What I love about London is not just the city itself, but its perfect location. Within a couple of hours you can reach some of the most beautiful corners of the UK and spend some great weekends. That’s why I got very excited when First Great Western trains offered us the chance to try its service from London to one of the many cities they run to. We chose Oxford, as it wanted to visit it since a long time.
It takes barely an hour to get from Paddington Station in London to Oxford. The trip is comfortable, quick and safe, and really scenic because of the lovely countryside between the cities.
We kicked off our weekend with a dinner in an enchanted place: a restaurant inside a nursery, all lightened up and bright against the cobalt blue sky. It’s so easy to shake your stress off when you have a glass of wine in such a beautiful place.
Now let’s come to the best and more useful (for you) part of this post, which is ‘what to see and do in Oxford’. Are you ready for something truly magical? Here we go.
Christ Church College
It’s the most famous college in town. Every year Christ Church hosts thousands of students and visitors. It is also a unique place when it comes to classic literature: some of the most beloved writers of all time have studied here. Lewis Carroll, for example, was inspired by these walls and gardens – and by the vicar’s daughter Alice – to write his masterpiece Alice in Wonderland.
J.K. Rowling was inspired by this place too, and the common hall scenes of Harry Potter were shot here, in Christ Church Hall. Unfortunately it is closed for refurbishment until late July, so if you want to see it plan your visit afterwards and check on the website.
If you’re a fan of Frodo & co this is the place you want to visit. J.R.R.Tolkien was an English Language and Literature professor here at Merton College. This place and in general the city of Oxford played a big role in inspiring The Lord of The Rings, which was written here.
Tolkien also loved to write and meet his fellow friends and colleagues at…
The Eagle & Child
Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and many more writers met here weekly to discuss ideas and write part of their books while sipping a pint. They called themselves ‘The Inklings’. It’s a very common pub, but I do recommend a stop and a quick look inside, you’ll find original illustration and quotes from the books.
Want to go to Narnia? Well, here’s the door that inspired C.S.Lewis’ ‘The witch, the lion and the wardrobe’. A few steps away there’s a street lamp, and if you remember the book (or the movie) you’ll understand why the first thing Lucy sees in Narnia is… precisely: a street lamp.
You don’t want to miss it. Believe me. This library has something magical, from its majestic architecture to its incredibly beautiful Divinity Room, to the stunning historical library. There’s something inexplicable about this place that will make you love it. Also: both the Divinity Room and the library were used as set for the Harry Potter movies.
Watch out for the ghosts!
Probably the one I liked the most. So green, elegant yet understated, full of peace and silence, with a beautiful garden and even deers in the meadows.
Should you want to keep on with your literary tour don’t miss Tolkien’s home at 20 Northmoor Road and the cemetery where he and his wife are buried under the names of Beren and Luthién, the Wolvercote Cemetery.
Another great thing to do in Oxford is to rent a boat and slowly rowing it down the river (Thames). Bring a pic nic with you 🙂
And if you’re lucky enough (and visiting at the end of May) you may even stumble across the end of exams celebrations!
How to get there
First Great Western Train – 1 hour from London Paddington
Where to eat
Gee Restaurant – a stunning nursery and really good food
Cherwell Boathouse – right on the river, perfect for a sunny day
Turl Street Kitchen – easy and comfy, great lunch stop
Vaults&Garden – just behind St.Mary’s college, go for a snack or a quick lunch sitting outside
Where to sleep
Ethos Hotel – a 15 minutes walk from the city center, clean and quiet
Malmaison Oxford – boutique hotel in a beautiful historical building
What to do
Magdalene Bridge Boathouse – rent a boat and enjoy a few hours on the river
Un walking tour – literary tours and ghost tours offered
I was a guest of First Great Western. Opinions are my own.