Oxford is certainly one of those cities that you will want to go back to again and again but for when time is limited there is a need for the perfect day trip itinerary to make the most of your time. Everywhere you turn, you’re met with stunning medieval and bold, contemporary buildings that define the city and the whole country. While it is undeniable that the construction which makes Oxford so famous worldwide is the Old Oxford University, it wouldn’t be fair to give it all the credit for Oxford’s beauty.
There are plenty of things to do in Oxford, surprising considering the size of Oxford. A lot of people are drawn to the city by the historic castles, free museums, classical theatres and tranquil parks. Also, many cozy bars and taverns in cobbled streets and alleys, where you can relax and take a moment to breathe in the city’s atmosphere. Even though it is a small place, it does have a lot to offer!
To help you navigate your way through this magical place, I have created a one-day itinerary that with a list of all the most important spots to visit as well as information and tips about transport, including how to get to Oxford from London!
- 1 Getting to and from Oxford From London
- 2 The Perfect Oxford Day Trip Itinerary | Things To Do In Oxford
- 3 Map Of Of Places Of Interest In Oxford
- 4 Places To Eat In Oxford During Your Day Trip
- 5 Oxford Sightseeing Tour | Oxford Tour Guide
- 6 Planning Your One Day Trip To Oxford.
- 7 Have More Than A Day In Oxford?
Getting to and from Oxford From London
I have had the pleasure of living in Oxford for 2 years and explored many beautiful villages in Oxford but even now that I am back in London, I have made many a journey back to Oxford. There are several ways to reach Oxford. Travel from Oxford to London or vice versa is super easy. You can take a train, go by car, or catch a bus. Located 97km northwest of London, Oxford is roughly 53 miles (85 km) from London, so whichever way you choose to travel, it won’t take very long, unless you happen to be travelling at peak times.
Travelling To Oxford By Train
Travelling by train is perhaps the fastest option, although a bit more expensive than choosing an alternative of travelling by bus. Trains leave for Oxford Station every 5 to 10 minutes from Paddington Station. The journey takes more or less an hour. In 2019, standard round trip, off-peak tickets were about £25, but much cheaper round trip fares are available when purchased as two, one-way tickets, well in advance. Keep in mind that peak fares will be more expensive during Monday to Friday (not on public holidays) between 06:30 and 09:30, and between 16:00 and 19:00.
How To Get From London To Oxford By Bus
A very convenient way to travel as there are buses running frequently 24 hours per day. The Oxford Tube company is a popular choice, which leaves London Victoria Coach Station around every 10 to 20 minutes. The journey takes about an hour and 40 minutes. The Oxford Tube has pick -up points from multiple stops in London and in Oxford. The fare costs £9 one way or £15 for round-trip. There are multiple trip deals, as well as student, senior and child fares available. You can also purchase a ticket on the bus.
Another similar company you could use is x90, another direct coach service that takes you from Oxford to London in around 120 minutes. Whether you’re shopping, sightseeing or visiting family and friends, there are coaches leaving up to every 30 minutes for most of the day from London and Oxford. They have different pick-up points throughout London including Victoria station, and you can check for the most convenient an X90 that costs £8 one way for an adult or £14 period return.
Pro tip: You can search for tickets for trains and coaches under one site that lets you compare departing times and prices all in one! Check out Omio for buses, trains and flight options although flights are not necessary for this journey. You can also download the tickets onto your mobile phone to save you printing tickets for the bus from London to Oxford or the train tickets.
Car; Driving To Oxford From London
Oxford is 62 miles northwest of London via the M4, M25, M40 and A roads. It takes about an hour and a half to drive and as a commuter route using motorways, its an easy driving which I have done about million times while I was living and working in Oxford so drove between London and Oxford for nearly two year. If you don’t have a car, car rentals are super cheap.
The few times I had issues with our car, I used to get off at Didcot where there is a Europcar across from the station where you can rent a car for about £20 a day, you also have rentals from Heathrow Airport which is near the M4 on the route to Oxford. Or if coming from London there are plenty of really great places to pick up from. The reason I mentioned the airport is that you can sometimes find rentals cheaper depending on where you are picking up from. To search for car rentals check out EasyCar rentals.
