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We’d like to crown Windsor and Eton as one of our favourite weekend retreats and day trips from London.
There are so many things to do in Windsor with its stunning riverside setting, gloriously green parks and of course Windsor Castle (which anyone can visit – it doesn’t need to be ‘by Royal Appointment’).
From the (very) Long Walk with deers to historic side-streets (with haunted pubs!), here is the very best of Berkshire’s ‘royally’ good riverside town – our guide to the top things to do in Windsor and Eton in 2023:
Things to do in Windsor and Eton
Table of Contents
1. Windsor Castle
Obviously number one on our ‘things to do in Windsor and Eton’ guide and likely the main reason why most visitors and tourists descend on the town (and with good reason).
Windsor Castle is the family and ancestral home of the British monarchy – the King now mainly spends weekends and some holidays here).
The entrance fee to Windsor Castle is £28 in advance or £30 on the door per adult or £18 in advance or £19.50 on the door for young people aged 18 to 24 years old. These castle ticket prices are correct as at March 2023.
Given the castle admission price, we’d always been a bit reluctant to do the Windsor Palace tour and this was our first visit to a royal residence (we still haven’t done the Buckingham Palace tour as it sounds quite hit and miss).
However, we were so impressed by how much you can see and visit at Windsor Castle, from the beautifully ornate rooms (soooo much gilded gold) to the Royal Gardens that have stunning views looking out over town.
So we think Windsor Castle is really, really good value to visit and you could easily make a morning or afternoon of it.
We once also got a fleeting glimpse whilst inside on our visit of the late Queen Elizabeth II as she left Windsor Castle in a small convoy of Range Rovers – no sign of the corgis though alas.
2. Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Don’t let your guard down and miss this iconic Windsor Castle Changing of the Guard ceremony – it really is a delightful display of regal pomp and circumstance.
Try to time your visit to Windsor Castle with the Changing of the Guard ceremony (most Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am) that begins at Swan Barracks a few minutes walk (or should that be march) away from Windsor Castle itself.
A quick tip – it is actually much easier to get a photograph of the Changing of the Guards before the ceremony by snapping them as they walk along the High Street.
The Windsor Castle Royal guards, dressed in red and black march down the high street and enter the castle and it is a sight to behold. Whilst you can still see the main march for free by standing along Castle Hill, the majority of the Changing of the Guards ceremony takes place behind the Windsor Castle Walls.
If you are going to Windsor Castle anyway (our top thing to do in Windsor), you could try to coincide your timed ticket admission with the ceremony. however queues can be long to get in so we recommend trying to get a 10am castle admission ticket to guarantee you get through and to the courtyard in time for 11am.
Even if you don’t want to pay to go into Windsor Castle, you can still see (and hear) the marching band and guards as they approach from the castle.
If you want to get the best views and secure yourself a prime spot (particularly in the summer), arrive and get a spot outside Windsor Castle at least an half an hour before the Changing of the Guards Ceremony begins.
3. The Windsor Long Walk and Deer Park
Possibly the most astutely titled trail, this Long Walk (just under 3 miles one way) starts at the rear entrance of Windsor Castle by the golden George VI gates (if walking from the town centre / High Street).
You can walk through parkland all the way to the majestic King George / Copper Horse statue atop a nearby hillside in Windsor Deer Park.
Along the tree lined avenue, you may see some deer at play in the meadow and the views from the hill by the statue are stunning, a glimpse of Berkshire’s countryside and also a distant glimpse of London’s downtown skyscrapers (you can even see the Shard at London Bridge on a clear day).
The Windsor Long Walk is fairly flat and most of it is paved so it is suitable for pushchairs too.
If you are doing the walk there and back (6 miles in total) starting at Windsor Castle rear gates, we think afterwards you should reward yourself with a pint (or three) at the Two Brewers, one of Windsor’s prettiest pubs (cosy inside too) which is handily located a stone’s throw away from where the walk starts, you are most welcome!
