Have you ever just thought about what it would be like to get away for the day? Don’t get me wrong, London is an amazing place, but sometimes you just feel the need to disconnect from the big city. If you’re having one of those moments as you are reading this, stop thinking and start booking!
Oxford, or the “City of Dreaming Spires”, as the poet Matthew Arnold named it, is a great city to explore if you’re looking to get away from London on a Saturday or Sunday.
We booked a coach ride from London with Megabus for only £10/person and the journey took about one hour – one hour and a half. So now that you’ve got tickets sorted out, it’s time to decide what you are going to visit in one day, right? Well, sit back and relax, I am going to tell you which are the best places to go to and some more I would have wanted to check out if I had more time.
Things to See in Oxford
Oxford Castle and Prison (Visit Website)
I bet you thought I would start with the University! This was definitely the highlight of our trip, the Oxford Castle and Prison is so interesting and you are guided by someone who actually knows the history of the Castle and its legends. The tour takes about an hour and the ticket is £12.50 for an adult and £10.50 for a student, but you need to show the reception a valid Student ID.
The tour starts with a climb up the castle’s stairs, quite strategically planned out over 1,000 years ago. In the attempt to defeat enemies, the stairs were built in a very clever spiral. What made people trip all the time was the fact that some steps were higher or lower than the usual ones, causing a soldier who was running to fall. If you’re cautious enough, you will reach the top of the tower, where you can get a nice view of the city. The tour continued with more stories on the Castle’s history and we found out that for most of its time, it was actually used as a prison. The guide, Becca, showed us the cells, the crypt and even showed us a picture of the youngest prisoner that was ever recorded in the prison’s files: a 7-year old girl, named Julie-Ann Crumpling, who was caught stealing a pram and was sentenced to seven days of hard labour in 1870.
They take a mugshot at the end of the tour and you can purchase it on your way out. You will also be assigned a crime when you start the tour and it will be revealed at the end of the tour, along with the punishment you would have gotten 150 years ago if you were a prisoner of the Oxford Prison.
Before leaving the Castle, you can visit the mound as well!
The only remains of a 13th-century church, the Carfax Tower is a great spot if you’re hunting down places where you can get a good view of Oxford from the top. It is 74 feet tall and no other building in central Oxford is allowed to be built above that so you can admire the city’s beauty. The ticket is £2.70 for an adult. Now, there are only 99 steps keeping you away from one of the best views in Oxford!
This is, after all, a university city. Famous for its university, Oxford is home to about 38 colleges that make up the University of Oxford. It’s their architecture that inspired the poet Matthew Arnold to call it the “City of Dreaming Spires”, and also served as inspiration for the all-time movie favourite, Harry Potter. There are plenty of gift shops around the colleges that sell Harry Potter inspired souvenirs if you are a fan.
An iconic spot in Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera is now a part of the Bodleian Library. You can go inside only if you are a member or if it is part of an Oxford tour package, but even if you will only see it from the outside, it is an incredible building and it’s situated right in the heart of the city.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
When you’re done admiring the Radcliffe Camera, you can enter the Church of St Mary the Virgin. This is where it all started, or at least, where the University of Oxford started. Up until the 17th century, it was actually used for graduation ceremonies, as well as a church. Beautiful inside and out, it’s definitely one of the main attractions of the Radcliffe Square.
We mostly walked and saw other sights such as the Bridge of Sighs and the Covered Market where you can buy fresh veggies or meat and can have a milkshake or pastry at one of the coffee shops. If we would have had more time left to spend in Oxford, I think we would have gone to the Eagle and Child Pub, where d J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis used to hang out or gone to the Blenheim Palace which became a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and was the birthplace of Winston Churchill.