Do you ever end up traveling somewhere a million times in a short period, then not at all for a long time? That happened to me with Oxford. When I first moved to London I was there a lot, but now it’s been years since my last trip. I’ve been itching to get back, though, so I bought a train ticket and planned an Oxford day trip.
Oxford Day Trip
The nice thing about Oxford is that it’s an easy day trip from London by train. It’s only an hour away from the capital and trains leave Paddington station all the time. My particular train leaves on a sunny morning and whisks me off through the countryside to get to the university.
The station is right next to the city center, and I walk in ready to start my day in Oxford. Well, ready to start eating anyway.
I pop over to The Handle Bar Cafe and Kitchen for a brunch of avocado on toast with feta, hummus, and a poached egg.
The restaurant is hidden above a bike shop and I would have missed it if I hadn’t done some research before my trip. I’m glad I did because it’s a gem of a place. There are vintage bicycles and penny-farthings on the walls, mismatched wooden furniture, and windows letting lots of natural light in.
The prices are a bit steep, but the service is friendly, the food good, and the ambiance perfect for sitting all day.
I have sightseeing to do, though, and it isn’t going to do itself.
Leaving the restaurant, I continue my Oxford day trip with a walk around the city center. It’s compact enough that it doesn’t take long, but beautiful enough that I can’t put my camera down. It’s pretty much my perfect sightseeing scenario.
I start at the Radcliffe Camera and Bodlean Library, two of the university’s most famous landmarks. The former is one of the most photographed buildings in Oxford, and for good reason.
This rotund beauty was designed by James Gibbs and built between 1737 and 1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. Students stroll in and out and I wait for crowds to clear so I can get a photo. It looks stunning in the sunshine, and I don’t mind the wait.
Afterwards I head to the Bodleian Library. It’s the university’s main research library and one of the oldest libraries in Europe. I love the courtyard at the entrance, where the golden stone welcomes visitors to the haven of books.
When I finish with the library, I head out onto the high street. I duck into and around some of the colleges as I go, getting glimpses of the courtyard of Queen’s College and the Bridge of Sighs along the way. They’re stunning to see in person, and make me feel like I’m in my own personal Harry Potter film.
And speaking of Harry Potter films, I head to Christ Church Meadow next. Some of the most famous Oxford film locations for the Harry Potter movies are located in Christ Church College. I’ve seen the interiors on previous trips, though, so I focus my time on the meadow. It’s beautiful with the summer flowers and fall foliage out at the same time, and I still can’t get enough of the sunshine.
When I’m done wandering around the green space, I head back into the streets. My path soon takes me to Oxford Castle, a medieval fortress that’s now a hotel and visitor attraction. I take a walk around it to soak up the history, marveling at how something that was constructed in Norman times is still (partly) standing.
And speaking of ancient treasures, the next stop on my Oxford day trip is the Ashmolean Museum. I’m particularly excited to be here because in all my trips to the city I’ve never visited. Everyone raves about it and compares it to the British Museum, so I can’t wait to explore.
It lives up to its reputation. The modern building houses everything from ancient Egyptian mummies to Italian Renaissance paintings, Asian ceramics to Gainsborough portraits, musical instruments to antique coins. I get lost in the treasure trove just like I do at the British Museum, and the staff practically has to kick me out at closing time.
But Oxford isn’t just about the colleges and museums. It’s a city in its own right, and there’s a lot to do beyond the historic highlights. Like shopping.
One of my favorite places to shop in Oxford is the Covered Market. This historic hall and its 50 stalls have been running since the 1770s. Inside I find everything from flowers to cakes, and as I walk through my senses are greeted with the smell of cheese and sight of hand-made jewelry.
Outside the covered market, the streets have plenty more shops. My favorite has always been Alice’s Shop, the Alice in Wonderland shop in Oxford. It pays homage to the city where Lewis Carroll created the girl and her adventures, and has lots of Alice-themed gifts and wares. I can’t resist popping in to see what’s on offer every time I’m in Oxford.
Oxford Coffee Shops
All my Oxford sightseeing and shopping has made me hungry. Jericho Coffee Traders has come highly recommended, so I beat a path to it for a latte and banana bread. The former is every bit as good as I hoped. The latter makes me wonder when I will learn that the food at coffee shops is never as good as the coffee.
In any case, I have a great view of the university buildings from my window seat and I welcome the chance to put my feet up and take a break after a long day.
Speaking of which, my Oxford day trip is coming to a close and it’s time to catch my train back to London. It’s been a great visit, and I’m glad I made the effort to return after such a long absence. It reminds me that if life doesn’t keep taking me back to a place, I should make it happen myself. Now I just need to think of the next place to go back to. Any suggestions?
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