Oxford University Walking Tour, Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest institution of its kind and one of the best in England. It represents a "federation", consisting of 38 self-governing Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls. Take this tour to find out the most beautiful and worth-seeing colleges in Oxford.
You can follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the attractions listed below. How it works: download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Oxford University Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Oxford University Walking Tour
Guide Location: England » Oxford (See other walking tours in Oxford)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km
Author: Linda
1
Keble College

1) Keble College

Oxford University is made up of a series of colleges and the most controversial at the time of its construction is undoubtedly Keble College on Parks Road.

The college was founded in 1870 as a memorial to John Keble who was one of the main members of the Oxford movement.

The building was designed by William Butterfield. It is Neo-Gothic mainly built of red brick with blue and white bricks used for the edging patterns along the roof and around the windows. Butterfield broke with tradition and placed the rooms along corridors instead of around staircases.

The magnificent Hall with its hammer beam arched ceiling was added later as funds ran out during the initial construction. The Library, which also has a hammer beam arched ceiling, is arranged in a series of alcoves off the central aisle.

The Chapel was also a later addition and is decorated with tiles, stained glass and mosaics – the main one being of Christ in Judgement over the main altar. Pride of place in the side chapel is given to the 1853 painting “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt.

The college is arranged around four quadrangles that form the beautifully-tended gardens: the Liddon Quad, the Newman Quad, the Hayworth Quad and the Pusey Quad.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
St Johns College

2) St Johns College

Another of Oxford University’s ancient and distinguished colleges is St John’s College.

It was founded in 1555 by the master merchant Sir Thomas White, who was once Lord Mayor of London. The college was built around and partly over the former St Bernard’s College, a house of study and St Bernard’s Monastery.

It is organized around 7 quadrangles: the Front Quad where the buildings mostly date back to the 14th century and were part of the monastery. The Canterbury Quad, whose architecture is 17th century Italian Renaissance, houses the Library.

The North Quad is a mixture of 18th to 20th century buildings: the buttery staircase which adjoins the Hall and Senior Common Room is 18th century. Along St Giles’, the buildings are 19th century and the “Beehive” was built in the nineteen thirties.

The Dolphin, the Sir Thomas White and the Garden Quads have 20th century buildings, while the Kendrew Quad is pure 21st century and was finished in 2010. The college also owns and manages the Lamb and Flag pub.

Ever since Keble College was built, there has been fierce rivalry between the two colleges. St John’s started a secret society and to become a member, students had to steal a brick from the other college. A red brick led to ordinary membership, a white brick gave access to higher membership, while the rarer blue bricks guaranteed chairmanship.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Trinity College

3) Trinity College (must see)

Oxford University started out as academic houses and monastery halls where theology was taught, but none of these survived the Reformation. Trinity College on Broad Street stands on the site of Durham College Monastery which was founded in 1268.

The only surviving part of the monastery is the east range of Durham Quad where the college library is housed. Sir Thomas Pope bought the buildings and the land in 1555 to create a college where (he hoped) future generations would pray for him, as he was childless and had no-one to remember him after he died. His remains are enshrined in the chapel beside the altar.

On top of the college’s West Tower stand four female statues representing Astronomy, Geometry, Medicine and Music. In 1688, a two storey building designed by Sir Christopher Wren was built on the Garden Quad to lodge students. The neoclassical chapel was designed by Henry Aldrich in 1694.

In 1883 the college was expanded and the Front Quad was built by Sir Thomas Jackson. In 1928 the Memorial Library was built in honor of members who died in the First World War. Further expansion took place in the nineteen sixties when several cottages and 17th century houses were bought and the Cumberbatch Building was put up in 1966.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Balliol College

4) Balliol College

Balliol College stands on Broad Street and was founded in 1263, making it the second oldest of Oxford University’s colleges.

It was founded by John de Balliol who was once the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire – but not at the time when Robin Hood and his Merry Men hung around Sherwood Forest! Nothing remains of the original building, the oldest parts date back to 1431 and are the north and west ranges of the Front Quad, although the Masters’ Dining Hall, the libraries and the Senior Common Room are perhaps a little older.

The buildings around the Garden Quad are newer: the south-west side was built in 1720, the Fisher Building in 1759, the west side in 1826, the Masters’ Lodgings in 1860 and the Junior Common Room in 1912. The chapel, which was designed by William Butterfield, was built in 1857.

Most of the colleges have deeply rooted traditions, but Balliol’s favorite one dates back to the nineteen sixties, when a student introduced a tortoise named Rosa to the college. Rosa lived there for 43 years; the person looking after her well-being at any given time was called the Comrade Tortoise and it was a coveted position. Rosa disappeared in 2004 but another tortoise has taken her place.

