A Trip to Oxford from London – Exploring Academic Elegance

Oxford, often lauded as the ‘city of dreaming spires’, boasts a mesmerizing amalgamation of history, culture, and academia, all just a short direct train away. This city, renowned for its prestigious university, offers more than just academic excellence; it’s a treasure trove of cultural wonders, from its historic buildings and museums to the tranquil beauty of the River Isis. Whether you’re drawn by the allure of scholarly achievements or the simple charm of English architecture, Oxford promises an adventure steeped in heritage and beauty, inviting explorers to discover its many secrets.

Top 5 Sights in Oxford

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The town is renowned for its illustrious Oxford University, but there’s much more to explore:

  • Oxford University: Beyond its global repute as an educational powerhouse, Oxford University dazzles visitors with its stunning collegiate architecture, tranquil quads, and intellectual buzz that has fueled scholars for centuries.
  • Radcliffe Camera: Standing as a testament to the grandeur of English Palladian architecture, the Radcliffe Camera captivates onlookers with its majestic dome and serves as an iconic symbol of learning and knowledge.
  • Bodleian Libraries: Step into the literary heart of Oxford at the Bodleian Libraries, among the oldest and most revered libraries in the world, housing an unparalleled collection of manuscripts, books, and artifacts that weave together the narrative of human knowledge.
  • Christ Church: A cornerstone of Oxford’s academic and religious life, Christ Church is not only a functioning college but also a magnificent cathedral. It has charmed millions with its appearances in the Harry Potter film series, adding a layer of magical allure to its historic significance.
  • The Covered Market: This Oxford Market, a historical gem from the 18th century, offers a vibrant shopping experience right in Oxford’s center. With a plethora of vendors selling everything from fresh produce and meats to unique boutiques, cafes, and artisanal crafts, it’s a destination where quality and variety meet, attracting both locals and tourists.

Christ Church, Oxford, England

Best Things to Do in Oxford

Discover the essence of Oxford through these top activities, each offering a unique slice of the city’s rich tapestry:

  • Harry Potter Locations Tour: Immerse yourself in the magic of the Harry Potter films with a tour of Oxford’s iconic locations that inspired Hogwarts and its surroundings. Book your tickets as soon as possible as places sell out quickly.
  • Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum: Experience the tranquility and beauty of the UK’s oldest botanic garden, showcasing an extensive collection of global plant species. Even if the tickets doesn’t sell out as fast as other popular places in Oxford, the OBGA recommends buying the tickets in advance.
  • Bridge of Sighs & Ashmolean Museum: Marvel at the architectural elegance of the Hertford Bridge and explore the Ashmolean Museum’s vast collection of art and historical artifacts. Museum admission is free but you can book your free tickets in advance if you want guaranteed entry.
  • Punting on the River: Embrace the traditional Oxford activity of punting along the River Cherwell, enjoying the city’s natural beauty from the water. Book your Punting Tour in advance to ensure availability.
  • Oxford Castle & Prison: Step back in time with a visit to the historical Oxford Castle & Prison, exploring its rich history from medieval fortress to modern attraction. You can book your tour here.

Each activity offers a distinctive way to connect with Oxford’s history, culture, and scenic beauty.

Bridge of Sights in Oxford

How to get to Oxford from London

Reaching Oxford from London is straightforward, with multiple travel options. Hourly trains from Paddington or Marylebone offer a swift, hour-long journey. Budget travelers can choose the Oxford Tube bus services from key London spots, taking 1.5 to 2 hours with free WiFi onboard. Driving via the A40 and M40 also takes about 1.5 hours, but consider Park and Ride to avoid limited and expensive parking in Oxford. These diverse methods cater to different preferences and budgets, ensuring a pleasant trip.

If you want to find the perfect way to travel from London to Oxford, I recommend reading our detailed guide, which covers all the available options.

Transportation Guide from London to Oxford

Numerous guided tours from London to Oxford include transportation, making the trip hassle-free and informative. These tours typically offer a convenient way to explore Oxford’s rich history, prestigious university, and beautiful architecture, often with added visits to other significant sites in the surrounding areas, such as the Cotswolds or Stratford-upon-Avon.

