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Windsor Castle

Highlights of Windsor Castle

There are a lot of things to see and do at Windsor Castle. In the State Apartments you’ll explore ceremonial rooms that are used today by the Royal Family and you’ll discover historical rooms that were built for Charles II and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza.

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 Rooms

Grand Reception Room©

The ceremonial rooms are the main State Apartments that are used today by the Royal Family. Within these rooms the monarch hosts official visits by Heads of State from other countries, investitures, and awards ceremonies, where people from all walks of life are recognised for their achievements.

Perhaps the most striking room 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 Rooms

The Queen's Drawing Room at Windsor Castle©
Ceiling painting showing Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II©

The historic rooms 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 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.

The King's State Bedchamber which is part of these rooms, contains a magnificent bed originally acquired by George IV.

The Semi-State Rooms

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 were used by Queen Elizabeth II 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 side 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.

The Semi-State Rooms usually open from autumn-spring each year. For more details see our opening times. 

 

Explore the Crimson Drawing Room in our 360 image

Image credit: Will Pearson | Eye Revolution

Queen Mary's Dolls' House

The Library in the Dolls' House contains over 200 books. ©

Queen Mary's Dolls' House was built between 1921 and 1924 for Queen Mary, wife of George V, by the leading British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. It includes contributions from over 1,500 of the finest artists, craftspeople and manufacturers of the early 20th century. The House is on permanent display at Windsor Castle.

From life below stairs to the royal setting of the saloon and dining room, and from a library bursting with original works by famous literary names of the day, to a fully stocked wine cellar and a garden, no detail was forgotten. The house even includes electricity, running water, and working lifts. Each room is fully furnished and waiting to be explored.

Throughout 2024, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. As well as the chance to see the House, you can also enjoy a special centenary display in the Waterloo Chamber included as part of your visit to Windsor Castle.

Due to a technical issue, the internal lighting in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is not working. This will affect your viewing experience, for which we apologise. We are working to resolve this as quickly as possible.

St George's Chapel

St George's Chapel©

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 TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and HRH Princess Eugenie and Mr Jack Brooksbank.

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 11 monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II, George VI, Henry VIII 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.

When the Castle is open (Thursday - Monday) the Chapel closes at 16:15 (last entry 16:00), in order to prepare for the evening church service at 17:15. 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

Moat Room

The Moat Room features a bronze model of Windsor Castle in 1377, drawing on the most recent research of how the Castle looked in the past as one of the greatest medieval palaces in Europe.  

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

Changing the Guard

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 can be watched by Castle visitors on Thursdays and Saturdays. The guards arrive at the Castle just before 11:00, 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

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.

Highlights film

Watch our film about visiting the Castle ©


The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.