7 Oxford Walking Tours

This post provides details of the best walking tours available in Oxford, including free, self-guided options, as well as Harry Potter Tours.

 

 


OXFORD CITY TOURS

In this section, we will go over all of the walking tours that cover general information about the city of Oxford and its historic landmarks, including both free and paid options.


Oxford University & City Walking Tour

Footprints Tours offers 2 tours, a small-group tour for £16.99/person as well as a pay-what-you-wish tour.

This 2-hour guided tour from Footprints covers a variety of different locations in the city, including Oxford University, the Bodleian Library, Trinity College, the Radcliffe Camera, and even a Harry Potter filming site.

 

 

The cost of the tour includes entrance fees and taxes, so you won’t have to worry about paying anything extra for admission to certain locations.

With a 4 ½ out of 5 star rating (read reviews here), many guests have reported that this was an enjoyable and informative tour.


The “Free” Version

This 2-hour outing covers a variety of important landmarks such as the Bodleian Library and Christ Church, as well as notable Harry Potter filming locations.

While on this tour, you’ll see where figures such as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis once walked.

  • Ticket Price: pay-what-you-wish at the end
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Availability: Mon-Fri at 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 14:00 (2 pm)
  • Weekend Availability: 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 14:00 (2 pm), 15:30 (3:30 pm)

Most people feel their free tours are very high quality, praising their tour guides for providing an interesting look at Oxford.

 


Oxford Highlights & University Walking Tour

If you’re looking for a shorter alternative, this 1 ½ hour walking tour covers many of the same locations and subjects as other services, and it’s a bit less expensive as well.

Much like the other Oxford walking tours, admission to colleges and libraries are included for free.

In addition to visiting historic landmarks, you’ll also see filming locations from both the Harry Potter movies and the TV series Brideshead Revisited.

  • £12.95/Adults | £11.95/Students & Seniors
  • Duration: 1 ½ hours
  • Availability: Daily at 12:00 pm, 14:00 (2 pm), and 16:00 (4 pm)
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Much like their competition, Oxford Walking Tours also has a 4 ½ out of 5-star rating (read reviews here).

Most guests found their guide to be informative and knowledgeable, but some reviewers feel they could have been more thorough.


Self-Guided Oxford Tour

Visitors who want to explore the city at their own pace may want to consider taking a self-guided Oxford tour instead.

Below, we offer a guide which has 23 different stops to see and plenty of useful information about each notable location.

 


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HARRY POTTER OXFORD TOURS

There were a lot of Harry Potter scenes shot in and around Oxford, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that some companies offer entire walking tours covering these filming locations.

 

 

This section will provide details about the best Harry Potter walking tours available in Oxford, how much they cost and what you can expect to see.

You also have a free, self-guided tour option.

And do note that we also offer both a pay-what-you-want guided walking tour and a free self-guided tour covering Harry Potter filming locations in London.


Oxford Harry Potter Film Locations Tour

Over the course of 1 ½ – 2 hours, you’ll join a professional guide for a walk around Oxford to see Harry Potter filming locations.

In addition to the tour itself, you’ll also enjoy admission to at least 2 of the sites where these movies were filmed.

You’ll also receive a detailed map of all the major attractions in the area, making it easy to see everything that isn’t covered on this tour as well.

Visit Oxford Tours has an overall rating of 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here). Most guests report that their tour guide provides a lot of interesting information about both Harry Potter and the history of Oxford in general.

 


Harry Potter & Alice in Wonderland Tour

In addition to visiting Harry Potter filming locations, this tour also covers the history behind Alice in Wonderland.

Due to its subject matter, this tour includes admission to Christ Church, the Divinity School, and the Bodleian Library.

Guests will also receive a map of Oxford detailing all of the most notable sites and attractions in the area.

Despite the fact that this is one of the more expensive Harry Potter tours in Oxford, it currently has a rating of 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

Guests report that the tour guides from Visit Oxford Tours are knowledgeable and their outing can sometimes be even longer than advertised!

 


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OXFORD TOURS FROM LONDON

In addition to all the walking tours you can take in Oxford, there are also day trips from London which include a tour of the area.

This section will provide information about Oxford day trips with tours, as well as other methods for visiting Oxford from London.


Full-Day Oxford Tour From London

Offered by Sandemans, this service includes train tickets to and from Oxford as well as a tour of the city which will reveal all of the major sites.

While taking the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see sites such as Trinity College, Christ Church College, Radcliffe Square and more.

