The Bodleian Library - Entrance. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

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Oxford City Centre Free Self-Guided Walking Tour to Explore at Your Own Pace

The Bodleian Library - Entrance. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

This Oxford City Centre walking tour will allow you to see the city’s highlights while exploring little lanes and secret shortcuts only the locals know. An ideal self-guided tour if you’re in Oxford for just a few hours. In this circuit, you will be able to see some of Oxford’s most important landmarks and beautiful colleges without having to get too far from the city centre. Do you want to see a more extensive self-guided walking tour? Check this link.

Distance to cover with this self-guided tour: 2 miles / 3.2 kilometres.
Estimated time: 1 hour
Type of terrain: Paved paths and pavements.

Oxford City Centre Free Self-Guided Walking Tour

Let’s start with a quick overview of this walking tour. As we mentioned above, this is a more compact and short tour. You can see everything it has to offer in about an hour (less if you don’t stop, more if you enjoy looking at things in a little more detail). Here are some of the things you will cover in this free, self-guided tour:

In solid lines: Starting from Carfax Tower, this walk will take you through the historical city centre and many lanes and shortcuts only known to the locals. You will see a thousand years of history, including the Saxon Tower of St. Michael, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the 20th-century Bridge of Sighs.

In dashed lines: If you have a little extra time or you want to see more of Oxford, you can expand your walking tour by adding this little circuit, which will take you to the remains of Oxford’s Norman castle and numerous shops. A perfect conclusion if you want to end your walk with a nice coffee or beer, or some food. 

Let’s now go step-by-step with all the directions you need to follow to do this self-guided walking tour of Oxford’s city centre. 

  • Start at Carfax Tower. Head along Queen Street and turn left down St Ebbe’s Street. Continue walking until Brewer Street and turn left. Don’t miss Pembroke College Bridge.
  • Turn right and continue down St Aldates until you reach the pedestrian crossing right after the entrance to Christ Church. Cross the road and go into the Memorial Garden gate. Continue straight and turn left at the end of the building.
  • Go through the kissing gate and emerge onto Merton Street. Turn right and pass Merton College. Turn left on Logic Lane and go through University College
  • When it’s safe to do so, cross over the High Street into Queen’s Lane. Pass St. Edmund’s Hall and follow Queen’s Lane between Queen’s and New College. You can make a stop here to get refreshments through a tiny alley that leads to Turf Tavern
  • Walk past the Bridge of Sighs onto Cattle Street. Cross over the Square to see the Sheldonian Theatre and exit by the arched gate onto Broad Street. 
  • Turn left on Broad Street, pass the Museum of the History of Science and continue to Turl Street. Turn left down Turl Street and take the first turn on the right into Ship Street; then, walk to the end. 
  • Optional walking tour: Cross Cornmarket Street at the end of Ship Street and walk past the Oxford Union. Then, turn left on George Street. Turn left down Bullwarks Lane and left again out into New Road. Cross over to see Oxford’s Castle. From here on, follow the map to find your way back to Carfax Tower.

What You Shouldn't Miss in This Oxford City Centre Walking Tour

Oxford's Carfax Tower

Carfax Tower

Carfax Tower, in Oxford, is a 23-meter-high bell tower that used to belong to a 12th-century church. Here’s how to visit it (and why!).

Oxford Taverns: Turf Tavern. Image courtesy of Jack Mayo.

Turf Tavern

The Turf Tavern in Oxford is hidden way and accessed only by two small alleys. However, don’t be tricked by its humble entrance. The Turf Tavern has been around since

Oxford Castle and Prison - Image courtesy of Meraj Chhaya

Oxford Castle & Prison

Oxford Castle is a partly ruined Norman medieval castle on the centre of Oxford. The castle then became a prison which closed in 1996.

History of Science Museum

History of Science Museum

The History of Science Museum holds a large collection of scientific instruments ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Housed in what was once the Ashmolean, the museum

A view of Oxford Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera is a neo-classical style building inside Oxford University, built from 1737 to 1749 for the Radcliffe Science Library.

Oxford University - Merton College. Image courtesy of Jonathan.

Merton College

As one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, Merton College dates back to the 1260s by Walter de Merton.

Oxford Christ Church College - Image courtesy ofArnaud Malon

Christ Church College

Christ Church is college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII and is one of the larger colleges.

