For a grand day out (or two), it’s hard to beat Windsor with its magnificent castle, glorious park, relaxing riverside setting and ample opportunities for royal spotting. This is a place where you can enjoy history and quirky sights around every corner but still have all the fun of LEGOLAND right on your doorstep.
Getting to Windsor is easy. There’s a direct train running every half hour off-peak from London Waterloo that makes the journey in just 53 minutes. If you’re coming from another part of the network, then just change at Reading or Clapham Junction.
Changing of the Guard
Make sure you’re in prime position at 10.45 on your first morning, as you don’t want to miss the Changing of the Guard. Grab a spot on Windsor High Street or on the Corn Exchange under Windsor Guildhall and watch as a parade of bearskin-hatted and crimson-uniformed guards march from Victoria Barracks up the High Street and into Windsor Castle, often with a full brass band. You can check the dates and times at the Household Division’s website.
A royal day out
If there’s one thing that everyone knows about Windsor, it’s that the castle is a must-see. It’s been home to kings and queens for nearly 1,000 years and is still an official residence of the Queen, despite being burned down, rebuilt, demolished and expanded so many times. If you see the Royal Standard flag flying then it means the Queen is in, so give her a wave. Also watch out for the super-rare blue postbox, which was originally colour-coded to take airmail instead of standard snail mail.
Historic St George’s Chapel is well worth a visit too. It’s the resting place of many famous monarchs, and a popular location for Royal weddings, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The castle can easily take up the whole morning, especially if you take the tour.
Take a break for lunch
Windsor offers plenty of great places to eat. For lunch, we recommend The Boatman, nestled just beneath the castle. It’s the town’s only riverside pub, and offers excellent, reasonably priced pub classics along with gorgeous views.
If you fancy something sweet for afters, then you’re definitely in the right town. The famous Eton Mess was invented in the college, and there’s a ton of places that’ll put a smile on your face with this delicious jumble of meringue, strawberries and cream.
Eton College is another fascinating site. The top public school has produced more British prime ministers than any other in the centuries since it was founded in 1440. Eton’s students still wear the 19th-century outfit of black morning suit, top hat and pinstripe trousers to this day. The college runs a tour on Friday afternoons, for which you'll need to book a place in advance, but is interesting enough to peek at to make the stroll across the bridge and along Eton High Street worthwhile anyway.
In the evening
A relaxed evening meal seems in order after such a packed day. There are options to suit any budget, but if you’re going to push the boat out and make your dinner something to remember, then The Oxford Blue, tucked away in Old Windsor, is a wonderful gastropub serving superb local produce taken to a fine dining level. Try the delicious braised Wild Boar trotter!
Sometimes, though, you just really fancy a good curry. The Gurkha Royale celebrates the fierce Nepalese fighters who, to this day, serve the Queen. Expect delicious, fiery dishes from Nepal and the wider region. Authentically spiced and relatively inexpensive, you'll love it.
Messing about on the river
There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than relaxing on a boat as it weaves lazily along the wide River Thames. Booking a trip in Windsor is as easy as finding a boat you like the look of, jumping on, and sitting back to enjoy the superb views of the castle, the college and the racecourse, along with the river banks lined with weeping willows.
After that, it’s time to hit the shops. Windsor Royal Station has over 40 upmarket high street stores tucked under its beautiful arched roof, and is a wonderful place to pick up a new outfit, or just to watch the world go by while you enjoy a coffee and pastry in a cafe.
There are plenty of specialist shops to take in too. You can hunt for second-hand vinyl amongst the instruments and sheet music in Music Box on Peascod Street, while the Eton Antique Bookshop on the High Street is crammed with amazing old books.
Everything is awesome at LEGOLAND
Windsor Castle isn’t the only famous landmark in the area, and for many young (or young at heart) people it’s eclipsed by one place: LEGOLAND!
With over 40 rides and oodles of other brick-based attractions, this celebration of all things LEGO makes fans of all ages giddy with delight. Be sure to check out Miniland: 42 million bricks transformed into astonishing replicas of the world’s most iconic buildings, from the Empire State to the Taj Mahal! The kids can even drive life size LEGO cars, while thrill-seekers head for the shocks and drops of The Dragon ‘family’ rollercoaster.
Getting to LEGOLAND couldn’t be easier. Simply jump on a shuttle bus outside the train station – they run throughout the day, all year, starting at 9.30. Just make sure to book online and take advantage of our 2-for-1 offer on your stay at LEGOLAND before you go.
Take the Long Walk
If LEGOLAND doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, for a complete change of pace, you can take a stroll in Windsor Great Park – the perfect place for family picnics, romantic meanders or even spotting duelling knights – no, really, that’s a thing that happens there sometimes. Nature lovers will be in their element too.
Getting to the park is simple, but if you want to take the scenic route, then follow the Long Walk. This almost three-mile-long, tree-lined avenue starts at Windsor Castle Gatehouse and ends in the park at what is known as ‘The Copper Horse’ – actually a statue of George III on his favourite horse.
Go out in style
Your two days in Windsor are almost at an end, so how about saying goodbye with a memorable meal?
For contemporary Japanese cuisine, take a look at Misugo. Park yourself on one of their simple wooden stools and tuck into ramen dishes, soft shell crab rolls and hearty udon noodles, cooked with only the freshest ingredients. We also recommend Marmara, with its fresh and inviting middle-eastern food, as light or as filling as you like.
Where to stay in Windsor
Windsor offers a vast choice of excellent hotels and B&Bs. The local Travelodge provides affordable and comfortable accommodation, plus Langton House lays on family-run bed and breakfast in the heart of the town, with rooms for under £100.
For something a little more lavish, then you can’t go wrong with the Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa. Tucked beneath the Castle’s ramparts overlooking the Thames, it offers a royal balance of luxury and convenience, while the spa and massage treatments will help you relax after two fun-packed days. Expect to pay around £150 per night.
Header image of Windsor Castle, body images of Windsor Castle, Dragon at Legoland, Queen's Guards © Doug Harding
Image of Eton College School Yard courtesy of the Provost Fellows
Image of the Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa courtesy of windsor.gov.uk