The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world. This Unesco World Heritage site is one of the most popular destinations in the United Kingdom. Oxford has been on the list of the world’s most prestigious universities since the 12th century. Luckily it is easy to take a one day trip to Oxford from London.
A one day trip to Oxford from London can be an easy day trip. There is also a lot to see in the surrounding countryside to combine to make a nice weekend trip. Whether this is your first time to Oxford, or you have been there several times before, there is always something marvelous to see.
Arriving from London
When starting in London to travel to Oxford, I highly recommend that you go by train.
There are a few different train stations in London that are conducive to take. The Paddington Station or Marylebone Station are the most popular options for traveling to Oxford from London. There are trains departing and arriving all day from London to Oxford and back again. The price for a round trip ticket can cost anywhere from $60-$100 so the best way to figure out the time and cost of your journey is to jump on line and see all the options available to you. It will take you about an hour to arrive to Oxford from London by train.
When choosing a time, remember that you want to have enough time to spend on your Oxford day trip itinerary so be sure to leave early in the morning.
There are other ways of public transportation to Oxford from London such as the bus. This is certainly a cheaper option but it takes almost twice as long to arrive so on a round trip journey you will be spending a lot more time traveling by bus than by train.
Once you arrive at the Oxford train station the best way to get to the centre of the city is to walk. It only takes about 5-10 minutes. Alternatively, you could take a cab.
You are now ready to take one of the best day trips of this university city by following our detailed itinerary.
Harry Potter Attractions
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will feel like you fell right into film production when you take a one day trip from London to Oxford. Many of the most popular scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed at Oxford or inspired by them.
Any Harry Potter fan would be thrilled to note that the dining hall of Christ Church College was the inspiration for the dining hall of Hogwarts in the films. Notable differences are that the hall at Christ Church College is quite smaller with only 3 long tables rather than four at Hogwarts. When you visit the real hall you will feel enchanted. It is impressive to think that current students do just that as this is an actual, working dining hall.
In the Harry Potter films, there is a particular scene in the first movie when the students are all walking up a stairwell and Harry meets Draco and Professor Mc Gonagall for the first time. This is the very stairwell that you will climb on your way up to see Christ Church College Dining Hall. When you look up, you will see the gorgeous fanned ceiling and be immersed in light coming from the large windows.
You really do feel like you are about to be sorted into your Hogwarts House!!
Finally, Tom Quad, which is the largest college quad at Oxford, is the scene where Harry learned to first ride a broom. The quad itself is spectacular to see. Only students are allowed on the grass but as a tourist, you can still see the quad in full and it is easy to imagine yourself flying on a broom high above the buildings and coming down for a landing on the soft grass below.
Visiting Oxford is definitely a must for all Harry Potter fans.
Christ Church College
When you take a one day trip to Oxford from London, you will most likely head to Christ Church. This is one of the most famous colleges of Oxford. Founded in 1546 by Henry VIII Christ Church has the largest student body of any college at Oxford. It has produced numerous political leaders including 13 British Prime Ministers and a large number of famous writers, including Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland”.
Currently, you must book tickets in advance so please check this link to check when your date is available for advance bookings. Entrance fees are subject to change so please check out the provided link to see what works best for your family. Christ Church is a popular attraction so be sure to book your tickets well in advance.
The guided tour they have available is the Multimedia Guide. This is a state-of-the-art guide that includes
- High-resolution touch screens filled with interactive content
- Behind-the-scenes videos of areas not open to the public
- Interviews with staff, students, and academics
To see all that the multi-media guide includes, click this link.
When you arrive at Christ Church, you will be greeted by the great views of the lovely botanical gardens of the the college.
When you enter the college at the tour gate, you will immediately go up the Great Hall Stairs which, as mentioned above, were used in scenes during the Harry Potter films. You will get to peak into the Great Hall where University students still eat their daily meals. In fact, it is important not to visit during the hours of 11:45-2:00 when students eat because the Hall is closed to visitors during that time. You will see portraits of famous alumni of the college as well as Henry VIII’s imposing portrait at the center of the far end.
Upon leaving the Great Hall, you will go outside to the famous Tom Quad, the largest quadrangle in all of Oxford. The famous Tom Tower, designed by Christopher Wren dominates this quad. You will probably see University students walking along the grass of the quad. You are not allowed on the grass but you will see incredible view of the surrounding University buildings and Tom Tower.
Christ Church Cathedral
Next, you will enter the incredible Christ Church Cathedral. Although one of the smallest cathedrals in the Church of England, it is stunning to see. It is an impressive view to enter and look up at the fanned vault. You will also look across the choir to the far end at the rose window. The stained glass windows are impressive. The font and carvings of the choir are also intricate and beautiful. You will then exit to the cloisters where you will have a great view of the spire.