If you do decide to travel by car, prices for the parking areas in Oxford are:
A quick warning though, finding a free parking spot can be quite difficult. Here’s a link in case you want to check to Oxford parking price for specific locations. (starting at £4 for up until 1 hour). Oxford also has the park and ride where you can drop your car off in a bigger car park and then take a shuttle into the town centre.
Public transport In Oxford:
Since Oxford is really not that big of a city and many sites are easy to reach on foot, if weather permits, you may want to simply walk. However, the local bus network is very comprehensive and it is quite easy to get on a bus in various part of the city. The city’s main bus and coach station is at Gloucester Green.
You can purchase a 24 hour day pass which entitles you to unlimited travel for 24 hours from time of purchase. The pass includes travel on all local services and includes Thames Travel and Stagecoach services within SmartZone. Not valid on Stagecoach night services. Just £4.30 – buy from the driver. Alternatively, you can also purchase single fares directly from the driver at around £1.20. Find more information at Oxford Bus.
Okay, now that you know how to find your way around, let’s look at some places that you will definitely will not want to miss once you are ready for your one day in Oxford!
The Perfect Oxford Day Trip Itinerary | Things To Do In Oxford
While I have mentioned details for how to get to Oxford from London so that you can do your day trip from London to Oxford with ease, for the itinerary below, it doesn’t matter whether you are coming from London or somewhere north of Oxford. My only recommendation is to leave as early as possible so that you can make the most of your Oxford one day trip from London or wherever you are coming from in the UK.
Morning Activities In Oxford
Your one day in Oxford starts off with the very popular sites in Oxford such as Carfax Tower and Christ Church College. So make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes for your Oxford trip as this itinerary assumes you will be walking around the city from sight to sight. Among the list of things do in Oxford in one day are of course the Bridge of Sighs which is not to be missed…
On the crossroads between the High Street, St Aldate’s, Cornmarket Street and Queen Street lies Carfax Tower, right in the heart of the city. In fact, many consider this to be the true center of the city, and it’s the spot from which distances to other towns and cities are measured. The tower which was constructed with defense purposes is now the most important city’s landmark.
Carfax Tower price: You can climb the narrow spiral staircase up to the top for around £3 for a perfect view of the High Street and the surrounding buildings.
Christ Church College
Part of the University of Oxford, this college is an absolute must! It is truly an awe-inspiring site, with the beautiful quads and buildings, including the Cathedral. It comes at almost no surprise that the well-known Harry Potter scenes were filmed in various locations of Christ Church College including the quads, cloisters and the staircase. The college’s dining hall was recreated as the Great Hall in the film! By the way, it is actually still a working dining hall where students eat their meal every day.
As this is the most popular (and spectacular) college to visit, you will need to purchase a ticket to enter at a relatively small fee (around). We strongly recommend checking for individual opening times and possible closures for the day of your tour in Oxford at their official website:
And if it happens to be closed, don’t worry, there are many other sites that will keep you engaged. We recommend checking out one (or more) of the following colleges as they are also pretty unique and interesting to see:
David’s College, Exeter College and Trinity College.
And by the way, in case you’re confused about what actually is Oxford University, here is an explanation: one of the oldest Universities in the world, Oxford University is made up of thirty-eight colleges, each of which is independently governed. There’s no campus, with all the colleges, halls, faculties and departments set throughout the city center, that is why there is no one specific building that counts as the Oxford University, like some other universities.
Built for William the Conqueror in 1071, it was unfortunately largely destroyed after the English Civil War, but here is your chance to wander through the remaining part of this historic building for an overview of the extraordinary history of the city of Oxford. Here you can also see the prison cells used by the defeated Royalists in this castle, which remained in use until 1996!
