Things to do in Oxford - A day trip to Oxford from London
This is my second day trip from London to Oxford (the oldest university in England), and this visit was far better than the first time day trip to Oxford. There are so many things to do in Oxford even if all you have is a day!
As the weather was just gorgeous and I got to learn more about this University city, it’s architecture and got to see some of the colleges, world-class museums, libraries, famous bookshops and explore its charming cobbled streets. There is an limitless amount of things to do in Oxford.
With only a day in Oxford, you might think that this isn’t enough time to see the city of Oxford. To be honest, one day isn’t enough if you want to take in all that Oxford has to offer. But if one day is all you have, I suggest making a list of the sites or things that makes you excited about Oxford and see those first.
This will make your day trip to Oxford from London much more enjoyable, and you won’t waste your time going to site, that you have no interested in.
If you're wondering what to do in Oxford then read on.
A few of my top tips for things to do on a day trip from London to Oxford would be to get the earliest train from London, so you have a full day to explore Oxford and plan exactly the sites that you would like to see along with checking the days that they are open including opening and closing time to avoid disappointment’s. If you're spending longer than a day in the London, then you may like my 5 days in London post.
How to get from London to Oxford
How to get from London to Oxford
You can get to Oxford from London by bus or train.
Several bus operators go from London to Oxford. The main bus operators from London to Oxford would be National Express which runs buses from London Victoria Coach station, travel times to Oxford is around 2 hours and tickets start at £9.50.
The Oxford Bus company, you can get the X90, which is a direct coach that takes you from London to Oxford in 90 minutes.
The Coach leaves every 15 – 20 minutes from London to Oxford and you can catch the coach at London Victoria and tickets starts at £18.
London to Oxford by train
I’m not the biggest fan of coaches, so I took the train from London Paddington to Oxford using Great Western Railway (GWR). Trains depart every 30 minutes from London Paddington, and you can get tickets for £5.90 if you book in advance.
I collected my ticket from the ticket machine at the station, but if you download the GWR app, you can have the ticket delivered to your phone or tablet. With the GWR ticket, you can return from Oxford via any of the London terminals such as Marylebone. Paddington, Waterloo and St. Pancras.
Top tip – Give yourself at least 15 minutes to collect your tickets from the machine as there is always a queue at these machines and you don’t want to waste time standing in a queue and miss your train.
Now that you have arrived in Oxford here are some of the things you can do in Oxford.
Free things to do in Oxford - Oxford walking tour
After deciding that I was going to visit Oxford for a day trip. I knew one of the top things to do Oxford was to do a walking tour, so I quickly booked on to the Wandering Oxford walking tour. During the two hours walking tour of Oxford, I learnt so many things about Oxford, the University, the 38 different colleges and six private halls and where it’s notorious rivalry with Cambridge comes from. Entrance to many of the colleges are free or cost a small fee. Always check the opening times of each college before your visit.
We visited the following locations oh the Wandering Oxford walking tour.
The Bodleian Library
The Sheldonian Theatre
The Radcliffe Camera
The Medieval Divinity School
St Mary’s Church
Pubs where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis drank
Bill Clinton’s and David Cameron’s colleges
The walking tour covers the main Oxford attractions and what to see in Oxford. I found that the walking tour was a quick way to get a handle on the layout of Oxford, learn about its history and colleges. After the tour I chose the building and sights I found interesting to me and compiled this list of cool things to do and see when in Oxford.
Top things to do in Oxford
Views from University Church of St. Mary’s
The sight of Oxford from the University Church of St. Mary’s is both spectacular and terrifying at the same time. You get to see the Radcliffe camera in all its splendour, which will stop you in your tracks. You also get a bird’s-eye view of All Souls, Brasenose, Queen’s and New colleges.
The climb up the very very very narrow staircases of St. Mary’s will have you second guessing life itself and why you decided to see Oxford from above in the first place. However, at £4, on a sunny day I had an incredible view of Oxford even if the terrace was super tinny – (only fitting on a person at a time) and the climb up and down the stairs felt like a death-defying act.
There is also a room on the way up that features a map showing which colleges are which and will help you to identify them when viewing the colleges from above.
The inside of the Church is also gorgeous and peaceful. I found it was an excellent place to stop and take a quick pause out of my day of sightseeing as I waited to climb the stairs up to the viewing terrace. While in the church I would advise exploring the stained glass window and how the light passes through it .it’s magical.
Even with its narrow and deadly staircases, the university church of St. Mary's is one of those must places to visit in Oxford.
Weekend Opening: Saturday: 9:30am – 5pm, Sunday: 11:30am – 5pm
Address: The High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
Visit the Bodleian Library in Oxford
Another place to see in Oxford is the Bodleian library. The Bodleian library has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years and is one of the oldest Libraries in Europe, opening in 1602. In 1610 an agreement with the Stationers’ Company of London under which a copy of every book published in England and registered at Stationers’ Hall, would be deposited in the new library.
This means that the Bodleian library has a copy of almost every book ever published in the UK and Ireland. But, the library we see above ground is only a fraction of the overall collections of books, housing the majority of books in the vast networks underground.
As you walk past the main entrance, you’ll see large wooden doors, which are adorned by the crests of all the Oxford colleges. Visiting the Bodleian library is one of the top things to do in Oxford.
Books can’t be checked out from the library, but you can get a guided tour for £6.
