After bringing you my guide to Windsor Castle I thought it was only fair to pop up a recommendation list with some of my favourite things to do in Windsor and Eton. Located on the banks of the River Thames, Windsor is famous for being one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II. This, and the fact that it’s quite close to London has made quite lively and popular among tourists.
This perspective seems to quieten when you cross the bridge that separates Windsor and Eton. The latter is a much calmer historic town that has that je ne sais quoi, very intellectual and quintessentially British. With a rich heritage, beautiful surrounding countryside and history that connects both towns, Windsor and Eton are great for a quick weekend escape. And there is plenty to do for those who either want to relax or explore.
So without further waffling, here are my top things to do in Windsor and Eton.
1. Windsor Castle
We couldn’t make a guide of things to do in Windsor without including Windsor Castle. Did you know Windsor Castle is the biggest and oldest inhabited castle in the world? Did you also know that it has served as the royal residence of the British monarchy for over 1,000 years? That’s right. And now, visitors can explore the castle precincts, St George’s Chapel and the castle rooms for both private and formal use by members of the Royal Family. Not to mention Queen Mary’s dolls’ house, the biggest dolls’ house in the world!
All you need is a ticket, a free multimedia guide and – why not? – join one of the Windsor Castle tours to explore. Read everything you need to know in my Windsor Castle guide.
2. Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Don’t miss the chance to watch the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle. This military tradition has been taking place since 1660 and serves as a way to hand over the duties between the Household Troops. You can see them march through Windsor every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 11am. It lasts approximately 30 min and finishes inside the Windsor Castle, so you’ll need a ticket to be able to see this last bit. Just make sure you check the weather beforehand as this might affect the ceremony!
3. St George’s Chapel
St George’s Chapel is one of the most famous buildings within Windsor Castle and deserves a paragraph on its own. Mostly known as the place where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married in 2018, it’s also the burial place of 10 British monarchs (such as Henry VIII, his 3rd wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I). Read more about the history and what you can find St George’s Chapel in my Windsor Castle guide.
4. Windsor Great Park and The Long Walk
You can find Windsor Great Park right next to Windsor Castle. This 2,020 hectare Royal Park was once a forest and you can still easily spot deer running around, which I’m told are quite used to seeing people! The Long Walk is a great way to walk through the Windsor Great Park or even go for a run. It connects Windsor Castle and the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) at the top of Snow Hill. The Long Walk is 2.64 miles long, and is the road Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drove down after getting married!
5. The Crooked House of Windsor
The Crooked House of Windsor (or the Market Cross House, as it was initially called) is possibly one of the most picturesque buildings in Windsor. Now a Grade II listed building, the original house on the site dates back to the late 16th century. It was demolished by the Council to make space for Windsor’s Town Hall (the Guildhall), but a land dispute resulted in the Council having to rebuild the dwelling in 1687. The peculiar tilted house you now see is a result of one – a quick and perhaps very carrels job; and two – using unseasoned green oak wood that eventually dried. They should’ve seen it coming!
Now a jewellery shop, the Crooked House has had many uses over the years. It was once the oldest tea-house in England and also a butcher’s shop. The area around the Crooked House used to be a market, so a secret passageway was built to connect the house to Windsor Castle and deliver the market goods directly to the kitchens. Some say that the passageway was also used by King Charles II and his mistress, actress Nell Gwyn, for, ahem, illicit rendezvous.
6. Queen Charlotte Street
If you’re standing next to the Crooked House of Windsor, look for the little alley that runs on its left. This is Queen Charlotte Street. At first glance you might not see anything unusual about it, but it’s actually the shortest street in Britain. It’s only 51 feet 10 inches long! Another thing to tick off your list, perhaps?
7. Windsor Royal Station and shopping centre
If you’re getting the train from London Paddington to Windsor and changing at Slough, you’ll arrive at this beautiful Victorian railway station. Built in the second half of the 19th century just opposite Windsor Castle, this Grade II listed building is also home to over 40 shops, eateries, bars and cafés. If you’re looking for both local and premium retailers (such as Jo Malone or Le Creuset), Windsor Royal Shopping Centre is the place to be! A great way to kill the time while waiting for your next train too. Here you can also see “The Queen”, a replica of the steam engine that carried Queen Victoria’s Royal Train.
8. Windsor Independent Market
Just across the road from Windsor Castle and by Windsor Royal Station, you’ll find Peascod Street. This is the main shopping street and has plenty of independent cafés, restaurants and high-street shops. A local food market also opens here every third and fifth weekend of the month. Think bakeries, a brewery, international street food, vegan and vegetarian options and homemade gluten-free brownies. Did I also mention they have halloumi wraps? Definitely a must!
