One of our favorite walking tours to date! Walking Tours of Oxford had us captivated from beginning to end. It helps that Oxford is one of the most beautiful & historic locations in the world. Throw in a fun guide and few famous Harry Potter and Narnia settings, and you’ve got yourself a fucking brilliant (said in a proper English accent) tour!
Mathew, an Oxford graduate, was our tour guide. His knowledge and first-hand reminiscing of the campus were delightful. He told us stories and showed us little details that only students or longtime locals would know. The day we visited it was quite cold and even in the cold the two hours flew by in no time at all. It was the first tour I didn’t get bored or space out and start playing with my phone.
The tour is also a great way to get a lay of the campus and town. If you only have a short time in Oxford, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide what to see and what to skip. As Mathew walked us around, he made recommendations for places to eat & drink, places to visit that weren’t part of the tour and emphasized, which locations were worth a revisit. After the tour, we stopped in at every place he mentioned, and every place was spot on worth our time.
What We Saw
We took the Bodleian Library & Oxford City Tour, which consists of about 30 locations. The 2 hours is not filled with constant walking or any distances too far. The streets are flat, and the only part you may exert yourself is if you want to climb the tower in University Church of St. Mary the Virgin after the tour. The longest single stretch of walking was to Christ Church College which was roughly a .5mile/.8 km’s distance.
I won’t detail or name every location we viewed, but I will tell you that the historical stories and the architecture of many of the places will leave you in awe. A few of our favorite facets were learning about the different colleges within Oxford. Each college catered to a particular type of student base on their sex, religion, upbringing, wealth, etc. Each college had a place of worship within the dorm area, and each was more intricate and captivating than the next. The details & the meanings behind the details inside each college and church/cathedral were astonishing.
The Bodleian Library is one of the main stops of the tour and for a good reason. Here you will visit the Divinity School, built between 1427-1483. The room was originally built for the use of theological teachings but currently used for special events. The room is spectacular, and if it looks at all familiar, it’s because you may recognize it as the dance hall in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Other famous locations include the inspiration to Alice in Wonderland, the twin towers in Lord of the Rings and a few different Harry Potter locations. Plus a few spots & stories of famous people such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Felicity Jones, TS Eliot, Hugh Grant & many more who have galavanted around campus.
Extra Tip: It’s not part of the tour, but if you get a chance, go back after the tour to see the Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room. We didn’t make it back and have regretted it ever since.
Heather’s Favorite Location of the Tour
My favorite location of the tour was easily the door and lamppost, which inspired the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I wasn’t aware of this part of the tour, and when we stepped into the alley, it was the entrance to Narnia.
Matt’s Favorite Locations of the Tour
I am a huge Harry Potter fan so the dining hall at Christ Church College brought me the closest to real life Harry Potter moment. A feeling just hits you as you emerge into the hall and you don’t need to know any information before entering. Otherwise, there wasn’t a single destination on the tour that I didn’t like.
Two of the places Mathew showed us but did not take us in were the Blackwell Oxford Book Shop and the Museum of History of Science. These are two places you should make sure to return to after the tour. The Blackwell Book Shop is the largest bookstore in the U.K. You don’t need to spend a lot of time (unless you want to), but it’s definitely worth the walk around to get a feel of the enormity of the bookstore.
The Museum of the History of Science is a smaller sized museum packed full of scientific gadgets. The museum’s coolest masterpiece is a chalkboard with a scientific equation written by Albert Einstein on 16 May 1931 during one of his lectures given at the University of Oxford.
If you are headed to Oxford and have 2 hours to spare. You would like to be entertained and educated as you learn the city streets then absolutely sign up for a free walking tour.
What’s the deal with “FREE” Tours?
Technically the tour is free. However, the guide will suggest giving a tip. It’s not a requirement to give a tip. You will not be kicked off the tour nor will your photo go on some website outing you as a cheapskate. Having said that, if you enjoyed the tour – tip!
What to Bring
- Good walking shoes
- Hat, jacket, umbrella – check the weather
- Great attitude
- Cash for tip
Website – Scholars Walking Tours of Oxford
Price –Free, but please consider giving a tip because the tour is worth it!
How to get there – All the tours depart opposite Balliol College Gate outside Oxfam next to Senli Cash & Go on Broad Street. Google Maps.
4.5 out of 5 Travelationship High Fives. The history of Oxford is endless. At the end of the tour, we were left wanting more, which isn’t the fault of the tour. You have to have some interest in history, architecture or famous locations to get the most out of this tour. For the traveler who likes – adventure, romance, historical, bucket lister, famous places, architecture