A weekend in Windsor: Where to stay, where to eat and what to see and do
All eyes have been on Windsor twice in the past year as the historic town played host to not one but two Royal weddings. And, as eyes turned to the charming Royal town again – as the nation awaited with baited breath the birth of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s newborn, Archie – we headed to visit to see what else this quaint town has to offer outside of Royal watching and patriotic parades.
The town was well prepared for the new Royal’s arrival with the cobbled streets lined with Union Jack flags and a buzz of excitement in the air. We arrived on a grey, drizzly Friday evening, taking a picturesque drive into the famous town through the tree-lined roads that weave through the Royal park and past the hallowed halls of Eton College.
Our base for the weekend was to be The Mary; a beautiful, luxury apartment in the heart of the historic town. The Mary – managed by Urban living; a small, independent family business offering high-end, serviced apartments in Windsor and Oxford – is well-presented, smart and clean.
The Urban Living team was extremely helpful and friendly, getting in touch before our visit to share directions to the apartment, as well as instructions on how to find the key and where to park. They also got in touch to ensure we had everything we needed once we were in, and to see how our visit had been after our stay.
The large and stylish flat takes up the wing of a well-appointed building with ample parking available below. The apartment is elegant and chic, the clean white lines of the kitchen flowing into the comfortable and spacious living room. Each of the two bedrooms offer guests an ensuite and the flat boasts all of the mod cons you could need from an Amazon Alexa sound system and Netflix on the TV.
In the kitchen, there’s everything for a night in cooking with family or friends, to celebratory drinks before hitting the town. And if the head is a little cloudy after the night before then the contemporary coffee machine is sure to wake you up with a ‘bang’!
While the apartment was perfect for our stay, it’s outside that this place is really worth its price: the location is ideal for tourists and visitors. Just a short five minute walk brings you to the River Thames and the centre of town, where restaurants, bars, pubs, shops and attractions are aplenty. We made our way to the one of the town’s best-known pubs for our Friday night dinner.
The Royal Windsor is the oldest licensed premises in the town with unrivalled views of the castle. The traditional pub hosts a weekly quiz night every Wednesday, a DJ every Saturday night and offers delicious Sunday roasts.
There was a quiet but friendly atmosphere when we arrived, with couples enjoying intimate meals and friends chatting over cocktails. The pub hosts two-for-one happy hour cocktails each day but, as I wasn’t drinking, I asked for a mocktail – which wasn’t on the menu – and the lovely barman kindly obliged, making me the most deliciously sweet fruity creation.
We took a table in the corner with views of the castle framed by the window over our shoulders and perused the menu boasting lots of choice from small plates and flatbreads to slow-grilled meats from the Japanese Robata grill to hot, comforting dishes.
I opted for the avocado and crayfish salad to begin – which did not disappoint – while my husband tried the crispy salt and pepper squid. Both came as sizeable portions; the salad was refreshing and flavoursome with plenty of crayfish to enjoy, while the squid was light and crisp accompanied by a delicious aioli dip.
For our mains I strayed from the menu and over to the specials board to try the seabass – one of my favourites – while Mark chose a good pub classic; rib eye steak. The fish portion was huge, with two large fillets sitting atop a mound of buttery crushed potatoes and greens. The fish was juicy and rich with flavour although I couldn’t manage to finish it all! The steak was cooked perfectly and served with potatoes, kale and crispy shallots.
Service was prompt and each course was presented with a smile. By the time we made it to dessert – a delicious, rich chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream – the bar was buzzing, with people packed in to enjoy a soundtrack of acoustic covers from a fabulous live musician who plays every Friday evening. The pub prides itself on its home-cooked food as well as its house-infused cocktails and shots, of which my husband tried the citrus vodka.
The Royal Windsor serves food seven days a week, including brunch, lunch and dinner. We returned the following day with friends to sample the pub’s set lunch menu – which is extremely good value at £12.95 for two courses. I couldn’t resist the crab mac ‘n’ cheese to start – and I wasn’t disappointed. The hot dish oozed melting cheese with the odd highlight of fishy crab taste.
Continuing with the fish theme I chose the fish cake with poached egg, spinach, peas and homemade tartare sauce. The fish cake was packed full of tasty flavours and the poached egg was cooked perfectly.
While it felt like we spent most of our weekend eating (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), there’s also lots to do in Windsor for friends, families and tourists. The main attraction is obviously Windsor Castle; the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.
The castle – home to 39 monarchs over the centuries, welcomes the Queen during most of her private weekends and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex who live in the extensive grounds – and is open to paying visitors. We chose to watch the Royal grooms walking the beautiful horses out to pasture and wandered down the Long Walk.
It’s easy to get lost in the town’s twisting, flagstone streets while exploring Windsor’s shops. The town boasts all of the major high street stores as well as dozens of souvenir shops and independent boutiques which are well worth a look.
We perused the shops before heading to Escape Experience Windsor to tackle the immersive challenge. We soon found ourselves locked into “Windsor Castle” and, as a team, tried to follow the clues in order to steal the Crown Jewels. The escape room was challenging but played to each of our individual strengths and we made it out with 20 minutes to spare.
I can’t give you any more information or I’ll ruin the experience for you – but it’s well worth a try. But pick your team wisely or you may be locked in for good!
After lunch, it was time for some proper sightseeing aboard the Windsor Duck Tour – the only way to see this town properly; from land and from water. The sun decided to make an appearance as we made our way out of town with our tour guide hilariously giving us the ‘tourist’ tour mixed in with his own personal tour: “This is my house… and that’s where Bob lives!”
After giggling our way around the town, the duck turned amphibious and we launched onto the River Thames. We chugged along the river besides the swans and geese before passing under Windsor’s famous bridges and learning more about the town and the castle. Windsor is the only town left with its very own duck tour so if you’re heading to visit you must jump onboard for an hour of fun and frolics.
Windsor was a perfect weekend getaway for us and our friends; just a short drive from London and Heathrow Airport it’s easy to get to and is jam-packed full of beautiful places to stay, to eat and to visit to ensure a fun weekend. And who knows, if you visit when the Royal Family is home you might even get a glimpse of the Queen or the newest addition, Archie.
Urban Living provides luxury apartments in Windsor and Oxford. For more information visit the website: urbanlivinguk.com or contact 07967 371425
The Royal Windsor pub and restaurant is open seven days a week, serving freshly cooked food. For more information or to make a reservation visit the website: theroyalwindsor.co.uk or contact 01753 865179
Windsor Duck Tours provide one-hour tours of the town by road and river. For more information visit: windsorducktours.co.uk.
Escape Experience Windsor offers two rooms – with a third coming soon – for teams of two to eight. For more information visit: escapewindsor.co.uk.