Known first and foremost for its literary and academic heritage, Oxford is a joyous little city full of gothic spires, vaulted ceiling, meadows, rivers, book stores and chapels. It pleases with its academic buildings and awes with its pious cathedrals and grand libraries. Luckily a trip to Oxford, especially from London is perfect for a one-day affair. Discover the places you cannot miss and the things you need to do in Oxford in one day in this short guide.
Oxford is located just 60 miles north-west of London and given England’s great transport links it makes a fantastic day trip or weekend venture from the UK capital.
Bus/Coach – the cheapest way to visit Oxford from London is by coach and the trip time is 1 hour 40 minutes depending on traffic. National Express and Oxford Tube coaches depart from London’s Victoria Coach station and fares range from £15-17 return.
Train – the fastest way to get to Oxford is by train. Trains take just over one hour each way and tickets are often a little more flexible- purchase an open return and you are free to catch the service you want back to London, instead of deciding in advance. Trains normally depart from London Paddington or Marylebone Station and the best place to book your ticket ahead of time is The Train Line.
Car– If you’re renting a car as you want to explore the area around Oxford too, such as the Cotswolds you’ll want to head out of London on the A40, turn onto the M40 and later the A40 into Oxford. I wouldn’t however recommend renting a car just to come to Oxford from London, rental prices tend to be expensive and so is parking. It’s often faster, more convenient and cheaper to take the train.
The stunning Cotswolds Villages are located very close to Oxford. Why not combine it all into this weekend itinerary? The Ultimate Cotswolds Weekend Itinerary including Oxford + Bath
Oxford is a tiny city when you compare it with London and it’s completely walkable. The train station and bus station are located very centrally and you won’t need to think about any other means of transport on arrival.
WHERE TO EAT
Healthy, plant-based food, nowadays is fairly easy to find anywhere in the UK. Almost every cafe, pub, bar and restaurant will have something plant-based on the menu so eating in Oxford is a breeze. 100% plant-based cafes and restaurants in Oxford are limited but there are many great vegetarian ones with many healthy options for vegans.
ORGANIC DELI CAFE – This cute little organic cafe is full of delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinner serving a variety of dishes such as sandwiches, salads, jacket potatoes, soups and wraps. While it serves meat too, there are many plant-based options and the food was tasty and well prepared with a clear focus on health and nutrition. Where? 24 Friars Entry, Oxford
THE GRAND CAFE– An Oxford institution that cannot be missed for an afternoon tea break! The Grand Cafe is the oldest cafe in England and the interior is gorgeous- art deco chandeliers, marble Venetian columns in the interior and mirrors everywhere. While the setting and cafe in themselves are outstanding the food isn’t however, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and move on.
DELHISH VEGAN KITCHEN – The only fully vegan Indian restaurant in Oxford this place is absolutely unforgettable if you fancy something more than a sandwich. Dishes here creamy, spicy and packed full of flavour. The best thing to order is the Thali (sharing platter) which can be shared between two in order to try the many different curries on offer. Where? 19-20 St. Clements Street, Oxford
THINGS TO DO IN OXFORD IN ONE DAY
VISIT CHRIST CHURCH COLLEGE
I’m sure you’ve already found out that Oxford is a city made famous by its world-class university and not visiting any of Oxford’s famous colleges would be a crime. One of the grandest and most popular is Christ Church College and for a small fee, you can enter and tour the grounds on your own or in a guided tour, visiting the cathedral and chapels, cloisters, library, halls and meadow. Don’t miss the Great Hall either if you’re a Harry Potter fan- you’ll immediately recognise this grand dining hall.
GO PUNTING ON THE RIVER
There’s nothing more quintessentially English than punting and if you’re in Oxford during punting season, you’ll likely want to check it out. Punting is basically floating slowly down a calm river while picnicking and drinking with friends. Head to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse where you can hire ‘punts’, specialised boats to row yourself down the river or why not request a picnic hamper and a chauffeured punt to fully make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience?
