Oxford day trip: the ultimate itinerary

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Did you know that Oxford is less than an hour from London on the train? That makes Oxford a brilliant destination for a day trip if you’re staying in London for more than a few days.

The thing about day trips is that you need to make the most of your time because it’s limited!

That’s why we’ve put together this great guide on what to do on an Oxford day trip to make sure you really squeeze all that you can out of your time in the city. So, if you’re looking to have the very best Oxford day trip, read on!

One day in Oxford, the essential route


There’s no definitive list to what to see and do in Oxford, but here are our suggestions for the places we think you really should visit. The sights you can see vary from the city’s very own Castle to the impressive views from the top of Carfax Tower. As well as some of the city’s impressive colleges and other academic buildings.

We haven’t forgotten that you’ll need to stop and eat and as we know a day’s hard tourism can tire you out, we’re finishing your day trip with a nice relaxing visit to the city’s famous Botanic Garden.

Start the day with a good breakfast

Full English Breakfast, Oxford

Just as “an army marches on its stomach”, as Napoleon supposedly once said, the modern tourist needs to be well fed! So, any day of busy sightseeing needs to start in the correct manner!

That’s why we think you need to start your day in Oxford with a hearty, filling breakfast! If you’re coming to Oxford from London on the train, then a great spot to get a delicious breakfast is The Olive Branch Café & Restaurant, which is just a stone’s throw from the station.

Despite normally serving a tasty variety of Mediterranean food, it’s a great place to get a full English breakfast! We guarantee that will give you all the energy you need to get you through the day.

Another great thing about The Olive Branch is that it’s only a short stroll (or two hop-on hop-off bus stops) away from the first stop on our tailored tour of Oxford, Oxford Castle.

Oxford Castle, a step back into Oxford's medieval past

Oxford Castle

Oxford Castle is a really, really old building in a city that’s full of really old buildings! The castle you can see today was built by the Normans some 800 years ago, though St. George’s Tower is even older, being built by the Saxons at the start of the eleventh century. That makes it the oldest building in Oxford today!

The Castle has played an important role in the city’s history. Back in the 13th century, England experienced a period of civil war called The Anarchy. The leader of one side, daughter of Henry I and pretender to the throne, was called Empress Matilda. She made her base in Oxford and the city eventually came under siege. She managed to escape from the castle the night before it was captured. One story has her climbing out of and down the side of St. George’s tower on a rope!

In later years, the castle became a prison, which it remained until as recently as 1996. Today, some of the prison’s old cells are luxury hotel rooms!

Carfax Tower & Christ Church

Christ Church, Oxford

We think the best views in Oxford are from the top deck of our bus, but we have to admit that the top of Carfax Tower has a lot going for it too. The tower is what’s left of an old 12th-century church. Though only 74-feet tall, it’s still one of the tallest buildings in the centre of Oxford. In fact, there was once a time when no building could be built higher.

So, despite its relatively modest size, it look down on most of the rest of the city. Climb to the top and you’ll get to see just how special this city is. Entrance to the tower is included in our most popular Oxford package ticket.

Just around the corner from the tower is Christ Church, probably the city’s most famous college. It’s a must-visit place. The architecture is spectacular. It’s everything you imagine when you think about the dreaming spires of Oxford. Our favourite place in the college is Tom Quad, the largest quad in the city, is somewhere you’ll have seen in many films and tv shows.

For fans of Harry Potter, so much of Christ Church will be familiar as it was used in many of the film’s most famous scenes.

Admission to Christ Church isn’t free. If you’re planning to visit, we recommend you book ahead as it can sell out. Tickets for each week are released the Friday before so make sure to set yourself a reminder!

Covered Market, the perfect place for a lunch break

Covered Market, Oxford

After a morning of castles, towers and colleges, we’re pretty sure you’ll be in need of a food refill. That Full English can only keep you going so long!

Just behind Carfax Tower is the Covered Market, which offers more of Oxford’s architectural magic as well as a fantastic selection of yummy treats. This delightful building has been feeding the Oxfordians for more than 250 years! It’s the perfect place to stop and grab a bite before continuing with your day.

St Mary's Church, Oxford's Baroque masterpiece

St Mary's Church, Oxford

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin (St Mary’s to its friends) is Oxford’s most famous church and a masterpiece of Baroque architecture. As well as being a spectacular building, the church has seen more than its fair share of history.

Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, was tried here and then burnt at the stake just around the corner. A young John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, regularly preached in the church until his sermons became a little too fiery. And talking about fiery, the statue above the South Porch still bears bullet holes from the English Civil War.