4. Eton High Street
Stretching from the Eton Walkway bridge all the way to the illustrious Eton College, Eton High Street is a charming and quintessentially english high street lined with antique shops, artisan and independent shops, bars and restaurants (so you can do lots of ‘Eton’ and drinking too – sorry).
With antique red post boxes, Union Jack flags hanging along the way as well as riverside parks, Eton high street is a wonderful Windsor thing to do.
A walk along Eton High Street takes about 15 minutes one way to Eton College grounds.
5. Eton College
Perhaps best known as the illustrious college where most of the Royals were schooled, Eton College was founded in 1440.
To this day, it is still the largest boarding school in England, charging around £45,000 a year in fees. To this, it is still boys only (one of only three colleges in the UK to still retain this outmoded concept).
Whilst not strictly open to the public, it is easy to get photographs of their regal buildings and Eton College’s museums and galleries are open to all for free on Sunday afternoons, 2:30pm to 5pm.
In addition, The Museum of Eton Life is also open on Saturdays, 2.30pm to 5pm.
6. Eton Pubs
Similar to the South Bank walk in central London, Windsor makes the most of its riverside space with several bars and restaurants having terraces and gardens directly overlooking the Thames.
Head to the Eton Walkway bridge for the best waterside eating spots. For our dime, Cote Windsor or The Boatman pub have the best views as their terrace(s) sit literally right on the Thames.
If you are full after your meal or simply fancy a riverside stroll sans food, walk along from Eton bridge along the Thames path in parallel to Alexandra Park and continue all the way to the railway arches along the banks – with wonderful views of the boats, marina and Brocas Meadows.
This is a lovely walk and very flat too and no longer than 20 mins so suitable for all ages and abilities.
After walking the length and breadth of Eton High Street, reward yourself with an ice-cold pint or wine in one of Eton’s several pubs and bars – there is even one called The Eton Mess.
One of favourite Eton pubs is The Watermans Arms, a classic British pub and traditional tavern housed in a former 16th century workhouse and factory.
There are several ways you can hit the water in Windsor (not literally – it would hurt) along the beautiful stretch of the River Thames that flows through Windsor.
7. Windsor River Thames Cruise
One of the most popular waterborne activities is to jump aboard the family-run French brothers cruises which lasts around 40 minutes and departs from Windsor promenade. Starting from just under £11 per adult if booked in advance as at March 2023 (£12 on the day).
The French Brothers riverboat round cruises take in riverside views of Windsor Castle, Windsor Racecourse and the Brocas Meadows.
A longer 2 hour River Thames Cruise is also available for £20 on the day (as at 2023).
8. Windsor Duck Boat Tours
Is a Windsor River Cruise too sedate for you? Prefer something with a little more ‘ducking and diving’?
Another slightly more unusual Windsor things to do is a Duck Boat Tour. There are two Duck tours available and you’ll see the sights of Windsor partially submerged in the River Thames – quacking stuff!
The Swan Splash Road and River tour lasts one hour and spends around 70% of the time on the River Thames.
From the river, you’ll have glorious views of Windsor Castle and the Round Tower plus ‘swim’ past the famous Hawker Hurricane! The Duck Boat one hour tour costs from £25 per adult or £70 for a family of four as at March 2023.
There is also another one hour Duck Boat Tour (the same price as above) that is 50:50 land and water and visits more of the Crown Estate.
9. Windsor Rowing Boats and Motor Boats
‘Water’ way to see Windsor. If you want something more involved than a cruise or Duck Boat, you can hire rowing / motor boats from the John Logie boat stall from Windsor promenade.
This can be found just across from Alexandra Park and Cafe on the River (just watch out for those swans!).
Windsor River Thames motor boats can be hired for up to six people for £47 for one hour; rowing boats can fit 4 people and cost £28 per hour. Half hour hires are also available. Rowing boat and motor boat hire fees are correct as at March 2023.
