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10 of the Best Walking Tours in Oxford

Step out on to the charming streets of Oxford in style, as you learn all about its history and secrets on a guided tour around the city.

Walking tours are a great way to explore any city, but Oxford is compact enough that you can see most of the attractions in only a few hours.

A guide will cut out all the work for you – giving you the chance to be taken from place to beautiful place by someone who has spent years living in and learning about Oxford. 

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See every secret doorway and hidden gem as they’re pointed out to you. In Oxford, you don’t want to miss a thing.

City and University Tours

Explore the city of Oxford and its fabled university with a knowledgeable guide.

Oxford: University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide

Oxford University Students Celebrating at the bridge of sighs
Oxford University Students Celebrating at the bridge of sighs

There could hardly be a better guide to the University of Oxford than someone who attended as a student.

Moving through Oxford’s oldest and most prestigious colleges is an incredible experience regardless, but an alumni guide can give you insight into the reality of life as a student. Stories of university life, a personalised account of their student experience and an insight into the eccentric traditions of Oxford are all to be expected as part of the tour. 

You will tick off many of Oxford’s most iconic sights within the university grounds alone. All Souls College, Trinity College, Oriel College, Hertford College and Merton College are all stops on the tour. As you will be exploring with a small group, you can get an intimate look into the university – asking as many questions of your guide as you would like.

The instantly recognisable Radcliffe Camera and the historic University Church of St. Mary are possibly the most photographed locations in Oxford. They, and the world-famous Bodleian Library, are arguably the highlights of an already jam-packed tour.

Learn about famous alumni, the history of Oxford and its literary associations on a walk that leads you through the city’s most unmissable attractions. 

Tickets start from £19.99 per person. Duration: 2 hours.

Oxford: University and City Walking Tour

Radcliffe Camera
Radcliffe Camera

For a slightly shorter and cheaper tour of Oxford, the 90 minute University and City Walking Tour is a fantastic alternative.

Visit some of the oldest colleges in Oxford as you journey around the city at a relaxed place. 

Exploring the city with a guide is a great way to learn about its history and see the lesser-known spots you might have otherwise missed. All the guides available on this tour are a walking wealth of information, with extensive knowledge on the workings of the collegiate system and the history of Oxford – you’re guaranteed to learn something new about the city.

Stop by the setting of Harry Potter and Inspector Morse in the cloisters and hallways of New College during the walk. The college is only ‘new’ by Oxford’s standards; it was founded in 1379. Hertford College – and the breath-taking Bridge of Sighs – is another unforgettable stop, while the imposing Exeter College is also memorable.

In only 90 minutes, you will have seen a huge part of what makes Oxford so special. 

Tickets start from £14.95 per person. Duration: 90 minutes.

Themed Walking Tours

Whether you love Harry Potter, ghosts, or pubs, there’s a walking tour for everyone in Oxford.

Harry Potter Walking Tour Including Christ Church

christ church college oxford
Christ Church College Oxford

Sometimes it is difficult to separate the fantastical world of Harry Potter and the intellectual world of Oxford. In certain locations of the city, they practically go hand-in-hand. 

Joining a Harry Potter walking tour is one of the easiest ways to find these locations, as a passionate guide will lead you directly from place to place, explaining their significance and providing insider knowledge as you go. Your guide – and Harry Potter fan extraordinaire – will be an Oxford University student, who knows the ins and outs of both the city and the series. 

This magical tour leads you through all of Oxford’s unmissable Harry Potter connections. The Bodleian Library, used in the movies as both the Hogwarts Infirmary and the Restricted Section, is one of the most memorable spots; entrance to the Divinity School is included in the price.

Visits to the cloisters and hallways of other colleges also feature in the tour, but what sets this particular tour apart is the inclusion of Christ Church College. Hogwarts’ Great Hall is a replica of the Dining Hall in Christ Church – and the Bodley staircase is the filming location used as the entrance to Hogwarts.

Besides Harry Potter, the tour briefly touches on Oxford’s other literary connections. The Door to Narnia and Christ Church’s stained glass tribute to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are both featured.

Tickets start from £44.99 per person (including entrance to Divinity School and Christ Church). Duration: 2 hours.

For a slightly cheaper Harry Potter alternative without Christ Church, book the Oxford: Harry Potter Tour with Divinity School Entry at £25.99.

