Few places in Britain can offer a higher concentration of fantastic tourist attractions than Windsor in Berkshire. The beautiful, historic town lies just a few miles to the west of London, on the banks of the River Thames. With so much to see and do, it is an ideal day trip destination for those seeking a break from the capital. If you’re considering a trip to Windsor, here are some of the tourist attractions you’ll have the chance to enjoy:
1. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is one of the most famous royal residences in the world. Not only that, it is the oldest and largest inhabited castle of all, having been owned by the monarch for more than 1,000 years. Often, this is where Queen Elizabeth II lives – you’ll know that she’s at home if the Royal Standard is flying. On days when the Union Jack is at the top of the mast, it means Her Royal Highness is not at Windsor Castle.
2. Legoland Windsor
Aimed primarily at children, Legoland Windsor is themed around the popular Lego toy system. The theme park offers a mixture of rides, models and building workshops, built in 1996 on the site of the former Windsor Safari Park. More than two million people visited the attraction in 2015, making it the second-most popular theme park in the UK after Alton Towers. The popularity of ‘The Lego Movie’- which was released in 2014 – contributed to increased interest in the park.
3. Windsor Great Park
The 2,020-hectare Windsor Great Park was enclosed in the 13th century, having previously been part of a large Norman hunting forest. It includes a Deer Park, woods, formal avenues, gardens and wild grasslands. The park is open to the public and welcomes millions of visitors every year who come to enjoy the open space. Regular events – including carriage rides, fairs, performances and sculpture shows – are staged in the park throughout the year.
4. Ascot Racecourse
Horses have raced at Ascot, just outside of Windsor, since the first meeting all the way back on August 11th 1711. It is the premier flat racecourse in the UK and hosts meetings attended by horses, jockeys and punters from around the world. Members of the royal family often attend race meetings at the racecourse, particularly for its biggest races: the Gold Cup, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Royal Ascot is a national institution – for sport and fashion enthusiasts alike.
A few miles away from Windsor lies Runnymede, a delightful water-meadow on the banks of the River Thames. The site is famous as the place the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215. Memorials commemorate this important historical event, which laid the foundations for the fundamental principle of democracy in British society.
6. Theatre Royal
Many of the greatest stage performers have appeared on the boards at the Theatre Royal in Windsor since it opened for business in 1910. This intimate performance venue often puts on preview performances for new productions before they move on to the famous venues of the West End. The Theatre Royal pantomime is a regular fixture on the calendar – one that is popular with local people and visitors to the town.
7. Dorney Lake
A couple of miles outside of Windsor lies Dorney Lake, a purpose-built rowing venue constructed for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The lake is privately owned by Eton College, which put up the funds for its development. Dorney Lake is 1.4 miles in length and able to host everything from school regattas to major international events.
8. Savill Garden
A must-see for nature lovers, Savill Garden is one of the most attractive ornamental gardens in Britain. Its 35 acres contain some beautiful features, including Spring Wood, The Summer Wood, The Hidden Gardens, The Summer Gardens, The Glades, Autumn Wood, The Azalea Walks and The New Zealand Garden. Native and exotic species mix within this popular attraction, which was opened by the Queen in 2010.
9. Windsor and Royal Borough Museum
Situated in a Grade I-listed building on the High Street, the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum is a small local history centre. The collection focuses on the history of the town, its residents, and the other population centres in East Berkshire. Some of the highlights include Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon artefacts, and a 100,000-year-old mammoth’s tusk.
10. Queen Mary’s Doll’s House
Made to a scale of 1:12, the wonderful Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House was completed in 1924 for the wife of King George V. Many of the leading artists and architects of the time were enlisted to build the scale model, which includes a fabulous collection of miniature items which actually work. It even has running water. The dolls’ house was originally put on show for the public at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924-1925 and over 1.5 million people came to see it at the time.
11. St. George’s Chapel
St George’s Chapel is a place of worship situated in the Lower Ward of Windsor Castle. Founded in 1348, it is both a royal peculiar and the chapel of the Order of the Garter. The chapel is notable for its English late Perpendicular architecture, with the beautiful Quire and Nave among the most attractive features. Regular services are staged within the chapel, on Sundays and for other religious festivals.
12. Eton College
Established in 1440, Eton College is one of the most famous schools in the world. It is an independent boarding school, open to boys, located in the village of Eton just outside of Windsor. An incredible 19 prime ministers have been educated here, hence the school’s reputation as ‘the chief nurse of England’s statesmen’. The current PM David Cameron is part of the Eton alumni.
13. Windsor’s shops
For a relatively small town, Windsor has a wide range of shops, including department stores, high street outlets, specialist fashion shops and local independents. There are plenty of retail stores catering for tourists, offering souvenirs and other memorabilia. The main shopping areas are Peascod Street, the High Street and Thames Street, along with Windsor Royal Station and Eton High Street, where the upmarket, fashionable stores can be found.
How to get to Windsor by rail
If you’re staying in London, the easiest way to travel to Windsor is by rail. The town lies just over 20 miles from the centre of the capital. There are two options, either take a mainline service from London Paddington to Windsor Central, changing at Slough, or travel directly from Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside. Although the latter journey involves no changes, it can take up to 20 minutes longer than indirect services from Paddington.