TAKE A CITY TOUR
A city tour is arguably one of the best ways to get to know a new city and with Oxford being compact and manageable this is something that can be done in just a few hours, making the most of your one day in Oxford. You can embark on a city tour in several ways, the most popular one being the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop Off Bus where you can stay on for as long as you want, admiring the sights of Oxford from the top deck. Alternatively, you can make your own walking tour. Simply open up Google Maps and head to boldly labelled landmarks and places that may seem interesting to you. Some of the sights you shouldn’t miss are Oxford Castle, Radcliffe Square, Bodleian Library and Trinity College.
STROLL AROUND RADCLIFFE CAMERA
Radcliffe Camera is an 18th Century circular, neo-classical building located in Radcliffe Square. It might just be the most famous building in Oxford and while you won’t be able to go inside without being part of an official tour, it’s mainly used as a library, reading and study room. It’s definitely one of the most unique buildings in Oxford if not England and definitely deserves a walk-around.
VISIT A BOOKSHOP
Yes, I guess you could visit a bookshop anywhere in the world, but what better place to do so than in one of the world’s most academic cities. Oxford also has some of the oldest and coolest bookstores in England and with such a profound literary history, taking in at least one bookshop during your 1 day in Oxford is a definite must. Blackwell’s is probably the best and most popular book shop to visit, especially the one of Broad St. Look out for the Norrington Room which is arguably the largest single room to sell books anywhere in the world. Another bookstore to look out for is Last Bookshop– a discount bookstore popular with students where you’ll be able to find lots of different publications at amazing prices!
TAKE A LIBRARY TOUR
There’s no shortage of libraries anywhere in Oxford and this city is home to some of the most spectacular libraries in the world. Prepare to be enchanted by visiting some of Oxford’s most notable libraries; Bodleian Libraries (which in itself has many separate ones), The Old Library at Oxford Union and The Corington Library at All Souls College. Each library is full of history, culture, of course, literature and their famed structures. The best libraries to visit are the ones that form the Bodleian Library, one of which is the Harry Potter Hogwarts Library, however, they can only be accessed via a prearranged tour. Click here to arrange the tour.
VISIT SOME OTHER UNIVERSITY COLLEGES
Christ Church isn’t the only College that ticked our boxes while we were in Oxford. There are many more colleagues to visit, each of them with their different styles, characteristics and atmospheres. Some are grander than others, some more academic and sophisticated and others more quaint and slightly rugged. Entrance to some is free or for a small fee and you’ll be able to walk around at your own pace. Some other great colleges to visit are Trinity College, Corpus Christi College, Balliol College and The Queen’s College
CLIMB THE TOWER AT ST MARY THE VIRGIN
You’ll find St. Mary the Virgin Church right opposite Radcliffe Camera and it’s from here that you’ll get some of the best views of Oxford. Pay the small entrance fee and visit the beautiful gothic interior, then climb the tower to the top. Take in the marvellous views of the city and one of the best photo spots of Radcliffe Camera. Pro traveller tip: It’s a great idea to take in the Oxford view at St Mary the Virgin as soon as you arrive in Oxford. Being able to see some of the nearer colleges and buildings may give you a preview when working out which colleges and places you’d like to see later on.
VISIT THE COVERED MARKET
The Covered Market in Oxford is one of the best places to stroll through and look around on an Oxford day trip. It’s a maze of shops, cafes, restaurants, bakeries and fruit and veg stalls. A walkthrough here is a walk down memory lane for some, back to an England before the age of the supermarket. You’ll notice the vaulted ceiling, traditional English signage and motifs and a very relaxed pace of life. If you’re in need of a little snack, try one of the many deli’s selling traditional British foods, ready to go or The Alpha Bar- a great plant-based friendly sandwich and salad bar.
Have you got any comments or questions about your Oxford in one day itinerary? Leave them below, I’d love to hear from you.
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