What are the best things to do in Windsor, and why make a day trip from London? The top attraction is of course Windsor Castle, home of the Queen of England, but there are several things to do and see which would make for a good day out in Windsor. Note that Windsor and Eton are two separate towns either side of the River Thames, and separated by the Windsor Bridge, but they merge together.
Walk around Windsor and Eton and you're sure to see pupils from Eton College in their distinctive school uniforms. The college is one of the most famous schools in the world, and one of the top schools in Britain. Many of its pupils go on to have distinguished careers, and they include numerous British Prime Ministers. Many members of the Royal Family have also attended Eton College. Parts of the college are open to visitors daily, including the chapel, the oldest classroom (the school was founded by Henry VI in 1440), and the enjoyable Museum of Eton Life.
A complete contrast to Windsor Castle and Eton College is the Legoland theme park, a few miles outside the town. It is one of the most visited theme parks in Britain, and is primarily aimed at children in the 3-12 age range. Admission is on the expensive side, otherwise even adults would enjoy a quick visit to admire the ingenuity and skills of the builders of the amazing Lego models. There are several dozen rides and other attractions within the large 150-acre park, which is divided in Disneyland fashion into seven zones. If only visiting Windsor for the day, bear in mind that a visit to Legoland will probably occupy you for at least half that time.
About five miles south-east of Windsor on the banks of the River Thames is Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed. It is looked after by the National Trust, whose website gives information about getting there by bus, train, by driving or cycling. You can also get there on foot by following the Thames Path. It was here in 1215 that King John set his seal on the Magna Carta, the first time a King or Queen had had their powers limited by some of their subjects.
American visitors will be interested in a memorial put up at the site in 1957 by the American Bar Association acknowledging that the American Constitution was based on the Magna Carta. Also of interest to visitors from the USA is the memorial to President John F. Kennedy, put up in 1965 on a piece of land given to the American people by Queen Elizabeth II.
If all you do is go to Windsor to visit Windsor Castle, the journey will still be worthwhile. Along with Buckingham Palace and Sandringham, it is one of the Queen's three official residences in England, and is where she does spend a great deal of her time. It is also the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world, and a self-guided tour here is fascinating and highly recommended. One word of warning, though – before you head out to Windsor, make sure the castle is actually open to visitors that day. It is in theory open every day of the year, but there are days when it is closed due to important state occasions: telephone 01753-831118 to check.
Windsor Great Park
If the weather is fine, plan on exploring Windsor Great Park, which even the Queen enjoys on occasion, especially for its horse-riding opportunities. It covers 5,000 acres and you can get information and a map from the local tourist information centres. The park goes back to the 13th century when it was enclosed as a royal hunting ground for wild boar and deer, and there are still deer and many other forms of wildlife in the park today. Many visitors find that a full tour of Windsor Castle and a visit to Windsor Great Park occupy most of a day, and are definitely the two best things to do in Windsor.
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