Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is notable for its long association with the English and later British royal family and for its architecture. The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle's lavish early 19th-century State Apartments were described by the art historian Hugh Roberts as "a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste".Inside the castle walls is the 15th-century St George's Chapel, considered by the historian John Martin Robinson to be "one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic" design. Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as a motte-and-bailey, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons' War at the start of the 13th century. Henry III built a luxurious royal palace within the castle during the middle of the century, and Edward III went further, rebuilding the palace to make an even grander set of buildings in what would become "the most expensive secular building project of the entire Middle Ages in England". Edward's core design lasted through the Tudor period, during which Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and centre for diplomatic entertainment. Windsor Castle survived the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters for Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. At the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II rebuilt much of Windsor Castle with the help of the architect Hugh May, creating a set of extravagant Baroque interiors that are still admired. After a period of neglect during the 18th century, George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II's palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments, full of Rococo, Gothic and Baroque furnishings. Queen Victoria made a few minor changes to the castle, which became the centre for royal entertainment for much of her reign. Windsor Castle was used as a refuge for the royal family during the Luftwaffe bombing campaigns of the Second World War and survived a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits, and the preferred weekend home of Elizabeth II. Today, more than 500 people live and work in Windsor Castle, making it the largest inhabited castle in the world. more information Highlights: Semi state rooms The Semi - State Rooms will be open for the winter months until March 2017. George IV’s private apartments are considered to be among the greatest royal commissions and the finest late Georgian interiors in the country. The magnificent rooms blend the classical, Gothic and Rococo styles in a dazzling series of spaces, complete with the specially designed furniture and furnishings. Queen Mary's Dolls' House The most famous dolls’ house in the world, full of miniature versions of fixtures, fittings and decorations from the real Windsor Castle. The Dolls' House took over 3 years and 1,500 craftsmen to complete, and even features electric lighting and flushing toilets! St George’s Chapel One of the finest examples of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture in England, the imposing St. George's Chapel is sure to take your breath away. As well as being the final resting place of 10 kings and queens as well as dozens of other royals and aristocrats, the chapel has hosted 14 royal weddings throughout its history including those of Queen Victoria's children. State Apartments Known as much for their immense collection of artworks as for their lavish state parties and functions, the spectacular State Apartments are home to works by acclaimed artists as varied as Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Gainsborough. Changing of the Guard Taking place daily at 11am from April – July and alternate days throughout the rest of the year, this colourful tradition is not to be missed. Windsor town Outside the 13 acre grounds of Windsor Castle, the town of Windsor itself is also popular with visitors. Take the time to enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding countryside, the castle and the famous Eton College from the Royal Windsor Ferris Wheel at Alexandra Gardens, and visit Legoland to the south-west of the town. Tours and guidebooks The audio tour and guidebook are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Russian and is included in the ticket price. Family activities Family activity trails are available to explore the Castle and learn more about its history. Please note that due to access restrictions, pushchairs are not allowed within the State Apartments. Photography and filming (for private use only) are permitted in the Castle Precincts. Mobile phones must be switched off inside the State Apartments and St George's Chapel. How to get there By train: To Windsor from London Waterloo or London Paddington. By coach: Green Line operates daily services from Victoria Coach Station, London By road: M4 to Exit 6. M3 to Exit 3 Windsor Castle opening hours As a working Royal palace, the Castle is used frequently by The Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining and opening arrangements may change at short notice. Please check opening arrangements before planning a visit (24-hour information line 01753 831118). March to October 9.30-5.30pm (last admission 4pm) November to February 09.45am-4.15pm (last admission 3pm) St. George’s Chapel is closed to visitors on Sundays as services are held throughout the day. Worshippers are welcome to attend the services. These occur at the following times: 8.30am – Holy Communion 10.45am – Mattins and Sermon 11.45am – Sung Eucharist 5.15pm – Evensong The State Apartments will be closed on the following dates: 25 April 18 June 20 June The rest of the castle will be open on these dates however you will not be able to visit the State Apartments. Please contact Windsor Castle in advance to check availability.