9. Eton College
Eton College is one of the most prestigious boarding schools for boys in the world. It covers years 13 to 18, and is also the 18th oldest Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference school in the UK. You can’t actually go inside Eton College (unless you’re a student or a teacher, of course), but it’s certainly worth walking around the College buildings to get the most of this quintessentially British boarding school.
History of Eton College
In 1440, King Henry VI founded what was initially known as “The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton beside Windsor”, a sister institution of King’s College in Cambridge, which he later founded in 1441. Its purpose was to provide free education to 70 boys that could continue their upper education in the latter. This tradition is still kept to this day by awarding scholarships by examination to 70 pupils (around 14 per year), known as the King’s Scholars. These cover up to 90% off the school fees, which can easily reach £40,000!
The King’s Scholars, who live in the College buildings, are easily recognisable by the black gowns they wear over their tailcoats. But they’re not the only students at Eton! The Oppidans, who pay their own fees, live in one of the 24 boarding houses outside the Eton College. Houses include The Timbralls, Savile, Cotton Hall and Westbury.
And as for notable alumni of Eton College? Think Prince William, Prince Harry, Christopher Lee, Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Bear Grylls.
Eton College Chapel
Built in late Gothic style in the 15th century and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, this is the main chapel of Eton College. This is is where students attend reflective and devotional services that are aimed to create a stronger community within the College. During their first two years, the boys meet at the Lower Chapel (built in 1890 to accommodate the Oppidans). Here, they attend short 20min morning services five days of the week, and a full service on Sundays. From their third year, their services are held in College Chapel and at assemblies elsewhere. These are far less frequent – from two weekday services initially, to one on inter final year, as well as a Sunday service.
Architecturally, Eton College Chapel is a remarkable building. Its walls are covered in astounding Flemish style paintings that took eight years to complete. On the northern side of the Chapel, they represent their patron – Virgin Mary – while a medieval story depicting a mythical empress sits on the Southern side. Impressive stained glass windows surround the Chapel, with four miracles and four parables on each side. This isn’t the original glass, however, as all of the windows except the one above the organ were destroyed by a bomb in WWII. As for the roof, it was built in 1959 in a fan-vaulting style, similar to the one at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.
10. Windsor and Eton trails
A fun (and free!) way to explore Windsor and Eton at your own pace is through the different trails that are available to the public. I’ve included the main walkways below. The Queen’s Walkway is great for everyone looking to find out more about Windsor and its main points of interest; Eton Walkway, on the other hand, goes through the best places in neighbouring Eton. And the Windsor Heritage Trail? This walk is a combination of both, and much shorter!
The Queen’s Walkway
Starting at the Henry VIII Gateway of Windsor Castle and finishing at Queen Victoria statue, the Queen’s Walkways is 6.373km long (approximately 4 miles). This particular number was chosen to recognise the moment Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in the UK with 63 years, 7 months and 3 days. Naturally, the trail also includes 63 of the best points of interest and attractions of Windsor and it’ll take you around 2h to complete. All you need to do is follow the metal shields on the ground.
You can download the Queen’s Walkway Map here. It also includes information about the history of the place which surely comes in handy!
Similar to the Queen’s Walkway but also shorter, Eton Walkway is a 2 mile round trail that takes you through 18 of the top landmarks in Eton. These are also identified by metal shields but with Eton’s coat of arms. The trail starts at The King’s Stables and takes you through Eton College and back to Eton Boat House.
You can find the Eton Walkway map here.
Windsor Heritage Trail
Now, if you want to kill two birds with one stone and simply explore Windsor and Eton at once, the Windsor Heritage Trail is the one for you. It’s only 1 mile long and it takes you along the beautiful town of Windsor, across the River Thames and all the way up to Eton College.
If you want to find out more about the 11 main stops here included, please check the Windsor Heritage Map here.
11. Other things to do in Windsor and Eton
- Eat Eton Mess…in Eton! – the perfect excuse to have some of this popular English dessert where it originated. If you’re a fan of strawberries, whipped cream and meringue, even better!
- Go for a warm traditional meal at Bel & The Dragon – a historic restaurant and tea room dating back to the 11th century, a short walk from Windsor Castle.
- Looking for international dishes instead? Try Meimo – Meimo has some of the best Moroccan and Mediterranean food in the area.
- Feel like a kid again Legoland – if you’re looking for a fun way to spend with your kids, or just want to pretend you are 5 again, Legoland is your place.
- Attend the Ascot Racecourse – and maybe place some bets if you’d like. Who knows? You might win big!
Have you been to Windsor and Eton before? I hope this post has inspired you to visit this magnificent towns and enjoy them as much as we did! If you liked our Windsor and Eton recommendations, please leave us a comment, pin some photos and show us some love on social media using the buttons below
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