Every June Corpus Christi College organizes a tortoise race and students bring tortoises from home to participate. With Rosa, Balliol College won the race three or four times and they have high hopes for her replacement.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Exeter College

5) Exeter College (must see)

The main entrance to Exeter College is on Turl Street. This college is the 4th oldest of Oxford University, having been founded in 1314.

Its founder, Walter de Stapleton was the Bishop of Exeter and he wanted a small college that only taught future clergymen and until the 15th century there was room for only 15 students at a time.

The college grew further in the 16th century when a former graduate, Sir William Petre left funds for it in his will. The Front Quad, finished in 1710, was built on the site of the medieval buildings and only the 1432 Palmer’s Tower remains of the original college. At the base of the tower you will see a memorial to Members killed in the Second World War.

The quad also houses the Great Hall which was built in 1618 has a beautiful vaulted ceiling. The quad is somewhat overshadowed by the chapel, designed by Sir George Scott in 1860 and modeled on the Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

The Library in Fellows Garden was also designed by Sir George in the 13th century style. The Divinity School, Convocation House are on the left of the Garden, with Brasenose Lane on the right and the Mound at the end, from where you can enjoy views of Radcliffe Camera and All Souls College.

The Rector’s Lodging in Margary Quad was another work by Sir George, but the rest of the quad was finished in 1964, with the Thomas Wood Building constructed for the college’s 650th anniversary.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Lincoln College

6) Lincoln College

Of Oxford University’s 38 colleges, Lincoln College on Turl Street is perhaps one of the most intriguing.

It was founded in 1427 by the Bishop of Lincoln, Richard Fleming. It is built round three quadrangles: the Front Quad was built in the 15th century, the Chapel Quad in 1631 and the Grove Quad in the 19th century.

The Chapel, which was built in the Early Gothic style has enameled rather than stained glass windows. This is a difficult technique and the windows were created by Abraham Van Linge, who was a master at this craft.

The east end window depicts 12 Biblical scenes: the top 6 are from the New Testament, the bottom 6 from the Old. The north window shows the 12 Prophets, while the south window features the 12 Apostles.

The rood screen that separates the ante chapel and the main chapel is made of cedar. The ceiling is beautifully carved and on the front pews you can see figurines of Moses, Aaron and the saints Peter and Paul.

The Library is in the converted All Saints Church, whose spire is one of the “dreaming spires” of Oxford. In the bell tower the full peal of 8 bells are still regularly rung.

The college has a bar beneath the Great Hall. It is called Deep Hall and is one of the oldest parts of the college. The bar gives on to the Master Common Room and Junior Common Room wine cellars, which stretch far under the Grove Quad.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Corpus Christi College

7) Corpus Christi College

Corpus Christi College on Merton Street is one of Oxford University’s smaller colleges, but it also one of the most renowned.

The college was founded by the Richard Foxe, the Bishop of Winchester in 1517. The library was built at the same time and was the best and most extensive for the epoch, with over 80000 books in English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Corpus Christi College is of course best known for the role its scholars played in the translation of the King James Bible. Commissioned by the Crown, they formed two of the six companies who translated the Scriptures from Hebrew and Greek to English.

At Corpus Christi, theologians were in charge of translating 11 books of the Prophets – From Isaiah to Malachi, and the 4 Gospels, Acts and Revelation in the New Testament. The project took 11 years and the Bible was printed in 1611.

On the Main Quad you will find the tower, the dining hall and the Chapel. The sundial topped by a pelican was placed in the center of the quad in 1581 by Charles Turnbull. The pelican is part of the college’s coat of arms and is said to be an allegory of Christ, in that according to legend a pelican tears at its own breast to feed its young, while Christ offered up his body to save humanity.

A second quad was built in the 18th century, with the Fellows Building being a fine example of the Neo-classical style. This quad overlooks Christ Church Meadow.
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Merton College

8) Merton College (must see)

Merton College was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton, Lord Chancellor to King Henry III and later to King Edward I.

Of the Front Quad the Hall and the Chapel were finished in 1297, but today only the chapel remains of the original buildings. It was built in early English Gothic style, with an enormous east window. The South Transept was finished in the 14th century and the North Transept and the Tower were finished in the mid 15th century.

Following the dissolution of monasteries in 1548, the college bought Saint Alban Hall from the Littlemore Convent, although it remained a separate institution until 1881.

During the English Civil War the college was used as Royalist headquarters with much of Charles I’s court lodging here. Foreign guests were also lodged, including Queen Henrietta Maria of France. She stayed in a room above the arch between the Fellows and the Front Quads, in what is now called the Queen’s Room.

