The Radcliffe Camera - one of the top landmarks to visit in Oxford in a day.

What To Do In Oxford In A Day: Best Places To Visit And More

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Read on for the best places to visit and things to do in Oxford!

Oxford is in my opinion one of the top cities in the UK outside of London, and it is an ideal city to take a day trip to.

I’ve visited Oxford on several occasions and I’m always amazed by how classy, beautiful and historical it is – and at how many places you can visit in just 24 hours or less.

In this blog post I’ve put together a list detailing all the top places to see in this fabulous city if you’re short on time.

I’ve also included the best walking tours and places to stay to make sure you get the most out of your visit to one of the UK’s most top rated cities.

In a rush? Here are my Top Tour Recommendations for Oxford:

90 Minute Classic Walking Tour of Oxford
Harry Potter Walking Tour of Oxford
Oxford University Walking Tour With University Alumni Guide

🏨 My Hotel Recommendations for Oxford:

Central Backpackers
Tower House Guest House
The Randolph Hotel

What To Do In Oxford In A Day?

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what are some of the best places to visit and things to do in Oxford if you’re visiting on a day trip, in no particular order:

Radcliffe Camera & Bodleian Library

One of the most iconic landmarks in any UK city is the Radcliffe Camera building, known as the ‘Rad Cam‘ to locals. It is based very centrally in the city and features stunning architecture that dates back a few hundred years.

This should most definitely be your first stop in Oxford as it’s the perfect photo opportunity – I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed when I first saw this building and it is in my opinion an unmissable sight.

The unmissable Radcliffe Camera in the heart of Oxford.
The unmissable Radcliffe Camera in the heart of Oxford.

The building is a part of the world renowned Bodleian Library which I also highly recommend visiting too.

The only way for members of the public to see the interior of the Radcliffe Camera building is via a guided tour run by the Bodleian Library, which includes tours of the most iconic historical libraries in Oxford.

University of Oxford

The city of Oxford is home to one of the most famous and best recognised Universities in the world, and it’s well worth seeing as many of the colleges and University grounds as possible.

You can perhaps surprisingly visit quite a few of the colleges that make up the University for free (or pay a small fee), such as Lincoln College and Worcester College.

However, I would recommend a city walking tour (see below) that includes visits to some colleges and the University grounds, to really get the most out of your visit and to learn more about the University’s history via a professional guide.

University grounds in the centre of Oxford.
University grounds in the centre of Oxford.

Magdalen College

One of the most famous colleges in Oxford that should be at the top of your list when in the city is Magdalen College.

Situated next to the River Cherwell (just a short 10 minute walk from the city centre), the college is one of the oldest and largest colleges in all of Oxford and is also considered the prettiest, which I definitely agree with.

At the college you can visit the Cloisters which is the central part of the college, admire the beautiful architecture of its courtyard and take a stroll around its extensive grounds, which includes a deer park.

Oxford Botanic Garden

Very close by from Magdalen College is Oxford Botanic Garden, which is the UK’s oldest botanical garden and a lovely place to visit.

It’s recommended to give yourself at least an hour here to fully appreciate the fauna and flora on show.

It may not be the biggest botanical garden you’ll ever visit, but it’s a cheap and peaceful place and the ideal oasis from the busy city life.

Christ Church

Another iconic college at Oxford that is a definite must visit is Christ Church. Full of historical importance, it has inspired creatives throughout the years and is also the only college in the world that is actually also a cathedral.

Located in the heart of the city, the college organises several different guided tours, including the following:

  • Highlights Guided Tour – A short 30 minute tour of either the college or the cathedral and focusing on the main highlights of either.
  • Guided Tours of the College & Cathedral – 60 minutes that includes visits to the Hall Stairs, the Great Hall, Tom Quad, Cathedral and Cloister.
  • Special interest guided Cathedral Tours – this tour focuses only on the history of the Cathedral and lasts for 60 minutes.
  • Cathedral Stained Glass Guided Tour – focusing on the history and artwork of the amazing stained glass windows of the Cathedral, lasting 60 minutes.
  • Private guided tours – if you don’t want a group tour then you can book a private tour instead.

Another option is to take a self guided tour where you can explore both the college and the cathedral at your own leisure.

I much prefer self guided tours as you can discover a place on your own and at your own pace too, without feeling rushed which can sometimes happen on guided tours.

It is advised to book tickets to the guided tours in advance online.

Oxford Castle & Prison

Apart from all the historical colleges in Oxford, the city also features a fascinating castle and prison which is well worth visiting.

The castle and prison date back over a thousand years and offers a unique perspective on Oxford that you may otherwise not be aware of.