Official “Haunted Oxford” Ghost Tour

Ghost tour oxford
Ghost tour oxford

If you’re hoping for a spookier introduction to Oxford, you’re in luck – the author of ‘Haunted Oxford’, Rob Walters, is here to lead you around the city in the dead of night.

Starting on the corner of Turl Street and Broad Street, this ghost tour will tell you tales of Oxford’s most ghastly murders and hidden sordid history. Your guide will give you a dark and fascinating insight into the more gruesome sides of a city known for its beauty and intellectual pedigree.

The imposing architecture of Oxford takes on a gloomy and menacing quality after dark. You will hit some of Oxford’s most iconic landmarks and see them in a new light – the tour includes visits to Radcliffe Square, the Old Schools Quadrangle and the Bridge of Sighs. 

Even the sceptics will enjoy a tour that explores centuries of Oxford’s history, from Viking invasions to modern tragedies. It’s as educational as it is unsettling.

Rob Walters has dedicated much of his life to uncovering the mysteries of Oxford’s dark underbelly and sharing them with as many people as possible. Spooky stories and ghoulish scares await you on Oxford’s creepiest walking tour.

Tickets start from £22 per person. Duration: 2 hours.

Philip Pullman’s Oxford Walking Tour

Oxford feels like a living, breathing character in Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. From the maze of colleges to the markets to the narrowboats on the canals: the first few chapters of the Northern Lights flesh out a world of Oxford that combines fantasy with reality. 

You can see the books come to life on a walking tour endorsed by the author himself. 

An enthusiastic guide will take you to all the locations around Oxford linked to the series, immersing you in the world of dæmons and Dust. Discover the inspiration behind the books, as you wander from the Covered Market, Bodley’s Library and the Pitt Rivers Museum to the Colleges themselves.

Lyra jumps from rooftop to rooftop in the books – starting from her home, the fictional Jordan College.

While the Golden Compass used Christ Church College as its filming location, Jordan College is thought to be based on Philip Pullman’s alma mater, Exeter College. He describes the architecture as a delightful muddle of different ages, from medieval to Victorian; “it had grown piecemeal, with past and present overlapping at every spot, and the final effect was one of jumbled and squalid grandeur”. 

The setting of Oxford is perfect for a fantasy world. You will see why Pullman was so inspired by the city, and learn about the author himself, on this fantastic walking tour.

Tickets start from £22 per person. Duration: 2 hours.

Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Walking Tour of Oxford

Play the part of detective and uncover the mysteries behind Inspector Morse in Oxford. The iconic detective series, first airing in 1987, and the Colin Dexter book series it is based on, is famously set in the city.

The show, and its spin-off shows ‘Lewis’ and ‘Endeavour’ feature a series of grisly murders – which, unfortunately for the fictional residents, all occur on the unassuming streets of Oxford. The tour will take you through familiar filming locations in the city centre, as well as iconic Morse locations like the Randolph Hotel and the old White Horse pub.

Your guide will give you behind-the-scenes secrets of the show and characters, in a fun and informative tour of Oxford. More importantly, they will show you where both the cast and Morse himself used to grab a pint of real ale after a long day.

Tickets start from £22 per person. Duration: 105 minutes.

C.S. Lewis and Tolkien Literary Greats Tour

Oxford Covered Market with Alice in Wonderland Lanterns the Rabbit
Oxford Covered Market with Alice in Wonderland Lanterns the Rabbit

Journey down the rabbit hole, tumble through the wardrobe and peek into the Shire on this literary tour of Oxford.
Stepping into Oxford is like wandering on to the pages of a storybook. The dreaming spires, romantic gardens and striking architecture have been the inspiration behind many of England’s greatest writers. 

Lewis Carroll found inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the Botanic Garden of Oxford University and the hidden doorways of Christ Church. C.S. Lewis saw a portal to another world in a door on St. Mary’s Passage, and pictured a faun standing by a solitary lamppost on the street up ahead. J.R.R. Tolkien twisted trees into Ents in the Botanic Garden, and perhaps saw the Shire in the surrounding English countryside.

Follow in their footsteps as you explore the city. 

Tolkien and Lewis were close friends, and both members of the Inklings group, who would gather at the Eagle and Child pub to share ideas and inspiration. You will visit the pub, the ‘Narnia Door’, Exeter College, Tolkien’s place of study, and other places of interest during the tour.

It’s almost a reversal of the Harry Potter tour: the focus is on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien this time around, but the likes of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland are still mentioned.

