Guide to Oxford Colleges to Visit

Emma - 10 January 2016

The city of Oxford is home to the 38 colleges of Oxford University, many of which are open to the public, making this small town in South East England a popular destination. Very few visitors will go to all the colleges however, and the choice of which to see can be overwhelming. Many smaller, beautiful Oxford colleges to visit are overlooked, while tourists flock to show-stopping Christ Church. Here, we try to make the choice a little easier, providing a location, opening times, cost, and even a random fact about each of the colleges. For the budget-conscious traveller there’s a list of free Oxford colleges to visit. Bear in mind though, all of the opening times are subject to change, given that these are working academic and religious buildings.

Which Oxford College is the Oldest?

Balliol, Merton, and University all have claim to this title, although no one is quite sure who can take the crown of oldest Oxford college. St Edmund Hall was a medieval hall of learning, and so could potentially compete to be the oldest, but only officially became a college in the late 1950s.

Oxford College Visitor Entrance Fees

Often when a college charges for entry it means the college is either exceptionally popular with visitors, or that puts effort and staff into making it a great place to visit. So don’t be put off by the colleges that charge admission, as these can include some of the best sights in Oxford. In many cases the entrance fee will also include a map or pamphlet about the college. However, for those on a tight budget we’ve listed the free Oxford colleges to visit further down the article.

Balliol College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Balliol

Where is Balliol College?

Broad Street, across the road from Debenhams and Waterstones

When is Balliol College open?

10am – 5pm (or dusk, if falling before 5pm)

How much does visiting Balliol College cost?

£2 (£1 for concessions / students)

Give me a fact!

After the death of John de Balliol, founder of the college, his wife Dervorguilla had his heart embalmed and carried it around with her for the rest of her life in an ivory casket. Dervorguilla herself played a large role in the founding of the college, unusual for a woman of her time.

Brasenose College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Brasenose

Where is Brasenose College?

Radcliffe Square, next to the Radcliffe Camera

When is Brasenose College open?

Monday to Friday 10.00 – 11.30 and 2pm-5 (4.30 in winter)
Saturday and Sunday term time 09.30 – 10.30am and 2pm-5 (4.30 in winter)
Saturday and Sunday non-term time 10.00 – 11.30am and 2pm-5 (4.30 in winter)

Visitors should report to the Lodge at the main gate where they will receive a map and information about the College.

How much does visiting Brasenose College cost?

£2

Give me a fact!

No one is sure where the name came from, but it’s thought that it is named after a doorknocker in the shape of a nose. Bizarrely, noses have been used as a symbol for Brasenose throughout its history, and can apparently be found in the architecture details at the college.

Also, David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of the UK, is an alumnus of Brasenose College.

New College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: New

Where is New College?

Hidden off the beaten track on Holywell Street and New College Lane

When is New College open?

Between Easter and October, New College is open 11am – 5pm, and should be accessed via the New College Lane gates

Between October and Easter, New College is open 2pm – 4pm, and should be accessed via the Holywell Street gates

How much does visiting New College cost?

£4 Adults

£3 Concessions (inc. under-16s, students and seniors)

Admission is free between October and Easter.

Give me a fact!

Ironically, New College is in fact one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. A famous fellow of New College is Richard Dawkins, the eminent evolutionary biologist and atheist adored and despised around the world.

Christ Church

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Christ Church

Where is Christ Church?

On St Aldates

When is Christ Church open?

10am-7pm Monday-Saturday

2pm-5pm Sunday (no admittance after 4.15pm)

How much does visiting Christ Church cost?

£9 in July and August (£8 concessions)

£8 in April to June (£6.50 concessions)

£7 in September to March (£5.50 concessions)

Give me a fact!

