Getting to places from London is incredibly easy, so we have made it our mission for 2017 to visit some of the UK’s best cities over our free weekends. Our first trip of the year was to a city that we have been dying to get to for a while, Oxford.
Getting to Oxford from London was pretty easy; well it should be but Alice lost our ticket collecting reference and we couldn’t remember the exact time we were going- so commenced an early morning and lots of emailing with the rail company we were travelling with. As you can tell we managed to get to Oxford with this only being the slightest hitch, it took us just over an hour to get to Oxford from Paddington station and the ride passes through lots of lovely english countryside so the journey is really quite pleasant.
We only had a few spots that were on our ‘to see list’ (most of them being universities) so all we really wanted to do was stroll around and see the small side streets that Oxford is famous for. This is something we definitely recommend if you are planning a day trip in Oxford, this way you can really get to grips on the town and see all the nooks and crannies.
Our first stop on our stroll was Christ Church, we decided not to go in straight away as the hall was closed for students (you can see the opening time on their website) but we had a wander through the grounds passing Christ Church Fields and Magdalen Bridge. Slowly making our way around the streets, reading many a blue plaque and in search for one of our top things to do the Radcliffe Camera and Bodelian Libraries.
We decided to book on to a tour of the Bodelian Libraries (mainly so that we could go up and see the Duke Humphries Library where Harry Potter was filmed- see our post on other Harry Potter locations here), but you can just enter the Divinity Hall for free without paying for the tour. So while we were waiting for our tour time slot we hoped over to the other side of the square to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, this is where classes were originally held for Oxford University and where all of their books were stored until the Duke Humphries library was built. Within this church you can pay to have a short climb to the top and get a great view of the square, libraries, universities and some of the surrounding streets.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs with inside the Duke Humphries Library (otherwise that would have had a post all to itself) but it is well worth paying for. We had a fantastic tour guide and learnt about not only the filming of Harry Potter there but also visits by Charles I and Prince Charles visiting and reading in a stall that had door especially fitted for the former so that they would not be disturbed when reading.
By the end of the tour and staying slightly longer to look around the Divinity Hall we were starting to get a little peckish. Now usually we research where we can eat through instagram and trip advisor, be we didn’t this time. We ended up in the Undercover market, as it was raining, and stumbled upon the Pieminister. Perfect for a cold and drizzly day. Serving a range of meat and veggie pies with gravy, mushy peas and mash potato. Such a traditional meal in such a cool place. Definitely need one of these in London (although there are plenty of older pie shops)!
With pie filled bellies we headed back to Christ Church to have a wonder around. Again you have to pay to enter, as you do with most of the universities, so be aware when heading to Oxford that you will have to pay to enter most places. Starting our walk round the school in the corridors and a small square, now most of the next things also appear in our Harry Potter locations post too so check that out too!
Coming in to a grander hall space we come upon the grand staircase (which is in Harry Potter and the Philosopher stone), this staircase can get very busy because it leads to the main hall so if you want a clear shot go early in the morning or wait around for a bit- you may not get it completely clear but you can try. Now the Great Hall is what the Potter series hall is though to be based on. On all of the walls of the hall are portraits of former alumni and deans with the most important being King Henry VIII, at the very head of the room. He gave a large amount of money to the college after the reformation and renamed it to Christ Church college. The hall is where students of the college eat their meals and so this is why it is best to check the times that it is open as they do close for a certain amount of time.
Coming out of the great hall you enter in to a much larger square which then leads you to Christ Church cathedral. As you can expect it was beautiful, with its fluted ceiling and amazing stain glass windows. There was actually a wedding going on in one of the side chapels as we were walking round too- so cute!
We ended our day by wondering round to other universities, or at least trying to! We managed to visit this amazing square where we believe student have halls of residence and got to have a look in their dining hall- we would love to see it in summer with all its ivy. Making our way back to the train station we were thoroughly pooped. Other places we would recommend is the Natural history museum and the Pitt rivers museum, both full of curiosities and general fun for the whole family.
We will definitely be heading back to oxford, preferably in the summer next time, to see more of this amazing city. Please leave any suggestions on what we should see next time!
Have you ever been to Oxford?