Windsor Castle – The Oldest Occupied Castle in The World

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Wealth and royalty are the two words that we often think of whenever we hear the name, “Windsor Castle”.  It has been the home of Great Britain’s kings and queens for more than a thousand years. Now, it is one of Queen Elizebeth’s three official residences. 

Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century to be the home of the reigning monarch in England. It’s no wonder that each generation of the royal family continued to occupy the castle even until now. In fact, because of this, Windsor is named the longest-occupied castle in Europe, also boasting the largest occupancy among all the castles in the world. 

People from all over often gather at the castle gates for the changing of the guards as well as in the hope of catching a glimpse of the members of the royal family. If you get lucky, you might just see one of them.

The royal family had been residing in Windsor Castle for more than 900 years … and counting.

Windsor Castle at Sunset
Windsor Castle at Sunset – Diliff [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Grand Origins (11th Century)

Originally, Windsor Castle was supposed to be a military base for the English soldiers. It was commissioned by William the Conqueror as part of the ring of castles to defend London if the need arose. Thus, its location was quite strategic because of its accessibility to the capital and the royal hunting grounds.

The Reign of Henry II (12th Century)

Note that this initial construction was carried out in wood and timber, so when Henry II took over as king, he had the walls redone in stone. 

Now, by this point, his father Henry I already had his residential quarters at Windsor, so Henry II initiated the process of converting the castle into a palace. This venture consisted of two separate sets of royal apartments. He also added the outer walls in the north, south, and eastern parts of the castle, as well as commissioning the construction of the round tower. 

Entrance to the Windsor Castle
Entrance to the castle [Public Domain]

Henry II is also credited with adding the fortified enclosure to Windsor, which consisted of state residences on the lower ward and private ones on the upper ward.

The Reign of Edward III (13th Century)

In the late 14th century, Edward III modified Windsor Castle into a Gothic palace. He spent more than £50,000 on the modifications alone. He was also the one who had the old chapel constructed in the place where the Albert Memorial Chapel stands today. The old chapel was later given to the Order of the Garter, which was a coalition of knights of that era. 

Windsor Castle Side View
Windsor Castle Side View [Public Domain]

The Tudor & Elizabethan Era

There were a few significant architectural changes that occurred after Edward III. After the completion of his Gothic-style renovation (6 years after his death), it was Henry VII who built a range on the west side of the state apartments. Then, Henry VIII came along and added the gate at the lower ward.

During the reign of Elizabeth I,  Windsor Castle became her safe haven. She improved the castle’s defenses and also commissioned the northern gallery, which was later merged into the Royal Library.

Windsor Castle Round Tower
The castle’s Round Tower – Diliff [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Consistent Transformation

Throughout the years, the castle underwent modifications. There was the renovation of the State Apartments by Charles II when he reclaimed the throne, followed by George III’s addition of the Music Room and Dining Room in the upper ward. Then George IV came along, and with the help of his advisor Sir Charles, he gave the exterior of Windsor Castle a Gothic makeover. Queen Victoria restored the Grand Staircase and added another chapel.

Windsor Castle. York and Lancaster Towers
Windsor Castle. York and Lancaster Towers [Public Domain]

Current Times

A major fire occurred at Windsor in 1992. It actually started in Queen Victoria’s chapel and quickly spread out. Immediate restoration work was carried out under the Duke of Edinburgh and the redesign was done in a Neo-Gothic style. It took 5 years for the entire venture to be completed.

In current times, Windsor Castle is not just the home of the British Royals but also a place of history and learning. The Royal family opened some of the parts of the castle for the public.

Windsor Castle Aerial View
Windsor Castle” Aerial View (CC BY 2.0) by M McBey

Guests are able to see both the interior and exterior parts of the castle walls. They are allowed to roam around the vast courtyard outside the castle, as well as visit some of the state apartments and staterooms.

The state apartments are adorned with some of the important paintings in history.  Interestingly, some of the royal murals and paintings were restored to look exactly like how they were when first made.

Beautiful view of the park at Windsor Castle
Beautiful view of the park and the castle – Evka W [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The royal family continues to share the real story of the magnificent past of England over the past years. Today, it is one of the biggest attractions in the country and one of the top castles to visit in England.