To get some great views over some of Oxford’s most famous colleges, you can climb to the top of the church’s tower, the oldest part of the church. Admission isn’t free but it is very reasonably priced.

Bodleian Library

Bodelian Library, OxfordThe Bodleian Library is one of Oxford’s most famous buildings. And that’s not just because it features in the Harry Potter films! Opened at the start of the 17th century, it’s now home to over 13 million printed items! For more than four centuries, it’s been where students have gone to read and research. It boggles the mind to imagine the learning that’s gone on in this place!

Housed inside the Bodleian is the Divinity School, which is the scene for the Hogwarts Infirmary in the Harry Potter films. Any Harry fans are sure to recognise its vaulted ceiling.

Admission to exhibitions in the Bodleian is free. You have to book a timeslot for the Divinity School. This is best done online. Admission is very cheap.

Relax at the Botanic Garden

Botanic Garden, OxfordThe Botanic Garden in Oxford is the oldest in the country! It was founded at the start of the 17th century and has been an important centre of scientific research and inspiration ever since.

Home to over 5,000 different species, it’s somewhere you can see amazing plants from around the world. It’s also a fantastic place to relax and take in all you’ve seen during your day in Oxford.

5 tips to enjoy your Oxford day trip to the fullest

  1. Planning your visit: Oxford offers a variety of sights and activities, so it’s best to plan your day in advance. Research the locations, opening times, and entry fees of the places you wish to visit to make the most of your time in the city. It’s also a good idea to book your train ahead of time if you’re coming by rail.
  2. Do a guided walking tour: Oxford is a compact city with many tourist spots located close to each other. Consider undertaking a a guided walking tour to explore the city’s architecture, history, and culture. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.
  3. Hop on the bus: We don’t want to blow our own trumpet (mainly cos we don’t know hot to play one so it would make an awful racket!), but our hop-on hop-off bus is definitely one of very the best ways to see the sights. Our top deck might not be as high as Carfax Tower, but we guarantee you’ll see a whole lot more of the city.
  4. Visit the Free Attractions: Many attractions in Oxford are free to visitors. A few examples are the University Parks, Ashmolean Museum, Natural History Museum, and Pitt Rivers Museum.
  5. Try Punting: Incorporate some leisure time into your itinerary. Traditional punting on the river Cherwell could be an ideal way to relax while enjoying the picturesque surroundings in the heart of the city.
  6. Eat Local: Oxford has an array of multi-cuisine restaurants, cafés, and pubs. Be sure to sample some of the local delicacies and perhaps enjoy a meal or drink at one of the historic pubs previously frequented by renowned authors.

Time to go home!

Whether you follow all our advice or not, we’re sure you’ll have an amazing time in this brilliant city. It’s definitely one of our very favourite places to visit for a day or perhaps even longer!

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. The University Church of St. Mary the Virgin: The tower offers an incredible panoramic view of Oxford.
  2. Carfax Tower: Nestled in the city centre, it is the highest point in Oxford. Climb up its 99 steps for a breathtaking view.
  3. South Park: Located in Headington, South Park offers impressive views of Oxford skyline.
  4. The Sheldonian Theatre: A trip to the cupola provides a beautiful view of the city.
  1. Museum of Natural History: A significant attraction for families, particularly for kids interested in dinosaurs and fossils.
  2. Pitt Rivers Museum: An extraordinary collection of artefacts from around the world.
  3. Oxford University Parks: Perfect place for picnics, games, or nature walks.
  4. The Oxfordshire Museum: Features family-friendly exhibits and interactive displays.
  5. Boat Trips along the River Thames: A fun and relaxing way to see Oxford.
  1. The Turf Tavern: A historic and hidden gem, which has been serving since the 13th century.
  2. The Eagle and Child: Famous for being the meeting place of The Inklings, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
  3. The Bear Inn: One of the oldest pubs in Oxford dating back to 1242.
  4. The Lamb & Flag: Immortalized in the novels of Inspector Morse, an Oxford-based detective series.

1.  Christ Church College: The college’s dining hall was replicated in the film studios to create Hogwart’s Hall.

2.  Bodleian Library: Duke Humfrey’s Library is Hogwart’s library, and the Divinity School was used as the infirmary.

3.  New College: The cloisters in New College were used during ‘The Goblet of Fire’ when Harry is warned about the dangers of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

4.  The University Parks: Some of the ‘The Goblet of Fire’ scenes were filmed in the woodland area of the park.

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