Looking for a fun-filled day trip from London? Oxford is a popular city located just one hour northwest of England’s capital. Being home to one of the most prestigious universities globally, filming location for the Harry Potter movie series, and medieval architecture, there’s your perfect 2-day Oxford itinerary from London.
Oxford was originally established over one thousand years ago, with the university being founded in or around the 11th century. The city is also nicknamed ‘the cycling city’ as many of its residents’ cycle to and from their destinations. Punting is another favorite activity among Oxford students and tourists. Punting is when you glide along the river in a wooden boat while navigating with a long wooden pole.
While in Oxford, you will love exploring the unique college campuses that comprise the university, the shopping and dine scene, as well as Oxford’s surrounding towns, including one on the edge of the Cotswolds. You will also become amazed at how easy it is to navigate this historic architectural city. Because of this, Oxford makes one of the popular day trips from London by train, but staying here longer gives you much more flexibility.
Best Time: May-July or during the Christmas Season (December)
How Many Days: 1-2 full days
Getting Around: Walking, Cycling, Bus or Taxi. Cycling and bus are the main public transports.
Daily Budget: Accommodations: $20+ for hostels and midrange hotels; Food: $15-25; Transportation: $4-20, including to nearby/surrounding towns
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This is a guest post by Vanessa Gordon, the CEO, and Publisher of East End Taste Magazine, a digital lifestyle publication based in the Hamptons. Vanessa is also the Founder of the Hamptons Interactive Brunch. She has been featured and quoted in top-tier national media outlets, including Condé Nast Traveler, The Daily Beast, Reader’s Digest, Parents Magazine, and many more.
Getting to Oxford from London
The train from London is the easiest, fastest, and most direct method of arriving in Oxford. If you wish to drive, it could take up to two hours depending upon traffic. The cheapest route to note is by bus from Victoria Coach Station.
There are two train stations you can depart to Oxford from London. These are London Marylebone Station and Paddington Station. Some prefer departing out of Paddington Station and returning via London Marylebone Station if you decide to visit Bicester Village at the end of your two-day Oxford itinerary.
You may purchase a single or round-trip ride easily in advance online. The train ride takes between 45 minutes to one hour, depending upon the peak or off-peak schedule.
Important note: make sure you stop at ‘Oxford’ instead of Oxford Parkway Station if you want to go sightseeing.
Oxford Itinerary – Day One
Become Acquainted at the Visitor Information Centre, Broad Street
Should you wish to become more acquainted with the city of Oxford as opposed to jumping right into your Oxford itinerary, head to the Visitor Information Centre tucked away on Broad Street. Broad Street is one of the main streets you will be exploring on your trip. The Information Centre can answer your questions, look at a map, and purchase some souvenirs.
Souvenir Shopping tip: if you wish to purchase University of Oxford authentic apparel and souvenirs, head to Oxford University Press Bookshop on High Street, diagonally across St. Edmund’s College. Head here after your itinerary has been completed, so you do not carry too many items with you throughout your trip to Oxford.
College students, alumni, and professors receive 10% off merchandise and accessories. Recommend souvenirs: official Oxford Teddy bear, the Cityscape Mug, and Leather Stacking Bracelet.
Participate in a Walking Tour of Oxford
Next on your Oxford itinerary should be the Walking Tours that typically begin (and end) at the Visitors Centre and are best organized with the Centre. Explore the famous colleges that comprise the University of Oxford, including Trinity College, Christ Church, Blackfriars, and many others.
You will also pass Radcliffe Camera and the famous Bridge of Sighs or Hertford Bridge nearby. Both are a must-stop for photos, and it always seems you can never get enough images!
Tours typically take you through the Covered Market home to several shops and eateries. Stop at Moos for delicious milkshakes. Remember, the tour moves fast, so grab your food either before or right after the tour. Once the shops close, they are closed! Meaning, even though you may have been waiting in line for twenty minutes, it would not matter, unfortunately.
