Harry Potter For A Day: Oxford
Is it bad that I might want to transfer schools as a soon-to-be senior?
I had always heard that Oxford was a beautiful school, but little did I know how stunning the entire town would be. Even though it was rainy out, I could have spent ages walking around the gorgeous Gothic, Palladian, and Gothic Revival style buildings.
After researching, the cheapest and most efficient way to get to Oxford was via the Oxford Tube bus, which is operated by Megabus. I think the round trip ticket was somewhere around £20 and took us from the Victoria Coach Station in London to the Gloucester Green Coach Station in Oxford, about a 15 minute walk to the main campus of Oxford University. It was a bit of pain trying to find the actual stop in London, but once we were on our 9:00 am bus it was a quick hour and half trip that was dedicated to napping!
I woke up right as we started to make our way into Oxford and already was enraptured. Most cities are a mixed box of different architectural styles, but all of Oxford is pretty much only the beautiful, stone buildings that it is known for. No ugly brick boxes from the 70s or towers made of glass, just handcrafted architecture.
Our first stop of the day was actually breakfast! Kelly and I decided on a quick meal at Pret A Manger, one of the chains here in the UK. What did I get? A cappuccino and a sausage and egg sandwich on a bap, the British name for buns.
Soon after eating, we headed to Oxford University, the main reason we had come. Some of our friends had already visited the town and gave us pointers, aka where Harry Potter had been filmed. I grew up reading and loving the series, so it was surreal to be on the location of some of the most iconic scenes.
One of these was the Divinity School, part of the Bodleian library at Oxford University. We decided to do an audio tour of the Divinity School and the courtyards outside it for it was the cheapest option (and the walking tours were booked). For only £3 a set for a 45 minute long audio tour, it was worth it! It gave us a very good background into the history of the school, the Bodleian Library, and the ever famous Radcliffe Camera.
The Divinity school was probably one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever seen in my life. The amount of detail that went into every single inch of it was outstanding. Although it is no longer used for theological oral exams, there is an air of academic grandeur that still lingers throughout its almost 550 year old ornate ceiling.
Also fun fact about the Divinity School- it was used as the Hogwarts Infirmary and for a scene where Professor McGonagall teaches the young witches and wizards how to dance for the Yule Ball! Here are images from the films for reference:
The courtyards outside of the Bodleian Library were just as beautiful as the inside. As I learned on the tour, the Library has had many additions put on, but you can hardly tell because the style of architecture remains consistent throughout. How was this achieved? A heck of a lot of fundraising! It was worth it, though:
Our audio tour ended with some information about perhaps Oxford’s most iconic building, the Radcliffe Camera. Originally built to house the science library of Oxford, it is now a reading room for the Bodleian and houses books of a ride range of subjects.
We didn’t get to go inside, but just the outside neo-classical style of the building was more than enough to see! Our tour ended and we handed in the audio devices and wandered around the campus a bit more. Most of it was still cobblestone, which made walking a fun adventure, but very worth it in order to see all of the various buildings.
After spending a good amount touring the campus, we stopped into the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
Like most things in Oxford, it was as beautiful in the inside as it was from the outside.
From there, we headed down a little alley called Merton Walk in order to get to Christ Church Meadow. It seems as though Oxford was teeming with little streets that are lined with elegant buildings and manicured gardens!
As we got to the meadow, we definitely underestimated how big it would be! We decided against walking around it and instead headed east to the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens and the Magdalen Bridge. We didn’t go in for the end of winter isn’t the best time for plant-seeing, but I heard that it is rather beautiful in the spring! The bridge was rather beautiful, but it started to rain so I only grabbed a quick photo of the view of the river!
Next on our list were two of Oxford’s highlights- Christ Church and the Christ Church Cathedral! Little did I know before visiting Oxford that the university is made up of many various colleges with Christ Church being one of the most prestigious and well endowed. It is also hella beautiful. For a rather fair admission price, I forget the exact sum, you get access to the grounds, which are steeped in Harry Potter film locations.
First were the cloisters:
These hallways were used for the scene where Harry discovers his father’s name on a Quidditch trophy in the first movie:
Next, and most notably, was Christ Church’s Hall and the stairs leading up to it. Here are the stairs. I didn’t get my own photo because it was raining out and very dark!:
Where are they seen in the films? Right before Harry enters the great hall for the first time and is sorted into Gryffindor:
The hall itself wasn’t in the films, but was used as inspiration for the great hall! Here is the Christ Church Hall:
And here is the hall in the films:
Obviously, you can see the resemblance!
Of course, Harry Potter things weren’t the only things to see at Christ Church! The actual Cathedral itself was outstanding, a very traditional English cathedral:
Outside of the Cathedral was another beautiful courtyard:
It didn’t take us long to see Christ Church for they don’t allow you into most of the buildings as they are still being used as residence halls and classrooms and such, but I loved it. If you are going to go to Oxford, you really have to be somebody who appreciates architecture!
By this time, we were pretty hungry and headed back to the more downtown area of Oxford in search of food! What we discovered along the way was Oxford Market, another one of England’s many, amazing covered markets. We walked through it because it there wasn’t much food, but were determined to come back.
We had lunch in a little cafe which I believe was called the Art Cafe. It was quaint and a nice break from the rain, and fairly cheap for a sandwich, little side salad, and diet coke.
By this time, we had pretty much seen most of the things on our list and it was 2:00 pm. Our bus was at 5:30. Determined to make the most of it, we walked around Oxford and stumbled upon the castle. To say it’s a castle is more than an overstatement. It’s now a shopping center and you can do a dungeon tour, but we weren’t really interested in it.
Instead, we decided to go back to Christ Church Meadow to maybe walk around it! The rain had let up a little, which was nice, and we walked a good portion of it before turning back around as the rain picked up again.
Where did we go? The mall! It was like an American mall, including a Krispy Kreme!!
Also spotted was a shop with plenty of Harry Potter gear:
In order to kill some time and heat up, we popped a squat at a costa coffee. I splurged and ordered a hot chocolate, which was AMAZING.
As the rain let up and our drinks were finished, we headed back to the market for one thing and one thing only: Ben’s Cookies. These things were DELICIOUS. Hot and fresh out of the oven, I got a milk chocolate cookie and a triple chocolate cookie, both which were about the size of a tea cup saucer.
Sadly enough, our day in Oxford was coming to an end and we headed back to the bus station. It was an amazing day trip that I would recommend to any Harry Potter fan or lover of architecture! You definitely don’t need a whole day thought (i.e. 9-5). We managed to pretty much everything we wanted and then some within about 5 hours. My rating? A solid 9/10 and I may be transferring…. Well, probably not, but if only! In the meantime, I’ll still be waiting on my Hogwarts acceptance letter.
Until next post, see you later!