scotland during our visit, so this meant that we would have access to more of the state rooms while she was on holiday.
The great thing about Windsor Castle is that an audio head-set comes included with your purchase of a general admission ticket. This turned out to be a really nice surprise because not all European attractions do this and usually can charge you extra for it. As soon as you step onto the castle grounds, the audio tour begins. Now I have done a lot of audio tours throughout my touristy travels (guilty), and I have found that some can definitely be better than others. The audio tour here though is really well done and it is worth the time and effort to listen and learn about Windsor’s remarkable history. Prince Charles himself narrates insightful information, and gives you an even greater feel to what defines Britain’s cherished royal landmark. So don’t be lame and skip out on the headsets.. you could really miss out on some incredible history!
In the middle of the tour you can choose whether to wait in line to see just the state rooms, or if you would like to see the state rooms along with Queen Mary’s Doll’s House. On the day we went, the line to see the dollhouse was out the door and around the corner. The idea of waiting in a longer line just to see a dollhouse sounded dumb, but we didn’t want to regret anything about our visit so we decided to tough it out and see it. This sounds crazy, but it has been one of the most unusual and intricate things I have seen in London! It was a gift given from Princess Marie Louise in 1924 to Queen Mary, and is known to be the world’s largest dollhouse! I personally thought it was worth the wait to get inside.`
Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside.. But it sure was a beautiful day to take some around the grounds!
After the dollhouse, we toured all of the state rooms inside the castle and this. was. phenomenal. I absolutely loooooooved the state rooms. They are more glittery and ornate than you could even imagine! We got to see just about everything inside from the grand St. George’s Hall, to the actual room where the queen knights her subjects. It was spectacular to get a sneak peek into how the royals actually live their lives today. At the end of the state rooms we were then directed to tour the perfectly kept castle gardens and then over to St. George’s Chapel. This was neat to see where all the famous monarchs of England have been buried. The current Queen Elizabeth’s mother is buried here, along with famous King Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour. There are so many great stories and history to hear.. exploring the state rooms and chapel at Windsor was such a treat indeed.
The tour finished up at St. George’s Chapel where we then checked out the gift shops and snuck in some photos with the royal guards. They don’t let you get up close with the guards at Buckingham Palace, so if you want that ultimate cliché photo (gotta have at least one) then Windsor is the only place where they let you interact with them.
Believe it or not, but there is actually more to explore in the town of Windsor besides Windsor Castle. There are plenty of tourist food traps as you exit the estate, but if you walk a bit further out into the city you can find some really cute and authentic places to shop, dine, and explore. Sticking with our British theme of the day, we opted to eat some fish and chips at The Corner House not far from the main center. I know I have stated before that our best fish and chips we have had in the UK have been in Wales.. this however is false. The Corner House in Windsor has them beat. Their fish and chips were so insanely delicious, that I have been debating going back to Windsor just to eat them again.
It was so much fun to be tourists for the day at Windsor Castle, and to do all things British! Windsor Castle has been one of my favorite tourist attractions that I have done in London and I’m so glad that we were able to take a whole day off to do it. Our tour of the castle took about three hours, and then we spent the rest of the day eating and shopping in the town. I totally recommend making a day of it like we did if you visit because there is so much see and do here. Windsor is the heart of the United Kingdom and by visiting, we felt like we got to learn so much more about what makes this country so fascinating.
1. Windsor Castle. Do I even need to say why?
2. Fish & Chips. The Corner House. Just go.
3. Windsor Town. So royal and lots going on!
*This weekend we are heading into the countryside to Bournemouth, England