Inside world's oldest inhabited castle

(CNN) — Call it the William and Kate effect, or the popularity of shows like “The Crown” (of which the Queen herself is reportedly a fan) but Britain’s Royal Family is having a worldwide moment.
And if you want an insight into the regal way of life, there’s no better place to visit than Windsor Castle.

The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle is an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who spends most of her weekends there.

You may just spot a royal in the flesh at Windsor Castle.

While you’re unlikely to spot her strolling down the hallways in her housecoat, it’s easy to tell whether she’s at home — the Royal Standard flag flies from the Round Tower whenever she’s in residence.

The castle itself dates back to around 1070, when William the Conqueror chose the land and construction began. It has seen many changes since that time, with various royals making adjustments over the years — Edward III made costly renovations in the 14th century, and extensive restorations were undertaken following a devastating fire in 1992.

You should plan on spending around 2-3 hours within the castle, making your way between the various sections open to the public.

Prioritizing

Most visitors make a beeline for Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, an extraordinarily intricate affair with electric lights, hot and cold running water and even a flushing toilet.

The State Apartments are absurdly luxurious, from the vaulted carved ceilings to the Rembrandt hanging on the wall (note that the Semi-State Rooms are only open to the public between September and March).

St George’s Chapel is the final resting place of Henry VIII, and while it’s closed to visitors on Sundays, you are free to attend a church service.

As the castle is still very much in use, certain areas may be closed throughout the year, so keep an eye on the website, where most closures are detailed. If your heart is set on seeing the Changing of the Guard, you’ll need to be well within the grounds by the time it starts at 11 a.m. (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, weather permitting).

However, if that’s not a priority, you might want to arrive a little later. The castle can get extraordinarily busy, particularly during the summer months, and visiting in the afternoon means the crowds will have diminished somewhat.

Instead, use the morning to explore The Long Walk, a 3-mile stretch in the beautiful Windsor Great Park where you’ll find the most impressive view of the castle (the entrance is through Cambridge Gate).

Tickets to the castle in 2017 cost £20.50 ($27), or £11.30 ($15) when the State Apartments are closed, and include a multi-media guide (introduced by Prince Charles, no less). Buy tickets in advance online and you’ll likely avoid the larger line at the ticket desk.

Windsor is easy to get to from London by train — routes from Paddington arrive at Windsor & Eton Central (transferring in Slough), and into Windsor & Eton Riverside from Waterloo (the castle is a 10-minute walk away).
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