Address: Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BG
Opening times: Monday to Friday 9:00 am - 7:00 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm. Sunday: closed
Visit the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford
One of the most iconic buildings in Oxford, that can be seen from every corner of the city, whether seeing its circular body appears as a glorious tan stone giant dominating the small cobbled square in front of you, as you exit the small pathway from the Bodleian library or the corner of the Bridge of Sigh.
The Radcliffe camera is beautiful from every angle and was inspired Tolkien and Sauron’s temple to Morgoth
Designed by James Gibbs and was built in 1737 -1749. The Radcliffe camera is built in the English Palladian style and forms part of the Bodleian Library complex.
The building is a working library, admitting only students and scholars. This is one of the main things to see in Oxford.
Address: Radcliffe Sq, Oxford OX1 3BG
Opening times: Monday to Friday: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm, Saturday: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Sunday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
St Mary’s Passage
Leaving the Radcliffe square, from the front of Radcliffe Camera you’ll enter onto St Mary’s Passage. You’ll find the door to Narnia, where C S Lewis, got his inspiration for the books and you only need to look at the passageway to see why. Examining the door, you’ll also see two figures guarding the entrance.
If you stand facing the door that is the entrance way to Narnia and look to the left, you’ll see the lamppost from the movie. This is one of those places of interest in Oxford that you have to visit.
This might have been the inspiration for the lamppost where Lucy and Mr Tumnus first met.
Free things top do in Oxford - Visit the Bridge of Sigh
Another one of the many Oxford attractions to see is the Bridge of Sigh. Just a minutes’ walk from Radcliffe Camera is the Bridge of Sight, which joins two buildings of Hertford College. Right underneath the bridge is a tiny alleyway – which we were led down by our tour guide, passing the Turf Tavern. A place I would have never found if I was on my own.
The bridge is famous for its similarity to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, though not modelled on it, this one is a little more ornate. This is one of the top places to go in Oxford.
This bridge is one of the main things to do in Oxford and is popular with tourist taking photos, underneath it and can get very busy at times. I would go when there are fewer people around to photobomb you.
Address: 15 Johns College, Cambridge CB2 1TP
Coffee at England’s Oldest Café - The Grand Café
The grand café is one of the oldest coffee houses in England (it even has a plank, stating this) according to Samuel Pepy’s Dairy of 1650. One of the fun things to do in Oxford is to visit the Grand Cafe.
The interior of café is very afternoon vibes (for those that have never had afternoon tea – its very old-world opulence) and the coffee there is excellent. It’s a beautiful place to take a quick break from sightseeing in Oxford. The café is located on Oxford high street and is easy to sport with its very distinct blue colour covering the front of the building.
Opening times: Monday to Thursday 9:00am - 6:30pm Friday – Sunday: 9:00am – 7:00pm
Address: 84 High St, Oxford OX1 4BG
Best things to do in Oxford
Visit Oxford Castle
Visit the Oxford Castle with over 1,000 years of history. This Norman medieval castle once a prison from the 18th century is now a hotel Malmaison Oxford and high street restaurant chain. There are guided tours of the castle and prison that recounts both its past and present history. Visiting the Oxford Castle is one of those unique things to do in Oxford.
Address: 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford OX1 1AY
Visit Oxford Natural History Museum/Pitt Rivers
Visiting the Oxford Natural History Museum is one of the top 10 things to don in Oxford, even though the Museum is further away from most of the sites in the city centre, so be prepared to walk a good 10 -15 minutes to get to the museum. Even thought it's further away from most of the things to do in Oxford, I would still visit. The museum is beautiful with a superb collection of zoological and geological specimens, including fossils, stuffed animals, skeletons.
My favourite section was the collection of dinosaur skeletons on show along with the museums cathedral-like interior. This museum is considerably smaller than that of the one in London. The Museum is one of the top Oxford tourist attractions.
Oxford Natural History Museum is perhaps most famous for its dodo specimen, which comes all the way from the extinct bird’s home, the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The museum is said to have inspired several of Lewis Carroll’s characters in Alice in Wonderland. This is also one of the fun things to do in Oxford if you have kids.
The Gothic-style building was completed in 1861 by the Irish architects Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward. Newenham Deane’s son added the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum to his father’s work decades later.
The Pitt Rivers Museum is accessed only through the Museum of Natural History and is noted for its original Victorian cases packed with anthropological curiosities from all over the world.
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm Monday 12:00 pm to 16:30 pm
Address: Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PP
Entry to both museums is free with an optional donation.
Visit the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is the oldest public museum in the world. Its impressive Neo-Classical facade, part of the building designed by Charles Cockerell and dating from 1841-45. Housing everything from modern art to classical sculpture, Picasso to Egyptian mummies.
The collection held in the Ashmolean Museum is diverse and exciting, with a something for everyone. The museum will take you a day to see every floor, so I would pick the collections that you are most interested in seeing and see those on your day trip to Oxford.
Address: Cornmarket St, Oxford OX1 3EY
Weekend Opening: Saturday & Sunday (10 am – 5 pm)
These are just a few of the things to do in Oxford. I had a wonderful day trip to Oxford, and even though Oxford is only an hour away from London it seems like another country but if you are looking for a day trips from London then visiting Oxford should be at the top of your day trips from London list.
What other things would you recommend seeing when in Oxford?