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Oxford: A Day Trip From London That Won’t Disappoint

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Looking for a great day trip from London? For years we overlooked Oxford. Only popping in once on a quick drive through. So, on our latest visit back to England, we wanted to see more of this prestigious city. As we were already staying in London, Oxford made an easy day trip from our hotel in Paddington.

From Paddington Station, it took about 45 minutes on the Greater Western Railway (GWR) line to Oxford city center.

Intersection Of Broad And Catte

Walking about 15 minutes from the Oxford train station, we started our day in one of the most visited areas of Oxford. Here at the corner of Broad and Catte streets stands some of the most beautiful architecture in the city.

On the corner, the large golden columns of the Clarendon Building commands attention. Housing administrative areas of Oxford University, the inside is off-limits to visitors. However, you can walk-through to the inner courtyard to get a better view of the Sheldonian Theatre next door.

Oxford University's Clarendon Building
Clarendon Building

Many of Oxford University’s graduation ceremonies take place at the Sheldonian Theatre. Unfortunately, the theater was closed when we visited, but if you get a chance, the inside rewards visitors with a stunning painted ceiling and a classical atmosphere. Though rumor has it the hard wooden seats are terribly uncomfortable. 

Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, England
The Sheldonian Theatre

To the theater’s left, the free History of Science Museum. This museum houses a collection of historic scientific instruments and is noted as the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building.

Hertford Bridge

If you walk through the Clarendon Building to the courtyard, be sure not to miss the Hertford Bridge across the street. The bridge is commonly referred to as the Bridge of Sighs, after the famous bridge in Venice. Though, it resembles the more beautiful Rialto Bridge. 

For those wondering, yup, Cambridge has a Bridge of Sighs too.  It also looks more like the Rialto Bridge than its name twin.

Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England also known as the Bridge of Sighs
Hertford Bridge

One thing I love about the U.K. is all the nooks and crannies. 

Just beyond the Hertford Bridge is St. Helen’s Passage. No bigger than a single person wide, the passage winds its way to the historical Turf Tavern, a pub dated at 1381. 

St. Helen's Passage leading to the Turf Tavern in Oxford, England
Sign in front of the Turf Tavern in Oxford, England

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, keeping following New College Lane to New College. A beautiful college in it’s own right, but its oak tree and courtyard served as one of the backdrops in the Goblet of Fire.

Bodleian Library

As we continued down Catte Street, the sights only became more beautiful.

Next stop on our Oxford day trip was the imposing Bodleian Library. Passing under the Tower of Five Orders, the inner courtyard of the library was breathtaking.

Entering the library required a guided tour which needed to be booked in advance.However, there was a delightful gift shop on the near left corner of the courtyard which we could browse through.

If you’re in Oxford for the Harry Potter filming locations, be sure to book onto the library tour. If not, you’ll miss Divinity Hall and the Duke Humphrey’s Library, featured in The Philosopher’s Stone.

Tower of the Five Orders in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University
Passageway in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University
In the courtyard of Bodleian Library stands William Herbert statue
Tower of the Five Orders in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University

Radcliffe Camera

After spending way too long photographing the inner courtyard of the Bodleian Library, we then spent way too long photographing the captivating Radcliffe Camera

Probably the most stunning spot in all of Oxford, this unusual building serves as an extension to the Bodleian Library. Again, entrance is only permitted for students, or those on the guided tours. 

Oxford University's Radcliffe Camera

Large wooden doors around the city hide a whole world of historical architecture. We found this lovely view peeking through an open door just next to the Radcliffe Camera.

View through open door in Oxford Brasenose Lane

University Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Even if you’re not a religious person, I highly recommend finding your way into a few of the old Gothic churches around the U.K.

Though the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin is not the most elaborate, it’s still an exquisite structure with a beautiful interior. It was free to visit the church, and £5 to go up to the tower for views over Oxford.

Spire of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England
Stained glass window in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Church pews at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England
Inside University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, England

Christ Church

Wandering around the narrow streets, we finally made our way to the entrance for Christ Church at Meadow Gate.

Christ Church is the mecca for Harry Potter fans as there are four distinct features showcased in the movies.

If this is where you want to go, we suggest booking tickets online so you can skip the queue.

When we arrived, it was so busy, ticketing had actually been paused.  As we were already starving, we gave it a miss. Don’t mind having a great reason to go back to Oxford one day.

Meadow Gate Entrance for Christ Church in Oxford, England

Behind the church is the lovely Christ Church Memorial Gardens. You can’t actually go on the grass, or this picture would be crowded with people. There were so many visitors hanging around this little spot.  

Christ Church Memorial Garden view in Oxford, England
Christ Church Memorial Garden Sword in sidewalk in Oxford, England

Oxford City Center

On the walk across town we passed the Carfax Tower.  This 12th century tower is great for a view over the city. 

Located on the High Street, this is the area for shopping and an easy place to find restaurants. There’s also the Covered Market nearby. 

On this trip we headed to the Outdoor Market for a quick lunch. Various stalls sell an array of international foods.

City of Oxford Carfax Tower on Queen Street
Taste Tibet stall signage at Oxford's outdoor market

Oxford Day Trip Continues To Blenheim Palace

After lunch we headed just outside Oxford to the magnificent Blenheim Palace. You’ll need at least a couple hours to see the palace, more if you want to spend time wandering the palace park and gardens.

To get to Blenheim Palace from Oxford city center, take the S3 bus to Chipping Norton or 7 Gold to Old Woodstock. You can catch either at the Gloucester Green bus station, just behind the Old Market, but do check bus schedules as these change frequently.

Water terraces at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock near Oxford, England

More For Your Oxford Day Trip

If you prefer to spend the rest of your day trip in Oxford’s city center, we recommend checking out the Oxford University’s visitor page. Here you will find all the details on which colleges are open to the public, including which are free to enter.

The university also has several museums worth some time. Particularly, the Ashmolean Museum, the oldest museum in the UK and one of the oldest in the world. Plus, it’s free to visit. 

We hope we’ve given you lots of ideas for your Oxford day trip from London. Enjoy your visit!  

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