Oxford is renowned for its rich history that goes back a 1000 years, prestigious university, and stunning architecture. Nestled in the heart of England, its knowledge, boasting one of the world’s most famous universities.
As you embark on a day trip to Oxford from London, you’ll discover the grandeur of Christ Church College, with its awe-inspiring Great Hall that was the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, to the incredible Radcliffe Camera.
Wander through the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe via a guided tour, explore the historic Oxford Castle, that was once a prison up until 1996. Literary fans can spot the inspiration from their favourite author.
A day trip to Oxford is an ideal way to explore the main attractions, in a limited time. And it’s an easy day trip from London.
But if you have a few extra days, make the most of Oxford and spend a few days in the city. We did just that and it gave us the chance to discover this unforgettable city and uncover the secrets and wonders that the dreaming spires offers.
There is something for everyone in Oxford.
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Table of Contents
Getting to Oxford
Oxford is so easy to get to on a day trip from London, or anywhere else in the country.
If you’re short on time, then a guided tour is the best option for you. It makes your day trip to Oxford, smooth, simple and with as little planning needed as possible.
A guided tour will include transportation to Oxford from London and depending on the company, they may include a guide and tickets to the main attractions.
We have taken several guided tours and would highly recommend them.
The ease of a tour allows us to see more in a short period of time.
We have chosen these best tours to Oxford from London:
- From London: Cotswolds and Oxford Guided Day-Trip – This trip includes transport to the Cotswolds and Oxford
- London: Harry Potter Studio Tour and Oxford Day Trip – Harry Potter fans will love this guided tour, as it includes transport, the price includes entrance to Harry Potter Studios and a 60-minute guided tour around Oxford and a further 60 minutes to explore Oxford at your leisure.
- London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour – This guided tour is great if you want to explore more of England in just one day. The tour includes transport, walking tour of Oxford and entrance to Windsor Castle grounds and Stonehenge.
We book tour’s via Get Your Guide; they offer a wide variety of things to do in all regions of the world and would highly recommend one of these 3 tours from Get Your Guide.
If you want to plan your day trip to Oxford from London independently, then here are a few options.
Taking a train from London is the quickest way to get to Oxford on a day trip.
Trains leave either London Paddington or London Marylebone Station and take between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes to reach Oxford.
A return ticket to Oxford from London will cost about £30.00 per adult.
The first train to leave London is about 5am in the morning and last train from Oxford back to London is about 11am.
Also note that not all trains are direct trains, some may require a change.
We would recommend leaving early in the morning and returning late in the evening to make the most of your trip in Oxford.
Trains leave every 10-15 minutes.
Book you’re train tickets in advance with Great Western Railway
Budget travellers will prefer to take the bus to Oxford, with return ticket prices costing as little as £10.00 per adult.
But the bus is slower, taking about 2 hours.
The bus leaves London Victoria Coach Station and arrives in Oxford City Centre. The first bus leaves London at 5:15am and the last bus to Oxford from London is 3:15am.
Buses leave every 10-15 minutes.
You can book your bus tickets in advance with Stagecoach bus.
Planning a road trip around the UK, then driving to Oxford is the most convenient way.
We drove, when we took a weekend trip to Oxford.
Navigating your way to Oxford is easy and simple. Driving also offers more flexibility, as you do not need to rely on public transport.
Depending on where you are travelling from in England, your best taking the motorway. We travelled from our hometown in Kent, took the M25, M40 and took junction 8A onto A40 into Oxford. It took us about 2 hours to reach our hotel in Wheatley.
If you do plan to drive, consider parking. It is expensive and parking is limited in the city centre.
Oxford offers 5 park and ride centres.
Park and ride sites are:
- Thornhill Park & Ride
- Redbridge Park & Ride
- Seacourt Park & Ride
- Oxford Parkway Park & Ride
- Pear Tree Park & Ride
You can get more information on Oxford Park & Ride options and prices here.