Tickets start from £22 per person. Duration: 2 hours.

Historic Pub Tour with Student Guide

Oxford Cut ties in the bear pub
Oxford Cut ties in the bear pub

Embark on a rousing tour of Oxford’s best pubs with a guide that would, of course, know them best: a student from the University of Oxford. 

Drink your way through Oxford’s finest selection of pubs, from the most famous ale houses to those more off the beaten track. Learn all about Oxford’s historic pubs, their little quirks, unusual features and funny stories, on what is essentially an elegant and informative pub crawl.

Find out more about the pub’s most notable punters and their drunken antics through your guide, as you hear surprising stories of some of Oxford’s most respectable graduates.

As you wander from pub to pub – in all likelihood, getting increasingly wobbly as you go – you can sample some of Oxford’s incredible local ales. The history of beer itself is explored, with fun stories of its effect on technological advancements, its place in Ancient Egypt, and the time beer was blessed by Catholic popes.

Ignore the magnificent colleges and prestigious museums: it’s in these pubs that you’ll find the true university experience. The historic pub tour is the most memorable tour in Oxford that you’re likely to forget.

Tickets start from £16.99 per person. Duration: 2 hours.

Free Walking Tours

If you want to try out a walking tour without spending a single penny, these are a few of the best free walking tours in Oxford.

There’s no upfront cost – the tour is essentially paid for in tips. If you have a great time, it is encouraged to tip. You don’t have to though; it’s not obligatory.

Footprints 2 Hour Free Oxford Walking Tour

University Students Celebrating
University Students Celebrating

Covering all of Oxford’s main sights and attractions, the Footprints free tour is one of the best tours available.

You will see iconic sights like the Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs and the Bodleian Library on a whirlwind tour of the city. Hertford College is only one of the half a dozen beautiful colleges you will be visiting on your guided walk. Other stops include the University Church of St Mary’s and the Ashmolean Museum.

Your guide will keep you entertained by regaling you with grand tales of famous graduates, unusual ceremonies and the history of Oxford, from its ancient roots as an Anglo-Saxon town to the educational powerhouse it is today.

As the tours are free, they do tend to attract a large group. You lose a little of the personalisation of smaller tours, but save a fair amount of money. Which is best for you completely depends on your priorities: they all provide a fantastic experience. 

Duration: 2 hours.

Magical Walking Tour of Oxford

Get whisked away to the world of Harry Potter on the Magical Walking Tour of Oxford. 

Move through a surprisingly extensive list of locations on this informative free tour – the only expenses are optional entrances to the Divinity School and Christ Church College. You can act out your best Harry Potter impressions in the cloisters of New College, wave a wand in the Bodleian Library and imagine your sorting ceremony in the Dining Hall of Christ Church. Oxford is a paradise for Harry Potter fans, and this tour will take you to all the best filming locations with a group and guide as passionate as you are.

Though the focus of the Magical Walking Tour is clearly Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings are all included and their relevant locations explored.

This is a really comprehensive tour of Oxford. It gives you a little bit of everything, as you see magnificent historic buildings like the colleges and Bridge of Sighs, the most haunted location in Oxford, and the inspiration behind some of the UK’s greatest children’s literature.

Duration: 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Go Your Own Way on a Self-Guided Tour

Oxford christ church cathedral with lavender flowers
Oxford Christ Church Cathedral with lavender flowers.

If you prefer to avoid tour groups and set out on your own, you can take things at your own pace on a self-guided tour of Oxford. 

One of the disadvantages of joining is a tour is the timing: you often only have a maximum of two hours to fit in a whole slew of attractions. If you love a certain place, you might want to stay longer, but find yourself being quickly moved on to the next section of the tour.

A self-guided tour takes away some of the interesting facts and information a guide can provide, but allows you complete control over where you go and how long you stay there.

I love Oxford, and think it makes a fantastic day trip – for an easy to follow self-guided tour that will fill an entire day, check out my list of Things to Do in Oxford in a Day.

Paid, Free or Self-Guided?

  • A Paid Tour. Paid tours tend to involve smaller groups of people, so you are able to ask more questions of your guide and make it more personal. There is also more choice in paid tours than free.
  • A Free Tour. It’s free! You can enjoy an informative and fun tour of Oxford without paying anything (or a tip of your choosing).
  • A Self-Guided Tour. You have the freedom to tour Oxford at your own pace, without huddling in a group, but you miss out on the guide’s stories and information.
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Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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