Ultimate Oxford Day Trip: The Perfect One Day in Oxford (2022)

Oxford day trip

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Oxford is many things, one being my hometown! Today I’m going to help you plan the perfect Oxford day trip from London (as well as other UK cities) with my lifetime supply of knowledge.

While I’d recommend spending longer if you can, I understand time is limited. With one day in Oxford, you can still see the best of this charming, walkable city. There are plenty of things to do, see and eat, which is why I’ve mapped them out so you don’t miss a thing.

OXFORD DAY TRIP ESSENTIALS

Oxford & Cotswolds Pocket Lonely Planet guidebook

Accommodation: Booking.com

Activities: GetYourGuide

Must read: my UK budget travel guide

Getting there: Train
(Trainline) / Busbud

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day trip Oxford

For more UK day trips, check out:

10 Cotswolds day trips from London
A perfect Brighton day trip
How to visit Bath as a day trip
The ultimate London to Margate day trip
How to spend 1 day in Liverpool

Stops during this Oxford one day trip:

Click for interactive version

Day trip to Oxford from London – how to get there

There are many of advantages of spending one day in Oxford, for example that you don’t have to pay for accommodation. There’s a train and coach station within a 10-minute walk of the city centre. A one day trip to Oxford from London is the easiest option because of the transport connections between the two cities.

Getting to Oxford by train: You can catch a train from many UK cities directly into Oxford. For an Oxford day trip from London, services run as often as every 30 minutes, going directly into Paddington.

Book a ticket on the Trainline for as little as £5 per way. Alternatively, you can book an open return if you’re not sure what time you’ll be returning. It’s almost always cheaper to book a ticket in advance so I’d suggest doing this if possible.

Browse trains from London Paddington to Oxford.

Radcliffe Square Oxford day trip
Welcome to Oxford

The Oxford Tube: If you’re taking a one day trip from London to Oxford, you’re particularly well connected by the Oxford Tube. This coach runs up to every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Catch it from Victoria, Marble Arch, Notting Hill Gate or Shepherd’s Bush in London.

On the way back, board from Gloucester Green bus station or Oxford High Street. A return ticket is £15 (or £13 if you’re under 27) and valid for three months.

Local tip – when arriving into Gloucester Green, don’t miss the fantastic Gloucester Green Market just a few minutes away. There’s food from around the world, shopping and great coffee.

Getting to Oxford by bus: The National Express, Megabus and Flixbus coaches are cheaper than the train although take a bit longer. Compare prices and book tickets to Oxford with Busbud.

Staying over in Oxford?

If you decide to stay over in Oxford, there are plenty of options. The city centre is optimal but if you’re on a budget, stay a twenty-minute walk away near the quirky Cowley Road or pretty St Clements Street. This is one of my favourite neighbourhoods of Oxford with lots of amazing Cowley Road restaurants, bars and live music venues.

Hotel: For a lovely hotel just a moment’s walk from all the attractions, I would recommend George Street Hotel. Check availability from £97pn.

Browse Oxford hotels here.

Oxford in one day

There are loads of amazing places to see, although you won’t have time for absolutely everything during one day in Oxford. Having spent many years living here, I’ve whittled down the top attractions that can’t be missed.

Follow this Oxford day trip itinerary:

10am – arrive for coffee

Coffee is life, after all. There are plenty of cute cafes in Oxford serving expertly blended coffee from around the globe. After an early start, you’re probably in need of a boost before you start sightseeing.

Check out my Oxford cafe guide and my Oxford brunch guides!

Coffee Missing Bean Oxford
How to begin a day trip to Oxford!

I would recommend the Missing Bean, a cosy cafe on Turl Street always wafting out the smell of freshly-brewed coffee. This Oxford institution is always busy but don’t worry if you can’t get a table; the best seat in the house is along the window bar. Here you can watch Oxfordians wander and cycle by as you get a real feel for the city.

11am – self-guided walking tour

From Oxford city centre, you’ll be moments away from most of the key buildings and monuments. Follow this Oxford one day itinerary to see the best bits.

Radcliffe Camera & Radcliffe Square: Dating back to 1737, the ‘Rad Cam’ belongs to Oxford University (like most things in Oxford) and students go inside to study and borrow books. The interior is stunning so it’s a shame tourists can’t go inside, but you can snap photos from the outside.

Radcliffe Camera Oxford day trip
Rad Cam from University Church tower

To see these sights with an Oxford alumni, take this city and University tour.

University Church of St Mary the Virgin: A must for your Oxford day trip, this church offers unbeatable panoramic views from the tower. From one side you can look down over the Rad Cam and from the other, the colourful houses of the High Street. It’s £5 to climb to the top; well worth it for photographers.

