Many people that visit the city of Oxford want to also see its famous historical colleges. Luckily, you don’t need to be a student to see them. Most University Colleges open their doors to tourists and visitors. In this article, we will help you plan your visit by showing you the most popular and enchanting Oxford University Colleges, how and when you can visit them, and which ones are definitely worth your time.
Who Can Visit Oxford University Colleges?
Many of the colleges and permanent private halls are open to visitors. All you need to do is check the opening times and make sure the college you want to see is accepting guests at the time (some will have events going on which might mean their doors are temporarily closed). A good place to start is to check the University’s website, as it has all the current timetables. If you’re visiting during the day, however, you’re likely to find most of them open. The colleges are quite close to each other too, so you can always try next door.
Can You Enter the Colleges if You're Not on a Tour?
Yes, definitely. Most colleges allow access to the public. All you need to keep in mind is their opening days and times – and be careful not to plan a late visit, as they might close their doors at dusk!
What are the Most Popular Oxford Colleges to Visit?
With thirty-nine constituent colleges, the University of Oxford offers a variety of possible locations to explore on your visit to the city. We recommend that you visit at least one of these top five Oxford colleges:
Top 5 Oxford Colleges to Visit: 1. Balliol College
Balliol College is one of the oldest colleges you can visit in Oxford. It was founded in 1263! Many well-known Prime Ministers have studied at Balliol, which is also the house of Adam Smith, Aldous Huxley, and Richard Dawkins. The College has a Chapel, a dining room, and a large garden. Balliol also hosts the famous Oxford University Tortoise race.
Top 5 Oxford Colleges to Visit: 2. Trinity College
Trinity College is and remains a visitor’s favourite. Centrally located, it’s also extremely beautiful and has large grounds, a Chapel and a Dining Hall. In contrast to most of the other colleges, the Trinity’s Hall actually features several female portraits. The college is normally open Monday to Sunday 10:30 to 16:00.
Top 5 Oxford Colleges to Visit: 3. New College
New College is the perfect college for an overview of everything the University of Oxford has to offer. Its stunning garden actually houses part of the original city wall. They also hold regular Choral music concerts, as New College has a world renowned choir. While visiting New College, you will also find a Jacob Epstein sculpture of Lazarus, and an original El Greco. Many scenes for the Harry Potter films were filmed at this Oxford college. The college is usually open 11:00 to 17:00 Easter to October, and 14:00 to 16:00 October to Easter.
Top 5 Oxford Colleges to Visit: 4. Christ Church
Christ Church College is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable colleges of Oxford. Thirteen British Prime Ministers have studied here – not to mention the college has the famous grand stairwell used in the Harry Potter film. Christ Church College encases also the Christ Church Cathedral. Among the former students, represented today in portraits along the walls of the Dining Room are William Pitt, John Locke, and Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll). Christ Church is definitely a more “touristy” college, with lots of people trying to take pictures of the Harry Potter locations. However, it’s definitely worth a visit. The opening times are Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00 and Sunday 14:00 to 17:00.
Top 5 Oxford Colleges to Visit: 5. St Johns College
St Johns College is the wealthiest college in Oxford – with financial endowments of over 442 million pounds. The grounds of the college are open to public – and constitute a perfect location to get the spirit of the Oxford Student’s daily life. Notable St Johns graduates include Tony Blair, Robert Graves, and Philip Larkin. St Johns College is open most afternoons, Monday to Friday from 13:00 to 17:00 or dusk (whichever comes first).
What Other Oxford Colleges Should you Visit?
Our top five colleges are just a small selection of what’s available to visitors. All of them are beautiful, however, and they all offer lots of things to see and explore. These are other must-see colleges you should consider seeing when you’re visiting Oxford:
Want to plan even more Oxford college visits? Check out our full list of colleges here.