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Windsor Castle Vs Buckingham Palace – 7 Differences + Which Is Better To Visit

If you are visiting London, then a trip to one of the famous royal residences of either Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace is a must. But which one is better? 

Both Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are worth visiting, with many things to see and do. But while Buckingham Palace is the most iconic royal home in the heart of London, Windsor Castle, located in Berkshire, has 900 years of British heritage to discover. 

Here we look at some key differences between Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace to help you plan your visit. 

Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England, has a rich 900-year history

Windsor Castle Vs Buckingham Palace

The Crown Estate owns both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, meaning the monarch holds them for the duration of their reign. 

The monarch cannot sell them, nor do their revenues belong to the monarch. 

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is famous worldwide as the London home of the British monarchy.

It is also a working palace, acting as the administrative headquarters of the Royal Family, with many state occasions and national events held on the grounds.

Approximately 50,000 guests are invited to the palace each year for garden parties, State banquets, lunches, dinners, and receptions.

At Buckingham Palace, the monarch holds a weekly private audience with the British Prime Minister to discuss government matters. 

But with over 800 members of staff residing at the property, Buckingham Palace is like a small town, having its own police station, post office, health clinic, cinema, pool, and many other amenities!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle was reputed to be the favorite residence of the late Queen Elizabeth II and is the oldest and largest continually inhabited castle in the world, home to around 150 people.

As well as a residence, Windsor Castle is also a working palace regularly used for ceremonial and State occasions, including state visits from overseas presidents and monarchs. 

The castle is also home to many of the Royal Collection’s greatest treasures, including some of the most important works of art.

St. George’s Chapel is also part of Windsor Castle, which is not only a place of worship for the Royal Family but is also a church that serves the local community. 

Here we look at seven key differences between Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. 

1. Location

Where is Buckingham Palace?

Conveniently located within the borough of Westminster, in Central London, Buckingham Palace is the most accessible Royal residence to visit.

How Do I get to Buckingham Palace?

The closest Tube stations to Buckingham Palace are Victoria, Green Park, and Hyde Park Corner. 

There are also several bus stops nearby, and for those coming by coach, Victoria Coach Station is just a ten-minute walk away. 

It is also a favorite stop for anyone taking one of the many London sightseeing bus tours.

Where is Windsor Castle?

Windsor Castle is approximately 25 miles (40km) from central London in Windsor, in the county of Berkshire, and is just twelve miles from Heathrow Airport. 

Windsor is a beautiful and historic market town on the River Thames, dominated by the castle. 

How Do I get to Windsor Castle from London?

The easiest way to get to Windsor from London is by taking the direct train from London Waterloo station to Windsor and Eton Riverside.

The train runs every 30 minutes, and the journey is less than an hour. 

You can also take the train from Paddington Station, serviced by the Bakerloo, Circle, District, and Hammersmith and City underground lines, making it easily accessible from any central London location. 

Usually, two to three trains run per hour, and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes, with an easy change at Slough station, before stopping at Windsor Central station.

The Green Line 702 bus service runs an hourly bus service from London and takes one hour and 30 minutes to get to Windsor. 

2. What Attractions are Close to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Place?

There are many major London attractions close to Buckingham Palace.

These include:

  • Hyde Park
  • The Royal Mews
  • Trafalgar Square
  • The National Gallery
  • Westminster Abbey 
  • The Houses of Parliament 
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral 
  • The London Eye Ferris Wheel
  • Churchill War Rooms
  • London Dungeon
  • Boat trip on the River Thames

Other attractions in Windsor include:

  • Windsor Great Park 
  • Legoland 
  • Eton College 
  • Royal Windsor Racecourse
  • Theatre Royal Windsor
  • Windsor and Eton Brewery
  • Frogmore House
  • Dorney Court
  • Windsor Guildhall.

It is also accessible from Windsor to visit Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, and the city of Bath in Somerset, a World Heritage Site famous for its architecture and Roman remains. 

3. History

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was originally a townhouse built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham and known as Buckingham House, hence the name. 

King George III bought Buckingham House for his wife, Queen Charlotte, as a family home in 1761.

It became known as The Queen’s House.

St. James’s Palace was the official royal residence, now home to several members of the Royal Family.

After King George III died in 1820, his son, George VI, ascended the throne. 

As he had grown up in Buckingham House, George wanted to make it the official royal residence, hiring architect John Nash to expand and renovate the building.

Nash designed and built the house into a u-shaped structure, adding west wings and branches to the north and south, with the east wings rebuilt.

However, despite being an architectural masterpiece, George fired Nash from the project for going over budget. 

When William IV ascended the throne, he decided to stay in Clarence House, but when his niece, Victoria assumed the throne, she became the first royal resident of Buckingham Palace. 

It has been the home of the British Monarch and administrative quarters ever since. 

Buckingham Palace, first lived in by Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria was the first monarch to reside in Buckingham Palace, and all subsequent monarchs have made it one of their homes

Windsor Castle

If it’s history you are interested in, then Windsor Castle is for you!

The building of the castle began around 1070 taking 16 years to build.

William the Conqueror chose the site, constructed to guard the western approach to London. 

Its easy access to London and close proximity to a royal hunting forest made it ideal as a royal residence. 