It is a large, partly ruined medieval castle that’s just a short walk from the city centre. It is possible to visit the castle grounds for free and there are tours inside the castle with costumed guides that last an hour.

Ashmolean Museum

Oxford is full of really interesting museums but if you have only one day in the city, then I would definitely recommend choosing to see what Ashmolean museum has to offer.

This is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology and features everything from famous artefacts (the Alfred Jewel is the museum’s most spectacular item), Egyptian mummies, collections of contemporary art and more.

It’s recommended to spend at least 90 minutes to make your way through the entire collections on show at the museum, and you could easily spend more time here with so many fascinating items on show.

Map of Oxford

Check out this interactive map of Oxford that includes all of the tourist locations mentioned above and more:

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    Best Oxford Walking Tours

    One of the best things to do in Oxford or any city for that matter if you only have one day, is to go on a walking tour.

    This is a great way to learn all about the history and interesting facts about a city from a professional guide and one of my favourite ways to discover a new city. Let’s look at 3 of the best Oxford tours and what they have to offer:

    90 Minute Classic Walking Tour of Oxford

    Rating: 5/5 (101 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 90 minutes | ✅ Book it here!

    On this 90 minute walking tour of Oxford you’ll get to see some of the the city’s most famous sights and colleges, such as the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, Christ Church.

    The tour takes you to several places overall which also includes:

    • Carfax Tower – this is one of Oxford’s most noticeable landmarks, a 23 metre high bell tower which you can climb to the top to see panoramic views of the city.
    • Queen’s College – known to be the most haunted place in the city!
    • Bridge of Sighs – this is the famous bridge of Oxford which dates back to 1913.
    • Sheldonian Theatre – another iconic piece of architecture that was built in 1669.

    Check out Linda’s top rated review of this walking tour of Oxford:
    “This was a fantastic experience getting to know about the history of Oxford. The tour guide was not only very knowledgeable which made it a very pleasant walk. Would definitely recommend.”

    ➡️ Book a ticket for 90 Minute Classic Walking Tour of Oxford here

    Harry Potter Walking Tour of Oxford

    Rating: 4.5/5 (360 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 1 hr 30 mins | ✅ Book it here!

    Oxford has been a popular filming location for a lot of famous films over the years, and none more famous than the Harry Potter films.

    Going on this Harry Potter walking tour of Oxford is the best option for any Potter fanatics either young or old.

    You’ll get to see several of the most well known Harry Potter movie locations such as the Bodleian Library (that was used as the Hogwarts’ Infirmary) and take part in a Harry Potter quiz!

    Check out Bonnie’s top review of this Harry Potter walking tour:
    “Guide was delightful, entertaining and informative—not just about Harry Potter but about Oxford University, it’s history, customs, traditions and architecture.”

    ➡️ Book a ticket for the Harry Potter Walking Tour of Oxford here

    Oxford University Walking Tour With University Alumni Guide

    Rating: 5 stars (5,218 reviews) | ⌚ Duration: 2 hours | ✅ Book it here!

    This is is one of the most popular and unique tours you can take in Oxford as it is led by an actual University student. You can learn what life is really like as a student in one of the most famous Universities in the world.

    As well as seeing all of the major Oxford landmarks on this tour, you’ll also get to visit a total of 5 colleges, including:

    • Merton College – one of the oldest colleges in the city which features a strange chapel that you will learn all about.
    • All Souls College – discover why this is one of the most prestigious colleges in the world.
    • Hertford College – Known to be one of the most beautiful colleges in Oxford and a photographer’s dream!
    • Oriel College – this college features one of the most talked about statues in the whole city – find out why!
    • Exeter College – another stunningly beautiful college that’s also full of history.

    Being able to explore several colleges while being guided by a University student is exceptional value for money. It is a perfect way to discover the city over a couple of hours, and is a tour that I highly recommend.

    A typical college dining hall you can expect to see on this tour.
    A typical college dining hall you can expect to see on this tour.

    Check out Parmjit’s top rated review of this walking tour:
    Tom our tour guide was first class. He was knowledgeable, friendly and approachable. He had time for everyone & made everyone very welcome & comfortable. I highly recommend this tour.

    ➡️ Book a ticket for Oxford University Walking Tour With University Alumni Guide here

    Best Places To Stay In Oxford

    There are a lot of options when it comes to accommodation in Oxford if you do plan on staying for more than just one day. So let’s have a look at 3 top accommodation places at 3 different price ranges:

    Budget Recommendation: Central Backpackers

    If you have a tight budget when in Oxford and are in need of a cheap place to stay then Central Backpackers is the best option for you.

    This is a top rated hostel which is just a 5 minute walk from the train station and the city centre, featuring mixed and female only dorm rooms.