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  • Windsor Castle
  • Stonehenge
  • Oxford
  • Bourton-on-the-Water
  • Bibury
  • Oxford
  • Warwick Castle
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Oxford
  • Oxford
  • Cambridge

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Exploring the University of Oxford

Exploring the University of Oxford during a day trip from London offers a captivating journey through centuries of academic excellence and architectural grandeur. Within Oxford University, visitors can explore a range of iconic sites including the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe with an impressive collection of manuscripts and books. The university’s historic colleges, such as Christ Church and Magdalen College, offer beautiful architecture and gardens. Museums like the Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of Natural History display extensive collections ranging from ancient artifacts to scientific specimens. Additionally, punting on the River Thames or Cherwell provides a unique perspective of Oxford’s scenic beauty.

My Trip to Oxford from London

There are plenty of guided tours to Oxford University and its surroundings. This OxfordWalking Tours offers a variety of tours, including the popular Oxford University & City Walking Tour, where expert guides share stories about the city and its famous university. Other tours also cover famous Oxford spots and filming locations for Harry Potter and Inspector Morse.

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  • Entrance to Divinity School
  • Entrance to New College
  • All Tickets
  • Christ Church College
  • Bike Rental
  • Carfax Tower entry ticket

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The Historic Charm of Oxford’s Covered Market

The Oxford Market, also known as the Covered Market, is a historic market nestled in the heart of Oxford. Established in the 18th century, it provides a unique shopping experience, housing a diverse range of vendors. From fresh produce, butcher shops, and fishmongers to boutiques, cafes, and artisan goods, the market offers a rich assortment of high-quality items and foods, all under one roof, making it a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

Oxford from the Water: The Best River Cruises and Boat Tours

River cruises in Oxford offer a unique and enchanting way to experience the city’s beauty and history from the water. Gliding along the River Thames or Cherwell, you’ll enjoy picturesque views of Oxford’s famous “dreaming spires,” historic university colleges, and lush gardens.

Oxford River Cruise
Narrow boat on the river Thames

It’s a peaceful, relaxing, and memorable activity, perfect for capturing the essence of Oxford’s academic and architectural elegance. Plus, some cruises offer added delights like afternoon tea or insightful commentary, enhancing your journey with a touch of luxury and learning.

Tickets for the best Boat Tours in Oxford

What to eat in Oxford

In Oxford, traditional British cuisine takes center stage, featuring dishes like hearty pies, fish and chips, and Sunday roasts. The city also boasts a variety of international foods, reflecting its diverse student population. For a local specialty, try the Oxford sausage, a unique blend of pork, veal, and lemon, or sample the Oxford Blue cheese, a creamy and tangy delight. These foods capture the essence of Oxford’s culinary heritage and its adaptation to contemporary tastes.

My Tipp: Are you seeking a unique culinary adventure in Oxford? Allow me to recommend an exceptional tour that blends the classic tradition of Afternoon Tea with the serene pleasure of a river cruise.

Our favourite restaurants in Oxford

For a culinary journey in Oxford, consider these three delightful options:

  • No.1 Ship Street offers modern British dishes with a French twist in a sophisticated, yet unpretentious, setting in the city’s heart.
  • Bhoomi Kitchen impresses with its South Indian cuisine, featuring delicately spiced Keralan dishes that promise to tantalize your taste buds.
  • Arbequina, set in a converted chemist on Cowley Road, is a must-visit for tapas lovers, offering divine small plates in a cozy atmosphere.