By 1110, Henry I had domestic quarters within the castle, while Henry II converted it into a palace in the late 12th century. 

Henry II gradually replaced the timber castle walls with stone. 

Windsor Castle has been home to thirty-nine monarchs, each making changes to the building. 

Construction of St George’s Chapel began during the 14th century as a royal chapel with many sovereigns buried there.

Queen Elizabeth II moved to Windsor Castle with her sister Margaret during the Second World War for safety reasons. 

The Queen was devastated when a fire broke out in 1992, destroying many parts of the castle, with restoration completed five years later. 

4. Which is bigger? Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace?

Windsor Castle has over one thousand rooms and three hundred grand fireplaces, a floor area of 484,000 square feet, and spans thirteen acres. 

On the other hand, Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, but the floor space is 828,818 square feet stretching over thirty-nine acres.

These rooms include 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 78 bathrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 19 state rooms. 

5. What Can You Do at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace?

Here we look at the highlights of both Windsor Castle and Buckingham palace. 

Buckingham Palace

The Grand Staircase

Visitors see the Grand Staircase as they enter Buckingham Palace providing a magnificent welcome to this iconic royal residence.

Queen Victoria put in the staircase in 1898, topped with an etched glass dome and lined with historical portraits of members of the royal family.

The Grand Staircase leads you to the elegant and exciting state rooms. 

The State Rooms

The lavishly decorated state rooms provide the settings for official ceremonial occasions, and you can see some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection. 

The staterooms include the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room, the Ballroom, and the Music Room. 

The Picture Gallery

The Picture Gallery houses some of the greatest paintings in the Royal Collection.

You can view paintings from artists like Rembrandt, Titian, and Van Dyck.

The paintings are changed regularly as the King lends many of them to art exhibitions in the UK and around the world. 

The Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is a must-see of British pageantry whereby one detachment of troops takes over from another with musical accompaniment. 

It takes place, weather permitting, at 11 am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and daily during the summer. 

It is free of charge, and you do not need a ticket to watch.

Windsor Castle

State Apartments

The ceremonial rooms are the state apartments the Royal Family uses for official visits.

The most impressive is the Grand Reception Room, with its glittering chandeliers. 

St. George’s Chapel

St George’s Chapel is within the grounds of Windsor Castle and is a fine example of Gothic architecture in England. 

You can see the tombs of eleven monarchs, which include Queen Elizabeth II, George VI, and Henry VIII.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House

This incredibly detailed doll’s house, built for Queen Mary in the 1920s, is a unique replica of an aristocratic home and even has running water, electricity, and working lifts. 

It is the most beautiful and largest doll house in the world.

Changing the Guard

If you wish to watch the Changing the Guard without the crowds of Buckingham Palace, then Windsor Castle is a good choice.

The days on which the guard march change monthly, and you must buy an entrance ticket to Windsor Castle to watch the ‘changing’ ceremony. 

To see exactly what’s inside and outside Windsor Castle, check out this video from Ultimate Bucket List:

6. The Gardens

Buckingham Palace

The garden at Buckingham Palace, spread over thirty-nine acres, is the largest private garden in London.

The garden boasts over 1000 trees, 325 wild plant species, and 30 breeding birds.

The lake is the garden’s central feature, created in the 19th century, and is a favorite nesting place for various water birds.

Like the palace, the garden has undergone many changes over the years and plays a vital role in the busy calendar of royal events, especially the Garden Parties.

Windsor Castle

You can view three gardens at Windsor Castle, each with its unique style and history. 

The most recent is the Jubilee Garden, established in 2002 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and designed by English landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.

The Moat Garden is in what remains of the ditch that encircled the Round Tower and is largely the creation of General Sir Dighton Probyn, who resided at the Norman Tower from 1901 to 1922. 

Lastly, the East Terrace Garden, created for George IV in 1820, provides impressive views of London. 

7. Visiting Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace

Windsor Castle is open to the public from 10 am to 4.15 pm throughout the year but is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

You should book your tickets in advance and do your tour after midday when it is quieter, for the best experience.

You can visit St. George’s Chapel every day from 10 am to 4 pm, but it is closed on Sundays for services, which worshippers can join.

Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors between July and October.

Opening times in July and August are from 9.30 am to 5.15 pm and from 9.30 am to 4.15 pm in September and October.

The least expensive tickets provide access to Buckingham Palace and the State Rooms, while the more expensive ones also allow you to visit The Queen’s Gallery and The Royal Mews. 

Windsor Castle
The sprawling vista of Windsor Castle

Should I visit Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace?

If you are on a short break to London, then Buckingham Palace is the most accessible of the royal residences, ideal for a half-day tour, and is close to many major attractions.

If you have more time, then set aside a day to visit Windsor castle in its beautiful and peaceful setting in Berkshire, a reprise of the hustle and bustle of London!

Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are full of beauty and history, and both are worth a visit.

So, if you can, fit both royal residences into your itinerary!

Resources

The Fire at Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust

Buckingham Palace – The FULL Tour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Residence – London Guide, YouTube Video

Windsor Castle Tour – The Queen’s Royal Residence – England Travel Ideas, YouTube Video