It's the Queen's weekend retreat -- where she goes to get away from the hustle and bustle of London and Buckingham Palace. And, if you're looking for a similar break, Windsor Palace is the place to go, especially October through March.
In the winter, not only are the crowds smaller, but the semi-State apartments also are open for viewing. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the size and majesty of Buckingham Palace, but Windsor Castle has all the pomp and circumstance on a smaller, more manageable scale.
Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence in continuous use in the United Kingdom, and has been home to 39 monarchs, including Henry VIII. His suit of armor in the Lantern Lobby of the State Apartments is best viewed from the side to truly appreciate the king's impressive proportions.
Windsor Castle is also home to the Order of the Garter, one of the oldest orders of chivalry in the world. In St. George's Hall, the ceiling is covered with the coats of arms of all Knights of the Garter since the foundation of the order in 1348. Look closely and you'll see the blank spots where the arms of Knights who have been expelled from the order have been erased.
St. George's Chapel, at the lower end of the castle, houses the tomb of Henry VIII alongside that of his third and favorite wife, Jane Seymour. It is also the spiritual home of the Knights of the Garter; look for the Knights' banners hanging over their stalls in the choir at the east end of the Chapel.
Ticket lines at Windsor Castle can get very long. To speed up the process, buy your tickets on-line before you go and jump to the head of the queue when you get there.