Interesting Facts About Windsor Castle

  • Currently, Windsor Castle takes up around 13 acres of land, which adds up to around 5 hectares. It has been declared the 4th largest castle in the world.
  • It took 12 years for Windsor to be built after being commissioned by William the Conquerer, though some sources say that it took 16.
  • To date, Windsor Castle has been home to 39 monarchs.
  • Charles II’s revamp of the State Apartments resulted in the rooms becoming some of the grandest Baroque interiors in England. They consisted of some of the richest and most magnificent textiles and tapestries of the era.
  • During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle became the prison cell of Charles I.
  • George IV’s commission of the Grand Corridor was accompanied by the creation of the extended St. George’s Hall and the Waterloo Chamber, which was designed to celebrate the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. He hired Morel & Seddon to design the furniture. The whole venture cost £300,000.
  • After the fire in November 1992, 115 rooms were damaged, including Queen Victoria’s private chapel and several staterooms. It took 5 years to fully restore these areas.
  • The royal family had been residing in Windsor Castle for more than 900 years … and counting.

Visiting Windsor Castle – Tips and Tricks

As one of the most fascinating castles in all of the UK, Windsor also holds the distinct honor of being the beloved home of the Royal Family. This gives it an extra touristic edge and if you’re planning to go there, here’s all the information that you’ll need:

Caernarfon Castle courtyard
The castle’s courtyard (CC BY 2.0) by barryskeates

How to get to Windsor Castle?

Getting to Windsor Castle is quite easy if you’re commuting from London. The best way to get there is by train, as it’s also the cheapest. You can take a train from London Waterloo and get off directly at Windsor. The total cost would come around between £11-£23 ($14-$29 USD); the journey takes almost an hour.

Alternately, you can also make the 21.6 mile journey via taxi, which might cost you a hefty £50-£65 ($62-$80 USD). However, if you have a car of your own, you can reduce the price to £3-£6 ($4-$8 USD). Both of these options would take around 30 minutes travel-time.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Like many castles across the UK, Windsor Castle has different opening times in summer and winters. From March to October, it opens at 10:00 am and closes at 05:15 pm. From November to 28th February, the opening times are 10:00 am to 04:15 pm. The last entry is 4:00 pm during summers and 3:00 pm in winters. Note that the castle is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The castle Admission Center urges visitors to book their tickets in advance, especially if you’re planning to visit in the morning. That’s the absolute busiest time of the day at Windsor.

As for the ticket prices, they vary with the visitor’s age. They are also higher on Saturdays. For example, an adult ticket costs £26.50 ($33 USD) from Sunday to Friday, but it’s £28.50 ($36 USD) on a Saturday. Young adults (18-24 in age) can enter for £17.50 ($22 USD) on regular days and £18.50 ($23 USD) on a Saturday. Kids aged 5-17 as well as disabled people are ticketed £14.50 ($18 USD) on regular days and £15.50 ($20 USD) on a Saturday. Under 5 can enter free of charge, any day.

There are also discounted prices for groups as well as families. You can get further information on the official website.

View of Caernarfon Castle from its tallest tower
“Amazing view of the castle grounds from its tallest tower – Eagle Tower. (CC BY 2.0) by Nelo Hotsuma

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

Around 2.5 to 3 hours are recommended to explore Windsor Castle fully.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Note that the State Rooms close 30 minutes after the last visitor is admitted.
  • The Semi-State Rooms are also closed when the State Rooms are.
  • It’s best to plan your visit during weekdays, as ticket prices are £2 ($2.50 USD) higher on Saturdays.
  • There’s an airport-style security check when you enter the castle.
  • Taking pictures inside the castle is not allowed.
  • Wear comfortable shoes to be able to fully explore the steep location of the castle.
  • There’s a cafe on the castle grounds, but no food items are allowed inside the State Rooms.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Windsor Castle Areas

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Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira Ghazal
Zunaira is an architect and designer on paper, but a writer at heart. She’s got a Bachelors in Architecture and a passion for traveling, both of which combine in her writings about timeworn castles and fortresses that have withstood the tests of time and stand proud to this day.

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