What to do in Oxford: 5 Beautiful Oxford Colleges

In preparation for my new book: ‘What to do in Oxford: An Imagination Tour.’ I have decided to show you what Oxford has to offer with her bevvy of Oxford colleges and their grounds. There is one university and under that umbrella, there are 39 Oxford Colleges and they are spread around Oxford. If you are looking for the University itself, you will be hard-pressed. There is the Oxford Union, which could be considered a focal point, and it has a lovely bar and garden, but otherwise, you will see that the town and the Colleges are entwined in one another.

We will be visiting these 5 beautiful Oxford colleges first.

  1. Magdalen College
  2. Christ Church College
  3. Lady Margaret Hall
  4. Exeter College
  5. New College


These are also the other Oxford colleges, which I am sure to tackle at some other point:

  1. Jesus College
  2. Johns College
  3. All Souls
  4. The Queens College
  5. Merton College
  6. Nuffield College
  7. Down College
  8. Corpus Christi College
  9. University College
  10. Lincoln College
  11. Balliol College
  12. Wadham College
  13. St Catherine’s College
  14. Oriel College
  15. Somerville College
  16. Hertford College
  17. Pembroke College
  18. St Edmund Hall
  19. St Hilda’s College
  20. Keble College
  21. Wolfson College
  22. St Peter’s College
  23. St Antony’s College
  24. St Anne’s College
  25. Worcester College
  26. St Hugh’s College
  27. Linacre College
  28. Mansfield College
  29. Harris Manchester College
  30. Green Templeton College
  31. Kellogg College
  32. Parks College
  33. St Cross College
  34. Brasenose College


I have selected gardens that I have visited recently and are open to the public.

Magdalen College Grounds

Deer Park and Addison’s walk.

If there was ever a place that was magical Magdalen College’s college grounds would put Harry Potter to shame. For a start, it has the heritage of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, both authors spent many hours wandering the grounds and debating theology as well as their books. If that wasn’t enough there is a bevvy of flora, fauna and fawns. The grounds are immaculately kept, and the colour schemes are inspiring to say the least. From April until at least early October flowers are in bloom in ever-changing colour. The fawns appear between April and July, that is correct, the grounds contain deer. The other strangely magical part of this glorious walk is the silence. Once you pass the gate to the deer park it becomes hard to imagine that you are in a city centre, you might hear an odd car horn but other than that you might as well be in the countryside.


Adults £7;

Over 65s, children, students £6;

Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children aged 7 or over) £20.

Magdalen College, Oxford,


Phone number: +44 1865 276000

Opening Hours:

January to late June:       1pm to dusk or 6pm, whichever is the earlier.

July to early October:     10am to dusk or 7pm, whichever is the earlier.  (1 July to 6 October).

October to December:   1pm to dusk or 6pm, whichever is the earlier.





Christ Church Grounds

Christ Church Meadow:

things to do in oxford
Oxford Colleges

Totally free, open 24/7, and full of romance and literary inspiration. This is also in the city centre. A huge meadow, with a walking path that runs in between the meadow, which you can’t access and the river Cherwell. Another peaceful location to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you can see if you can find three similar trees planted together. If you do, congratulations! You might have found the trees planted by the Liddell sisters. In case you are curious as to who these three sisters were. They are related to and include ‘The Alice.’ Of Wonderland fame.


Cost: Free

Christ Church

St Aldates


Phone: +44 1865 276150

Opening Hours:

24 hours



Lady Margret Hall Grounds

This college is a hidden gem just north of the city centre and connected to University Parks. The grounds are free to enter, the entrance is imposing and a combination of red brick and Roman columns. Its gardens are large, and it is one of the few colleges that backs onto the River Cherwell. Another quiet location where you could hold a beautiful picnic either on the banks or you can hire a punt for £10 plus a £20 deposit.


Cost: Free

Norham Gardens, Oxford OX2 6QA

Phone: +44 (0) 1865 274300

Opening Hours:

Daily 10.00-17.00




Exeter College Grounds

A famous and one of the smaller colleges, Exeter still holds several gems. The front Quadrangle is where Inspector Morse died, and the college is used as a basis for Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials.’ The real gem of their grounds in the fellow’s garden. Where there are beautifully laid lawns surrounded by flowers, but right at the back on the far-right corner is a raised walkway, leading to the top of the wall. Where you can sit on lovely wooden benches and look into Radcliffe square and see the Radcliffe Camera and St Mary’s Church, a lovely getaway for someone’s lunch break.

Cost: Free

Turl Street


Phone: +44 (0) 1865 279600

Opening Hours:

Daily 14.00-17.00




New College Grounds

Something very different and unique is held behind the walls of New College. The old, original city walls. The gardens are claimed to be designed in the same format as the Palace of Versailles. The college floral arrangements are beautiful, but the real gem is the college herbaceous border, which is one of the largest in the U.K. It takes some beating to have the well-kept gardens entwined with these giant bastions that are now the few remaining parts of the original city. You can not miss them as you enter, and you will see a large gate, (Known as the Middle Gate.) which will give you entry to the other part of the college grounds known as the Garden Quadrangle. There are parts of the wall that can still be walked and are regularly inspected by the Lord Mayor of Oxford every three years. The way the wall and the flowers and trees have been arranged is quite spectacular, and there is even a mound in the middle of the quad, this was a mystery until recently. Supposedly it was connected to the civil wars of the 1600s and had been built as a look outpost. There is also evidence that this was designed as a simple feature, which could be found in Rome and in royal grounds and English gardens.


Adults £5, seniors, under 16s and full-time students £4. Free to Oxford residents.

New College, Holywell Street, Oxford,

+44 1865 27253/ +44 1865 279555

Opening Hours:

Easter-Oct 10.30-17.00 (via New College Lane gates); Oct-Easter 14.00-16.00 (via Holywell Street gates)



Thank you for reading.

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Was there any other that you would have included in a top-five Oxford Colleges?

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