Christ Church has lots of fascinating facts. It’s the largest of the Oxford colleges to visit, and was originally called ‘Cardinal College’ after its founder Cardinal Wolsey (Henry VIII changed the name after falling out with the Cardinal). Among its varied alumni it can claim Lewis Carroll, as well as 13 British Prime Ministers (the most of any college at Oxford or Cambridge). The modest sounding ‘college chapel’ is in fact Oxford city’s cathedral. And finally, the huge bell held above the St Aldates entrance is known as ‘Great Tom’ and chimes 101 times each evening, for each of the 101 original students of Christ Church.

Trinity College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Trinity

Where is Trinity College?

Broad Street, opposite the Sheldonian

When is Trinity College open?

Monday – Friday: 9am-12.15pm and 1.30pm-4pm

Saturday to Sunday 1pm-4pm in term time, 9.30-6pm/dusk outside of term time

How much does visiting Trinity College cost?

£2 (£1 concessions)

Give me a fact!

Trinity and Balliol have a fierce rivalry, largely consisting of pranks, raids, songs and general competitiveness. While Balliol is liberal and less richly endowed than other colleges, Trinity is conservative and wealthy.

Merton College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Merton

Where is Merton College?

On Merton Street (unsurprisingly!) Merton Street runs parallel to the High Street, and can be accessed by nipping down Logic Lane or Magpie Lane.

When is Merton College open?

Monday – Friday: 2pm – 5pm/dusk

Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm/dusk

How much does visiting Merton College cost?

£3

Give me a fact!

Each year when the clocks go back, students of Merton gather in the quad and walk backwards for an hour, arms linked, to ensure that the clocks behave as they should. This time ceremony is a fairly recent tradition, having only begun in 1971, but it quickly became an established practice.

Oriel College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Oriel

Where is Oriel College?

On Oriel Street / Oriel Square

When is Oriel College open?

2pm-5pm/dusk

Closed during the summer term.

How much does visiting Oriel College cost?

£2

Give me a fact!

Oriel College is actually named after a window. Also, a campaign to remove a controversial statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College got them in the news this year.

Jesus College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Jesus

Where is Jesus College?

On Turl Street and Ship Street

When is Jesus College open?

2pm-4.30pm

How much does visiting Jesus College cost?

Adults: £2

Seniors and Children: £1

Give me a fact!

Known as ‘The Welsh College’ due to having always had a substantially Welsh body of students and principals, and having been founded by a Welshman.

Magdalen College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Magdalen

Where is Magdalen College?

On New Inn Hall Street

When is Magdalen College open?

October to June: 1pm – 6pm/dusk

July-September: midday – 7pm

How much does visiting Magdalen College cost?

Adults: £5

Concessions: £4

Give me a fact!

Magdalen is one of the most popular Oxford colleges to visit. In the winter and spring, a herd of fallow deer can be found living in the Magdalen grounds. And on May Day morning, citizens of Oxford gather beneath the Magdalen tower to hear the college choir welcome the spring. Oscar Wilde is among their most famous alumni.

Free Oxford Colleges to Visit

All Souls College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: All Souls

Where is All Souls College?

On the High Street, near Cattle Street

When is All Souls College open?

Open Monday-Friday 2pm-4pm, closed in August, Easter, and over Christmas

How much does visiting All Souls College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

All Souls is positively deserted compared to other colleges, and is certainly the most exclusive of the Oxford colleges to visit. It admits just two people a year, topping up its total number of members to just 76. The entrance exam is famously fiendish, and the college buildings are similarly intimidating; an immense white medieval fortress, pristine and manicured within. The doors are closed even to Oxford students from other colleges, so the 2-4pm window is the only time you’ll get to see within.

Corpus Christi College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Corpus Christi

Where is Corpus Christi College?

On Merton Street, next to Merton College. From the High Street, turn down Magpie Lane, and at the end go right.

When is Corpus Christi College open?