Prices range from as little as free for the first hour to £12.00 for 72 hours parking. Plus £4.00 for 1 adult for the bus ride and £5.00 for 2 adults.
Prevent congestion in Oxford city centre, by parking in the park & ride car park.
Alternatively, if you have a few additional days to spend in Oxford, you could utilise your accommodation car park, if it is available.
We stayed in the Travelodge in Wheatley, which is a short 10–15-minute bus journey from Oxford. The hotel offers free parking, which is ideal if you’re driving and need somewhere to park.
Must-see attractions in Oxford
With such a short time in Oxford, you really should visit the top tourist attractions, but if you have some time to spend, why not check out some lesser known, off the beaten path attractions.
Hop on Hop off Oxford bus
If you only have a few hours in Oxford, then the hop on hop off bus is a must.
The route will take you past all the top tourist attractions in Oxford and if you want to explore a specific attraction on the route, then just hop off the bus. When you’re ready, hop back on the bus to be taken to the next destination.
The great thing about a hop on and hop off bus, is you don’t need to plan the logistic, as the bus will take you past the universities and colleges around the city.
The route is a 60-minute journey, with audio commentary in various languages. You can book between a 24 or 48 hour ticket depending on how long you have in Oxford.
Oxford Walking Tour
Another option if your short on time, is to do a whistle stop walking tour, with a knowledgeable guide.
We love taking walking tours, it’s a great way to get to know Oxford and some of the sights along the way.
As Oxford is a flat city, its super easy to walk and in our opinion it’s the best way to get around.
Many walking tours include university entrance fees within their price.
Get to walk inside Oxford University, the Bodleian library, Radcliffe Camera and learn about its history.
Looking for a walking tour in Oxford, then book you tickets here.
Why walk on two feet, when you can take a tour of Oxford on two wheels. Check out this bike tour.
The Radcliffe Camera one of the most recognisable structures in the city, with its distinctive circular shaped building in the heart of Oxford and our favourite place to visit for architecture.
Admire the honey-coloured stones and bricks, which gives off a warm and inviting appearance. Arches follow the ground level around the base of the Camera, with pillars holding the middle section, before noticing the beautiful grey dome perched on the top.
Don’t be confused by the name, Camera is Latin for room. It was built between 1737 to 1749 and primarily holds several collections of books.
It is a quiet sanctuary for university students to study in the Radcliffe Camera and is not open to the public, unless by guided tour.
To enter Radcliffe Camera and learn about its history, you can do so on a guided tour.
A choice of 30,60- and 90-minute tours are available, but always book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Tickets sell out extremely quickly and should be purchased online and in advance. Although you can book tickets on the day, but you must arrive early in the morning when the ticket booth is open to take a tour.
Ticket prices start at £10.00 per adult for a 30-minute tour, the full 90-minute tour starts at £20.00 per person.
To book tickets online, click here.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
Little is known about the first church on this site, but by about the 12th century it was the heart of the medieval university.
The beautiful architectural styles include Norman and gothic, with gargoyles protecting the tower.
The main entrance to the church, is via the grand doorway, that leads into the souvenir shop and then into the main church.
The awe-inspiring interior of the church, with the lofty nave stretches out before you. Sit peacefully in the pews of the church, while you relax and enjoy the architecture.
We enjoyed the university student’s practicing for the music event in the evening, held at the church.
For a small price, head up St Mary the Virgin’s tower for epic views of the city of dreaming spires and the Radcliffe Camera below.
If you don’t like small spaces, climbing the narrow spiral staircase may not be for you. There is only 1 way up and the same narrow staircase to come back down. It is likely you’ll need to squeeze past other tourists as they climb up or down the tower.
Large bags and backpacks are not permitted up the tower. If you are carrying a large bag, you can leave it with the gift shop staff, but take all valuables with you.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin is free to enter, so perfect for travellers on a budget. Climbing the tower is £5.00 per person. But the price is well worth it.
Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is a popular photo location and Instagram spot in Oxford. Tourists pose in front of the bridge that connects 2 parts of Hertford College.
