How to Plan the Perfect Windsor Day Trip from London
A short distance from London, you’ve likely heard of the English town of Windsor. After all, it’s where the Queen has her official residence, at Windsor Castle – and it’s where Prince Harry and Meghan were married in 2018. To say it’s a hot spot for royal experiences is kind of an understatement. But there’s a lot more that Windsor has to offer, which most people miss on a Windsor day trip that only hits up the castle and royal grounds.
On my very first trip to London – a short four-day whirlwind – I actually spent part of one day in Windsor. I had it in my mind to see where the queen lived, so I boarded a train, tramped about town, and then came back to London for the evening. All this to say – I know that Windsor is a perfect day trip from London, as I’ve done it!
Whatever inspires you to visit Windsor, rest assured: it’s one of the easiest day trips you can plan from London. A short train ride brings you to the town of Windsor, which is easily walkable to visit all of the main attractions.
As you’ll see, there’s plenty to do in Windsor too, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. Ready to get started planning your own Windsor day trip? Read on for all the details to you need to know.
How to Get from London to Windsor
Many people choose their day trips based on the time it takes and convenience. So, before you plan your Windsor day trip, let’s find out how long it takes to reach the town and transport costs.
Windsor is only 36 km away from London, so it’s relatively easy to reach with ground transportation. The train is your biggest ally to get from London to Windsor. You can choose between London Paddington to Windsor and Eton Riverside or London Waterloo to Windsor and Eton Riverside.
The first route (Paddington) is the quickest, taking 30 to 60 minutes. This train journey isn’t direct, so you’ll have to change at Slough. The second route (Waterloo) is 55 minutes on average. It is a direct route, and it has trains running every 30 minutes. South routes are affordable, ranging from £10 to £14 for a one-way trip. You can check trainline.com to browse tickets and find current prices.
You can also travel to Windsor via bus. However, it takes longer and costs almost as much as a train ride. The bus journey takes 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, and ticket prices range from £10 to £18.79. National Express is the most popular bus company in the UK. Their buses to Windsor depart from London Victoria. The website omio.com has pretty good fares if you’d like to browse bus tickets.
If you visit Windsor from London, you can also drive. However, unless you’re familiar with driving on the left, I highly suggest you save yourself the headache and choose one of the options above.
The Best Things to Do for One Day in Windsor
One day in Windsor probably won’t be enough to cover most attractions. While the town of Windsor is highly associated with the British and English royal family, you’ll see it has many things to do and see.
1. Visit Windsor Castle
Most people who plan a Windsor day trip do it to explore Windsor Castle. Like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle is one of the Queen’s residences. Built in the 11th Century, the castle has been home to English royalty for over 900 years, and it is the oldest and largest still-occupied castle in the world. Windsor Castle is beautiful, with details that show the influence of Gothic, Victorian, and Georgian architecture. It has 1,000 rooms and spans over 13 acres. There’s an admission fee to access the castle, and you must book your tickets in advance through the website.
2. Attend St. George’s Chapel
Your ticket to Windsor Castle will include admission to St. George’s Chapel. So, once you’ve finished touring the royal residence, head out to the gorgeous chapel.
St. George’s Chapel has a long history, too. King Edward III ordered its construction in the 14th century, and it became a popular pilgrimage destination during the medieval period. Then, during Queen Victoria’s reign, the chapel saw further changes and completion of areas that Henry VII had left unfinished. The chapel is the resting place of many monarchs, and you can see the tombs of Henry VIII, Edward IV, George III, Charles I, and the Queen Mother. Architectonically, both the interior and exterior of the chapel show a Perpendicular Gothic Style, similar to Westminster Abbey.
3. Explore Windsor Great Park
Royals extended their love for green areas to all the places they lived. Windsor Great Park was part of a vast Norman hunting forest which royals enclosed in the 13th Century. Today, it is 5,000 acres and includes a deer park. Walking around this park is an absolute pleasure. The diversity and antiquity of the landscapes are stunning, with beds of flowers, tiny ponds, and ancient oaks at every step.
The entrance to the park is known as The Long Walk, a stunning 2.65-mile path with leafy chestnut trees on both sides.
4. Visit the Savill Garden
Just like other royal parks, Windsor Park has a stunning garden inside. It’s no ordinary garden, though. The Savill Garden is a horticulture wonder with seasonal displays of rare flora from around the world. So, if you share a love for plants, the Savill Garden is a must-stop for your day trip to Windsor.
