Last month I spent the grand total of 48 hours in Oxford. Actually, it was a lot more like 36 hours once you took out my train journey time to and from London, but close enough.
For this quick weekend trip, I was a terrible travel blogger. I had hardly done any research at all. Well, I had a list of sights I knew I wanted to see, but I hadn’t printed out all my usual maps and charts, so I was practically winging it for the entire time I was there. Surprisingly, it went a lot smoother than expected, and I managed to see most – if not all – of the sights on my list. Hurrah, big success!
This is a retrospective itinerary for our weekend, summing up exactly what we did and in what order. (Although I may have left out a few of the tea stops we had along the way. It was raining, I was cold and miserable, etc etc.)
How to spend 48 hours in Oxford
Morning: If you’re travelling to Oxford by train, I would actually recommend turning up late morning/early afternoon for a few reasons. First, there’s no need to get up too early when everything can comfortably be seen in one afternoon and a morning. And secondly, I always find it much better to be able to drop off my luggage in my room, and have a little sit-down. Yep, I realise I sound about 80 years old, but you’ll need that energy later on, trust me.
I would definitely recommend staying in one of the Oxford colleges for the authentic city experience. The rooms are clean and full of character, plus they’re pretty cheap for one night too. My friend and I stayed at the beautiful Christ Church college which was affordable AND included breakfast – click here for a full review!
Afternoon: One reason why I sing the praises of staying at Christ Church college is because it’s so centrally located. For instance, right opposite is the Alice in Wonderland shop. While tiny in size, it has everything you could possibly think of for gifts, household decorations and cards. A five-minute walk brings you to the city centre, where you can start the afternoon off by heading up Carfax Tower (£2.20 per person). Or if shopping’s more your thing, you’ve got an abundance of shops nearby, including the iconic Covered Market. Here you’ll find more independent shops – plus, as the name suggests, it’s all covered, so it’s a great place to head to if it’s raining!
A short walk down the main road from the Covered Market and a left turn into Catte Street, and you’ll find the heart of the city’s university buildings. The Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs and the Bodleian Library are all compacted into one small square. Perfect for photo opportunities! If you want a tour of the Bodleian library on the weekdays, you can book your tickets in advance. However, if you’re there at the weekend, you’ll need to queue up in the morning (as soon as the ticket office opens!) to get on one of the tours. For this reason, I would advise leaving the tour under Sunday – the ticket office opens a little later at 11am too, so you can have a bit of a lie-in.
Once you’ve taken a few snaps, head back down Catte Street to the main road. Continue along that road for around 10 minutes, and you’ll get to Magdalen College. The entrance fee is minimal, but the grounds around a deer park and along the River Cherwell are extensive. Alternatively, if you’ve had enough of colleges, around here you’ll be able to go punting, or take a tour around the The Botanic Garden.
Evening: By now you’re probably in need of a tasty meal. Luckily, there are so many options you’ll be completely spoilt for choice. When I was in Oxford I made my first visit to Jamie’s Kitchen and it was the best decision ever. One delicious plate of gnocchi and a chocolate dessert later, I was fit to burst.
And by this point, if you’re still not ready for bed, take in a nightcap at The Varsity Club rooftop bar, with views out all over the city.
Morning: If you’re staying at Christ Church College, your first port-of-call will be the epic dining room for a hot breakfast. Once you’re ready, make sure to get to the Bodleian Library around 10-15 minutes before it opens at 11am. Queues start to form incredibly early, and the closer you are to the front, the more chance you have of nabbing a ticket for an early tour. There’s a choice of 30 or 60-minute guided tour available, or there’s even an extended one if you have the time. Just make sure to leave some time for the gift shop!
There are so many reasons why I’d recommend a trip to the Bodleian Library. Firstly, it’s brimming over with so much history and architecture, you can’t fail to be mesmerised by every corner of it. And secondly, it also featured in a film called…Harry Potter or something?
Afternoon: Once you’ve completed the tour of the Bodleian Library, you’re free to do whatever you fancy. A five-minute walk away is the Pitt Rivers Museum, for instance. My personal recommendation, however, would definitely be a tea and cake stop at The Grand Cafe. It would be rude not to, after all…
So there we go, that’s my 48 hours in Oxford. Of course, there are a whole other range of itineraries to suit your needs. Mrs Ayla’s Adventures’ write-up of a day in Oxford is particularly comprehensive. And then you’ve also got Char’s Seven Pearls of Wisdom over at Taylor Hearts Travel.