To get the best Instagram worthy picture of the Bridge of Sighs, get there early to avoid crowds and look down New College Lane.
The official name is Hertford Bridge, but it’s called the Bridge of Sighs due to its similarities with the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.
St Mary’s Passage
Oxford is known for famous authors, who have studied or worked in the universities. C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien, Lewis Carrol, just to name a few.
It is said that the authors got their inspiration from locations in Oxford.
Take a wander down St Mary’s Passage and spot a sculpture on one of the buildings. If you have read C.S. Lewis The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe or seen the movie The Chronicles of Narnia, you may see the resembles for Mr Tumnus, who features in the book.
The sculpture is a faun, with legs of a goat and a human body.
While there is no mention of St Mary’s Passage in the book, it is thought that the author took inspiration from Oxford and the gothic buildings, which is prominent in the book.
Visit other spots around the city that gave inspiration to many famous authors.
The Covered Market
A popular destination for tourist and locals, looking for something to eat, or to just wander around the diverse range of shops.
Opened in 1774 for stall holders to sell their goods. But today it’s a bustling market, selling fresh produce, baked goods, ice cream, clothing, gifts and so much more.
Take a wander through the atmospheric lanes of the market, go off in different direction and take in the aroma from the freshly cooked goods. Grab a bite to eat, before your day trip in Oxford comes to an end.
Oxford Castle and Prison
This was our favourite place to visit in Oxford for the history.
The castle and prison have over 1000 year of history.
The castle was built in 1071 to 1073 by Robert D’Oyly but later used as a prison up until as late as 1996.
Although it is well fortified, it is said that Empress Matilda escaped Oxford Castle under the darkness and camouflaged of a white dress. It is said that the empress was lowered from the castle by 3-4 knights and escaped King Stephen and their sentries.
The most notorious period was the 18th and 19th century, when it became a prison. Conditions in the prison were harsh with gallows for execution.
Many of the prisoners were debtors, thieves and political prisoners. If the prisoner came from a wealthy family, they could afford to have some home comforts brought in during the stay.
Part of the castle and prison is a museum, where knowledgeable guides take you around, sharing their knowledge, history and stories of the past.
One part of the prison has since been converted into a luxury hotel, where guests can stay in a former prison cell.
Staying at Malmaison’s Hotel is unique and somewhere we want to stay on our next trip to Oxford. If you’re on a budget, the cheapest night to stay is a Sunday and during off peak season. Room prices start at £150.00 per night.
Tickets to enter Oxford Castle and Prison starts at £17.00 per person. A knowledgeable guide will take you around the prison sharing historical facts. At the end of the tour, you can take a wander around the prison at your own leisure.
The prison opens at 10am and closes at 5pm.
If you’re not staying at the hotel, you can ask the friendly receptionists if you could explore the interior of the hotel, which is free, but access is to the public areas only.
Where to eat in Oxford
Oxford has a wide range of dining options, from charming cafes to restaurants and pub food. Here are some of our favourite spots to eat in Oxford on a budget.
The Vaults & Garden Café
This popular café is located just a few feet from Radcliffe Camera. So, while you’re enjoying a hot cup of tea with a piece of cake, you can admire the architectural design of the surrounding buildings.
The café itself is located within the vaults of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. There is limited seating inside, but there is some seating outside, which is ideal in the summer months.
The menu consists of locally sourced ingredients, to create delicious breakfast and a lunch time menu. They even do cream teas and the most divine cakes.
There is a small selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes.
Our highlight on our week trip to Oxford was the carrot cake with tea. The carrot cake was a very generous slice and tasted delicious.
We enjoyed the cake so much that we returned to try their lunch time menu the following day.
If you’re looking for somewhere affordable in a prime location, then The Vault & Garden Café is a must place to eat on a day trip to Oxford.
The Covered Market
When it comes to food, it is a treasure trove of culinary delight. Whether you’re just looking for a snack, or a bite to eat, the Covered Market has it all.
