11 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Windsor, England
We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()
The small town of Windsor in Berkshire lies on the south bank of the River Thames, 22 miles west of the center of London, and offers no end of sightseeing opportunities and fun things to do. With its lovely, old half-timbered houses, winding alleyways, and cobblestone lanes, it retains a picturesque medieval appearance.
The town is a particularly popular tourist destination due to Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the Royal Family. Whether you are visiting as part of a day trip excursion from London or other parts of England, be prepared to spend the best part of a day here (and bring a picnic), as there are so many important historic points of interest to discover.
To help you make the most of your time in this beautiful old town, be sure to refer often to our list of the top tourist attractions in Windsor.
See also: Where to Stay in Windsor
1. Visit Royal Windsor Castle
A grand old palace built atop a chalk hill, Windsor Castle has served as the summer residence of British Royals for more than 900 years. One of Britain's most beautiful residences, it's also the largest inhabited castle in the world and has been added to numerous times by many monarchs, including William the Conqueror who built the first castle here in 1078. Along with its spectacular grounds–the site covers some 13 acres–Windsor Castle is fun to explore at a leisurely pace.
Attractions include magnificent St. George's Chapel, traditional home of the 26 Knights and Ladies of the ancient Order of the Garter; the State Apartments containing the Queen's Gallery and dining hall, each with magnificently painted ceilings and woodcarvings; and, of course, the lovely Great Park, which extends along the south side of the castle for nearly six miles.
Informative guided tours of the apartments and the precincts are available, and one of the top things to do in Windsor at night is joining a special evening tour. If you're able to plan your visit for 11am on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, you'll have a chance to witness the changing of the guard ceremony; a highlight is also the chance to catch the guards marching from Windsor up to the Castle.
Location: Windsor Castle, Windsor
Official site: www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle
2. Frogmore House & Gardens
Although open to the public just a few days per year, Windsor Castle's neighboring Frogmore Estate is worth adding to your itinerary. If timed right, you'll be rewarded with the rare opportunity to tour one of the lesser-known (but equally sumptuous) Royal retreats, home to the final resting place of Queen Victoria.
In royal possession since the 1790s, the grounds and gardens extend across 33 acres adjacent to the castle, and have been used as the location for important burials, including those of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, located in the Royal Burial Grounds along with two related mausoleums: the Duchess of Kent's Mausoleum and the Royal Mausoleum.
In recent years, Frogmore House has been used for entertaining, and was the location of Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle's wedding reception.
Visits are permitted on select charity open days, while during the month of August, private tours for groups of 15 people are available (bookable in advance) that take in parts of Frogmore House.
Address: Home Park, Frogmore Drive, Windsor
Official site: www.rct.uk/visit/frogmore-house
3. Windsor Festival and Theatre Royal
The annual Windsor Festival runs each autumn from mid-September to early October with daily events in venues such as the Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle, St. George's Hall, and Eton College Chapel. Since its inception in 1969, the festival has offered orchestral, choral, chamber, and organ concerts, along with dance performances and lectures. International performers are often invited to perform a repertoire of classical works. A variety of informative walking tours and talks are run in conjunction with the festival.
Culture buffs will also want to check out the varied program on offer at Theatre Royal. Just a stone's throw from Windsor Castle, the venue hosts everything from theatrical productions to live music and prides itself on being the UK's only unsubsidized year-round theater (it's also considered one of the best outside of London's West End).
Address: 32 Thames Street, Windsor
Official site: www.windsorfestival.com
4. Legoland Windsor Resort
Legoland Windsor is a fun family resort set in 150 acres of parkland. The attraction is dedicated to the creativity and imagination of children of all ages with rides, interactive play areas, and, of course, millions of the famous plastic bricks. This popular destination, opened in 1996, draws in excess of two million visitors a year and is well worth spending a day exploring.
If possible, try to plan your visit to coincide with one of this vast amusement park's many themed events. Favorites for kids of all ages include a knight-inspired fireworks show, Christmas and Halloween festivals, as well as special events for toddlers. Also worth checking out is the on-site medieval-themed hotel.
