There are lots of Colleges to visit in Oxford. Thirty eight constituent colleges and six permanent private halls in total! Naturally, as a visitor to Oxford you will want to go in at least one of these forty three iconic buildings but choosing which ones to visit is harder than the cinnamon challenge. Well don’t fret. We at Footprints Tours have compiled a list of the top 5 best Colleges to visit at Oxford. It will also tell you about opening times and costs to ensure your visit to the colleges goes ahead without a hitch. These are all Colleges that we visit on our Oxford University Walking Tour.
5. Christ Church College
Without a doubt, Christ Church is the most recognisable college at Oxford, having given England Thirteen Prime Ministers and of course being the site of the Grand Stairwell in Harry Potter. Christ Church is without a doubt, one of the grandest colleges at Oxford and actually encases Christ Church Cathedral (The Diocese of Oxford) within its walls. Along the walls of the Dining Room are portraits of just some of the many notable alumni who studied at the College. This includes the likes of William Pitt, the Founder of Pittsburgh, John Locke, the Philosopher and Charles Dodgson, who most people know by the name as Lewis Carroll… With so much going for it, it is certainly one of the best Colleges to visit at Oxford.
The only thing putting it at number five however, is the fact that it can be a bit of a tourist trap. The college tends to charge quite extortionate fees for entry and tends to be rammed with people trying to take pictures of the Harry Potter locations. Whilst definitely a worthwhile visit, these are things that must be considered before heading over to this iconic college.
Opening Times – Monday to Saturday – 10:00 – 17:00, Sunday – 14:00 – 17:00
4. St. John’s College
Now this College really is something special. It currently stands as the wealthiest College in Oxford with financial endowments of over £442.2 Million. The College has quite a lot of grounds open to the public so its a great College to visit and you’re hoping to get a real sense as to the goings on in Oxford. Notable Alumni of the College include the likes of Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Thailand Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the poets A.E. Housman, Philip Larkin and Robert Graves. St. John’s College opens is grounds to the public most afternoons so it is certainly one of the best Colleges to visit at Oxford.
Opening Times – Monday to Sunday – 13:00 – 17:00 or dusk. Whichever comes first
3. Exeter College
Having just talked about two of the grandest and largest of the best Colleges at Oxford to visit, it seems strange that a much smaller college would make it on to this list but Exeter really deserves it place on here. Amongst other things, the College boasts one of the best views of Radcliffe Square, the home to some of Oxfords most iconic buildings, from an inconspicuous flight of stairs in a corner of the Fellows Garden.
The College is also the former College of J.R.R Tolkien and a bust of him still remains in Exeter College Chapel. Furthermore, the Chapel is home to an original William Morris Tapestry depicting the birth of Jesus. The best time to come to the College is for evensong, which happens on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday at 6pm. This is because the Organ at Exeter is widely regarded as being the best in Oxford and so Evensong provides a great opportunity to listen to its almighty Roar!
Opening Times -Monday to Sunday – 14:00 – 17:00
2. New College
New College is the ultimate College for the person who wants to find all of the Oxford Highlights in one place. The College has a stunning garden with the original city wall running around its boundaries. If you like Choral music, New College is the best for it. The choir here are world renowned and in fact have won two grammy awards! Most noteworthy is The Chapel, also is the home to some incredible art, including a two metre high sculpture of Lazarus, sculpted by Jacob Epstein, and an original El Greco! By the way, it is sometimes lent out to the Ashmolean so don’t be concerned if you rock up to see it and all you can see is an empty frame!
Finally, the icing on the cake… New College was also used in the filming of Harry Potter! If you don’t want to pay the fees for Christ Church but you want your fix of Potter, New College is definitely one of the best Colleges at Oxford to visit. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, why not take a look at the Footprints Harry Potter Tour.
Opening Times -Easter to October -11:00 – 17:00, October to Easter -14:00 – 16:00
1. Balliol College
This College is indisputably the top of the best colleges at Oxford to visit. Not only is it one of the oldest Colleges to visit in Oxford (1263), it also gave us three well known Prime Ministers (H.H. Asquith, Edward Heath and Harold MacMillan. The list doesn’t end there though as amongst others, Balliol is the former College of Adam Smith, Aldous Huxley and Richard Dawkins… oh and Boris Johnson went to Balliol as well! The College itself benefits from a stunning chapel, a huge dining room and a beautiful garden which covers a large portion of the Colleges grounds. Most important of all though is the Colleges collection of prized tortoises! Therefore, there is no doubt in our minds that this makes Balliol College the number one of the best Colleges to visit at Oxford!
Opening Times -Monday to Sunday -10:00 – 17:00 or dusk. Whichever comes first
And, if you’re going to visit the number one College in Oxford you should probably take the number one tour in Oxford! Our University Walking tour takes you into Balliol College amongst the other best Colleges to visit at Oxford. For more information and to book your place on one of our University Tours, click here0