On our every trip abroad, we try to experience as many new places as possible. Ideally, we like to overnight in all our destinations. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the time to do so. That’s why we love day trips. They give us the chance to get a taste of some place new in just a few hours. So, during our recent trip to England, we took a delightful Oxford day trip on our way from Bristol to London.
Oxford is famous for being home to the oldest English-speaking university in the world. For that alone, it’s well worth a visit. It is also well-known for the fascinating stories narrating its legendary rivalry with Cambridge University. Last but not least, Oxford serves as the perfect backdrop for many of Harry Potter’s adventures. The university city is heaven on earth for the famous wizard enthusiasts as they can visit many of the Harry Potter films locations.
We were taken aback by Oxford’s beauty and old fashioned ambience. The city centre is very compact and mostly pedestrianised, with all major attractions within walking distance from one another. Therefore, walking around Oxford is extremely pleasant. Equally popular, or even more so, is cycling. All in all, even though our Oxford day trip was very short, it was really delightful.
Our Oxford day trip itinerary
We entered the city from Quaking Bridge. Therefore, the first thing we saw was Oxford Castle and its impressive Mound. We then walked along New Road taking a glimpse of the modern side of the city before reaching Carfax Tower on Queen Street. The tower is considered the centre of Oxford city and it offers great views from its top. As soon as we were on High Street, the city’s main road, we were enchanted by the old fashioned, colourful houses.
Oxford day trip: English breakfast
At this point, I would like to mention that we started our Oxford day trip very early in the morning. I mean really early, at least for our standards. We were in Oxford at about 08:00 am. So, what better way to start the day than with a full English breakfast?
From High Street we turned left towards Radcliffe Square and we stopped at The Vaults & Garden Café. The building alone is worth a visit, as the café is housed in Oxford University’s premises dating back to 1320. Both the vaulted ceiling interior and the garden with magnificent views to Radcliffe Camera are marvellous spots to enjoy a drink or meal.
Regarding our breakfast, for me it was scones, jam and clotted cream. It always is. I never ever miss a chance to indulge in this masterpiece of a treat whenever I am in the UK. Katerina, however, enjoyed the full English breakfast for £9.5 and it was worth every penny. Freshly made with the best organic ingredients, she literally considers it the best meal she had during our week-long trip to England.
Oxford day trip: Free walking tour
Given that we only had but very few hours to spend in Oxford, we decided to include a free walking tour to our Oxford day trip. That way we would see and learn more in less time. There are many walking tours on offer in Oxford, both free and paid ones. We chose the one offered by Wander Oxford. So, after our wonderful breakfast, we walked along quaint Turl Street and then got to our meeting point in Cornmarket Street.
There we met Lisa, our extremely knowledgeable and smiling tour guide. After a brief overview of the city’s history and a comprehensive account of how the University is made up, she took us inside Balliol College, one of the University’s oldest ones. As we marvelled at the College’s fine architecture, she shared with us the most interesting stories. Most of all we enjoyed the ones related to Balliol’s rivalry with neighbouring Trinity College.
We visited the College’s beautiful Chapel, as well as the peaceful gardens. There, we learnt about a peculiar Balliol College Boat Club tradition. Every time they win a rowing race, they are allowed to mark their victory on the College’s walls. They can only use chalk for this graffiti of sorts, though. Our favourite room in Balliol was the College’s Dining Hall. It seems as if it has sprung straight out of a Harry Potter film. I swear, we could almost see Harry, Ron, Hermione and all the other teenage wizards storming hungrily inside for dinner.
Leaving Balliol College behind, we resumed our walk, during which we saw some of Oxford’s major sights. We learnt a lot about the Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Radcliffe Camera, St Mary’s Church, the Bridge of Sighs and many more. Lisa was kind enough to inform us about all the free museums’ opening times. She also went so far as to reserve for us tickets for the exhibitions available at Weston Library. The free walking tour lasted about two hours and it was a great way to get a taste of the city and see its main attractions.
Oxford day trip: More things to do
Realising that we had some time left before taking the bus to London, we opted for the Museum of the History of Science. Visit to its rich collection of old scientific instruments is free of charge. The most fascinating object on display is a blackboard with Einstein’s own handwriting on it. He used it during a Cosmology lecture he gave in Oxford back in 1931.
Afterwards, we walked along the wonderfully picturesque Merton Street. Before heading to Gloucester Green bus station to catch our coach to London, we visited the Covered Market of Oxford. It’s a beautiful market full of cute little shops where you can sit and have something to eat or drink.
We covered most of the city’s highlights during our Oxford day trip. However, we feel that we would like to have spent more time there. A stroll along the river, a river cruise or even the traditional Oxford punting should be included in everyone’s itinerary to Oxford. Furthermore, all visitors should make time for a meal and a pint at the Turf Tavern, the 12th century historic pub tucked at the end of St Helen’s passage near the Bridge of Sighs. Most of all, though, I would love to see the city at night. I expect that Oxford’s magnificent architecture dimly lit under a starry night must be a sight for sore eyes. So, I guess we’re not done with you charming Oxford. Till we meet again!
How to get to Oxford
Oxford is a super easy day trip from London. National Express, Megabus and Oxford Tube operate frequent coach and bus services every day. An one way trip takes about an hour and a half. You can also get from London to Oxford by train. The journey lasts about one hour but it’s usually more expensive than the bus. There are also many day tours that arrange to take you from London to Oxford and back and they also include guided tours. The options are endless. It’s just a question of budget, and, perhaps most importantly, of time.