This time we are about to head for Windsor as a quick trip from London, since it is less than an hour away from London. Windsor has a lot to offer for visitors, and among many attractions I am going to share my visits to Windsor Castle and Legoland Windsor with some useful tips. Each attraction can take almost a whole day, so if you plan to visit both you will need to stay a night in Windsor.
How to Go to Windsor from London
There are two train stations where you can get off in Windsor: Windsor & Eton Central and Windsor & Eton Riverside. The train options from London take between 30 – 55 minutes, depending on which station you choose.
1. London Paddington – Windsor & Eton Central
- Takes between 26 – 39 minutes
- Needs one transfer in Slough
2. London Waterloo – Windsor & Eton Riverside
- Takes 54 minutes
- (Note: If you search for the train routes you may see ‘London Paddington – Windsor & Eton Riverside’ too. But if you see the detail of the journey, it is basically the route 1 + a 10-minute walk between the stations)
Windsor Castle is one of the royal residences where the Queen still lives. It takes a good few hours to fully browse around the buildings and the area. An audio guide, which you can get at the entrance, might be quite handy to keep your company. Among the attractions at the castle I saw, I would like to recommend two points that were particularly impressive!
Changing the Guard (a.k.a. Guard Mounting)
Guard Mounting at Windsor Castle presents a different look from Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace in London. Starting from the outside the castle, the ceremony continues in front of Guard Room. This means you need to decide first whether to watch a parade or the changing performance inside the castle, and take a good spot in advance. (Note: the changing ceremony is said to be held at the front yard of the castle during the Queen’s residency period). The Changing the Guard ceremony is weather-dependent, and when it is on it starts at 11am and lasts for about 40 minutes. This year (2017) it is scheduled to be on between May and August. The below information is from Windsor city’s website (http://www.windsor.gov.uk/things-to-do/windsor-castle-p43983):
- June, 2017: 7th, 9th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 20~24th, 26~30th
- July, 2017: Everyday except Sundays
- August, 2017: Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
The above is a default schedule, but just in case there is a change it is always good to double check the most up-to-date schedule at Army Website. This website also shows the timetable for Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace in London.
Queen Mary’s Doll’s House
This is a doll’s house built for Mary of Teck, Queen consort of King George V (r. 1910 – 1936). The house was built from 1921 to 1924, and it certainly was one of the highlights at Windsor Castle. When you see the doll’s house you may be likely to be overwhelmed by its size first, followed by all the details in the house. It is literally a miniature of the actual royal residence. All the items inside the house were designed and produced by the best professionals of those days. Furthermore, every furniture, plate and cutlery, art piece was made with exactly the same materials of the full-sized ones. That means it is only the size that makes a difference. What is even more jaw-dropping is all the facilities like toilets in the doll’s house can actually work. (All these explanations were from the audio guide by the way – very useful!). Upon entrance and at the first look, I felt fascinated by it. By the time I went out to outside, I found myself thinking how much it would have cost to build this masterpiece. 3 years to complete it was no joke either.
Legoland Windsor Resort
There are several Legolands across the globe, but if you are planning to visit the one in Windsor, the tip below might be useful. Legoland takes another 20 minutes by bus once you get off at the Windsor train station. Bus numbers 200, 600 and 702 run towards Legoland. As there is no complimentary shuttle bus run by Legoland, you need to prepare for a separate bus fare for these services.
Tip. Summer v.s. Winter
I have been there twice, one in summer and the other time in winter. I do NOT recommend to visit here in winter. It is definitely quieter during the winter season. But a lot of attractions are not open, while the entrance fee isn’t noticeably reasonable compared to that of the busy season when way more things are available. I was told that it was a special operation for the Christmas season with a related theme. Unfortunately, the special Christmas decorations and treats weren’t just enough to justify the price and experience. Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of Legoland so I normally wouldn’t be this harsh.. I just wanted to tell you honestly that my winter experience with Legoland was rather disappointing, so I would recommend to have a visit in summer. Leogland in summer was brilliant! 🙂
Windsor Royal Shopping
This is an arcade where you can have a quick look if you have time before getting back to London. Windsor & Eton Central train station is actually inside this shopping arcade, so you won’t miss it. Even if you use Windsor & Eton Riverside station, it is only about 5 minutes away. You will see it while walking towards Windsor Castle. Restaurants here tend to open till later time. But most shops and cafes close at 6pm during weekdays and Saturdays, and 5pm on Sundays. I don’t think it’s a shame that much if you miss it, but the shopping arcade does have a happy bustling atmosphere when it is open. Having a coffee there before coming back to London was nice and quick refreshment!