Your tour guide will also cover subjects such as the great minds that got their start at Oxford University and the pub once frequented by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

This tour will depart from Paddington Station on Platform 1.

  • £40/Adults | £37/Students | £27/Children
  • Duration: 1 day [9:15 am – 17:15 (5:15 pm)]
  • Availability: Tue, Fri & Sat at 9:15 am
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

This service currently has a rating of 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here), and most guests indicate this is a great deal considering everything included.

Many customers suggest that their tour guide is informative and fun to be around, providing a lot of interesting information about Oxford.


Harry Potter Studio Tour & Oxford Day Trip

If you’re specifically interested in visiting Oxford to see some of the Harry Potter filming locations, this day trip is definitely worth considering.

In addition to a trip to the Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, this outing also includes an excursion to Oxford with a full guided tour of the city.

 

 

Travel by executive coach is included with this day trip. The outing departs outside of either Gloucester Road tube station or Great Portland Street tube station.

This is an excellent outing for any fan of the wizarding world, as it includes several notable sites from the films and tales from behind-the-scenes!

  • £105/Adults | £95/Children
  • Duration: 1 day [7:30 am – 19:30 (7:30 pm)]
  • Availability: Sat-Wed at 7:30 am
  • Tickets sell out fast – buy them well ahead of time
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

This day trip from International Friends has an overall score of 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

Guests report that they had plenty of time to explore the studio and learned a lot of enlightening information about Oxford.


The Most Affordable Oxford Day Trip

Trying to save some money? You can always just purchase train tickets to Oxford and explore the area at your own pace using our self-guided tour.

Alternatively, you can also take the pay-what-you-wish guided tour from Footprints!

Regardless of which option you choose, all you really have to pay for is transportation to and from the city.

You should expect it to take about 1 ½ hours to reach Oxford from London, and set aside the same amount of time to get back.

The easiest way to get here is to take either a coach or a train. Both options range from £5-£15 for a ticket there and back.

Since you’ll be saving so much money, you might want to think about purchasing tickets for some of the more popular attractions in Oxford.

For more details, make sure to read our post about how to get to Oxford from London.

 


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SELF-GUIDED OXFORD TOUR

For those who want to explore Oxford on foot and would like to tread the streets on their own, we’ve put together a self-guided tour of the city that will cover over 20 of the most significant sites in the city.

This is an interactive map. Click on it and you can scroll around.


 

TOUR START: Carfax Tower

TOUR FINISH: Oxford Castle


(A) Carfax Tower  

Oxford Carfax tower

Start your tour at the Carfax Tower, the last remaining part of the 12th century St. Martin’s Church. Standing at 74 feet (23m), no building in Oxford may be built higher than this tower.

It’s a good idea to go inside and climb up the 99 steps to the top which gives you an unparalleled view of the city you’re about to explore.

For those traveling on a budget, don’t worry, as entry is under £5.00 for both children and adults!

Walk up CORNMARKET STREET and after a few minutes, you will come to St. Michael at the North Gate on your RIGHT-HAND side.


(B) St. Michael at the North Gate

This is the oldest building in all of Oxford, dating back to the 11th century. The tower here dates from 1040 and is part of the original church, which can be visited.

Inside, the cell where the Oxford Martyrs were held is still available to see. The marriage certificate of William Morris and Jane Burden, who were married here in 1859, is also on display inside.

Continue down CORNMARKET STREET which turns into MAGDALEN STREET. Ahead on the RIGHT-HAND SIDE will be the Martyr’s Memorial.


(C) Martyrs’ Memorial 

The Memorial here is a Victorian creation, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, commemorating the Oxford Martyrs who were put to death nearby in the 16th century.

Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer were burned at the stake for their Anglican religious beliefs in 1555 and this memorial is dedicated to their memory.

Across the street from the Martyrs Memorial sits the grand entrance to the Ashmolean Museum.


(D) Ashmolean Museum 

Oxford Ashmolean Museum

The world’s first University museum, the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology was established in 1683 and has been thrilling visitors ever since.

There is much to see inside and highlights include drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, paintings by Turner, a Stradivari violin, and works by Picasso and van Dyk.

You can also see Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, the lantern Guy Fawkes carried during the Gunpowder Plot, and works of art and architecture dating back literally thousands of years!

The Museum takes a good chunk of time to visit so it’s up to you to decide whether a visit to the museum will fit into your walking tour or if you’d prefer to carry directly on.

MAGDALEN STREET here turns into ST GILES. Follow ST GILES past the Museum and eventually on the LEFT-HAND SIDE will appear The Eagle & Child.