10. Windsor Town Centre
Surprisingly , Windsor’s main pedestrianised high street isn’t that historic or picturesque, a curiously concrete and charmless affair, full of the usual high street chains and very few independents.
However, that said, the town centre pretty much every type of shop is here so if you are in the mood for some retail therapy, this is a fitting and functional place to empty your wallet. Here you can also find chain stores like Marks & Spencers, T K Maxx and Boots the Chemist.
11. Windsor Royal Station Shopping Centre
Likely the first area you’ll walk through if you are getting the train to Windsor from Slough, this is a fine looking shopping area / centre around Windsor Royal Station.
In keeping with the aesthetics of the station, it comprises a parade of shops packed in below the high room and rustic iron beams. The Windsor Royal Station Shopping Centre has plenty of coffee shops and restaurants to keep you going.
Flagship stores include Jigsaw, Jo Malone, Hobbs and Sweaty Betty. Dining options including Caffe Nero, Bill’s and Cafe Rouge.
12. Church Lane and Market Square area
The antithesis of the modern and mundane main Windsor High Street, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, the sublime side streets of Church Lane feel a little more traditional. Here you can enjoy views of the castle spires, cute and quirky gift shops and tea rooms, plus some proper Windsor pubs.
Cobbled streets and crooked buildings combine (check out the Crooked Tea House, a wonky as but wonderfully old building dating back from the 16th), it is like taking a step back in time. Well, that is if you squint really, really hard and ignore the large plastic ice-cream sitting on the pavement.
13. Windsor and Royal Borough Museum
Housed in a Grade I listed Windsor guildhall, this small but perfectly formed museum houses local history treasures and gives an insight into what life is like in Windsor now and then.
With a small admission fee of £2 per adult (as at 2023), this is one Windsor attraction to do either if you are really into your history or on a wet weather afternoon.
14. Pubs in Windsor and Eton
If you are spending a weekend in Windsor and fancy a pint or two, we’ve written a dedicated guide to all the best bars and pubs in Windsor.
From pubs with a ‘royally’ good view of the castle entrance at the Horse and Room to the floral front of the Two Brewers, there are plenty of popular pubs and historic bars to sup up at.
15. See the Royal Swans
Fun fact – due to an ancient law, did you know that all of the country’s (unclaimed) swans are actually owned by the Queen?
However she only actually exercises ownership on certain stretches of the Thames in and around Windsor (we aren’t sure how) so the ones you see in Windsor are genuine Royal swans.
The reason we mention it is because there are soooo many swans too many?) and their constant quacking and sheer numbers make them quite a spectacle.
Whilst it can be fun to feed the swans, there are signs up advising what not to give them and they are so aggressive so if you value your fingers, best to feed them from afar or not at all.
16. Alexandra Park
A prime picnic spot in Windsor, Alexandra Park is a nice space to relax in after walking around all day, or whilst waiting to get your train back. You can walk from the park up a steep flight of steps to the main train station in less than 5 minutes.
Full of seasonal fun and family activities, there are various amusements such as a crazy golf / pitch and putt area plus a park cafe. Alexandra Park is definitely one of the best free things to do in Windsor and Eton in the summer months.
17. The West Windsor Beer Mile
Newly formed in 2023 with three breweries to be found along the The Arches, the West Windsor Beer Mile comprises of Flint’s Brewery (opened in December 2022), the Indie Rabble Brewing Company (opening summer 2023) plus local stalwart The Windsor & Eton Brewery, who’ve been the pioneers of the Windsor taproom and brewing scene. Cheers to that!
18. Spot a full-size Hawker Hurricane
Well, a replica at least but it is a popular point of interest and fascinating to such a historic aircraft up-close.
Located near to the railway viaduct and Alexandra gardens, this Hawker Hurricane is dedicated to former Windsor local, Sir Sydney Camm who designed the aircraft, which played such a significant part in the Battle of Britain in 1940 and other skirmishes.
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