The city of Oxford has become world famous due to it being home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English speaking world. Existing since the 1100’s, the university has meant the city boasts hundreds of beautiful and historic buildings.
The city is also host to several world-class museums, a beautiful cathedral, great shopping, and an array of restaurants and hotels. Oxford has been the backdrop of many films, such as Harry Potter, the Italian Job, X-Men, and even Alice in Wonderland.
By air: The city has its own airport but it is very small with no scheduled commercial flights. The closest major airports to Oxford are London Heathrow and Birmingham Airport. There are buses running between London Heathrow Airport and Oxford, as well as services from London Gatwick Airport too starting from £23 per adult for a single ticket.
From Birmingham Airport, which is the closest airport to Oxford, there is a direct train service departing every hour, taking around one hour travel time.
By road: Oxford is connected to London via the M40 motorway, travel time tends to take between 50-90 minutes depending on traffic (traffic can get VERY heavy at certain times of the day). The M40 also connects Oxford to Birmingham and the West Midlands.
Parking in the city is restricted so it is highly recommended to use the city’s very efficient park and ride system which offers free parking and a short bus journey into the city centre. The bus journey costs £2. This is the best value parking option in Oxford, please note if you park in the city illegally, you will receive a hefty fine. Streets are narrow and get congested.
By rail: The fast train from London Paddington to Oxford takes around one hour and a return ticket price starts at £50.
By bus: Buses are available from London Victoria Station, prices start from £10 for a return. You can get cheaper tickets if you book months in advance. There is also a bus running directly between Cambridge and Oxford, the X5 service, which takes just over 3 hours. This is the best option for those planning to travel between the two cities as there is no direct train service.
Things To See
Bodleian Library: The Bodleian Library has been functioning for over 400 years and houses over 12 million printed items. The buildings date back to the Medieval Ages and are celebrated across the world for its incomparable archive of books and manuscripts. The finest library building was the brainchild of John Radcliffe who left a large sum of money after he died to acquire new land in Oxford to construct a new building for the library and to pay a librarian and purchase new books.
The Radcliffe Camera, one of the most recognisable buildings in Oxford, was designed by James Gibbs in a neo-classical style. The building was dedicated to John Radcliffe after the money he left was used for its construction.
Bridge of Sighs: This skyway over New College Lane connects the two parts of Hertford College has become an iconic part of Oxford.
The bridge was never intended to replicate the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, but has been compared to this landmark ever since its construction, the official name is ‘Hertford Bridge’.
Christ Church College: Due to the college’s magnificent architecture, Christ Church College has been used as film location in many well known films such as Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and the Golden Compass. The college is also known for producing more Prime Ministers than any other college of Oxford or Cambridge. The college has been in action since 1546, refounded by King Henry VIII after England broke away from the church of Rome.
Its chapel is the city’s cathedral which is open for evensong at 6pm everyday, this is a fantastic experience if you are in the city during the evening.
Price: £7-9 for adults depending on the season, £6-8 for concessions, and free for under 5’s.
Standard opening times: Mon-Sat 10:00am-5:00pm, Sun 2:00pm-5:00pm (please note opening times can vary due to private events, please check before travel).
Botanic Garden: Founded in 1621 with a mission to glorify nature, the establishment still focuses on the education of its visitors about the importance and conservation of plants. The Botanic Garden is the oldest in Britain and offers the most compact and diverse collection of plants in the World.
Opening times: Spring-autumn 9:00am-5:pm, peak summer 9:00am-6:00pm, winter 9:00am-4:00pm.
Price: Adult £5, Concessions £3.50, under 16’s free
Punting: Most people know about punting in Cambridge, but not everyone realises this can be done in Oxford too. Punts can be hired from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and Salter’s Steamhouse at Folly Bridge. You can either show off your skills and do your own punting, or hire someone who knows what they are doing!
Price: £20 per hour per punt (6 person capacity)
Pitt Rivers Museum: Founded in 1884 when General Pitt Rivers gave his collection to the University of Oxford, with recent additions there are more than half a million items in the museum.
The museum is ordered by type, for example musical instruments, weapons, textiles etc. There is a great number of atefacts on display in the museum such as Ethnographic and archaeological objects, and Pacific island objects, including a magnificent Tahitian mourner’s costume, collected during Captain Cook’s Second Voyage in 1773-74.
Opening times: Tues-Sun 10:00am-4:30pm, Mon 12:00pm-4:30pm
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology: Combining two ancient Oxford Institutions: The University Art Collection and the original Ashmolean Museum, the collection began modestly in the 1620’s. Now the world’s oldest museum, the Ashmolean displays incredibly rich and diverse exhibitions ranging from Egyption Mummies to Pre-Raphaelite paintings, and even contemporary art.
Opening times: Tues-Sun 10:00am-5:00pm (closed on Mon)
Places to Eat
Vaults and Gardens: Housed in Oxford University’s Old Congregation House of 1320, the Vaults Cafe offers a delicious and healthy seasonal menu. during the colder months, blankets and hot water bottles are provided, during summer this is one of the finest locations in Oxford, surrounded by gardens and beautiful flowers.
Cherwell Boathouse: This award winning restaurant is on the banks of the River Cherwell with a reputation for exciting, creative cooking and a superb wine list. Sitting alongside the punt station this is perfectly combined for a traditional day out in Oxford.
Old Parsonage Hotel: A truly traditional setting to enjoy afternoon tea, winter is always a great time to visit as you sit beside the roaring great fire.
The Oxford Kitchen: This relaxed dining venue in Oxford offers fine modern British cuisine in an intimate and friendly setting with attentive service and a delicious cocktail menu. If you are in Oxford over the weekend then you must try one of their delicious Sunday Roasts.
Where to Stay
Malmaison Oxford Castle: Boasting 95 richly appointed rooms, Malmaison Oxford is located in a converted prison in the Oxford Castle Quarter.
Price: Starting from £178 per night
Old Parsonage Hotel: This independently owned hotel dates back to the 16th Century and oozes the luxury, amenities and service of a 5* property. the hotel houses 35 beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites, featuring luxurious handmade beds, rich natural fabrics, and stunning artwork on the walls.
Price: Starting from £269 per night
Holywell Bed and Breakfast: Located in the heart of the city, Holywell Bed and Breakfast offers a warm and friendly environment for those who don’t want to stay in a larger hotel. Surrounded by some of the oldest colleges in Oxford, this B&B is house in a Grade II Listed 16th Century property.
Price: Starting from £145 per night
The Head of the River: An idyllic river retreat, this hotel offers food, drink and accommodation that matches the beauty of its surroundings. Offering 20 recently refurbished rooms, guests are promised a relaxing stay in the heart of the city.
Price: Starting from £175 per night