Sir Eric Savill planted the garden in the 1930s right in the heart of Windsor Park and opened it to the public in 1951. Today, it has 35 acres of interconnected gardens, including the Hidden Gardens, Spring Wood, the Summer Gardens, the New Zealand Garden, Summer Wood, The Glades, Autumn Wood, and the Winter Beds.
5. Attend a Show at the Theatre Royal
It is always good to have a backup plan up your sleeve in a country as rainy as England, like watching a play or show at a theatre.
The Theatre Royal is an Edwardian theatre on Thames Street. It is the only unsubsidized producing theatre to operate all year round in Britain. Their repertoire is vast, with classics, traditional pantomimes, and first productions taking place here before moving to the West End. Check out their website to see what’s available when you visit.
6. Visit the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum
The Windsor and Royal Borough Museum is a local history museum on the ground floor of Windsor’s Guildhall.
As the name suggests, the museum explores the history of the town of Windsor and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. They occasionally offer guided tours of Windsor Guildhall, where you can see portraits of monarchs. There’s a small entry fee of just £2, but it’s well worth paying to see a fascinating collection of objects connected with the town and its long history. There are also helpful information boards all around the room with photographs and explanations.
7. Cruise along the River Thames
If you haven’t experienced the River Thames from up close yet, here is your opportunity.
Windsor has 20 miles of Thames riverside. There’s a paved pathway along the riverfront, where companies offer boat trips to relax and get a different perspective of the town. The most popular company is French Brother Ltd, which offers a short 40-minute round trip or a longer 2-hour one. Those who’d want to explore the waterfront on their own can hire a motorboat or rowboat with John Logie.
You also have the Windsor Duck Tours, a 60-minute sightseeing tour on an amphibious vehicle that’s become an icon in the small town.
8. Stroll the Eton College Grounds
Located at the top end of Eton High Street, Eton College is one of England’s most eminent public schools and is famous worldwide. King Henry VI founded Eton College in 1440, and since then, it’s served as the secondary school of royals, prime ministers, and many other leaders. The college’s architecture is fascinating, featuring classic old-style English. Eton College offers small tours between May and early September on Friday afternoons and is an excellent opportunity to peek at the Foundation buildings and objects from the College Collections.
9. Grab a Pint at Windsor & Eton Brewery
There’s never a wrong time to enjoy a good pint, so I’ve included the Windsor & Eton Brewery for you to discover how the ales and lagers taste in this corner of England. A small craft brewery, Windsor & Eton Brewery, sits in the heart of Windsor. The place has a rustic feel and a great selection of local beers on tap. They also offer a very informative and entertaining brewery tour in the afternoon, which takes 45 minutes. Also every Saturday, there are different events, such as music or comedy shows.
Bonus: Visit Frogmore House & Gardens (if open)
Frogmore House & Gardens is a 17th-century English country house, and it’s been a famous royal family retreat for more than 300 years. Frogmore House comprises 33 acres of private gardens landscaped with mature trees and immaculate lawns. The house and gardens are simply magnificent and a must-visit if you plan a Windsor day trip. Unfortunately, the house only opens to the public a limited number of times a year and for reduced groups, so it’s best to check availability before planning a visit.
The Perfect Windsor Day Trip Itinerary
Now that you have a better panorama of what sights you can visit on your Windsor day trip, it helps to put them all together into an itinerary. Here’s my suggestion for how to spend a day in Windsor, but you can obviously change it around to suit your own interests.
- Grab your train in Paddington or Waterloo and descend in the Windsor & Eton Central railway station. From there, walk to Windsor Castle (six minutes away by foot.)
- Take the morning easy and explore Windsor Castle and St. George’s Chapel.
- Head out to a local pub for lunch. The Alma and The Crown & Cushion are good options. Be sure to try a local pint while there.
- If the weather is good, you can split your afternoon between Windsor Great Park and Savill Garden. If it’s raining, you can swap your visit to the park for an entertaining stop at the Windsor & Royal Borough.
- Then, walk up to the riverfront and book a sunset cruise on the Thames. (Weather permitting, of course.)
- Grab a pint at Windsor & Eton Brewery and return to the station to catch the train back home.
Have any other questions about how to plan a Windsor day trip? Let me know in the comments or over in my London Travel Tips Facebook community.