This ends your tour of Christ Church. From there you should have time to visit some of the other iconic sights around Oxford.
Sights of Oxford
There is much to see on your one day trip to Oxford from London without paying any entrance fees. When you leave Christ Church you are now free to create your own walking tour of Oxford. It is easy to see why Oxford is called the “City of Dreaming Spires”. There are so many beautiful sights that it can be hard to decide where to go next.
Once you exit Christ Church it is best to head over to High Street where you will find yourself in the city centre. From here you will make your way to Catte St. You will find yourself looking at the magnificent University Church of St. Mary.
Next, head down Catte St. and you will have a fantastic view of the famous Radcliffe Camera with its iconic domed roof.
Further up the same road, you will come to the beautiful Bridge of Sighs. This is a famous bridge that connects two portions of Hertford College. Built in 1914, its nickname comes from being similar to the more iconic Bridge of Sighs in Venice. You will often see students crossing the bridge. It is also a popular spot for graduation photographs as seen in my picture above.
Once you leave the Bridge of Sighs, you will approach Broad Street where you are nearing the edge of the center of Oxford. From there you can turn left and find Exeter College where you can visit the stunning Exeter College Chapel.
You can then head to Cornmarket St. and turn left. It is a couple blocks to Carfax tower for an amazing view of Oxford. You will also see the incredibly charming clock on the tower wall. North to St. Giles is Martyr’s Memorial that commemorates the Oxford martyrs who were executed in the 16th century during England’s Reformation period.
If you only have time for a one day trip to Oxford from London you probably won’t have time to see any of the nearby sights in the area. If you can spare an extra day or two than there are many other places of interest to see nearby.
For those who are fans of English royalty, Windsor Castle is an easy stop to make between Oxford and London. Originally built in the 11th century, it is still a working royal castle and is the preferred residence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Blenheim Palace is another historical residence not far from Oxford. The only non- royal palace in England, Blenheim is the stunning seat of the Dukes of Marlborough. Winston Churchill himself was born there.
The Cotswolds are designated “An Area of Natural Beauty” and is easily accessible from Oxford. My husband and I stayed at the Swan Inn in the lovely town of Bibury. The English countryside is the highlight of the Cotswolds. The rolling hills are dotted with picturesque little towns and the quaint homes are made of the famous honey colored Cotswolds stones.
In Bibury you can see the famous “Arlington Row” which is a row of weaver’s cottages that is said to be the most photographed houses in England. This pretty little row of houses is even featured on the inside of UK passports.
We were also impressed with the picturesque little town called “Bourton-on-the-Water”. This town is known for its charming foot bridges to cross the river Windrush. Although we didn’t have time to see it, the town is also known for The Cotswold Motoring Museum which features vintage cars and a toy collection.
If you have time to enjoy the sights surrounding Oxford, you won’t be disappointed!
If you are a fan of literature, Oxford is the perfect place to visit. Many famous authors came out of the various colleges of Oxford and the town is marked with their presence.
Starting with the famous author of “Alice in Wonderland”, Lewis Carrol attended Christ Church, Oxford. He was apparently inspired by a small door in the Dining Hall that gave him the idea of the small door that the White Rabbit uses to enter “Wonderland”. The imposing portrait of Henry VIII was said to inspire his creation of the Queen of Hearts. He also met the “real” Alice (Alice Liddel) who was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. She inspired the adventures that Alice would have in Wonderland.
Oxford was also home to both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. CS Lewis went to University College, Oxford and JRR Tolkien went to Exeter College, Oxford. They both later served in the faculty at Oxford as well.
During their days at Oxford together, they were part of a literary group called “The Inklings” where they would spend hours at pubs, telling each other their stories.
One of these pubs called , “The Eagle and Child” can be visited today. It has some of their famous quotes all around the walls of the pub. It is a very charming place to hang out while you spend your one day trip to Oxford from London.
If you head out to the Cotswolds, be sure to visit “Stow-on-the-Wold”. There is a church in this town with a charming door that is encased in Yew trees. This is the door that is said to be the inspiration of Tolkien’s door to the Mines of Moria in the Lord of the Rings. “Speak ‘friend” and enter”. It is quite impressive to see.
Oxford University is a great place to visit if you are traveling in England. It is not only one of the oldest universities in all of Europe, but there are also plenty of things that will keep your eyes mesmerized.
It is well worth your time to take a one day trip to Oxford from London.
Have you been to Oxford? Which of our recommendations have you done? Which of our recommendations are you going to try? Do you disagree with any of our suggestions? What are we missing? Join the conversation and share any tips, questions or additional thoughts in the comments!
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