A view of the Oxford Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is one of Oxford’s most photographed spots. This skyway joins two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

Oxford Colleges

Oxford University - St John's College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

St John’s College

A constituent college of the University of Oxford, St John’s College was founded in 1555 as a men’s college but turned coeducational later.

Oxford College - Keble College. Image courtesy of David Nicholls.

Keble College

Keble College is one of the University of Oxford’s constituent colleges. It is located on Parks Road, opposite the University Museum.

Oxford University - Exeter College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

Exeter College

A constituent college of the University of Oxford in England, Exeter College is the fourth-oldest college of the university.

Oxford Christ Church College - Image courtesy ofArnaud Malon

Christ Church College

Christ Church is college of the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII and is one of the larger colleges.

Oxford University - Brasenose College. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

Brasenose College

Oxford University’s Brasenose College (BNC) was founded in 1509 and is home to one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world.

Oxford University - All Souls College. Image courtesy of Gary Campbell Hall.

All Souls College

All Souls College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford. It was founded by Henry VI and it has no undergraduate members.

Oxford Museums

Oxford Libraries

A view of Oxford Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera is a neo-classical style building inside Oxford University, built from 1737 to 1749 for the Radcliffe Science Library.

Bodleian Library - Entrance. Image courtesy of Billy Wilson.

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks. Among the oldest in Europe, it’s easy to visit and incredible to see.

Best for Shopping in Oxford

There are two – possibly three – shops you should NOT miss if you’re visiting Oxford and doing a self-guided walking tour. These are Alice’s Shop (with tons of Alice in Wonderland memorabilia, all beautifully displayed in a historically-relevant little building!), The Shop of Secrets (more Harry Potter merch than you can dream of), and Blackwell’s Bookshop, founded in 1879.

Of course, as Oxford continues to grow, there re several other places you can visit if you’re looking for unique gifts or just a memorable experience. Below is a more comprehensive list with all of them. 

Shops to See in Oxford: Blackwell's Bookshop. A Massive Historical Store. Image courtesy of Chuca Cimas.

Blackwell’s Bookshop

Blackwell’s Bookshop first opened its doors in 1879, on Broad Street, Oxford. They have been trading continuously from there ever since. The History of Blackwell’s Bookshop The first Blackwell’s Bookshop

Oxford Shopping: Alice's Shop

Alice’s Shop

Alice’s Shop is a little shop placed exactly where Alice Liddell (the “real” Alice that inspired the books) used to buy sweets.

Best shops in Oxford: Arcadia

Arcadia Bookstore

Arcadia is a popular bookstore in Oxford, offering second-hand books and stationery with a vintage and whimsical vibe.

Shops to See in Oxford: The Shop of Secrets. Harry Potter Collectibles.

The Shop of Secrets

The Shop of Secrets is Oxford’s chamber of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts official collectables and merch. A shopping must-to in the city, the Shop of Secrets is a family-run

Parks and Meadows

Oxford has many beautiful parks and meadows – which make perfect spots for a picnic or a relaxing stop. These parks are large and tend to have exotic plants and students practising sports or reading a book under the shadow of a tree. The best thing about adding a visit to a park during your self-guided walking tour is that you can visit them any time of the year. University Parks, for example, are evergreen and have seats no matter the season. Of course, if you like plants and quietness you should not miss the Botanic Gardens, they are included in the map above and have exotic species, lots of secret corners, and even a pond with fish!

Oxford Botanic Gardens - Image courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger

Oxford Botanic Gardens & Arboretum

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is Great Britain’s oldest botanic garden and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. The Oxford Botanic Garden was founded in 1621

Oxford Christ Church Meadow - Image courtesy of Matthias Rosenkranz

Christ Church Meadow

Christ Church Meadow, in Oxford, is open to the public all year round. This open space in the heart of the city is an ideal choice for wandering, picnicking, or

Oxford University Parks. Image courtesy of Piers Nye via Flickr Commons.

Oxford University Parks

Oxford University Parks (or University Parks) is a large park area northeast of the city. The park is open to the public during the day.

Oxford's Port Meadow - Image courtesy of Danny Chapman

Port Meadow

Port Meadow is a large open space in the north and west of Oxford. The River Thames flows through the heart of this ancient area of grazing land, still used

Learn More About Oxford

Explore new and familiar locations, visit the parks, step into a college, or drop by one of the many quirky shops Oxford has to offer. Browse All >

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