I have always imagined Oxford as a nice small town where one can see only old walls of the colleges and students on bicycles. I went there for one day (this is where my idea of a 1 day Oxford itinerary comes from) only in June 30, so, obviously, I didn’t see many students or people on bicycles.
Well, the colleges were still there, and I have to say that Oxford is really amazing! Mighty old walls which guard the entrance to colleges make the town look like a medieval castle. Every corner hides an architectural masterpiece, so it is enough to stay in the town center to admire its beauty. By the way, did you know that Oxford University is the oldest one in the world after Bologna University?
I didn’t stay in Oxford, but took a train from London: we bought our tickets online from Great Western Railway a day before but you better buy them in advance as they will be cheaper. It takes about an hour by train to get to Oxford. I think I have to add that it was rainy, gloomy and cloudy the whole day.
Ideally, it is good to have two days in Oxford, but, as I mentioned before, it is a small town, and you will manage to see almost everything in one day. Just keep in mind that the majority of sights close at 5 PM, including colleges that frequently require payment to enter their gardens and main yards (if you expect to see the lecture halls, forget about it).
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1. Ashmolean Museum
I started the day with a visit to Ashmolean Museum. There is just one reason I went there: they have collections of artifacts from the Ancient World, and I am interested in Ancient Egypt 🙂 Of course, Ashmolean is not as rich as the British Museum, but still there are objects that deserve some attention, and I am not talking about historical ones only: lots of paintings are exhibited there. And do you know the best thing? The entrance is free!
2. Martyrs Memorial/Balliol College
After exiting Ashmolean Museum, on your left you will see an impressive cone-shaped monument. It is the Martyrs Memorial, erected to commemorate the bishops who were accused of heresy. There is a cross on Broad Street, which notes the place where these three were burnt for their Protestant beliefs. And while you are there have a look at Balliol College and Saint Mary Magdalen’s church that are next to the memorial.
3. St. Michael at the North Gate/Carfax Tower
Then take Cornmarket Street in the direction of Christ Church. This street is pedestrian, with many shops and restaurants. On its intersection with Ship Street you will see St. Michael at the North Gate. This church dates back to the 11th century. If you wish, you can climb its tower.
Farther in the street, you will come across Carfax Tower, which is the only remaining part of an old church. The tower is 23 meters high, you can climb this one as well.
4. Christ Church
It’s time to see the main tourist attraction of Oxford: Christ Church! It is probably the most famous college in Oxford. Christ Church was founded in 1546 by the infamous Henry VIII and had many notable students including 13(!) British prime ministers.
For a fee you can visit some of its halls, cathedral, inner yards, and its picture gallery. This college has one of the most beautiful gardens in Oxford!
Christ Church served as an inspiration for Harry Potter world in the movies. Does the hall below look familiar?
5. All Souls College
It’s time to move in the direction of another masterpiece of Oxford: Radcliffe Camera. But before that have a look at All Souls College with magnificent walls. Individual visitors may visit some parts of it on weekdays from 2 PM till 4 PM and Sundays when the college is open (more info is here). Unfortunately, I did not go inside as I was totally unprepared for this trip and had no idea it was possible to visit it!
6. Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Church of St. Mary the Virgin was built in the 13th century and in its early days served as a lecture hall and the university government’s seat. While the church itself is quite simple, nowadays it is more famous for its tower: climbing it, you will get simply magnificent views of the nearby colleges and Radcliffe Camera. Those fantastic pictures of Radcliffe Camera, shared on Instagram, are taken namely from this tower.
Just keep in mind, the tower is extremely popular among tourists, but there is not much room on top so the numbers are limited: quite often you will be made to wait till someone climbs back down. In addition, there are 127 very narrow steps of spiral stairs to climb 🙂
7. Bodleian Library/Radcliffe Camera
Yes, you finally came to the most important tourist attraction: the Bodleian Library, one of the most instagrammable places in Oxford! It holds more than 11 million books, but the access to them is limited. The only way to see the library is via guided or self-guided tours. Personally, I chose a mini guided tour, and it was very nice and informative, but I regret that I didn’t opt for the extended one which includes entrance to Radcliffe Camera.
By the way, during the tours you will be told a lot about Harry Potter: after all, some parts of the movie were filmed there 🙂
8. Trinity College
After walking past the Sheldonian Theater take a look at the famous Bridge of Sighs: it connects two buildings of Hertford College. It looks very much like Rialto Bridge in Venice, but somehow it was decided to call it the Bridge of Sighs, as another bridge in Venice.
You can finish the day in the gardens of the Trinity College: they close at 6 PM, but once you enter you can stay longer there.
Just to mention that there is no need for buses in Oxford: all sights are just next to each other! And the entrance prices are much lower than in London 🙂 Yes, and something else: do not forget to grab something in the pub 🙂
Where to eat in Oxford
We went to two places while in Oxford: for lunch we opted for Jamie’s Italian. The food was good and the place was very crowded. But I can truly wholeheartedly recommend the second place we went to right after visiting the gardens of the Trinity College and it is the White Horse. It is a small and narrow pub opposite the Sheldonian Theater with lovely atmosphere and delicious food. I loved everything about this place! We had tea here and chocolate cake for desert, and it was a divine cake!
By the way, do you know any other places I can include to my 1 day Oxford itinerary?
Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
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