Oxford University is considered one of the best universities in the world. It’s also the oldest university in the English speaking world. The University is made up of 38 independent colleges and many are available for you to see during your Oxford visit.
Visitors will be awe struck by the beauty of these buildings as well as their magnificent grassy quads. Unlike many U.S. universities, the Oxford colleges are situated throughout the city, making discovery of each one a fun tourist activity.
In fact, many of the colleges open their doors to visitors for a few hours each day and are free to visit. Some will even open their dining halls to visitors. A fun fact… the “Harry Potter” dining room scenes were filmed at Christ Church college.
Here are a few more famed university colleges to check out during your visit to Oxford.
New College – The castle-like New College was founded in 1379, and its full name is the Warden and Scholars of St. Mary’s College of Winchester in Oxford—little surprise the name has been shortened over the years. One of Oxford University’s wealthiest colleges, New College ranks among the most academically successful in the world. One must-see nearby attraction is Oxford’s famous Bridge of Sighs.
St. John’s College – Sir Thomas White founded St. John’s College in 1555. It takes pride of place on St. Giles in central Oxford, and the majority of the college buildings are arranged around bustling squares.
Magdalen College – Nestled on the banks of the River Cherwell to the east of the city center, with a deer park within its extensive grounds, Magdalen College boasts one of the most beautiful settings of all Oxford University’s 38 colleges. Woodland walking routes pass cricket lawns and deer hides, with sweeping views over the pretty Cherwell River.
Merton College – Merton College dates back to the late 13th century, when the bishop Walter de Merton donated funds to establish a center of learning. One of the most famous alumni is acclaimed poet and playwright T. S. Eliot, who studied at Harvard, then Merton College. No visit here is complete without a walk through the gardens, which feature a 17th-century mulberry tree and a pretty summerhouse overlooking the lawns.
All Souls College – With its looming gothic towers, All Souls College is perhaps the most visually striking Oxford colleges. Henry VI of England founded All Souls in 1438, and to this day the college remains one of the university’s wealthiest. One highlight is the beautiful Codrington Library, a Grade I–listed building—meaning, given the official status as an English or Welsh building of exceptional interest—housing over 180,000 items.
Wadham College – Founded in 1610 and situated near the Ashmolean Museum in the heart of the city, Wadham College’s buildings range from Gothic to contemporary. Highlights include the Holywell Music Room and the attractive Wadham Gardens.
Lincoln College – The College of the Blessed Mary and All Saints, Lincoln—better known simply as Lincoln College—dates back to 1427, when the then-Bishop of Lincoln founded it. Famous alumni include author John le Carré and 18th-century physician John Radcliffe, after whom Oxford landmarks including the Radcliffe Camera, the Radcliffe Infirmary, and the Radcliffe Observatory are named.