    Check out Chris’ top rated review of Central Backpackers:
    “The staff were super friendly and helpful. The place was clean and welcoming. It was close to the centre of Oxford, an easy walk. Met some interesting people and it was super cheap, with decent facilities.”

    ➡️ Book a room at Central Backpackers here

    Mid-Range Recommendation: Tower House Guest House

    For a really special stay while in Oxford at a good price then I highly recommend Tower House Guest House.

    This guest house is located right in the city centre, but tucked away on a quiet and traditional street. What makes it so special is that it the building dates all the way back to the 17th Century.

    Staying in such a historical building on a traditional street is a unique and memorable experience.

    Check out Tony’s top rated review of Tower House Guest House:
    “The location was perfect and the facilities were exactly what we were looking for. Would happily stay here again in the future, we are looking forward to it.”

    ➡️ Book a room at Tower House Guest House here

    Luxury Recommendation: The Randolph Hotel

    If you’re after a luxurious stay in Oxford then you simply have to choose The Randolph Hotel.

    This is a stunning 5 star hotel located directly opposite the Ashmolean Museum in the heart of the city.

    The interior décor of the hotel is simply gorgeous and it offers a world class service, including 2 restaurants, a bar and a spa and wellness centre.

    Check out Alkistis’ top rated review of The Randolph Hotel:
    “Fantastic location, décor and service. The rooms are equipped with towels, dressing gowns and coffee machines. The breakfast buffet was lovely with fresh juices, pastries and English breakfast choices.”

    ➡️ Book a room at The Randolph Hotel here

    Oxford FAQs

    Still not sure about visiting Oxford in one day? Let’s answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this topic:

    Is Oxford an expensive place to visit?

    Yes, Oxford is regarded as a rather expensive place to visit (though not quite as expensive as London) as you do have to pay if you want to see and experience all that it has to offer.

    That’s why in my opinion a one day trip to the city is a really good option; you can see a lot of the famous sites without having to pay for accommodation. And if you go on a walking tour then it really isn’t too costly at all.

    A typical street scene in Oxford.
    A typical street scene in Oxford.

    When is the best time to visit Oxford?

    The summer months are undoubtedly the best time to visit Oxford in terms of weather conditions; expect plenty of sun and good temperatures.

    Oxford in the summertime.
    Oxford in the summertime.

    However, this is also the most popular time to visit the city with tourists and it can get rather overcrowded. I have visited Oxford during the summer on a glorious sunny day, but there were far too many tourists for my liking.

    👉 Pro Tip: Visit Oxford during the spring or autumn months – the weather may not be as exceptional as during the summer.

    But it’s likely to be quieter and slightly cheaper for accommodation during these off peak seasons.

    What is the best way to get to Oxford?

    Oxford is easily reachable from whichever direction you’re heading there to in the UK. Let’s look at the best transportation options when travelling to the city:

    🚆 Train – the best option

    If you’re planning a one day trip here from London or anywhere else in the UK for that matter, then I would recommend catching a train which takes between 1-2 hours.

    👉 Pro Tip: If you’re planning a train trip to Oxford, then book your tickets early in advance – ticket prices will be cheaper the further you book ahead of time.

    🚌 Bus – the cheapest option

    The cheapest option is to travel to Oxford is by bus, which takes roughly the same time to reach as by train from London. From the capital, you can catch direct buses from Marble Arch every day, departing every 30 minutes.

    🚘 Car

    There are plenty of very good road and motorway links that lead to Oxford and getting there by car is always a good choice.

    However, if planning on reaching Oxford from London then I wouldn’t recommend driving – travelling out of the capital by car is notoriously bad for traffic jams and it will take longer than getting there by train.

    ✈️ Nearby Airports

    If you’re flying to the UK to visit Oxford especially, then the closest airport is Luton Airport (LTN) which is less than 40 miles away.

    London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is almost the same distance as Luton, and Birmingham Airport (BHX) is just over 50 miles away from Oxford.

    Conclusion: What To Do In Oxford In A Day

    So that concludes everything you need to know about what to do in Oxford in just one day. Oxford is such a beautiful, unique place with so much history and it is definitely possible to see the major sites here in 24 hours or less.

    With so many famous colleges, historical landmarks, museums, cathedrals and castles, I highly recommend taking advantage of one of the many top quality walking tours to really make the most of your time in Oxford.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this post and are now sufficiently clued up on what to do during your next visit to one of the UK’s best cities.

    ➡️ Planning your trip? Here are my favourite resources:

    🏨 Accommodation: I recommend using
    🚙 Rental Car: Use Discover Cars for the best car rental prices
    ❤️ Travel Insurance: I recommend using Visitors Coverage
    ✈️ Flights: Use for the best prices on flights