Walking tours in Oxford take approximately two hours. If you are a Harry Potter fan, one of the things to do in Oxford is to take the Harry Potter tour separately. You may recognize some of the scenes filmed at the colleges, including Christ Church.
Punting on the River
After your walking tour, if you have the energy and want to work up an appetite for lunch, one of the fun things to do in Oxford is to go punting along the River Cherwell beginning off of Magdalen Bridge Boathouse.
What is punting? Punting is standing up at the back of a wooden boat, holding a long pole, and navigating the boat along the river. It is quite relaxing, and you are certainly up for a very memorable time! Oxford River Cruises offers river journeys upstream of the city as an alternative.
Lunch at Victors
Victors is a fun, photogenic spot for lunch located at the Westgate, a brand new shopping mall that is also home to a new, upscale movie theatre.
The interior dazzles with wisteria vines, and it is a Hamptons inspired restaurant, so you know it exudes colorful, healthy, and over-the-top dishes. Highlights include their sushi platters, poke, and superfood salads.
Begin your experience with Victors Bites such as Fried Halloumi, Houmous, and Green Olives. They offer a variety of sushi rolls, sashimi, tempura that are perfect for sharing.
Small Plates to share are the Crab & Yuzu Tacos, Seared Scallops, Popcorn Chicken, Sea Bass, and Scallop Ceviche.
Desserts are dazzling on the plates at Victors. Sweeten your Oxford itinerary by tasting their wide variety of desserts. Favorites are Pistachio Cheesecake, Raspberry Baked Alaska, and Caramel Banana Cake with flowers.
Victors also offers afternoon tea, a Sunday roast, a pizzette menu, and brunch menu.
Check in at The Bear Hotel, Woodstock
Call a taxi or Uber to take you to your hotel. The Bear is a historic hotel located in Woodstock, about a twenty-minute drive away from central Oxford.
Originally a coaching inn, The Bear Hotel in Woodstock is set on the scenic edge of the Cotswolds, and around the bend from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The hotel is family-friendly, and the staff is some of the most gracious and hospitable individuals around.
The hotel is one of the UK’s distinguished Macdonald Hotels & Resorts. The hotel is also famously known for hosting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
As you settle in, have a cup of tea and reread and review your Oxford itinerary for your evening and second day ahead.
Throughout your stay, there is fresh fruit available in the lobby. Make sure to grab some before you head about your day.
Walk to Blenheim Palace
Exit the front entrance of The Bear, turn left and walk just down the road and you will soon come to the entrance of Blenheim Palace, a must-include landmark in your Oxford itinerary.
Of course, the most beautiful time to visit Blenheim Palace is during the Christmas season, where they put on a stunningly magical Christmas exhibit along with the outdoor Great Court Christmas Market, Illuminated Light Trail and fairground rides. Two years ago, Blenheim put on Alice in the Palace, where around every corner there was another magical surprise from the Rabbit Hole to Unbirthday grand display.
During the warmer months, you can easily spend hours walking around and photographing the breathtaking property.
Dinner at The Bear
Chef James Mearing is at the helm of the kitchen and creates artistic dishes like Rabbit Saddle with tarragon mousse, and charred sweet corn; Beetroot with goats curd, fig, and preserved lemon; Halibut with squid ink, tagliatelle, brown shrimp and broccoli; and Cauliflower Steak with Romanesco and almond. The beetroot in particular had the most beautiful presentation. Note, the menu rotates with the season.
Food and drink promotions and specialty menus happen throughout the year.
There is also The Churchill Lounge on the second floor, where afternoon tea is served. You can also visit the Lounge for morning coffee, and snacks and cocktails in the afternoon. Full bar service is available, and it is open from 11am-11pm daily.
