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Much Ado About Oxford: A City Guide

Distinctive landmark the Oxford Brige of Sighs. Photo by Gina Duncan

There isn’t anything more fitting a visit to the medieval city of Oxford than seeing a Shakespeare play under the trees as the sun sets over the garden. I spent seven weeks traveling around the United Kingdom with my mother one summer. A night at the University of Oxford’s Wadham College with the funniest and most enjoyable characters of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing was a favorite trip moment. The Oxford Shakespeare Company actors had superb comedic timing and gave a clear interpretation of the story. The atmosphere was truly enchanting.

A visit to Oxford is like stepping back in time when some of the world’s greatest authors, Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and CS Lewis roamed Broad Street and the halls of the University. On the River Thames, 55 miles west from London; Oxford is filled with fun history. Here are some suggestions on how you can spend two days in England’s most literary inspired city.

London's Paddington Station

Oxford City Guide


Trains leave for the one-hour journey to Oxford from Paddington Station in London every 5-10 minutes.

Once you have arrived in Oxford, the best way to get around is to walk. Everything that you would want to do is within the city center.


There are some unique options for accommodations in Oxford. I checked into the University of Oxford’s Christ Church for special access to explore the gardens, chapels and centuries old architecture not available to daily visitors.


View of Oxford from the top of Oxford Castle & Prison


Seeking a quick two day London escape, look no further.


Head out your first day with a Walking Tour of Oxford along the cobbled streets in downtown. The highlights of this two-hour tour are: Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, Christ Church and some of the setting locations used for the Alice in Wonderland story and Harry Potter films. 

Pop down a secret alley to one of Oxford’s oldest and most famous pubs, Turf Tavern. Enjoy a hearty lunch and a pint from an extensive selection of beers in their beer garden. (Turf Tavern is also a destination on the Walking Tour of Oxford.)

Spend the afternoon walking among mummies, Greek statues and thousands of years worth of paintings at the Ashmolean Museum for free. Then, head up to the rooftop dining room for panoramic views of the city and afternoon tea.

Please note: The museum is currently closed until mid May but you can enjoy virtual exhibits from home.

After an active day, enjoy a dinner of fish and chips at the Bear Inn, the oldest pub in Oxford, dating back to 1242. The Bear Inn is known for its quirky collection of ties display. Clubs, sports teams, schools, and colleges tie ends were clipped with a pair of scissors in exchange for half a pint of beer. The tie ends are in glass cases on the walls and ceilings.

A prison cell inside the Oxford Castle and Prison exhibit. Photo by Gina Duncan


If you are staying in residence rooms at Christ Church, wake up to breakfast in the Great Hall and be transported from Oxford to Hogwarts’ dining hall. The Great Hall was used as inspiration in the Harry Potter Series. If you are not on campus, then Vaults and Gardens, is a tasty option for a farm to table traditional English breakfast.

After breakfast, head over to Oxford Castle & Prison for a guided Castle and Prison Tour. The tour is led by a character actor who takes you on a rousing 1,000 year history lesson that brings the castle’s previous inhabitants to life. A few highlights are the view of Oxford from the top of the tower, interactive exhibits of the prison, and the 900-year-old underground crypt.

Oxford Covered Market. Photo by Gina Duncan

Take a break at the vibrant, colorful, and historic Covered Market. The market is a smorgasbord of gifts, food and fashion. Everything from cheese to Thai cuisine makes it the ideal place for lunch. Spend the rest of the afternoon shopping here or at the stores on High Street. Looking for something more specific, shop at Blackwell Bookstore, a book lover’s paradise on Broad Street. Alice’s Shop, on St. Aldate’s, will not disappoint fans of this children’s story. Pre-book a time slot to visit the beautiful Oxford Botanic Garden that inspired many of the literary greats. For the more adventurous try punting, a leisurely sail, along the River Cherwell from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse.

Wind down your visit with dinner at the Quod. Popular for its broad menu and stylish atmosphere. 

It will be an unforgettable two days in Oxford.

University of Oxford. Photo by Gina Duncan

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