Best Pubs in Oxford

  • Eagle and Child: Often referred to as “the Bird and Baby,” this Oxford pub is famous for hosting the Inklings writers’ group, which included notable authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This group met regularly in the pub’s “Rabbit Room” for informal lunchtime gatherings to read and discuss their works. It closed in 2020 due to the Pandemic but is set to reopen soon.
  • The Bear Inn: Oxford’s oldest Pub, The Bear Inn charms with its low ceilings, tiny rooms, and a history stretching back to 1242. It’s a quintessential part of Oxford’s heritage, offering a selection of real ales in a setting that feels like stepping back in time.
  • The Turf Tavern: A hidden gem accessed only by small alleys, The Turf Tavern is celebrated for its historical significance and cozy beer garden. Despite its popularity, it maintains a local pub atmosphere, inviting visitors to discover a piece of Oxford’s history while enjoying a pint and great pub food.
  • The Lamb & Flag: Owned by St John’s College and with profits supporting student scholarships, The Lamb & Flag combines traditional pub charm with a noble purpose. It’s known for its friendly atmosphere, decent drinks, and being a cozy spot for a casual evening out.
  • The Rickety Press: Located in the trendy area of Jericho, The Rickety Press offers a modern twist on the classic pub experience, balancing the feel of a contemporary gastropub with a laid-back neighborhood hangout. With a strong selection of beers and one of the best wine lists among Oxford pubs, it’s a great spot for those looking to enjoy a quality drink in a more updated setting.

Best Hotels in Oxford

For a distinguished stay in Oxford, consider these top selections:

  • Artist Residence Oxfordshire: Offers a countryside charm with chic, cozy interiors → See availability.
  • The Old Bank: 5 star – Centrally located, it combines elegance with proximity to historic sites → See availability.
  • The Randolph Hotel: 5 star – A tradition of luxury, near Oxford’s cultural treasures → See availability.
  • The Old Parsonage Hotel: 5 star –Quintessentially English, set in a historic building → See availability.
  • Malmaison Oxford: 4 star – A unique experience in a stylishly converted Victorian prison → See availability.

Is visiting Oxford worth it?

Absolutely! Visiting Oxford is worth it for its historic university, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. Whether you’re interested in exploring the ancient colleges, visiting world-class museums like the Ashmolean, or simply strolling through its picturesque streets, Oxford offers a wealth of experiences. The city’s blend of history, academia, and beauty makes it a unique destination that captivates scholars, history buffs, and tourists alike.

Laura-loving-travel

My Day Trip to Oxford from London

Recently, I embarked on a guided tour from London, venturing to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford—a day packed with discovery.

Starting at Victoria Station, we boarded a cozy bus, first heading to Windsor. Here, amidst ancient walls and regal splendor, an audioguide brought the castle’s storied past to life. Our next stop was Stonehenge, where en route, our guide peppered the journey with fascinating tidbits about England. With audioguides in hand, we marveled at the prehistoric stones. The day concluded in Oxford with an insightful walking tour, followed by some free time to wander and soak in more sights.

This trip was a highlight, a perfect blend of history and exploration I highly recommend to anyone visiting the capital.

Day trip to Windsor, Stonehenge & Oxford

FAQ about visiting Oxford

How long does it take to travel from London to Oxford?

The journey time varies by mode of transport: trains can take around an hour, buses approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, and driving might take around 1.5 hours, traffic permitting.

Can I visit Oxford's University colleges during my day trip?

Yes, many colleges are open to visitors for a small fee. It’s recommended to check college websites for visitor hours and specific open colleges on your day of visit.

What should I not miss on a day trip to Oxford from London?

Don’t miss exploring the historic university colleges, the Bodleian Library, and the Ashmolean Museum. If time allows, enjoy a walk or punt along the River Thames or Cherwell for a quintessentially Oxford experience.

When is the best time to visit Oxford?

The best time to visit Oxford is spring (March to May) or early fall (September to October). In spring, the city blooms with flowers and the weather is mild, making it perfect for exploring the university parks and outdoor sights. Early fall offers a similar appeal with pleasant temperatures and the bonus of the academic term beginning, bringing the city to life with students and events. Both seasons avoid the peak tourist summer rush, providing a more relaxed experience while offering plenty of cultural activities and events.

Profilbild Laura Haig
About the author

I love traveling in Europe and I am passionate about writing about my travels. The cultural peculiarities of each region always fascinate me. I enjoy exploring and discovering the best-kept secrets of each town or village. I love road trips as much as city breaks; I love visiting an art gallery and also the magic of musicals or discovering new delicacies in a street market. In this blog, I write about all my travel adventures and my best tips and tricks! Auf Loving Travel schreibe ich über alle meine Reiseerlebnisse und gebe euch meine besten Tipps und Tricks!

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