How to Spend One Day in Oxford: Best Things to Do
World-renowned and ever-so-beautiful, Oxford is a city on many travellers’ UK bucket lists. From famous historical sights to a plethora of bars and restaurants, you could easily spend a few days exploring Oxford’s nooks and crannies. But what if you only have one day in Oxford? How could you possibly see all the sights whilst also soaking up the atmosphere? Don’t fret because this guide will show you exactly how to spend one day in Oxford and all the things you cannot miss!
Visit Oxford Castle
One of the oldest parts of the city, located a little further out of the city centre, Oxford Castle is a great place to start your day in Oxford. Entrenched in history, this large Norman medieval castle allows you to step 1000 years back into the past. From the deep underground crypt to the 360° panoramic views up Saxon St. George’s Tower, there is so much to see at Oxford Castle. It even boasts an old prison which you can explore! Admission to the castle is by paid guided tour only; however, they only last an hour so you definitely have time to fit a visit into your schedule.
Wander down Turl Street
Although not of any great significance, Turl Street, lovingly nicknamed ‘The Turl’, is oh-so-cute and definitely worth a wander down. Make your way from the High Street to the University of Oxford whilst marvelling at the beautiful All Saints Church and the street’s historic buildings. Home to three of the University of Oxford’s historic colleges, Exeter, Jesus and Lincoln, Turl Street is not to miss. Top tip for bookworms: pop into the Oxfam bookshop to satisfy all your literary needs!
Explore the University of Oxford’s Colleges
Speaking of the University of Oxford, you cannot visit Oxford without seeing its world-famous university! Scattered across the city, the university is made up of many different buildings. Therefore, with just one day in Oxford, it is worth being selective about which you choose to visit. Whilst much of the university is not accessible to the public, some colleges are open to visitors during the day, though their opening times and admission charges vary. If you are on a budget, colleges which are free to visit include All Souls College, Corpus Christi College, Exeter College, Hertford College, and Keble College.
Get literary at Oxford’s bookshops
If you didn’t know that I am the world’s biggest bookworm, he-llo where have you been?! I mean, I already recommended the Oxfam Bookshop on Turl Street, didn’t I? But there is plenty more where that came from. In fact, Oxford is home to the largest single room selling books in the world. From the outside, Blackwell’s Bookshop looks like any ordinary bookshop. But this tardis opens up to a whopping four floors including the underground Norrington Room which is 10,000 square feet. Other notable bookshops in Oxford include Last Bookshop and Arcadia!
See the Bridge of Sighs
Reminiscent of Venice’s famous Bridge of Sighs, Oxford’s may not be perched above a canal but it is beautiful nonetheless. As an iconic piece of Oxford architecture, it would be rude not to get a little snap happy here during your one day in Oxford! Fun fact: this bridge is actually called Hertford Bridge because it joins to parts of Hertford College over the ever-so-quaint New College Lane.
Take a peek inside Bodleian Library
Famously known as the second-largest library in Britain after the British Library, Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford. Steeped in history, this building is nothing short of stunning and well worth a visit. Ranging from 30 to 90 minutes, there are a plethora of tours available to the general public which you can embark on. However, with only one day in Oxford, we decided to just quickly pop in to visit the 15th-century Divinity School, one of the main Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford!
Visit Radcliffe Camera
A reading room of Bodleian Library, the neo-classical Radcliffe Camera is certainly not a sight for sore eyes. No wonder it is probably Oxford’s most photographed landmark! Radcliffe Camera is a gorgeous circular library that was built between 1737 and 1749. If you aren’t lucky enough to visit the inside on a tour of Bodleian Library (Radcliffe Camera is not freely open to the general public otherwise), seeing its exterior is rewarding enough. However, for the best view of this iconic landmark, just keep reading…
Climb the University Church of St Mary
Told you it was good, didn’t I? Perhaps the best thing to do if you only have one day in Oxford is to see the city from above! Whenever I visit a new city, I love getting a bird’s eye perspective on things. And this view certainly did not disappoint. Dating from 1280 and decorated with beautifully carved gargoyles, the tower of the University Church of St Mary is the highest view over Oxford. Once you have paid the £4 fee and climbed the 127 steps, you will be rewarded with incredible 360° views of Radcliffe Camera and beyond!
What would a visit to Oxford or Cambridge be without a cheeky bit of punting? After racking up your step count, it is time to sit back and relax and let a punter or a willing friend do the hard work for you. By far the easiest place to hire a punt is from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. An hour on the water will set you back £22 midweek and £24 on the weekends. But since each punt can take up to five people, I’d say the price is totally worth it. Top tip: punting is even better with a picnic and a bottle of bubbly in tow!
Cliché advice but the best way to get a feel for the city – or any city really – is to just walk. Walk everywhere. Wander down little alleyways. See where the city takes you! You never know what beautiful slices of history or cute cafes you might just stumble upon.
So have you ever visited Oxford? If you had only one day in Oxford what would be on your must-visit list and what would you choose to leave out? Let me know in the comments below!
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