Have longer in Oxford? Read next: how to spend a weekend in Oxford

The Divinity School: Just off Radcliffe Square, you’ll find one of my favourite buildings in Oxford. It’s the oldest surviving structure built specifically for Oxford University, dating back to 1427. The gorgeous ceiling is a great addition to an Oxford day trip, especially since it was used in Harry Potter filming.

Sheldonian Theatre: Used for Oxford Uni events, this impressive building is worth passing by for the famous ‘Sheldonian Heads’ on the outside with different, characterful expressions.

Bridge of Sighs: This beautifully bizarre bridge links up two parts Hertford College. Wikipedia describes it as a skywalk which sounds extremely glamourous and futuristic: it’s not. Over 100 years old, it’s another place only staff and students can go inside. Visit New College Lane to wander underneath it.

bridge of sighs Oxford day trip
Bridge of Sighs

Local tip – take the tiny alleyway off New College Lane and you’ll come out in the garden of the Turf Tavern, a creaky old British pub where Bill Clinton allegedly smoked a spliff.

Related read: best Oxford pubs with gardens

Oxford day trip itinerary – lunch

Covered Market lunch Oxford
The Covered Market

My favourite market in Oxford is by far the Covered Market. This quirky collection of shops and cafes is a great place to browse, support local businesses and most importantly, eat lunch during your Oxford day trip.

Don’t miss Sasi’s Thai, an authentic Thai cafe with daily changing dishes including pad Thai and red squid curry. You can eat lunch for £5 which is a bargain for Oxford. There are also plenty of cafes serving sandwiches and salads if you fancy something lighter.

Read next: What to eat & buy at Oxford Covered Market

Ben's Cookies Covered Market Oxford
Don’t miss Ben’s Cookies

Make sure to leave space for dessert because the flagship store of Ben’s Cookies is inside Oxford Covered Market. I dream about the dark chocolate and ginger cookies, freshly-baked and oozing warm chocolate. If you don’t have space after lunch, you can purchase a box to take home… I promise they’re not paying me to say this!

More comfortable to stay outdoors? Here’s where to eat outside in Oxford this summer!

Day trip to Oxford from London – afternoon

To explore historic Oxford or just seek out Harry Potter spots during your Oxford day trip itinerary, there are plenty of options. You won’t have time for everything with one day in Oxford so this is what I would suggest:

2pm – Visit a college

There are no less than 45 Oxford colleges so you have plenty of choice. They vary in size so why not pop into a couple of the best ones?

A must for Harry Potter fans spending one day in Oxford is Christ Church College. Here you can venture inside the Dining Hall which is thought to have inspired the movie location of Hogwart’s Great Hall. Better yet, you can wander the exact staircase that young Harry stood on while speaking to Professor McGonagall in the first film.

Read next: A self-guided tour of the Harry Potter Oxford locations

Christ Church College one day in Oxford
Christ Church stairway

My only reservation about visiting Christ Church College during your one day Oxford itinerary? The entrance fee has tripled in recent years, probably because of the popularity of the Harry Potter movies. Nowadays it’s £15 to go inside.

As an Oxford local, I can tell you about a few equally pretty but much cheaper colleges to explore while seeing Oxford in 1 day. These include:

Balliol College: The gardens at Balliol are so beautiful with purple wisteria climbing over golden stone. This college has been around since the 12th century when it was a little fortress of protection because locals tried to kill the students. Balliol and Merton today quibble over who is oldest. Entrance is only £3.

Magdalen College: This Oxford college can be found towards the end of High Street, far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Inside you’ll find enormous grounds, herds of deer, and flowers growing out of red English phone boxes. Entrance is £6.

Read next: a complete visitor’s guide to the Oxford colleges

3pm – Go punting

Punting Oxford day trip
Punting during one day in Oxford

Well, you can’t come take a day trip from London to Oxford and not go punting!

Well, actually you can. It would be pretty miserable in bad weather. However if you’re visiting between May and September and the sun’s shining, there’s no better way activity for a one day Oxford itinerary than falling out (of the boat) with your loved ones, quibbling about who’s the worst at punting.

You can also hire a guide, usually local students, to punt while you sit back and picnic or drink or an entire bottle of wine. I’m not judging!

To add punting to your Oxford one day trip, factor in £20 per hour which can be split between up to six people. For a chaffered ride with a pro punter, it’s £30 per 30 minutes. Visit Magdalen Bridge Boathouse website for more details.

Rainy day option – The Pitt Rivers Museum

For some culture during your day trip to Oxford, explore one of the city’s museums. My favourite is the Pitt Rivers Museum, a 15-minute walk from central Oxford along Parks Road.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History can be found within the same building. Entrance is free and you can visit from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 4.30pm.

View more than half a million items, including the world’s only tissue remains of a dodo. A fun fact is that the real Alice in Wonderland used to come here with her godfather, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pen name, Lewis Caroll). Maybe some of the things they saw inspired his famous stories!