Several cafes and eateries offer hot and cold drinks, British and international cuisines all at budget friendly prices.
We stopped at Rozana, a small Lebanese take away. It’s a popular place, with queues going out the door. We ordered a wrap, which was filled with goodness and certainly fuelled us for the rest of the afternoon.
Support the local community, with a bite to eat at The Covered Market.
This large restaurant close to the shopping centre, has pictures of famous people from decades ago dotting the walls of the restaurant.
With plenty of seating and very little crowd, guaranteeing somewhere to eat.
The food was good, we ordered hummus, which came with a flatbread and a lamb kofta, with salad.
The Grand Café
If you have followed us for some time, then you’ll know already that we love afternoon tea experiences.
So, The Grand Café was the ideal place for a good cup of tea and warm scones.
Located along the High Street in Oxford. It is a very popular place, with queues leading outside.
The inside is very small, but well worth the treat.
The Grand Café in Oxford is open from 9am to 6:30pm Monday to Friday, offering a breakfast menu until 12pm and a lunch time menu and sandwiches.
If you fancy good afternoon tea, then get here early to guarantee a seat. You have a choice of cream tea, with 2 scones and a pot of tea or cup of coffee, tea cakes with tea or coffee, or 1 scone with tea or coffee.
The afternoon tea at The Grand start at £21.95, but you’ll get a variety of sandwiches, 2 scones with jam and clotted cream, petit fours and your choice of tea or coffee.
You can also order the Grand High Tea which includes a glass of bubbles with your tea. Prices start at £32.95.
We ordered the cream tea, which was delicious. It was one of our favourite spots to eat and can’t wait to go back and try the afternoon tea experience.
On your day trip to Oxford, we would highly recommend including this in your itinerary and treating yourself.
The Coconut Tree
About 1 mile out of Oxford city centre, is this authentic tapas style Sri Lankan restaurant.
The food is out of this world and well worth the trip across to The Coconut Tree for the best authentic food.
It’s so popular that you must book a table in advance. They do take away too, if you didn’t book, but the atmosphere in the restaurant makes it worth sitting and enjoying a meal here.
We ordered a chicken kothu and a vegetable kothu. Both was full of flavour and brought back memories of our trips to Sri Lanka.
Traditional Sri Lankan dishes included hoppers, curries, rice, kothu and desserts.
Sri Lankan food is spicy, so you must ask for mild if you don’t like spicy dishes. Our food was a little spicy for us, but that doesn’t mean to say the food wasn’t good, quite the opposite. While it might have been spicy, it was full of flavour and well balanced, we just can’t handle our spice.
Another great spot to eat on your day trip or weekend trip to Oxford.
Places to stay
If you planning to stay longer in Oxford, the city has a variety of options on accommodation, depending on your style of travel and budget.
Booking in advance is always recommended, especially during peak season.
Accommodation prices are always cheaper on a Sunday, which is ideal for budget travellers.
These are our recommendations on where to stay in Oxford.
Located on the outskirts of Oxford, offering budget friendly accommodation with basic amenities.
We stayed in Wheatley, which is about a 20-minute bus journey from Oxford city centre. Although Travelodge also have a hotel in Peartree and Witney.
Our room was a great size, with a double bed, 2 chairs and a desk. Coffee and tea making facilities available in the room and the bathroom is stocked out with towels and shower gel.
The hotel was lacking in plug sockets, with only 2-3 sockets for connecting electronic devices.
Travelodge Wheatley offers free onsite parking, which is ideal for those travelling by car.
We specifically chose Wheatley, due to its convenience, onsite parking, bus connects with Oxford and Tesco supermarket next door.
If you’re looking for a hotel, with basic amenities and on a budget, then Travelodge is the one to book for your weekend trip to Oxford.
This hotel stands out as somewhere unique to stay.
A former prison, converted into a luxury hotel. All rooms from the main wing have been converted from prison cells to hotel rooms, set to a high standard.
