Get Out of Town | Windsor, UK
Windsor is a place that people often have on their "maybe/should we?" list when they visit England. It's known for Windsor Castle and to be honest- I used to tell people that it was just as easy to stay in London and get your fix of royal residences here.
But a few years ago, I spent a really charming day in Windsor that changed my perspective on making the trek to the tiny town. Now when I'm asked if it is worth going- I almost always will say "Yes." I think it's a great stop, if you have the time to spare and you want to get a different feel from London. Plus, the train ride is only 26 minutes from Paddington Station, so it is super simple to do.
Here's what you want to know...
Take the train from Paddington Station to Windsor + Eton Central. (You can buy your tickets at the station on the day, or book the day before and save around £3 per ticket through the Trainline.) Either way, it's affordable (£13.90 at the station for a round-trip ticket, or £10 online) and shouldn't be sold out, as trains run about every 20 minutes.
Buy an "open return" ticket. This gives you a round trip ("return") ticket with the flexibility to hop on any train when you are ready to leave ("open"). These are available for travel on trains after 9:30am and will be significantly cheaper.
You'll make a connection at Slough to continue on to Windsor. This is easy- and just requires you walking to another platform. (Don't worry- it is all well marked and easy to find.) From there, hop the tiny train that will chug you over into Windsor + Eton Central. It takes about 5 minutes from Slough.
Once you arrive at the Windsor + Eton Central station, you'll be in a cute little station full of eateries and shops. The castle is just out the end of it. It couldn't be easier to find.
WHAT TO DO
Well, obviously, you'll want to see Windsor Castle. It's worth seeing and there really is a lot to look at there. The highlights are: The Royal Staterooms, Queen Mary's dollhouse and St. George's Chapel, which houses many of the monarchs you'll recognize such as the Queen Mother and Henry VIII. If you're dying to see the changing of guard during your time in England, they also do that here. You can find more information on times and dates here.
Plan to give yourself around 2.5-3 hours to explore the property. You can buy your tickets on arrival if it's during the slower season, but I'd advise booking ahead on the official site so that you can skip the lines and just go straight in. (It's easy, I promise. You can collect them there, too.)
GETTING THE FULL EXPERIENCE
The other great thing about going to Windsor is that the town surrounding the castle is really adorable. With a sweet little high street and loads of cafes offering affordable meals and treats, it's a great way to get a feeling of "small town" English life without having to go too far to find it.
As the town is fairly small, I'd allow for an hour or two to wander the shops and poke around town. You'll be able to see what you want in that time frame... but it might be good to carve in some extra time for eating, too.
TEA WITH THE QUEEN
What American doesn't love to joke about having tea with the Queen? (Where did we all pick that one up, by the way? It seems to be standard issue when we receive our passports.) Sadly, Lizzie won't be offering you to have tea in the royal dining room, but that doesn't mean your day in Windsor should go without it.
There are loads of sweet tea shops that offer cream teas and afternoon teas, however, book a table on the patio of the The Sir Christopher Wren Hotel (a 3 minute walk from the castle!) and enjoy spending the afternoon in the sunshine overlooking the River Thames. The 17th century hotel, which is historically known to be a previous residence of the famous architect sits prominently under the castle on the water- just to the side of the bridge.
Not only is the setting serene, but the price of the afternoon tea there is hard to beat. (£18.50 per person for a full afternoon tea, as of our visit). You get the full experience of dainty sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and jam, various sweets for dessert and your choice of tea or coffee to round out the moment. (Definitely don't eat lunch before! Opt for a late breakfast and go at 2pm when it tea begins service or you'll be too stuffed to enjoy it.) Or you can always opt for just having a cream tea for £8.75 per person, which gives you fresh scones with cream + jam plus unlimited coffee or tea.
Book your table in advance online by emailing email@example.com or by calling +44 1753 442 400.
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Honestly, you can do Windsor well within a day (and even less). You should easily be able to see all you want to see, have a great meal and wander the town with enough time to get you back to London for dinner. It's worth going, and easy to do with a friend, spouse, or the whole family.
Please add in your favorites from Windsor below, too. We would love to hear what made your day there great!
FOR MORE OF MY FAVORITE DAY TRIPS IN ENGLAND, CHECK HERE.
*images original to Aspiring Kennedy