The city of Oxford is synonymous with English culture and creativity. Alice in Wonderland was dreamt up here, the inspiration for the great hall of Hogwarts in Harry Potter came from here, and Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy begins its tales in the colleges of Oxford. Everywhere you turn, Oxford is bursting with literary references and inspiration. So, what if you only have a day or two to spend in this magical city?
1 – Take a tour of some of Oxford’s colleges.
Stepping over the threshold of the colleges in Oxford is a bit like stepping back in time. The colleges are mostly stone-built, with towering sections filled with spiral staircases, chapels and piano organs. Many of the buildings and their courtyards are guarded by large decorative metal gates, and, in some cases, gatekeepers taking a small entrance fee for the privilege to explore the grounds.
There are many free colleges around Oxford, and we found this website very handy in planning our visit as it gives you the entrance fee costs to all of the colleges around Oxford. We visited All Souls College and Corpus Christi College for free, and paid to go into Christ Church College (which is where the inspiration for the great hall in Harry Potter came from, and where Lewis Carroll studied and taught).
2 – Visit the many museums.
The Natural History Museum is beautiful, and it houses the Pitt Rivers Museum also, which displays the history of humanity and how our tools, fashions and other trends have evolved over the years. Both museums are fascinating, and house some great exhibits. Even better, entry is free, although donations are welcome.
3 – Walk under the Bridge of Sighs (Hertford Bridge).
Known as the Bridge of Sighs for its similarity to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. You can find this pretty piece of architecture just behind the Radcliffe Camera.
4 – Go shopping!
Oxford has a thriving and busy high street, with plenty of well-known shops as well as some lesser-known boutique stores. Explore the indoor market, and grab a cookie from Ben’s Cookies whilst you’re there.
5 – Eat at the Vaults & Garden Cafe.
We didn’t have time to eat here when we visited, but we wandered through the outdoor seating area and it looked really good. They have the cutest little teapots here too, which is always a winner for me!
6 – Photograph the Radcliffe Camera.
This is an impressive piece of architecture, serving as a reading room for the equally impressive Bodleian Library.
7 – Lose yourself in the magical world of the fine stationery store Scriptum.
I have written a whole separate post on Scriptum and how much I love it, which you can read here if you are interested. It stocks leather journals, compasses, magnifying glasses, venetian masks and all sorts of other beautiful things.
8 – Relax by the river.
Oxford is known for its punting, so even if you don’t take a boat out yourself, make sure that you take some time to walk along the riverside and watch the world go by.
9 – Visit Alice’s Shop.
Situated just outside Christ Church College, Alice’s Shop is a little gem filled with all things Alice in Wonderland.
10 – Witness the starry skies on the ceiling of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
We popped in here by chance after photographing the Radcliffe Camera, and noticed the beautiful architecture in here, as well as the stunning starry mural on the ceiling.
You can follow our vlogs, including our day in Oxford here:
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