1.30pm-4.30pm

How much does visiting Corpus Christi College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Corpus Christi are the hosts of the annual tortoise race. Many Oxford colleges have a tortoise, which they can enter into the race to claim victory for their college. Those colleges that don’t have tortoises can enter a human substitute who must eat an entire lettuce in tortoise costume before beginning the race, to give the true tortoises a fighting chance. Only in Oxford…

Exeter College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Exeter

Where is Exeter College?

On Turl Street, next to the Sheldonian Theatre and Bodelian Library

When is Exeter College open?

2pm-5pm

How much does visiting Exeter College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Exeter is thought to have been the inspiration for Jordan College, Lyra’s home in the His Dark Materials trilogy, as Phillip Pullman studied here. The college clearly has a knack for producing storytellers, as J.R.R. Tolkein, author of The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings is another famous alumnus.

Lady Margaret Hall

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Lady Margaret Hall

Where is Lady Margaret Hall?

Fyfield Road, at the north point of University Parks.

When is Lady Margaret Hall open?

10am-5pm

How much does visiting Lady Margaret Hall cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

The first women’s college at Oxford!

Nuffield College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Nuffield

Where is Nuffield College?

On New Road, across the road from the Hythe Bridge Street car park

When is Nuffield College open?

Monday-Friday: 9am-5pm

How much does visiting Nuffield College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Nuffield’s tower is controversial, disliked by most, and defended by a small number of enthusiasts. This post-war college has probably the least ‘dreamy’ of all of Oxford’s spires.

Mansfield College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Mansfield

Where is Mansfield College?

On Mansfield Road, close to Parks Road

When is Mansfield College open?

9am-5pm

How much does visiting Mansfield College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

During WWII, more than 40 staff from the Government Code and Cypher School were housed in Mansfield, creating ciphers for the British to use in wartime communications. The work of breaking the enemy’s codes was done separately, at nearby Bletchley Park.

Harris Manchester College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Harris Manchester

Where is Harris Manchester College?

On Holywell Street / Mansfield Road

When is Harris Manchester College open?

Monday-Friday: 10am-5.30pm

Saturday: 9am-midday

(Chapel Only)

How much does visiting Harris Manchester College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

HMC has the best student to book ratio. It is the smallest college, but has the sixth largest library.

Hertford College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Hertford

Where is Hertford College?

On Catte Street, near the Radcliffe Camera

When is Hertford College open?

2pm-4.30pm

How much does visiting Hertford College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

While the bridge connecting the two halves of the college is commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs (named after the bridge of the same name in Venice), this is not its name, and it was never intended as a copy of the Venetian Bridge of Sighs. None the less, the bridge is pretty cool.

Keble College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Keble

Where is Keble College?

On Parks Road, opposite the Natural History Museum

When is Keble College open?

2pm-5pm

How much does visiting Keble College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Gothic and extremely Victorian, Keble is built of red, white and blue bricks, and was known in its time as ‘the ugliest building in the world’. A secret society formed at St John’s College, which could be entered only by removing a brick from Keble, in the hope that one day the building would be gone. Today, Keble’s alumni newsletter is proudly called ‘The Brick’.

Kellogg College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Kellogg

Where is Kellogg College?

In the north of Oxford, on Banbury Road

When is Kellogg College open?

Monday – Friday: 9am-5pm

How much does visiting Kellogg College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Founded in 1990, this young college is known for having many international students.

St Anne’s College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: St Anne's

Where is St Anne’s College?

Between Woodstock Road and Banbury Road

When is St Anne’s College open?

9am-5pm

How much does visiting St Anne’s College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

St Anne’s has the largest college library at Oxford

St Catherine’s College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: St Cats

Where is St Cats College?

In the east of Oxford, on Manor Road

When is St Cats College open?

9am-5pm

How much does visiting St Cats College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Founded in the 1960s, St Cats was designed down to the last detail (including cutlery and lampshades!) by architect Arne Jacobsen. It’s a modern take on a traditional Oxford college.

St Edmund Hall

Oxford Colleges to Visit: St Edmunds

Where is St Edmund Hall?

