Everyone knows Buckingham Palace, but a short way out of London is another (arguably grander) royal residence of Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is a favorite for state visits and as the weekend residence of the Queen.

While Buckingham Palace is famous for the Changing of the Guard, Windsor Castle is also is an official residence of the Queen and so also has the Changing of the Guard. That being said, the changing of the guard at Buckingham is more spectacular (and crowded) and one can even tour inside Buckingham Palace in the summer months.

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The Long and Royal History of Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle has been strongly associated with the English and later British royal family and boasts almost a millennium of architectural history.

The first castle dates back a thousand years to shortly after the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It has been used by the monarchy ever since the time of King Henry I (who reigned from 1100 to 1135). That makes it the longest-occupied palace in Europe.

  • Founded: In the 11th Century By William the Conqueror

It was originally built to protect Norman dominance in the area around the outskirts of London and to oversee the strategically important part of the River Thames.

King Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle while later Edward III rebuilt the castle to make it even grander. In the Tudor period during the reigns of Henry VIII (the one with six wives) and Elizebeth I, the castle was increasingly used as a royal court and as a center for diplomatic entertainment.

  • Henry VIII and Elizebeth I: Used it As A Royal Court

During the English Civil War, it was used as a military headquarters by Parliamentary forces. It transformed from a castle to prison as defeated King Charles I was imprisoned there. After the restoration of the English monarchy, it was again rebuilt and included a set of extravagant Baroque interiors.

  • Prison: Defeated King Charles I Was Imprisoned Here (Later Beheaded)
  • Refuge: Was A Royal Refuge For The Royal Family In WW2

King George III and George IV renovated and expanded it again making it into a palace at colossal expense. It was used as a center for royal entertainment for much of Queen Victoria's reign. During the German bombing of Britain in WW2 it survived as a refuge for the royal family.

Related: Imperial Palace: How To Visit The Main Residence Of Japan's Emperor

Windsor Castle Today

Today it is a popular tourist attraction as well as a venue for hosting state visits. Having been the Royal home and fortress of over 900 years it remains the largest occupied castle in the world.

  • Largest: It is the Largest Occupied Castle In The World
  • Monarchs: It Has Been The Home Of 39 Monarchs
  • Queen Elizabeth 2: Is Normally Resident On the Weekends

While planning one's visit, keep in mind that it remains a working palace today and the Queen often used the Castle as a private home. She is usually there on the weekend and it is where she often undertakes certain formal duties from Investitures to State Visits. So it may be closed to the public for various reasons.

Visiting Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is open to the public five days a week (being closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

  • Days Open: Thursdays to Mondays
  • Days Closed: Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • 1 March to 31 October Hours: 10.00 am to 15.15 pm (Last Admission 4.00 pm)
  • 1 November to 28 February Hours: 10.00 am to 4.15 pm (Last Admission 3.00 pm)
  • Cost of Admission: Tickets must be booked in advance | Adult: £23.50 ($32) per Ticket | Child: £13.50 ($18) (Aged 5-16 - Under 5 Free) | Disabled: £13.50 ($18)

St George's Chapel: While the plan to see the St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle's in-house chapel. It is open for visitors most days of the week.

  • Days Open: Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
  • Hours: 10.00 am to 4.15 pm (Last Entry 4.00 pm)

Related: This UNESCO Site Is Said To Be Britain's Greatest Palace (And It's Open To The Public)

Free Guided Tour - The Precinct Tours

On arriving at the Castle, join a free 30-minute tour of the Castle Precincts (the outside areas of the Castle). These Precinct Tours are led by Wardens and depart throughout the day from the Jubilee Bandstand at regular intervals.

  • Cost: Free/Complimentary
  • Duration: 30-Minutes
  • Where: Of The Castle Grounds

This tour serves as an introduction to the Castle's impressive 1,000-year-long history as a palace, as a fortress, and today as the official residence of the Queen. The tour ends at the entrance to the State Apartments.

Note, likely due to the pandemic these tours are temporarily unavailable. The tours will be resumed when it is safe to do so.

This is so much to this castle, it is impossible to do it justice here, much more information can be found on their website.

If one can't visit London then one can enjoy a virtual tour from the comfort of one's own home.

Next: What You Need To Know Before Visiting The Opulent Palace Of Versailles