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Oxford day trip from London by bus

by Kat

Oxford is one of the most popular tourist destinations to visit in the UK. Famous for its historic university and gorgeous architecture, the city has been home to many famous residents, inspired some of Britain’s most famous novelists, and provided the setting for a number of film and television shows. While there’s enough to do in Oxford to easily fill a weekend, the city is ideally located close enough to London that you can visit on a day trip from the capital if you’re short on time – which is exactly what I did last month.

How to get to Oxford by public transport

By bus: I decided to travel to Oxford using the express bus/coach service called the Oxford Tube. The bus departs regularly (up to every 10 mins) from Victoria coach station and takes you right into the centre of the city. The journey takes around 2 hours, which is longer than the train, but it depends whereabouts in London you’re coming from. For me, as I would come into London to Victoria Station, it meant I didn’t have the get the underground to Paddington to catch the train, which would itself have added at least 30 minutes to the journey. This made the bus extremely convenient. It was also a very pleasant travelling experience, with very few passengers, air conditioning, plug sockets and wifi. Buses also run from early in the morning until late at night, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy dinner in Oxford without having to worry about missing the last train home.

By train: Perhaps the most obvious way to get to Oxford is to travel by train from London Paddington. The current cost is around £28.00 for an off-peak day return on a weekend, but prices can vary depending on how far in advance you book and may also be cheaper when it’s not during the school summer holidays! The journey is just under an hour. I’d recommend booking your tickets in advance via Trainline as I’ve found the trains to be much busier this year with more people holidaying in the UK.

Things to do in Oxford

Climb St Mary’s church tower

The University Church of St Mary the Virgin is located right on the high street and is a great first port of call on your day trip to the city. In the 13th century the church was adopted as the first university building and was used for lectures and for the presentation of degrees. Later, it was also the home to the first university library. The main reason for visiting this church is for the fantastic views across Radcliffe Square offered from the top of its tower. The admission is £5.00 and entry is timed as there’s only one (very narrow) way up and down via the medieval spiral staircase. It’s not for the faint of heart, I would maybe think twice if you suffer from claustrophobia, but the views from the top are definitely worth it!

See the Radcliffe Camera

One of the most iconic buildings in Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera (or “Rad Cam”) is part of the University’s Bodleian Library complex. As it’s a working library it’s not open to the public so if you want to see inside the only way you can currently do this is on a guided tour of the libraries. The Rad Cam is connected to the Old Bodleian Library via an underground passageway called the Gladstone Link, which is also included on some of the library tours.

Visit the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian is Oxford’s main research library. It houses over 13 million books, making it the second largest library in Britain, after the British Library. It is also one of only six libraries in the UK entitled to own a copy of every book that’s published in the country. One for book and film lovers, the library has many rare books including the original manuscripts of Oxford alumni – and later Professor – J R R Tolkien, and appeared in film adaptations of The Golden Compass and Harry Potter.

Go on an alumni-led walking tour

One of the best ways to get to know Oxford is from the people who know it best – the students. During my day in the city I did the Oxford University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide. It’s really interesting to learn the nuances between the different colleges and get an insight into life at one of the world’s most famous universities. You’ll also get the chance to enter some of the colleges on the tour and the Bodelian Library.

Eat, drink and shop in the historic covered market

Oxford’s world-famous covered market has a long history, having officially opened in 1774. You’ll find a number of independent traders inside selling market goods ranging from fresh fruit, veg and meat, through to local arts and crafts. If you get hungry there are also lots of cosy little coffee shops to stop at for cake!

See Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs

Did you know that Oxford has its very own Bridge of Sighs? Sure, it’s not quite Venice, and this one is over a road connecting two of the colleges instead of a picaresque canal, but it bears more than a striking resemblance and still makes for a pretty picture.

Go gift shopping in Alice’s Shop

The city of Oxford has many connections with Alice in Wonderland. The real Alice Liddell was daughter of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church College. Back in the Victorian era Alice and Henry used to frequent the shop at 83 St Aldgate’s, close to the college. The shop now sells exclusively Alice in Wonderland themed memorabilia.

Try your hand at punting

While most people probably think of Cambridge when they think of punting in England, Oxford has its own punting history. If you’re keen to get in on the action you’ve got the option of having a go yourself, or hiring a chauffeur to punt for you if you fancy a more relaxing afternoon. If punting’s not for you there’s also the option of hiring rowboats or pedalos. Check out Magdalen Bridge Boathouse for all your boating needs.

Have you visited Oxford? What was your favourite part of the city? Let me know in the comments below!

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