Afternoon Activities For Your Oxford Trip
The Radcliffe Camera
Make sure to walk through the Radcliffe Square to marvel at another iconic Oxford’s building that is the Radcliffe Camera. This large, circular building was designed by James Gibbs and built in 1737-1749. Built in the English Palladian style, it forms part of the Bodleian Library complex.
The Bodleian Library
Being the oldest working library in Europe, it is a top location to visit. The unique Gothic interior, vast collection of accumulated books and writings (around 9 million), cozy atmosphere is a perfect reflection of many years of heritage.
Bridge of Sighs
Hertford Bridge, often called “the Bridge of Sighs”, is a skyway joining two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane in Oxford, England. Yet another architectural wonder of Oxford, a majestic piece of art.
This 17th century venue with a global reputation visually as well as acoustically makes it a popular place of interest. The theater was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who turned his back on the popular Gothic style and based his plans on the 1st century BC Theatre of Marcellus in Rome. However, the rood had to be rebuilt in 1802 by George Saunders.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Also known simply as the Oxford University Museum, this temple displays wonderful history of natural science in a detailed yet comprehensible manner. Observe many University of Oxford’s natural history specimens, including the famous Oxford Dodo (the most such complete remains and said to have inspired Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, in creating the character in Alice in Wonderland) and others.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum
The oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world, is home to a collection of over 5,000 different types of plant, some of which exist nowhere else. It is a remarkable garden with splendid greenhouses. Definitely a must for any nature lover! Take a stroll in an oasis of tranquility. Ticket costs around £4.
Early Evening In Oxford
One it comes to how to spend one day in Oxford, this is another activity not to be missed. Particularly great in the summer but even in the winter they will give you a blanket if doing punting with a tour company. In the spring and summer during a warm day, enjoy punting along Oxford’s stunning River Cherwell. Situated underneath Magdalen College Tower, at the lower end of Oxford’s world famous high street you will find Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. Here you can hire traditionally crafted punts, rowing boats or spoil yourself by hiring a Chauffeured boat. You may also opt to move this to early in the day for a little break from walking.
Ashmolean Museum (open until 5pm)
If you have worked through the list above with ease another place worth checking out is the Ashmolean Museum. The most important museum of art and archaeology, allows you to step into half a million years of history. From mummies to modern art, it offers a huge amount of very interesting knowledge to take home with you!
Map Of Of Places Of Interest In Oxford
Map of museums, libraries, cafes and places of interest in Oxford. As you can see, many of the places are within walking distance making doing an oxford day trip itinerary fairly easy.
Places To Eat In Oxford During Your Day Trip
Ha! You thought, this girl is crazy and hasn’t included food, who does she think she is?! Hold your horses! I come with options. So as you have only one day in Oxford so choosing where to eat is just as important so that you feel as if you have completely got a well-rounded experience of Oxford. For your Oxford day trip, especially if this your first time in Oxford, you may also want to experience cool gems for places to eat in Oxford. So below are some options to consider not only for quick coffees but afternoon tea, lunch or even light dinner before you get back on the train, bus or car to return home or your hotel.
The Grand Cafe
One cannot complete a day trip to Oxford is complete without a visit to the historic Grand Café. Located on the Sat on the site of the first coffee house in England. This cute and elegant café is the place to head for a sophisticated high tea. I have shared tips on tasty but affordable afternoon teas In London but while in Oxford this is another past time not to miss out on. Taste the delicious finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and petit fours and endless cups of tea. Rest your feet as you discuss how to tackle the rest of your Oxford day trip itinerary. If you leave this to the end of the day then you can chill until its time to get the bus to the station.
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Thirsty Meeples is another popular spot worthy of checking out. Something of an Oxford institution, Thirsty Meeples is the city’s first and only board game café. They have over 2,500 games to choose from, and you are invited to grab a table, pick your game and get competitive over a cup of great coffee or craft beer. The food menu is not that extensive but there is a choice of freshly made sandwiches, hot snacks and bowls of nuts, crisps and sweets for when your attention is on the game! Note that Thirsty Meeples can get busy very quickly, so it’s always best to book ahead if you can, especially if you’re coming with a large group of friends.
