Visiting Oxford University Colleges

Oxford University is composed of over 30 colleges or academic communities, each of them with its own unique history and traditions. The different Oxford colleges also tend to have a library, common room, dining hall, a bar, and several societies and clubs.

All undergraduate Oxford University students belong to a college. And, while colleges maintain their unique identities and traditions, they collaborate closely with the university to deliver a comprehensive educational experience. So, let’s explore the different colleges of Oxford University and find out how to visit them, what to see in them, and whether you can join a tour.

How Do Oxford Colleges Work?

The different Oxford colleges function as autonomous academic communities within the University of Oxford. Each college has its own governing body, known as the fellowship, which oversees its operations and academic affairs.

Colleges admit students for undergraduate and postgraduate programs, provide tutorials and lectures, and offer accommodation and other facilities. Students are typically affiliated with a specific college, where they receive academic support and engage in social and extracurricular activities.

The Most Popular Oxford Colleges

There are a few Oxford colleges that are renowned for their history and architectural beauty. People visiting Oxford tend to go into at least one of the following 5 best (most popular) colleges:

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.

Read More »
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.

Read More »

Christ Church College, with its grandiose architecture and lush meadows, has long captured the imagination of visitors and scholars alike. Its stunning cathedral and picturesque cloisters have served as iconic backdrops in literature and film, while its academic rigor continues to attract top students and scholars.

So, if you need to choose ONE college to visit (for example, if you’re only in Oxford for an evening), I would definitely recommend Christ Church. However, Magdalen College, nestled along the banks of the River Cherwell, exudes an air of tranquility and beauty, too. So, that would be my second pick!

Visiting Oxford Colleges - Planning Your Trip

A large number of Oxford Colleges are open to visitors). Oxford is not a “campus” University, so the buildings are not all located in one place but distributed across the city. Fortunately, they are all within walking distance of each other.

The majority of colleges that receive visitors are open during the day, although their hours change. There are usually fees that apply and rules for groups. If you’re an Oxford Card-holder, you can visit many colleges as a Guest, for free and with up to three guests. 

More info: How to Arrange a Visit to an Oxford College

If you’re looking for a pre-organised tour, here are some really good ones you can investigate:

All Oxford Colleges
(And How to Visit Them)

As we have mentioned above, Oxford colleges don’t specialise in a particular subject. Instead, they offer several lectures and practical assignments. In general, the colleges organise the tutorials and provide the accommodation, and the academic department(s) that run your course, your assessment, lectures, and practical work. 

Now, we have to mention this: While Oxford University is renowned for its stunning architecture and picturesque colleges, not all of them are universally considered “pretty” in the traditional sense. Each college has its own unique charm and character, ranging from grandiose Gothic structures to more understated buildings. Some boast beautiful gardens, tranquil courtyards, or scenic riverfront locations, while others may prioritize academic facilities over aesthetic appeal.

Ultimately, beauty is subjective, and what one person finds attractive, another may not. However, Oxford’s colleges collectively contribute to the university’s architectural diversity and historical richness, making each one special in its own way. So, here’s the complete list so you can take a look and make your pick!

Museums & Art Galleries

Antiques on High - Oxford Museums, Art Galleries and Antiques Shops

Antiques on High

Antiques on High is an antiques and art shop from Oxford founded in 1997 and open seven days a week. It has won several awards.

Aidan Meller Gallery - Oxford Museums and Art Galleries

Aidan Meller Gallery

Aidan Meller Gallery is one of Oxford’s longest-established specialist art galleries. They showcase modern, contemporary and old masters.

Historical Places

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!).

24-26 Cornmarket Street. Image courtesy of Chuca Cimas.

24-26 Cornmarket Street, Oxford

24-26 Cornmarket Street, Oxford is a timber-framed building built in the late 14th century. It belonged to a wine merchant and was an inn.

Things to Do in Oxford

Oxford Hotels: The Randolph Hotel. How to Visit, When to Stay

The Randolph Hotel

The Randolph Hotel, situated in the heart of Oxford, stands as a distinguished landmark of the city, attracting guests from around the world.

Read More »
Barefoot Jericho - Cakes in Oxford

Barefoot Jericho

Barefoot offers homemade cakes, pastries and bread, delicious coffee for eat-in or takeaway in the neighbourhood of Jericho, in Oxford.

Read More »
Shops to See in Oxford: The Cake Shop - Cakes for Any Occasion

The Cake Shop

The Cake Shop offers ready-made designs and bespoke masterpieces and has been trading since 1986 in Oxford’s Covered Market.

Read More »