Just saying ‘Oxford’ fills the traveler with thoughts of an ancient university, punting and Alice in Wonderland. But how long do you realistically need to stay in order to experience Oxford?
This traveler found that 24 hours was sufficient to get a taste for it, making it an ideal stopover for those doing the UK tour. Here’s what 24 hours in Oxford can look like:
What to See
Oxford Castle Unlocked
– less a castle, more a prison, your guided tour will be both entertaining and educational. The history of the prison is fascinating, and the tour does a good job of blending the history of hundreds of years in the past right up to recent years. Bonus – you’ll get to climb the tower, providing an unspoilt view of Oxford’s low landscape (no skyscrapers!). Current admission is £ 8.45 per adult. You will need to book a tour time, so book in advance if during peak summer months, otherwise just showing up is fine.
Follow In Harry’s Footsteps
– Did you know that a number of scenes from Harry Potter were filmed in and around Oxford? Remember in the first movie when the children are about to enter The Great Hall for the first time, standing on the staircase while Professor McGonangall spoke to them? For you true fans that said yes, well, why not stand on those stairs yourself? Head to Christ Church College. Want the full Potter experience? Either self-tour around the sites, or plan your trip around one of the infrequent (but supposedly amazing) Pottering Around Oxford walking tours.
Um, hello, this is university town. And the beauty of it is that you can revel in the feel of student town without having to go through dreaded exams again. Big plus in my book. While many of the buildings are inaccessible unless you’re a student, you will get a good view from outside, or if you’re a keener visit some of the colleges such as Magdalen College and Christ Church College with the entry fee around £ 5.
Alice in Wonderland
For Alice fans, make sure to walk through the meadows and along the river that helped serve as inspiration, along with a professor’s daughter, for the famous books. Nip into Alice’s shop if you’re after a souvenir.
In the evenings, just take some time to walk the town. Take in the gorgeous buildings and the old-town atmosphere.
Where to Eat
The Jam Factory
My mouth still salivates as I think of my breakfast at The Jam Factory, but then again it might just because it was the first time I tried bacon jam! Why is bacon jam not an everyday staple? Cholesterol be darned. This relaxed restaurant/bar/art gallery has a unique feel to it, providing high quality food for a reasonable price. If the weather is decent, or if you’re dressed warmly, please make sure you sit outside.
While I didn’t visit it myself, a pal of mine who attends Oxford University says The Turf Tavern is a must, and that’s good enough for me. Hidden down a narrow back alley, this authentic tavern is popular with the locals, serving hearty meals with that home cooked feel.
Where to Stay
Have you been bad? I mean really bad? Perhaps you’re due a night in prison. Fair warning, this hotel is for those with a bit more cash to spend, but the experience of staying in a converted prison cell is one for the bucket list. The second that creaky iron cell door closes… all bets are off. In true Malmaison fashion, the hotel has a sexy style to it. A double will set you back at least £155, but you’ll be the envy of your friends – well, those who like scary stories, anyways.
Central Backpackers Oxford
For those on more of a tight budget, the currently top-rated hostel (via Hostelbookers) in Oxford is the Central Backpackers Oxford with a bed costings as low as £20. CBO is extremely close to the train station, bus station and MegaBus drop off locations, not to mention walkable to all major attractions.
Oxford is easily accessible by both train and bus. While you technically can fly into Oxford, I know nobody that does. It’s an easy 1hr10 minutes from London Paddington, but tickets can cost about £30 in peak periods. The bus will run you about £15.
Ideally you’ll have more time to spend than just 24 hours in Oxford, but if not, I hope this has been a good jumping off point for you.