A chilled out cafe for a relaxed affair. They serve breakfast, mezza and pizzas too.
Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant
After a long day, it is good to treat yourself with a nice big meal and a drink. You’ve deserve it! Ashmolean serves up much more than items of historical importance from around the world. Up on the top level you can sit down to smoked haddock gratin or butternut squash risotto. Also, it’s worth going just for the panorama. Or, simply grab a drink to complement the view, and reflect on your experience in wonderful Oxford.
Don’t forget that your also have a few pubs dotted around the town centre if you love a good hearty pub meal. Many of which are filling and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. For pub grab you can check out the Kings Arms and The Oxford Kitchen.
Oxford Sightseeing Tour | Oxford Tour Guide
While Oxford is fairly easy to navigate, if you find yourself overwhelmed searching what to see in Oxford in one day, there are Oxford tour guides. You can do an Oxford tour from London, you can also choose to do Oxford city walking tour when you arrive and then explore on your own for the rest of the afternoon and implement some of the elements from this itinerary to mix things up a little. The tours also allow you to forget about how to travel from London to Oxford as some of that is sorted out for your by the tour company. Below are a couple of Oxford day tours from London.
- Combine Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour With Day Trip To Oxford
- Oxford And Cambridge Day Trip From London
- Private Guided Tour Of Oxford From London(By Train)
- You can find additional options for coach trips to Oxford as well as combined tours on Viator.
Planning Your One Day Trip To Oxford.
- Decide on whether you want to do DIY or booked tour.
- Search which mode of transportation is best for you. If you are a group I would recommend booking a car because if you use the train you will likely pay upwards of £100 for return train tickets when a car might cost your about £40 for one day plus the £5 parking at a park and ride and then £3 bus returns into Oxford. You can walk around Oxford using the rest of your savings on food or shopping in Oxford.
- If you are using the coach to Oxford, you can opt to stay near Victoria Coach Station so you can catch the earliest bus to Oxford from London Victoria.
- Explore Oxford for the day and return up to rest and relax.
Have More Than A Day In Oxford?
Other Things To Do In Oxford
If you have more than a day or are planning a weekend in Oxford there are plenty of other things to do in Oxford beside the above places mentioned in the Oxford day trip itinerary. These are below:
- Visit and explore the beautiful Blenheim Palace. You can also have afternoon tea at the palace before exploring the gardens to walk off the tea and cake.
- Explore nearby villages in Oxford from Wantage, Abingdon, Didcot, Blewbury and many others.
- Visit Cotswolds nearby.
- Go shopping at Bicester Village with all the amazing discounts at designer outlets.
- Explore Britain’s oldest botanical gardens by checking out the Oxford Botanical Garden.
- Explore the beautiful parks in Oxford. Perfect for picnics if visiting Oxford in the summer.
Where To Stay In Oxford
As I mentioned above, I lived in Oxford while working there so I got to stay at many of the cute English villages in Oxford. I got to know many of the roads around Oxford as I frequently drove from London to Oxford so when it comes to where to stay in Oxford, if you are only here for the weekend I would suggest staying as central as possible. If you are spending a week or more in Oxford then pick one of the villages to stay and explore the area. Experience the little pubs and explore local living in the countryside. For hotels in Oxford in the city center see below my recommendations.
Budget Accommodation In Oxford(hotels below £50)
Mid-Range Hotels In Oxford(hotels below £100)
- Heather House B&B
- Vocos Oxford Spires
- Courtyard By Marriot Oxford City Centre
- St Margarets Hotel
- Malborough House Hotel
- The Burlington House(A 5* hotel under £100!)
Luxury Hotel In Oxford(hotels above £100)
Stylish accommodation with views of Oxford Colleges.
- Museum Hotels Oxford
- Head of the River
- Malmaison Oxford(A boutique hotel that used to be a Victorian prison!)
- Old Bank Hotel
- Macdonald Randolph Hotel (The epitome of English luxury)
For the full list of hotels in Oxford check out booking.com.
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