Windsor, less than an hour by train from London, is the town that gave its name to the British royal family. The River Thames runs all the way from the capital and right through this very regal town. Once a year during the Easter holidays, the queen herself spends a month here in the imposing Windsor castle—still an official family residence of the monarchy. But Windsor has a lot more to offer than just beefeater guards and royal turrets. There’s no doubt that the castle is a major draw for any visitor, but explore a little further and Windsor proves to be a quaint and very English town that knows how to show you a good time.
Tour the Royal Castle
Built in 1070 by William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle is old! In fact, it is the oldest occupied castle in the world, and the biggest. The castle dominates the town and stands atop a sweeping hill in true royal fashion. Once inside you’ll be given a 30-minute tour and then you can wander the staterooms and the grand reception hall at your own pace. You can even see the changing of the guard if you visit on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday. Tickets need to be purchased in advance as this is a very popular attraction.
Make Your Own Tasty Treat
On Thames Street, the street that curls around the castle, you’ll find a little shop called Fudge Kitchen. The fudge at Fudge Kitchen really is sugary heaven, but you can do more than just eat it. You can create a ‘fudge box’ from the flavors you’ve taste-tested, you can see fudge being made, and you can book a ‘fudge experience’ where you’ll make your very own fudge. You’ll learn about the history of fudge, how it’s created, and you’ll ‘slab and loaf’ like a fudge making pro! A few doors down from Fudge Kitchen is Dr Choc’s. Dr Choc’s is a chocolate shop, café, and chocolate making factory, where you can also make your own chocolate delights.
Go Shopping in the Railway Station
The Windsor Royal Station was first opened in 1894 and it still functions as a railway station today, but amongst the intricate Victorian architecture and working platforms there are also cafes and a curious little shopping mall. Even the ticket office, with its beautifully-preserved wood paneling, is surrounded by tables and chairs for a cafe. If you like shopping malls this one is eccentric and unusual. If you like train stations, this is definitely for you.
Kayaking on the River Thames
You don’t have to be in the big city to sail on the River Thames, and in Windsor you can do it with the stunning backdrop of the castle. Canoe tours, kayaking, paddleboard, and peddle boat hire are all available on the banks of the river. There are 3 different hire companies (Canoe & Kayak Adventures, Windsor Canoe Club, London Kayak Tours), all placed along the side of the Thames, where you can hire your boards and boats or book onto guided tours. You can even book a sunset canoe tour which, fingers crossed, will provide the most incredible canvas for your water sports experience.
Take a Tour on Land and Water on The Duck Tour
If you’d prefer your river tour to be a little more laid back and all you want to do is relax and let someone else take the reins, the Duck Tour is the answer. Despite what its name implies, this isn’t a water only tour. This purpose-built vehicle will pick you up on dry land at a designated pick up point, drive you around the town, and then splash down into the River Thames! The Marine Coastguard Agency checks conditions on the day and tours can be canceled if the weather is too rough. The tour takes an hour and tickets can be booked in advance or bought from the ticket office when you arrive.
See a Show at The Theatre Royal
The Theatre Royal itself is over 200 years old, but the spirit of a theatre at this location dates back even further. There’s evidence that strolling players were performing in the courtyard of the inn that used to stand here as early as 1706. When the inn was gone the players performed in a barn and then eventually the theater was built. The Theatre Royal as it is now was completed in 1910. Book a private box or enjoy the show from the stalls or circle, there’s something for everyone as the theater puts on traditional plays, musicals, classical plays, modern dance, and a Christmas pantomime.
Solve Puzzles in an Escape Room
Escape Experience offers you a choice of rooms to escape from—the Cave Experience, Area 51, or the Crown Jewels Heist. If you’ve never done an escape rooms experience before, the staff here are all very helpful, you get plenty of clues to help you figure your way through your puzzles, and you are never actually locked in the room. It’s a lot of fun and a great way of testing out your teamwork skills.
Stroll Through Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park covers 4500 acres of parkland, really putting the ‘great’ into Windsor Great Park. The park includes The Savill Garden, The Valley Garden, Virginia Water, and The Long Walk and Deer Park. Cascading waterfalls, woodland nature trails, landscaped gardens, and grazing deer, can take up a whole day. And with so much ground to cover you might want to pause for a picnic on the well-kept lawns or take lunch in the Savill Garden Kitchen. The parks are all open year-round and parking lots are available on-site.
Go Back in Time at Windsor and Royal Borough Museum
The Windsor Museum is housed in the Guildhall, a 300-year-old grade I listed building close to the castle. The stained glass windows in the Ascot Room of the Guildhall are a display all of their own, and the Guildhall itself is as fascinating as the museum. The collections in the museum have been there for 40 years and are fittingly historic. View the paintings of major kings and queens through history, including our current queen, and browse the artifacts and treasures. Note, the museum is open until 4 p.m. and closed all day on Mondays.
Eat and Sleep Locally
Traditional old pubs and modern restaurants line the streets around the castle in Windsor. The Royal Windsor pub is tucked below the turrets, and you can enjoy a pint in the beer garden with the castle looming behind you, or sit by the real fire inside with a three-course dinner or a light lunch. The signature infusions, a shot of a spirit mixed with something fruity, are the pub’s calling card and will warm you as much as that real fire in winter. In the center of town you can spend the night at The Castle Hotel located in the center of town. A 10-minute drive out of town will take you to The Stirrups, a 46-bedroom, family-run hotel set in 10 beautiful countryside acres. The breakfasts are particularly good and the veggie sausages are outstanding.