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Highlights of Windsor Castle

There are a lot of things to see and do at Windsor Castle. There are two routes you can take within the State Apartments, the historic route or the ceremonial route – but don’t worry, you can do both if you wish during your visit.

The State Apartments are open when the Castle is open, with a few exceptions throughout the year when official State events are taking place. Check the closures in advance of your visit. 

State Apartments - Ceremonial Route

Windsor Castle State Apartments

Grand Reception Room ©

The ceremonial route will show you the main State Apartments that are used today by The Queen and members of the Royal Family. Within these rooms The Queen hosts official visits by Heads of State from other countries, investitures, and awards ceremonies, where British men and women are recognised for their achievements.

Perhaps the most striking room on the ceremonial route is the Grand Reception Room. With its chandeliers and gilding it was once used as the main ballroom in the Castle. One object you can't miss in this room is the large malachite urn, presented to Queen Victoria by Tsar Nicholas I in 1839, and one of the largest examples outside Russia. Looking around the gold-covered walls and ceilings it's hard to believe that this room was so severely damaged in the fire of 1992. The room was painstakingly repaired to its former glory, which you can see today. 

George IV gave the State Apartments a new grand entrance and staircase, added the colossal Waterloo Chamber, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, and created a new set of private rooms within the Castle, the Semi-State Rooms.

Explore the Waterloo Chamber in our 360 image

Image credit: Will Pearson | Eye Revolution

State Apartments - Historic Route

The Queen's Drawing Room at Windsor Castle

The Queen's Drawing Room at Windsor Castle ©

Ceiling painting showing Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II ©

The historic route will show you the rooms that were built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza.

These rooms follow the pattern established in English palaces over hundreds of years; a series of rooms getting smaller as they get closer to the most private spaces. Admission was strictly controlled so that only the most important people in the court had access to the king and queen.

Charles II set out to rival the achievements of his cousin, Louis XIV, at Versailles in France. In the 17th century he modernised the Castle’s interiors, which became the grandest State Apartments in England, with painted ceilings by Antonio Verrio and carvings by Grinling Gibbons.

Since then the rooms have been changed significantly. Many of the painted ceilings were covered with ornamental plaster under the direction of architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville, who worked for George IV. The Grand Reception Room, which you’ll see on the ceremonial route, is an example of a gilded plaster ceiling, which was recreated after the Windsor Castle fire.

The State Apartments are furnished with some of the finest works of art from the Royal Collection, including paintings by Holbein, Van Dyck and Rubens. Many of the works of art are still in the historic settings for which they were first collected or commissioned by the kings and queens who lived at Windsor. If you want to know more about the rooms which are used by The Queen today read about the ceremonial route.
 

The Semi-State Rooms

Semi State Rooms at Windsor Castle

The Crimson Drawing Room ©

The Semi-State Rooms are the private apartments created for George IV. They feature interiors decorated by Morel & Seddon, with a selection of furnishings and fittings taken from Carlton House, George IV's former London residence. The rooms are among the most richly decorated interiors in the Castle and are used by The Queen for official entertaining. Learn more about George IV's ideas for furnishing the Green Drawing Room in our online trail.

George IV had a love of fine objects and a taste for the theatrical.  With his architect, Sir Jeffry Wyatville, he completely remodelled the Castle’s exterior during the 1820s, giving it the romantic and picturesque appearance seen today. He also decided to create the Semi-State Rooms, a new suite of private rooms on the sunnier east and south sides of the Castle, including the magnificent Crimson Drawing Room. This was George IV’s last and greatest commission, and one of the most elaborate and expensive interior decoration schemes ever carried out in England.

The Semi-State Rooms were severely damaged by the fire of 1992, although, by chance, their contents had been moved elsewhere at the time. They were completely restored to their 19th-century appearance using the original designs supplied to George IV. See more of George IV’s art collection in our exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace from 15 November 2019 – 4 May 2020.


The Semi-State Rooms are open from autumn until spring each year. The Semi-State Rooms are not open on days when the State Apartments are closed. For more details see our opening times. 

 

Explore the Crimson Drawing Room in our 360 image

Image credit: Will Pearson | Eye Revolution

Precincts Tour

Precinct tours at Windsor Castle

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When you first arrive at the Castle join a free 30-minute tour of the Castle Precincts (the outside areas of the Castle). The tours are led by Wardens and depart at regular intervals throughout the day from the Jubilee Bandstand at the start of the visit. 

The Precincts tour introduces the Castle’s 1,000-year history as a fortress and palace, and its role today as an official residence of The Queen. The tour ends at the entrance to the State Apartments on Henry VIII’s North Terrace, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Remember to tag your photos #WindsorCastle when you share them on Twitter or Instagram. 

Precinct tour times are advertised on a poster adjacent to the building from which multimedia tours are issued.

Moat Room

Moat room

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The Moat Room features three bronze models of Windsor Castle. The models draw on the most recent research of how Windsor Castle looked in the past to reconstruct the evolution of the Castle for visitors, from a simple fort to one of the greatest medieval palaces in Europe. The models show the Castle in 1080, 1216 and 1377 - moments in time when the development of the castle expanded considerably. 

A timeline illustrated with reigning monarchs along the length of the room provides context for the history of Windsor Castle.

St George's Chapel

St George's Chapel

St George's Chapel ©

The Chapel was the location of the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle

The Chapel was the location of the wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle © PA

St George's Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England. Construction of the present Chapel began in 1475 under the reign of Edward IV. When visiting make sure you look up and admire the stone ceiling, which was added by Henry VII.

The Chapel has been the location of many royal weddings including HRH Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle.

The Chapel is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III.

Within the Chapel are the tombs of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and his third wife Jane Seymour, and Charles I.

Among the many monuments in the Chapel, look out for the spectacular marble memorial by Matthew Wyatt to George IV's only child, Princess Charlotte, who died in childbirth in 1817.

From Monday to Saturday the Chapel closes at 16:15 (last entry 16:00), in order to prepare for the evening church service at 17:15 (doors open at 17:00). The chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays as services are held throughout the day. Worshippers are welcome to attend the services. More details are available on the Chapel website

Changing the Guard

Changing the Guard at Windsor Castle

Changing the Guard ©

Changing the Guard is a colourful spectacle of British pageantry, but also has a military purpose. The ceremony takes place to allow the handover of duties between two groups of guards. The privilege of guarding the monarch traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as ‘the Guards’, who have carried out this duty since 1660.

When can I watch the ceremony?

The ceremony usually takes place at 11:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but the schedule can change, check the British Army website for details. The guards march through Windsor town into the Castle, where the guard change takes place. To watch the full ceremony inside the Castle you will need to purchase an admission ticket.

Treasures of the Castle

Treasures in the Collection

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While touring the State Apartments and Semi-State Rooms remember to stop and admire not only the paintings created by many famous artists hanging on the walls, but also the varied displays of objects in each room. These include the arms and armour in the Grand Vestibule, elaborate china used in State Banquets and ornate pieces of furniture. Learn more about the Royal Collection at the Castle.

 

Queen Mary's Dolls' House

Queen Mary's Dolls' House is currently closed due to Future Programme works, but you can explore the Dolls' House online or watch our behind the scenes video.

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Highlights film

Watch our short film about visiting the Castle ©