On Queen’s Lane and the High Street

When is St Edmund Hall open?

10am-4pm

How much does visiting St Edmund Hall cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Sometimes known as Teddy Hall, the precise date of the founding of the hall is not known. It began as a medieval hall of learning, and only became a ‘college’ officially in 1957.

St John’s College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: St John's

Where is St John’s College?

On the east side of St Giles

When is St John’s College open?

1pm-5pm/Dusk

How much does visiting St John’s College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

The wealthiest Oxford college, St John’s owns a lot of the land upon which suburban Oxford is built, and into the surrounding countryside. In fact, there’s a legend that you can walk from Oxford to Cambridge on land owned by St John’s (that’s over eighty miles!)

St Peter’s College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: St Peter's

Where is St Peter’s College?

On New Inn Hall Street

When is St Peter’s College open?

10am-5pm

How much does visiting St Peter’s College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Rather than being purpose built, St Peter’s has requisitioned it’s buildings largely from existing uses. It’s main building was once two of the oldest inns at Oxford.

Somerville College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Somerville

Where is Somerville College?

On Woodstock Road

When is Somerville open?

2pm-4.30pm

How much does visiting Somerville College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

During WWI Somerville was converted into a military hospital. It was one of the first colleges for women, and its alumni includes Margaret Thatcher.

Wadham College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Wadham

Where is Wadham College?

On Parks Road

When is Wadham College open?

In term time: 1pm–4.15pm

Out of term time: 10.30am-11.45am and 1pm-4.15pm

How much does visiting Wadham College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Wadham an annual music festival called Wadstock (I’m hoping you recognise the pun…)

Wolfson College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Wolfson

Where is Wolfson College?

Linton Road

When is Wolfson College open?

Daylight hours

How much does visiting Wolfson College cost?

Free!

Worcester College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Worcester

Where is Worcester College?

On Worcester Street / Walton Street

When is Worcester open?

2pm-5pm

How much does visiting Worcester College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Famous for having a lovely garden, complete with duckpond. In fact, everyone is so taken with the duckpond that students of the college have taken up ducks as their mascot as a result.

Lincoln College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: Lincoln

Where is Lincoln College?

On the High Street

When is Lincoln College open?

Monday-Friday: 2pm-5pm

Saturday-Sunday: 11am-5pm

How much does visiting Lincoln College cost?

Free!

Give me a fact!

Dr Seuss (the children’s author) started but never finished his DPhil in English Lit at Lincoln.

University College

Oxford Colleges to Visit: University

Where is University College?

On the High Street, opposite Havana House

When is University College open?

There are no set times when University College is open. Entry is at the discretion of the Lodge Porter.

Give me a fact!

Univ has one of the most impressive Oxford college alumni lists, including (amongst many many others) CS Lewis, Bill Clinton, and Stephen Hawking.

Oxford Colleges to Visit ‘By Appointment Only’

  • St. Cross College
  • St. Giles’
  • GreenTempleton College
  • Woodstock Road
  • Linacre College
  • St. Cross Road
  • Pembroke College
  • Pembroke Square, St. Aldate’s
  • St. Antony’s College
  • Woodstock Road
  • Queen’s College
  • High Street
  • St Hilda’s College
  • Just over Magdalene Bridge in Cowley Place
  • St Hugh’s College
  • St Margaret’s Road, between Woodstock Road and Banbury Road

Finding Oxford Colleges

Many of the Oxford colleges to visit are hidden amongst a warren of tiny alleys and lanes. Exploring these is probably one of the most magical aspects of a summer’s day in Oxford, but can be incredibly frustrating when you can’t find the little college you’re looking for. For times like this, I’ve found this map incredibly useful.

Your Favourite Oxford College?

Have you ever visited the city of dreaming spires? Know any particularly good places to visit or any bizarre Oxford facts? Have a favourite of Oxford college to visit? Post in the comments below – we’d love to hear them!

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