Oxford Itinerary – Day Two
Breakfast at The Bear
Breakfast is served each morning in the dining room on the main level of the hotel. Breakfast includes a cold selection of cereal, fruit, bread, pastries, delicious scones, milk, and juice. There is also a selection of main dishes like porridge and omelets.
After breakfast, perhaps you may want to take a walk around the grounds of Blenheim Palace. The grounds make for the perfect jogging or walking path to give yourself a boost of energy for the day ahead.
Bus to Oxford
The bus is the most convenient and cheapest method for getting back to the city of Oxford. Pick up the bus just a few short steps away from The Bear Hotel.
The #7 bus route takes between 33 and 42 minutes depending upon the time of day. Alternatively, a taxi takes approximately 20 minutes. The cost for the bus one way is only £1.
Tour the Oxford Artisan Distillery
Meet their minibus that will take you to The Oxford Artisan Distillery outside of Hertford Bridge or coordinate your pickup directly with the Distillery.
Your behind-the-scenes tour will showcase how their vodka, gin, and rye whiskey is made ‘from seed to still’, beginning with a brief presentation. At the end of your tour, you have the opportunity to sample some of their craft gins, vodka, and Pure Rye Spirit. The tour lasts approximately 60 minutes and is currently priced at £20 per person.
Purchase some of the signature spirits to bring back home. The Oxford Rye Dry Gin is one of their best sellers, or buy their Gin Sampler Collection. They offer free delivery to the UK mainland.
Visit Ashmolean Museum
Return back to the center of Oxford and head to one of the most famous museums in the city. Ashmolean, located on Beaumont Street, originally opened in 1678 and was the first university museum. Inside, you will discover a wide range of archeological artifacts and a collection of artwork. Notable pieces of artwork including drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.
The museum also has a number of rotating exhibitions, events, and members only programs.
If you are feeling hungry during your visit, the museum has an onsite restaurant and café on their rooftop. It is also a lovely spot for afternoon tea. The café is open daily beginning at 10am. Afternoon tea is served Thursdays-Sundays.
As an added perk, visit the museum as part of your Oxford itinerary free of charge!
Late Lunch or Early Dinner at Gee’s
As you wrap up your Oxford itinerary, head to Gee’s Restaurant and Bar for a conservatory-style late lunch or early dinner. Gee’s is located on the outskirts of Oxford on Banbury Road.
Their menu offers a unique rustic Mediterranean dining experience set in a Victorian glasshouse. Their menus rotate with the season and are inspired by regions in Italy and Spain. It is here where you will also have a lot of fun photographing your dishes and meal spread.
Our favorite dishes are the Sweet Potato & Oregano Risotto, Burrata, Fillet of Cod, and their Wood Fired Courgettes side dish. Their cocktail menu is also a lot of fun, especially the Cinnamon Appletini – great to sip on after a long day of exploring Oxford.
On their pudding or dessert menu, you must try their Walnut Ice Cream paired with their Apple & Pear Crumble with Custard.
Optional: Shopping at Bicester Village
Gee’s is conveniently located steps away from a bus stop. Look out for the Stagecoach Oxfordshire and be sure to ask the restaurant for a bus route map / timetable. The locals are very friendly and will most often be able to guide you to which bus you should take.
Bicester Village is one of my most favorite outlet centers in the world.
Shops at Bicester Village include Burberry, Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Temperley London, and many others.
Remember that certain credit card holders earn certain points and perks while shopping at the outlet. In addition, ask The Bear Hotel for a 10% coupon for your shopping spree at Bicester Village. Or, look for the QR code at the front desk.
Train Ride back to London from Oxford
From Bicester Village, walk directly across the outlet center towards the train station. That train will take you directly to Marylebone Station in London. The train ride takes between one hour and one hour twenty minutes.
Alternatively, to get straight from Oxford to London, take the train directly to Paddington or Marylebone Station. The London Tube is located within Paddington Station, whereas you have to walk a couple of blocks outside Marylebone Station to reach the Tube.