(E) The Eagle and Child 

The pub was the meeting point of The Inklings (a writing group that included Hugo Dyson, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien).

The Inklings originally held their meetings on Thursday evenings at Lewis’s college dormitories but then changed to meeting at lunchtime on Mondays and Tuesdays at The Eagle and Child.

It is one of the best-loved pubs in Oxford because of its history and literary connections.

Turn back down ST. GILES STREET. Take the fork on the LEFT for MAGDALEN STREET EASY which will take you past Balliol College on the LEFT-HAND SIDE. Then turn LEFT onto BROAD STREET which takes you past Trinity College on the LEFT before taking you to Blackwell’s Book Shop.


(F) Balliol/Trinity College 

Balliol College, founded in 1263, counts three prime ministers, five Noel laureates and two Indian cricket captains as alumni.

Trinity College, founded in 1555, counts three prime ministers, a King of Belgium, numerous politicians and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton as alumni.


(G) Blackwells 

Blackwells boasts the largest single room devoted to book sales in Europe: the Norrington Room.

With 10,000 sq. ft. and over 3 miles of shelving, Blackwell’s is an Oxford institution and has been selling books to Oxford students and literati such as J. R. R. Tolkien since its construction on New Year’s Day in 1879.

With Blackwell’s on your LEFT, the building on your RIGHT is The Sheldonian Theatre.


(H) Sheldonian Theatre 

Oxford Sheldonian Theatre

Designed by noted architect Christopher Wren, the Sheldonian Theatre was built in 1668 with the sole intention of hosting graduation ceremonies.

Today, the theatre is used for music recitals, conferences, ceremonies, and performances.

The top of the building houses a viewing gallery set into an eight-sided cupola, which is open to visitors.

With the Sheldonian Theatre on your RIGHT, continue up BROAD STREET for a few minutes until you come to the Clarendon Building on your RIGHT.


(I) Clarendon Building 

Designed by Christopher Wren’s pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, The Clarendon Building was completed in 1715. Originally it was home to the Oxford University Press and was funded by Edward Hyde, the 1st Earl of Clarendon.

Today it is part of the Bodleian, the main research library of Oxford University.

Continue up BROAD STREET until it ends then turn RIGHT onto CATTLE STREET. Take the first LEFT onto NEW COLLEGE LANE until you get to the bridge spanning the road.


(J) Bridge of Sighs 

Technically named Hertford Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs gained this nickname due to its similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

Far more recently constructed than much of Oxford, the Bridge of Sighs was completed in 1914 and designed by architect Sir Thomas Jackson in order to connect two sections of Hertford College.

Just after the Bridge of Sighs, take the first LEFT onto the small ST. HELEN’S PASSAGE. Follow the path along as it curves and it will lead you to The Turf Tavern.


(K) The Turf Tavern  

Oxford Turf Tavern

Known mostly as “The Turf”, The Turf Tavern is a popular historic haunt in Oxford.

With a foundation going back to the 13th century and the bar area from the 17th, the pub is bordered on one side by the remaining section of the old city wall, as the pub was strategically built just outside the city wall in order to host illegal activities such as gambling!

The Turf has also hosted two events in popular culture. It was here that Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set a Guinness World Record for consuming a yard-long glass of ale in 11 seconds.

Also, rumour has it that it was at The Turf that American President Bill Clinton (who was attending Oxford) infamously smoked marijuana but “did not inhale.”

Come back out onto St. Helen’s Passage back to New College Lane and turn LEFT. The path will take you past New College as it turns into Queen’s Lane.

Follow Queen’s Lane, passing St. Edmund’s Hall on the LEFT before taking a RIGHT onto the High Street, taking you past Queens College on the RIGHT.

Walk until you get to St. Mary the Virgin on your RIGHT.


(L) New College

Founded in 1379, New College counts Virginia Woolf, Hugh Grant, and Dennis Potter as alumni.


(M) St. Edmund Hall 

Founded in 1278 and containing the last surviving medieval hall at the University of Oxford, St. Edmund Hall counts two MPs; Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times; Journalist Samir Ahmed; and Olympic fencer Allan Jay as alumni.


(N) University Church of St. Mary the Virgin  

Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Built in the 13th century, but with foundations going back to 1086, St. Mary the Virgin is said to be the first church of Oxford University.

The Tower can be climbed by the public and the 124 steps to the top reward guests with fine views around Oxford, including a stunning panorama including the famous view of Radcliffe Camera.