Alternative museum – The Ashmolean

Another of my favourite museums in Oxford is the Ashmolean. Rather than natural history, here you can explore art and archaeology including a particularly interesting Egyptian mummy exhibit. The Ashmolean is Oxford’s oldest museum opened in 1683 but today, it’s anything but stuffy, using modern technology to tell stories about days gone by.

Another reason to visit the Ashmolean? Cocktails on the roof! What better way to finish your Oxford 1 day itinerary? I love The Ashmolean Cafe which is a light and bright spot on top of the museum, serving world cuisine.

Menu highlights include chilli, garlic and lime calamari, portobello mushroom burgers, and sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Ashmolean rooftop restaurant
The best place for afternoon tea

If you’re visiting the Ashmolean at the end of your day trip to Oxford, it would make a lovely dinner spot before heading home. If you’re there mid-afternoon, they serve afternoon tea for two for £29 including sandwiches, cakes, macaroons and tea. Add £6 each for Prosecco. So worth it!

Relax in University Parks

University Parks one day in Oxford

If you find yourself with spare time during your Oxford day trip and have good weather, one of my personal favourite places in Oxford is University Parks. There are several entrances but I usually enter via Parks Road.

This huge oasis of greenery is totally hidden away and many day visitors don’t even know its there. Inside, you’ll find a cricket ground, swimming area, duck pond and an exotic garden. Sitting by the river with an iced coffee makes for the perfect summer’s day.

Related read: Best walks near Oxford

Walk through Jericho

Jericho Oxford

Although there isn’t a whole load to ‘do’ in Jericho, this pretty area of North Oxford is one of my favourites. If you have time, take a walk from Little Clarendon Street to Walton Street.

There are boutique shops, cosy cafes (don’t miss Barefoot!), stylish bars like Raoul’s, lots of excellent restaurants and the beloved Phoenix Picturehouse, an arthouse cinema with 100 years of history. Jericho is a 10-minute walk from the largest green space in Oxford, Port Meadow.

Use my Jericho Oxford area guide to get the best out of the neighbourhood!

Oxford day trip – dinner

White Rabbit pizza Oxford day trip
White Rabbit pizza, Oxford

With just 1 day in Oxford, you’ll be out of time after punting, visiting a college and a museum after lunch. But if you have time for dinner, there are so many spots I’d recommend.

The White Rabbit serve tasty wood-fired pizza and fantastic local beers inside a cosy British pub.

Zheng is a really fantastic Chinese and Malay restaurant in Jericho, even rated by Times food critic Giles Coren as the best in the country (and prices aren’t even too steep). Since it’s near Oxford Train Station, it’s the perfect end to your day trip to Oxford.

Read next: Complete Oxford food guide – 20 best restaurants

Banana Tree – head here for affordable Asian food. The laksa noodle soup is almost as good as the real deal in Singapore hawker markets. The rendang curry is so tasty too, as are the cocktails and Vietnamese coffees.

Costs for visiting Oxford in one day from London

You might be wondering how much one day in Oxford will cost you.

The pay-for attractions in this guide include St Mary’s Church (£5) and any Oxford Colleges you visit (prices included above). The museums are free but you might want to splash out £20 per hour for punting.

Then there’s any food and drink you choose to consume, as well as your train or bus ticket from London (or elsewhere).

Read next: 32 free things to do in Oxford

Getting around Oxford

It’s easy to see Oxford on foot and not pay a penny for transport, something that helps keep the costs down. The furthest you’ll need to walk is 15 minutes to Pitt Rivers Museum. The Train Station is less than 10 minutes from the city centre.

Pretty street Oxford 1 day itinerary

Best season for a day trip to Oxford

Well, that really depends on what the British weather feels like doing. Summer in Oxford can occasionally be hot and I’d also vouch for spring as a lovely time to visit Oxford in one day.

Winter in Oxford can be cold but nothing a warm coat and scarf can’t deal with. England doesn’t have huge temperature extremes compared to countries like Canada so you can visit year-round, although prepare for it to be busy with coach parties in the summer months, especially at weekends.

Visiting the UK? 

Guidebooks – LP always get my seal of approval. Use the latest copy of Lonely Planet England.

Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.

Car hire – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in the UK (and all around the world).

Confused about visas? I use iVisa to check visa requirements and apply for visas online.

For UK trains, I use Trainline. The search feature allows you to compare prices, and they show live departure times on the website.

For buses, I use Busbud. It’s the only site that compares UK coaches and buses. Find London to Manchester journeys for £1! 

For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.

To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.

I use GetYourGuide for tours & activities when I don’t want to travel solo. The guides are knowledgeable and you can’t beat the prices. I also check Viator as they often have fun and unique offerings.

Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!

Thanks for reading my Oxford day trip itinerary!

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Check out my (many) Oxford blogs:

See you next time,

Rose

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