Address: Winkfield Road, Windsor
Official site: www.legoland.co.uk
5. Eton College
The small town of Eton lies on the north side of Windsor Bridge and is famous for its college, founded in 1440 by Henry VI. The institution is synonymous with English education and the higher echelons of British society, and past students include Henry Fielding, William Pitt, Percy Shelley, William Gladstone, the Duke of Wellington, and some 20 English prime ministers. The red-brick main building dates from the school's founding and extends around two quadrangles.
But the most remarkable feature is the school chapel. Completed in 1441, it contains old brass plates and wonderful paintings dating from 1470-1490 depicting scenes from the life of Mary. A bronze statue of Henry VI stands in the main quadrangle, and a passageway leads from Lupton's Tower to the cloisters with the hall and library.
Public visits are available for small groups and individuals, particularly those wanting to tour the Eton College Natural History Museum. Founded in 1875, this interesting museum features a collection of stuffed birds, mammals, and fossils. The school also offers a number of educational summer programs.
Official site: www.etoncollege.com
6. Visit National Trust - Runnymede and Ankerwycke
Located just 15 minutes' drive away from downtown Windsor stands another of the area's most important heritage sites: Runnymede. It was here at what's now known as Visit National Trust - Runnymede and Ankerwycke that one of the country's most important historic documents, the Magna Carta, was sealed (signed) by then King John in 1215. This important charter of rights, though soon after nullified, was significant as the first such document, and remains important as a symbol of liberty in the UK.
Not only is Runnymede an important historic site, but it's also an extremely pretty green space that offers superb views over the River Thames and that pastoral countryside England is so famous for. In addition to the Magna Carta memorial, the charming park-like setting of this National Trust property features a number of fascinating outdoor artworks, with new points of interest being added regularly that help interpret the site's historic significance.
Also of note here is the famous Ankerwycke Yew. Located directly across the Thames from Runnymede (it's an easy drive, with plenty of parking available), this 2,500-year-old yew is one of the country's oldest trees. Legend has it that it was here that King Henry VIII wooed and even proposed to Anne Boleyn. These days, the park here is known for its abundant wildlife, home to birds such as green woodpeckers, red dragonflies, and wild flowers. It's especially pleasing to visit in spring when the area is covered with pretty snowdrop wildflowers.
Address: Windsor Rd, Englefield Green, Windsor
Official site: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/runnymede-and-ankerwycke
7. Place Your Bets at Ascot Racecourse
Undoubtedly England's most famous racecourse, Ascot is used for thoroughbred horse racing and boasts 13 of the UK's 36 top annual races. Closely associated with the Royal Family–it's only six miles from Windsor Castle–Ascot hosts 26 days of racing per year, the highlight being The Royal Meeting in June with its famous Gold Cup. Free guided tours are available.
The racecourse is also home to the Royal Ascot Cricket Club and Ascot United Football Club. Also worth a visit for tourists is the nearby Royal Windsor Racecourse, established in 1866 and noted for its figure-of-eight course, one of only two in the UK.
Address: High Street, Ascot, Berkshire
Official site: www.ascot.co.uk
8. Explore the Savill Garden
The Savill Garden, considered one of the country's most impressive ornamental gardens, is located on the edge of Windsor Castle's Great Park and is an integral part of Windsor's Royal Landscape. Opened in the 1930s, it contains a wide variety of plants in a beautiful natural setting. Shrubs, alpine meadows, and a formal garden of roses and herbaceous plants are only some of the points of interest to be enjoyed on this 35-acre property.
Other notable highlights include a collection of 60 sculptures dispersed throughout the property, along with numerous quiet spots to stop and appreciate the surrounding floral splendor. There's also a fun adventure playground for those traveling with kids. A variety of tours are available, some including other elements of Windsor's Great Park. Picnicking is permitted, and a variety of dining options are available.
Location: Wick Ln, Englefield Green, Egham
Official site: www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk/savillgarden
9. Take a Tour of Dorney Court
An easy six-mile drive west of Windsor's town center, Dorney Court is well worth a visit and makes for a fun day trip. Considered one of the best-preserved surviving examples of Tudor architecture in England, this nearly 600-year-old mansion has been occupied by the same family throughout its rich history. Set amid rolling parkland and boasting lovely gardens, it's certainly a picturesque property, an effect that is heightened by the presence of the pretty Norman-era Church of St. James the Less adjacent to the manor house.