All rooms have the standard amenities, the bathrooms are stand out, with a shower and a roll top bath.
Least when the cell door shuts behind you, you’ll have a comfortable night’s sleep and you’ll be able to walk out the next day without a criminal record.
The carpets leave a reminder to what this hotel once was.
We can’t wait to stay here on our next trip to Oxford.
How to visit Oxford on a budget
Visiting Oxford on a budget is certainly possible, with several ways to make the most of your trip without breaking the bank.
Research how you will get to Oxford and how much it will cost.
We mentioned above that taking the train will cost about £30.00 per person, but the bus starts at £10.00 per person for a return.
While taking the bus is longer, it would be the cheapest option.
A guided tour is possibly and affordable option. With the price of the ticket for a tour, you could include additional locations such as Windsor Castle, Bath and the Cotswolds on your day trip from London.
Researching and planning your options, will help to keep you on budget.
Free things to do in Oxford
Oxford offers number of free things to do, to keep you on budget.
Take a wander around the stunning exterior of the Radcliffe Camera and Oxford University, admire the architecture, explore the Bodleian Library’s courtyard, or visit University of St Mary the Virgin Church as it’s free to enter.
Want to do something specific, like take a tour of Radcliffe Camera, or Christ Church University, then make sure you have included the entrance fees into your budget.
Food and drink
Making a picnic lunch will keep you on budget.
Shopping at the local supermarket such as Tesco’s or Aldi, for the standard staples such as bread and sandwich filling will keep costs low, as they will last for a couple of days.
Some supermarkets include meal deals, which include a sandwich or wrap, crisps and a drink for under £5.00.
We did this on our weekend trip to Oxford.
We purchased some groceries to make a lunch for the day, which allowed us to treat ourselves to afternoon tea or an evening meal.
Affordable dining options are available in Oxford, including budget friendly cafes and street food stalls.
How much does it cost to visit Oxford on a day trip
The cost of a day trip to Oxford from London will vary from person to person, depending on the individual factors, such as transportation, activities and personal preference.
This may help you to set a budget and by finding ways to save, you should be able to keep to the budget.
Our weekend trip to Oxford cost us £294.78 for 2 people. That is £147.39 per person for 2 nights in Oxford.
The breakdown of our costs is:
We stayed at the Travelodge in Wheatley. The cost was for a double room for 2 nights without breakfast.
Food and drink: £120.90
We did overindulge on food and tea. We enjoyed tea and cake at The Vault & Garden Café, cream tea at The Grand Café and snacked along the way.
But this is for 2 people for 2 days.
On food and drink on a day trip to Oxford will be about £30.00-£35.00 per person. Although if you take a picnic, you’ll save money.
It was cheaper to pay for a single ticket, than a return. It costs £2.00 per person for a single to Oxford.
Cost of petrol isn’t included in this budget.
There aren’t many places in Oxford that’s free.
Entry to Oxford Castle and Prison was the most expensive, while other locations attractions range from £5.00 entry to £30+ per person for entry.
Please consider, we are a travel couple, so the costs are for 2 people. If you’re travelling solo to Oxford on a day trip or as a family, divide the sum by 2, to get the amount per person and then multiply the sum by the number of people travelling.
By utilising the tips, we mention above and making the right choices, you can tailor your budget around what fits you. And there’re plenty of ways you can save money while travelling.
Day Trip to Oxford
The city of dreaming spires is the ideal day trip from London. The city is packed with things to do, step back in history, stroll through prestigious universities and admire the iconic landmarks and architecture. Sample delicious food along the way, with a range of markets, cafes and restaurants suitable for all budgets.
Getting to Oxford is made easy, with tours, public transport and road infrastructure.
If time is short, take the hop on hop off bus, to see all the must-see attractions in Oxford with ease.
Oxford is a captivating day trip destination from London that’s suited for all ages and interests. So, while you’re in the UK, don’t miss out and include a day trip to Oxford, into your UK itinerary.
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