A Walking Tour of Oxford’s Architectural Landmarks

The Divinity School | © David Iliff/WikiCommons
The Divinity School | © David Iliff/WikiCommons
Photo of Sarah Dawson
31 August 2017

Oxford is a fantastic city packed with incredible architecture that spans centuries and covers all kinds of styles. The best way to fit it all in is to explore the city on foot, along this handy walking tour.

Christ Church

Cathedral, Church
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Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral | © bobgjohnson/Flickr
Start your walking tour at Christ Church. For the best view of the smallest cathedral in England, head across to Christ Church Meadow, looking onto the east side. However, it’s the interior that really impresses, especially the intricate chancel ceiling and the beautiful Victorian St Frideswide Window.

University Church of St Mary the Virgin

Building, Church, University
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Just a nine-minute walk up The High Street, you’ll reach Radcliffe Square, arguably the most famous architectural hub of the city. Here you’ll find the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, established at the centre of the old walled city and adopted as the first building for Oxford University. It’s a real beauty, with an eccentric baroque porch and stunning decorated spire. The 13th-century tower still remains, and visitors can walk to the top for great views across the historic heart of the city.

Radcliffe Camera

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Radcliffe Camera, Oxford. Image shot 04/2011. Exact date unknown.
Radcliffe Camera | © foto-zone / Alamy Stock Photo
Opposite the church stands the Radcliffe Camera, one of Oxford’s most iconic buildings. Part of Oxford University, Rad Cam was designed in a stunning Palladian style by James Gibbs and was built from 1737-1749 to house the Radcliffe Science Library. It now serves as a reading room for the Bodleian Library.

The Divinity School at Bodleian Library

Library, University, Building, School
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The Bodleian Library consists of various buildings around the scenic cobbled square, but it’s the Divinity School that truly is a must-see for architecture lovers. This medieval building showcases the perpendicular style that was so popular in Oxford. Built between 1427-1483 as a place for the study of theology, it’s now open to the public for tours and visits. The famous ceiling, with elaborate lierne vaulting, will take your breath away. If you’re ready for a bite, head to nearby Vaults & Garden café for a light lunch with unbeatable views.

The Sheldonian Theatre

Building, Theatre
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Just minutes from the Bodleian, you’ll spot The Sheldonian Theatre, designed by Christopher Wren, one of England’s most highly-acclaimed architects who is also responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral, among others. Purpose-built for the University degree-giving ceremonies, the theatre, with its distinctive D-shape design, is widely believed to be inspired by the Roman Theatre of Marcellus.

Ashmolean Museum

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Museum exterior
Museum exterior | © Ashmolean Museum
Carry on along Broad Street towards Beaumont Street for around seven minutes, until you reach the city’s famous Ashmolean Museum. Without a doubt one of Oxford’s finest neo-classical buildings, this grand museum, which was designed by Charles Robert Cockerell in Bath and Portland stone, is home to the University’s collection of art and archaeological pieces.

University Museum of Natural History

Museum, University
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Oxford University's Museum of Natural History
Oxford University's Museum of Natural History | © Jdedmond/WikiCommons
Turn left onto St Giles, then follow Keble Road until you reach Parks Road, around half a mile in total. Dominating the vista is Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This Grade-I listed building, in great contrast to the Ashmolean, is a triumph of Victorian Gothic style with a dramatic glass roof. The museum, built between 1855-1860, is one of the first examples of a nonreligious Gothic building. Inside, the elegantly carved columns and ornamental details pay tribute to all manner of nature, including plants, birds and animals.

Keble College

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View of Keble College from Engineering Science Building, Oxford
View of Keble College from Engineering Science Building, Oxford | © Oxford Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
With aching feet, it’s time to round off your tour with one final stop at Keble College. Just opposite from the University Museum, the college is most notable for its striking neo-gothic red-brick buildings. Designed by William Butterfield, the buildings caused a stir when they were first built from 1868-1870, but they are now (mostly) a much-loved part of the Oxford architectural landscape.

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