OXFORD IN A DAY
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The weather finally feels like summer so last weekend I decided to get out of London for a day to explore Oxford. It was my second time in the city and I was determined to see all the things I’ve missed the first time round whilst also enjoy a relaxing day out (which it was if we forget about my train being delayed over an hour but then hey this is the reality of living in London!). So here are my tips on how to make the best of a day trip to Oxford.
HOW TO GET TO OXFORD
Oxford is super easy to get to from London and there are many public transport options available. We took a Great Western Railway train from Paddington which runs approximately every half an hour and the journey takes around 1 hour. If you book your tickets in advance you can find offers for as little as £10 return.
Another option is to catch a Chiltern Railways train from London Marylebone station which also takes around 1 hour and run every 30 minutes. Again, if you can book in advance and are flexible with your travel times it’s easy to snap bargain fares.
If you prefer a coach, Oxford Tube runs regular services between the two cities for £15 return departing from central London 24 hours a day and as often as every 12 minutes.
WHAT TO DO IN OXFORD
There really is so much to see and do in Oxford, one day is certainly not enough to do it all but you can still get a good feel for the city in a day without rushing around.
World famous Oxford University (by far the main attraction drawing people to the city) is made up of 38 colleges and the majority of them are open to visitors at one time or another. It’s impossible to see them all in a day but two of the most beautiful ones worth visiting are Christ Church College and Magdalen College.
Perfectly preserved medieval buildings are awe inspiring and a real treat for anyone interested in architecture. Christ Church Cathedral, built in the 12th century, is particularly stunning and one of the most recognised landmarks on the city skyline alongside the 15th century Magdalen College bell tower.
A number of the university buildings were used as filming location for Harry Potter movies and there are local walking tours you can book if you’d like to see and learn more about them.
If you visit Oxford in late June during the exam period, like I did, you will come across students in traditional academic dress (consisting of sub fusc, an appropriate academic gown and a mortar board or a soft cap) which only adds to the atmosphere.
I’d recommend you spend a couple of hours just walking around the city to really take in the grandeur and admire the stunning architecture in the city centre. Head down Holywell Street, probably the prettiest street in the city full of colourful, picture perfect houses. Stop by The Bodleian Library which is the main research library of the Oxford University and one of the oldest in Europe. Directly across the street from the library entrance you’ll find the famous Bridge of Sighs, probably the city’s most recognisable landmark. Walking past Christ Church College, continue down towards the river, cross the Folly Bridge and hop on a short sightseeing cruise taking you past university boat houses, university regatta course and Christ Church College and Meadows.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN OXFORD
Forget the sights and museums, food and drink is the thing I look forward to the most when going on any adventure and Oxford certainly doesn’t disappoint. Being a student city, there is a good selection of trendy independent cafes and brunch spots, lively pubs as well as plenty of budget dinner options.
My top recommendation is Ratio Cafe, an independent specialty coffee shop in the heart of the city serving a range of different coffees (including seasonal single origin beans) made using different brewing methods.The decor is pared down and elegant with a combination of warm timbers and terrazzo.
On a sunny day, you can’t do better than lunch at The Folly Restaurant on the riverbank. Make sure to book a table in advance though, on the day I visited there was a board outside saying they were fully booked and did not accept walk ins. Get a table on the riverside terrace if you can but the next best thing is a comfy bench by one of the bay windows which open fully on hot summer days. Their a la carte menu is full of English classics such as fishcakes, pork belly, pies and fish and chips. There is also a separate vegan menu. But if you struggle with making decisions (or want to try all the food!) you can’t go wrong with a tasting menu of either seven or eight courses with an optional wine pairing.
To finish the day, head to The Head of The River pub across the bridge from The Folly. This traditional pub boasts a large front garden right on the river so you can enjoy a cold pint of cider in the sun watching the boats go past. Can you think of a better way to spend a couple of afternoon hours? And if you decide one day is simply not enough, the pub also has 20 beautiful individually designed hotel rooms available to book.
I hope you enjoyed this short guide to the best things to see and do and the best places to visit in Oxford. Have you been to the city or maybe it is on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!