While facing St. Mary the Virgin, take the path to the RIGHT of the building, Catte Street. All Soul’s College will be on your RIGHT and take either the first or the second path on your LEFT around the Radcliffe Camera.


(O) All Souls College 

Founded in 1438, All Souls College counts Christopher Wren, T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”), and George Nathaniel Curzon as alumni.


(P) Radcliffe Camera 

One of the most recognizable buildings in Oxford the circular dome and round structure if Radcliffe Camera is world-famous.

Built in 1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library, the structure is now a reading room for the Bodleian Library. Funding from the structure was provided by the estate of Dr. John Radcliffe who left a fortune to Oxford University in his will.

Although not open to the public (unless taking a guided tour) the Radcliffe Camera has a place in popular culture. J. R. R. Tolkien claimed that the building resembled Sauron’ Tower.

It is mentioned in His Dark Materials.  It has been seen in Inspector Morse and is also the location of important scenes in Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Go back down Catte Street and turn RIGHT onto High Street before making a LEFT onto Magpie Lane. Then turn LEFT onto Merton Street which takes you past Merton College. Follow on until you return to High Street and make a RIGHT, passing Magdalen College on your LEFT. The Botanic Gardens are located on your RIGHT.


(Q) Merton College 

Founded in 1264, Merton Collee counts J. R. R. Tolkien, T. S. Eliot, the heir to the Japanese Throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, and Kris Kristofferson as alumni.


(R) Magdalen College

Founded in 1458, Magdalen College counts Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis, Dudley Moore, T. E. Lawrence, Sir John Betjeman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and King Edward VII as alumni.


(S) Botanical Gardens

Oxford Botanical Gardens

Started in 1621, and spanning 4.5 acres (1.8 hectares), this is the oldest botanic gardens in Britain.

The Botanic Gardens were previously dedicated to the study of medicinal plants and today houses examples from over 90% of the higher plant families.

It is believed that the gardens were the inspiration for the gardens where Alice in Wonderland encounters the Queen of Hearts’ servants painting the roses red!

When facing the Botanical Gardens, turn back on yourself RIGHT down High Street then take the first LEFT onto Rose Lane. Rose Lane will split and take a LEFT onto Christ Church Meadow Walk along the park.

Walk until you come to Broad Walk on the RIGHT and take this path. The Broadwalk will dead end on St. Aldate’s and here take a RIGHT.

Walk up, passing Christ Church College on the RIGHT and continue until you reach the Museum of Oxford on your RIGHT.


(T) Christ Church 

Founded in 1522 and soon taken over by King Henry VIII, Christ Church counts Lewis Carroll, Albert Einstein, John Locke, and William Penn as alumni.

It’s also worth noting that The Great Hall at the college was used for filming scenes in Harry Potter!


(U) Museum of Oxford 

The Museum of Oxford displays original treasures and artifacts found in the area from the prehistoric times.

A relatively recent organization, the Museum of Oxford was founded in 1975 (although the building here dates back to 1897) and the exhibitions here contain items donated by Oxford Colleges and contains a medieval crypt.

Keep the Museum of Oxford on the RIGHT and continue up St. Aldate’s until it turns into High Street. Follow it to the RIGHT and you will come to the Covered Market on your LEFT.


(V) Original Ben’s Cookies/Covered Market 

Officially opened on 1st November 1774, the Covered Market began when it was decided to clear the “untidy, messy and unsavoury stalls” from the main streets of Oxford.

Architect John Gwynn designed the covered market which today is home to dozens obtruding stalls, including greengrocers, butchers (who sell famous Oxford sausages), flower shops, sandwich stalls, and bakeries.

Notably, it is also home to the original Ben’s Cookies stall, located here since 1984 guests can still buy delicious, fresh baked world-famous cookies.

Get back onto High Street after visiting the Covered Market. With the Market BEHIND you, turn RIGHT. High Street will turn into Queen Street as you walk straight ahead, passing the Carfax Tower where you began.

Continue straight until Queen Street turns into Bonn Square which turns into New Road. Keep going straight ahead until the Oxford Castle appears on your LEFT.


Oxford castle(W) Oxford Castle 

Dating back 1,000 years and doubling as both a home and a prison, Oxford Castle now has a new life as a hotel.

The original castle was damaged severely in the English Civil War but still operated as a prison until 1996 before being transformed into a historic place to stay.

The ruins of the original tower, such as the base of St George’s Tower, still stands and the crypt is preserved and may be visited.

The grassy motte outside of the Castle dates from the 11th century, as does the crypt, and both are worth a visit.

THE TOUR ENDS HERE

 


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