by Sharon Henry
An Oxford day trip to the ‘ City of Dreaming Spires ‘ (name attributed to its spire-topped buildings) is the perfect getaway from London with plenty of things to do and see in a short space of time, many of them free!
We took a self guided walking tour on our day trip to Oxford and crammed in quite a bit of the Oxford attractions. Click here for a downloadable map.
What To See In Oxford
- The Carfax Tower
- The Covered Market
- University Church of St Mary
- Radcliffe Camera
- Tour The Historic Streets
- English Maze at Rose Lane
- The Bodleian Library
- Punt Rides
- Bridge of Sighs – Hertford Bridge
- Christ Church College
- Museum of Oxford
How To Get To Oxford from London
There a number of public transport options getting to Oxford. Trains from Paddington for Oxford station, the journey takes approximately an hour. The Oxford Tube is a bus running every 10 mins, 24 hours a day. As budget travellers our preference is by coach and we use National Express and Megabus, travel times are just over an hour.
To alleviate traffic congestion in the city, Oxford operates a Park And Ride scheme, click here for more details.
Visit Oxford A City of Bicycles
Oxford has contributed a great deal to the world. Besides the spire-scape, there’s the Oxford English Dictionary, Alice in Wonderland, Stephen Hawking, the annual University Boat Race, plus the most elegant of men’s footwear, the laced Oxford shoe.
I’ve decided to nickname Oxford, ‘The City of Bikes’ simply because bicycles are everywhere. Not so much in traffic, but parked and attached anywhere that a bike lock will wrap around.
Cheap & Free Things To Do In Oxford
On a ‘sunshine and showers’ day, typical of English weather we’ve climbed the 14th century Carfax Tower in the city centre. The bird’s eye view, ninety-nine steps up is pretty spectacular overlooking rooftops and down on matchstick people below. It’s the perfect spot for taking photos and getting a sense of the ‘dreaming spires.’
Dark clouds have been threatening all morning and finally the heavens open forcing other visitors up here to dash for cover. We brave the weather (well we have climbed 99 steps to get here) and within a few minutes the rain breaks and have free reign to move around without bumping others elbows.
A Jam Packed Oxford Day Trip
Featured on the brochures, apart from universities is the Covered Market. Among the stalls are flower stands, clothing boutiques and saliva-inducing pie shops, all indoors under one roof. The island girl in me is drawn to the red fleshy tuna on display at a fishmongers priced at £24.95 per kg. My word, what an expensive batch of fishcakes they’d make. Back home on St Helena the equivalent costs £4.20 – and we think that’s expensive.
The high street has a mixture of shops, cafes and universities catering to what seems to be a bustling community. The ratio of young student-types (amongst the tourists) gracing the streets is noticeably high. In fact, full time students enrolled in the city’s 38 universities collectively make up 24% of Oxford’s population.
Click here for the city’s official guide for Oxford sightseeing.
Unfortunately today most universities are closed to visitors because exams are in progress. We do manage a peek through a few courtyards and marvel at the awesomeness of the learning environment. If this doesn’t inspire your inner ‘Hermione,’ you’re in trouble!
Things To See In Oxford
We like places with free admission and pass through the doors of the University Church of St Mary. There’s been a church on this site for 1,000 years. It’s beautiful in here and seated on a pew is the best way to appreciate the stained glass windows above.
The walls and floors have a number of memorial tablets including 17th century physician John Radcliffe, famous in his time who has a hospital, observatory and the Radcliffe Camera named after him.
Touring Oxford On Foot
Oxford is a city small enough to explore by foot with places of interest just a stone’s throw from the next. There’s a maze on Rose Lane that forms part of the Botanical Gardens. It’s not big enough to get lost but I think it’s a delightful find.
The streets of Oxford itself is like a maze and each cobbled lane or alley offers gothic gargoyles, historic buildings and of course Oxford bikes, lots of them.
We seek out the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ so called for its unintentional resemblance to the original in Venice. This one’s actually named the Hertford Bridge, and is an overhead walkway linking two parts of Hertford College. Funny that this is quite a tourist attraction.
Harry Potter Movie Locations
Definite tourist attractions made famous by the Harry Potter films are the Bodleian Library complex and Christ Church College. (Admission is charged to these sites). Fans can spend a day chasing the young wizard’s shadow around these locations that provided backdrops for JK Rowling’s magical world of Hogwarts.
A Potter fan since the first book in ’97 I’m disappointed that Christ Church’s dining hall is closed. I’d been looking forward to seeing the ‘Great Hall’ and daydreaming a candlelit dinner with Harry and friends.
Close to our bus stop is the Museum of Oxford at the Town Hall so we take a quick tour to round off our day trip. It’s small and free, showcasing the town’s history and gives a quirky look at former residents. Like James Spader, England’s first hot air balloonist and Alice Lindell who grew up at Christ Church and inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
As mentioned above, Oxford is an hour from London by train or just over an hour by coach. With so much history and architecture it’s well worth a visit although we only scratched the surface with our Oxford day trip excursion.