Walking down the pavement, I glance to my left and see a giant, grey brick wall. I reach out my hand and feel the bumpy texture under my soft skin. I look up and see a flag billowing in the wind, standing tall and proud, the red contrasting against the white background. I think about the thousand years of history that this building holds. The current implications. A marriage. A queen. A burial place. The sun shines. I smile. I’m in Windsor.
Even though I lived in England for five years, was born there, and have been back four times, this was my very first time stepping foot in Windsor. My parents, 25 years prior, owned a small little apartment hidden in the corner of Windsor’s border. A pizza shop directly across from the castle walls was where my dad spent his days making money while my mom spent her time in. a small flower shop just down the street. From the recent royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle to the burial place of Queen Victoria, this town has always been a major historical landmark. My 24 hours spent exploring the streets of Windsor were magical and I’m here to give you a little guide to this amazing city. Plus some tips on how to explore without spending tons of money.
Windsor Great Park
The dreamiest park you’ll ever step foot in. Maybe that’s just because there’s a giant castle at the end of it. Or maybe because that’s where Meghan drove through on the way to marrying Prince Harry. Either way it still is such a beautiful park and 100% worth visiting. The long narrow path leading to the castle is lined on either side by massive trees and a grassy field. It’s seriously the perfect place to sit and have a picnic, which I recommend. My tip: if you are trying to save money, pick up some sandwiches (or chips from the local fish and chippery) and sit and eat in the park. It will beat any restaurant view.
This one is a given. You can’t go to Windsor and not see the castle. I’m dead serious though because the castle is literally smack dab in the middle of the town. In some areas you can walk up and place your hand on the side. FOR FREE. Crazy in this society where they literally charge you to breathe. However, entering the castle is definitely not free. When I visited Windsor, I opted out of touring inside the castle. First of all, I didn’t want to pay 20 pounds (which is actually cheap compared to other castle ticket prices). Secondly, I didn’t want to spend the majority of my day hauled around in some tourist group and waiting an hour in line for tickets. If you have the time (and the money) definitely go. It just wasn’t something I was particularly keen on. Also, you can get great, free views just from wandering around the town. All these pictures above I took from the street. And from pushing past security guards but we just won’t talk about that.
The “Crooked Harry Potter House” A.K.A. a jewelry store
While watching the behind the scenes from the Royal Wedding, I remember Al Roker pointing to this ‘leaning tower of Piza”-like building and calling it a “Harry Potter House.” Seriously though, it’s just a jewelry store. But it is pretty cool to look at.
St. George’s Chapel
This is one place in the castle that you can visit for free. You just have to sit through a church service. I didn’t go here when I visited but am seriously regretting it. The services are usually in the morning (not sure what times) and I think there was one at five on certain days. You wait in line at 4 and are escorted into the castle by guards. I am a sucker for Cathedrals, Chapels, Abbeys, and anything that is gothic architecture. St. George’s Chapel was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, and, yes, is where Harry and Meghan recently tied the knot. Totally wish I would have gone.
The famous river that also runs through London is definitely a must see. Windsor definitely is not lacking in parks, and there are some great ones along the river banks. This is also a great place to park further down the river (kind of close to where the coaches park) that is metered, but not super expensive compared to other locations.
Although not technically part of Windsor, this quaint little town is packed with some hidden royalty of its own. Eton College, an all-boys school, is where both Prince Harry and Prince William received their education. I can see why as well. Walking down the cobbled streets a massive, almost-Cathedral like building stood tall. It looked more like a castle than a school. Boys walked around dressed in suits and coattails, with top hats. Imagine dressing like that to go to school at thirteen. For just 32,000 pounds (42,200 dollars) a year you can your son there too.
I also really loved Eton because it was a quiet escape from the busy tourism of Windsor. Lined with amazing architecture and quaint buildings, this town was a hidden gem. It is literally just across the river from Windsor. If you are looking for old bookshops, cute stores, and quaint pubs, this is the place for you.
Windsor and Eton Brewery
My dad is the biggest beer snob in the world. I’ve probably visited more breweries in my life than anything else. Most of the time, they all look the same to me. However, Windsor and Eton was different. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, off of a residential road. To get there, we drove down streets that were barely big enough to fit a car. But eventually we did make it and my dad was in love. They had beers for every royal occasion. Both Royal Weddings. All of the births of William and Kate’s children. All there beer was royally themed and it was amazing.
We didn’t explore Windsor in the most traditional way. We didn’t step foot into a restaurant. Or pay a ton of money to do the touristy castle visit. Instead we wandered. And explored. And discovered hidden gems. That is my favorite way to travel. It’s easy to be discouraged by the dozens of gift shops, tourists, and flashy merchandise. However, Windsor is home to so much history. It is the Queen’s favorite place of residence for a reason.