Interior highlights include numerous fine portraits and paintings, silks and tapestries, period furniture, elegantly carved wood paneling, a 17th-century priest hole, not to mention a café and garden center. Guided tours are available, along with gardening workshops. Afterwards, be sure to check out nearby Dorney Lake, a rectangular man-made lake designed specifically for rowers to practice their sport.
Location: Dorney Lane, Dorney, Windsor
Official site: www.dorneycourt.co.uk
10. Windsor and Royal Borough Museum
Located on Windsor High Street in the town's attractive 17th-century Guildhall, the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum makes a great addition to any Windsor itinerary. Focusing on the history of both the town and its surrounds, the museum's large collection contains artifacts dating as far back as the Ice Age right up to the present time.
Highlights include a fine collection of prehistoric tools, artifacts from the Bronze Age as well as the Roman and Saxon periods, and numerous items related to the town's Victorian heyday. Those who follow the Royal Family will also be interested in taking a guided tour that includes the chance to view the Ascot Room, where Prince Charles married his long-time sweetheart, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The nearby Household Cavalry Museum Archive is of interest to military history buffs and features a library and a large collection of photographs related to the regiment.
Location: The Guildhall, High Street, Windsor
11. Sail aboard a Thames Boat Trip
From Windsor, it's possible to undertake several charming sightseeing trips along the River Thames, which continually branches off and forms islets, boasting some of the loveliest parkland scenery in England. Launches not only take passengers into London but also to interesting places to visit like Kingston-upon-Thames (journey time to London is approximately five hours).
Oxford, about 70 miles away, is a two-day journey through charming scenery. Better still, look into renting a canal boat (or barge) from one of the many companies specializing in this wonderful mode of transport.
Where to Stay in Windsor for Sightseeing
- The stylish Macdonald Windsor Hotel offers exquisite luxury accommodations directly opposite Windsor Castle, along with a great afternoon tea, plush bedding, and an electric car charging station.
- Located close to Dorney Court, ritzy The Oakley Court features a park-like setting, quality rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a fine-dining restaurant with a terrace, and a fitness center.
- The Sir Christopher Wren Hotel and Spa is another good choice of luxury hotel and comes with comfortable rooms with river views, all just two minutes' walk from the castle.
- Castle Hotel Windsor MGallery Collection offers mid-range pricing in a delightful old Georgian building just steps from Windsor Castle, along with elegant décor and an excellent breakfast.
- Also in a handy central location, The Crown & Cushion dates from the 1600s and features cozy rooms, a continental breakfast, and a garden patio.
- Charles House is another good option and comes with comfortable rooms just a short stroll from Eton.
- A top affordable stay can be enjoyed at the Holiday Inn Express Windsor, a three-star hotel featuring contemporary design, free breakfast, and a pleasant light-filled lounge.
- Travelodge Windsor Central Hotel is another cheap hotel to consider and features castle views, along with bright and modern rooms near the train station.
- The charming Cedar Tree Guest House is another good choice in the budget category, with clean, comfortable rooms and charming owners.
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
A Right Royal Time: Those with an interest in the Royal family should be sure to spend at least a little time exploring London's historic attractions, including the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. Other royal connections can be enjoyed at Hampton Court, and Kew Gardens, home of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Way "Oop" North: The city of Manchester is a great destination for those wanting to explore the northern parts of England. It features a revitalized and modern city center and plenty of great attractions, including museums and art galleries. Liverpool is just a short train journey away, and in addition to its many Beatles points of interest, is popular to visit for its re-energized docks area. The historic old city of Durham is also not far, and is where you'll find a splendid cathedral and castle dominating the medieval old town.
England Vacation Ideas: The medieval old town area of York is a delight to explore and should be included on your England travel itinerary, along with its well-preserved old city walls and railway museum. Other destinations with plenty of fun sightseeing opportunities include Bath, famous for its Roman baths and magnificent Georgian buildings, and the splendid Lake District of Cumbria, famous for its national park and the beautiful Lake Windermere.