The college continued to buy up other properties on Merton Street as and when possible. It acquired the former Parish Church of St John and three adjoining houses that now form the north range of the Front Quad.

Merton College once owned all the land from where Christ Church now stands on the south-east part of the city to the land to the east of the college, which is now a garden. Corpus Christi stands on the land at the west end, which they lease from Merton.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
University College

9) University College (must see)

Many of Oxford University’s colleges like to claim to be the oldest, but in truth the prize goes to University College, whose main entrance is on the High Street.

According to legend, King Alfred (of the burnt cakes fame) founded the college in 872; in reality, the first foundations were laid in 1249, funded by money left for this purpose by William of Durham.

Sadly, very little remains of the medieval buildings; they were replaced in the 17th century, with the foundations of the Main Quad being laid in 1634. The English Civil War interrupted work and the quad was finished in 1676.

The Radcliffe Quad was built in 1719, the New Building in 1842 and the Library in 1861. In 1892 a small domed room was built by Basil Chambers to house the Shelley Memorial. The statue of the great poet lying dead on an Italian beach was commissioned by Lady Shelley and sculpted by Edward Ford.

The room was once filled with water and goldfish for a joke and the Rector had to have railings put around the statue to stop students from painting Shelley’s private parts in bright colors. The solution for removing the paint was causing the marble to dissolve.

The college is separated by the cobble-stoned Logic Lane, which has a short covered bridge over the High Street entrance. On the eastern side of the lane you will find the students’ lodgings and on the western side the Library, the Hall, the Chapel and the college’s two quads.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Magdalen College

10) Magdalen College (must see)

The most beautiful of all Oxford University’s colleges is undeniably Magdalen College, which was founded in 1458 by William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester.

This lovely college stands on the River Cherwell, surrounded by beautiful grounds, such as the Meadow, Fellows Garden and the Grove where deer graze during the winter and spring. The famous Addison’s Walk links the Meadow to Fellows Garden which in turn is linked to the college by a bridge.

Magdalen Tower is a well-known landmark and since the reign of King Henry VII the college choir sings at the top of the tower at 6am every May Day. The Great Quad was built in 1474, but the north side is relatively new, having been rebuilt in 1822.

The Great Tower was built by William Orchard in 1509 and the Hall and the Chapel were built around the same time. The New Building was constructed in 1733. St John’s Quad with the outdoor pulpit and the Grammar Hall are connected to the Great Quad by the Gothic style Founders Tower.

In the south-west corner of the college you will find St Swithin’s and Longwall Quads which were built in the 19th and 20th centuries. The newest part of the college, the Grove Buildings were put up in 1990.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Oxford, England

Create Your Own Walk in Oxford

Create Your Own Walk in Oxford

Creating your own self-guided walk in Oxford is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Interesting Shops in Oxford

Interesting Shops in Oxford

While in Oxford, you can take a break from visiting famous landmarks and go shopping. As the city is known for its University, it offers a big range of bookshops with rare and interesting books and publications. Amazing antiques, prints and maps shops, as well as art and music shops and many others open their doors for those, who want to be pleasantly surprised and buy nice things.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 km
Jericho Walk in Oxford

Jericho Walk in Oxford

Jericho is a historic suburb of Oxford. Initially an industrial area, it has developed grace to the presence of Oxford Channel. Nowadays Jericho has a lot of venues and landmarks to offer. Take this tour and see the main attractions in Jericho.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Religious Buildings in Oxford

Religious Buildings in Oxford

Oxford is home to a great range of sites related to the history of English Christianity. Many churches, college chapels and prayer houses with tremendous architecture can be seen here. Take this self-guided tour to discover the most important religious building in Oxford.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 km
Nightlife in Oxford

Nightlife in Oxford

Oxford is a cosmopolitan and youthful city, with a lot of things to do and places to go. The city offers a wide range of clubs with great music and thematic programs, as well as different pubs and bars catering to all tastes. Check out the most popular clubs in Oxford on this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.2 km
Oxford Center Nightlife Tour

Oxford Center Nightlife Tour

Whatever you want, a warm conversation with your friends or a lively night on the dance floor, traditional dishes or some exotic ones, a stylish and fashionable restaurant or a simple, modern venue, Oxford offers you a range of bars, pubs and clubs, aimed to satisfy your preferences and wishes. Check out the most popular spots in Central Oxford on this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 km
Museums and Galleries in Oxford

Museums and Galleries in Oxford

Oxford is a beautiful British city famous throughout the world for its University and historic places. The city offers a lot of activities and attractions. For example, Oxford is famous for its museums and galleries that are known for their unique collections and that host regular art exhibitions. Take this tour to discover the history and culture of the city.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Oxford for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Oxford has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Oxford, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.