By no means am I the biggest Potterhead out there. I honestly, don’t even like to be referred to by that term because I’m not really a die-hard fan. This is when you’re like, “What the heck Caitlyn? Then why did you even go to Oxford!?” Well Karen, I may not currently be the biggest fan, but I was fully immersed in the world as a child. So being able to finally see locations from the movies in person was magical and brought back all the feelings I had as a child when I was in love with the wizarding world.
I spent two full days in Oxford with my fellow blogger and study abroad friend Kat! Keep reading to find out all the attractions we visited, where we ate, and where we stayed in the city!
I got to Oxford around 8:40 am on Saturday morning. Kat’s train wasn’t due in for a couple hours so I spent the morning at the bus station’s Cafe Nero finishing up a book and getting caffeinated since I had taken an overnight bus from Glasgow. Because it was an overnight bus, I also got dressed and did my makeup in the bus station’s bathroom. That was an experience.
Brunch at Queen’s Lane Coffee House
When Kat arrived in Oxford around 11, we headed off to Queen’s Lane Coffe House. She had found it when we were planning our trip and we immediately decided we had to go since it’s the oldest continually operating coffee house in Europe. Like how cool is that!?
I got the porridge and Kat got their bagel. We both loved the food, and Kat said their bagels live up to the New York bagels from the states.
After filling our bellies with the delicious food and drinking more coffee, we set off the short walk down the street to the covered market. We had both heard that this was a must see when visiting Oxford, but honestly, it was super underwhelming.
The covered market is basically more like a mini indoor mall than a market, which I totally loved, but none of the shops were really intriguing enough to go into. Kat and I only entered one so she could purchase a couple postcards. There were a few dessert stalls I would have loved to get some ice cream or pie from though, but we had just eaten so that was a no.
St Mary the Virgin Church
Since it was still too early to check into our hostel, we decided to explore a little bit more in the vicinity we were already in so we stopped inside the church between the market and the coffee house to kill time. This church was gorgeous inside!! I could not get over the beautiful stained glass windows!
St. Mary’s also felt like an actual place of worship and not just a tourist attraction.
Upon exiting the back of the church, we had our first view of the Radcliffe Camera! Which I actually didn’t know the name of until Kat told me. I obviously had done my research right?
And no, it is not named after Daniel Radcliffe nor is he named after the gorgeous building. It’s pure coincidence that the star of the Harry Potter franchise has the same name as a building where they filmed parts of the movies.
There was actually a literature festival going on the weekend we visited which offset tour times and gave new events. There was a bookstore popup Kat and I explored (and I luckily resisted buying anything) and they were hosting different lectures and events. I wish we had had the extra time and extra money to see the Frankenstein play they were putting on.
I saw this now because the Divinity School is right behind the Radcliffe camera, and we decided against a tour right away because of the offset tours. Instead, we headed off towards the New College.
First, we saw the Bride of Sighs. Which actually has nothing to do with Harry Potter, but covered bridges and architecture are two of my obsessions so I was pretty hype about it. And I mean look at how pretty it is!
Next stop was the first actual Harry Potter filming location we saw: the New College Cloisters!! It was £4 to get access to the New College so we paid up and went off to Hogwarts!
Look familiar!? This is the courtyard where Alastor Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret in the fourth movie! (If you need a refresher here’s the scene I’m referring to). I have a huge soft spot for Tom Felton so your girl was freaking out. Proof of that freaking out is on my face below. LOL
After checking out the cloisters, we walked into the New College Chapel quickly to warm up the slightest bit, but we didn’t get to explore too much because a) it was tiny and b) there was a wedding shoot going on! The guy was wearing a kilt and everything!
So we headed back out to see what else we could find and stumbled upon a dining hall that we thought was the inspiration for the Great Hall, but found out later we were wrong. But I mean come on? Look at that. You would have thought the same thing too, right?
After this, we were freezing, and it was finally late enough in the afternoon for us to check into our hostel, so we decided that was enough exploring for the day. We ended the night by getting Mexican food at Misson Burrito, walking around the Westgate shopping center, buying some dessert at Sainsbury’s, then chilling on the hostel terrace talking to other travelers and singing along to a girl playing her guitar.
Kat and I ate breakfast at the hostel and then quickly took some pictures on the cute terrace because #Bloggers
We stopped at the Oxford Castle really quickly on our way toward the Bodleian Libraries, but entry was way too expensive so we bolted. If you haven’t noticed, you do have to pay to do basically everything in Oxford. I would say the Harry Potter filming locations are worth the money, but of course, that’s all according to your budget!
Bodleian Libraries Tour
So we settled on the mini-tour at the Bodleian Libraries which gave us access to the Divinity School and Duke Humphries Library. It was £6 if I remember correctly, and was only a half hour long, but it was totally enough time to take it all in.
Walking through the huge wooden door into Divinity Hall was magical.
The photos totally remove all the magic in the air. But I seriously walked in and I was like, “Okay so I’m ready to learn how to dance for the Yule Ball now.” (Watch the scene here.)
This room was also used as the infirmary in the first film as well, although I would never have guessed that had the tour guide not pointed it out.
Next stop was Duke Humphries Library where scenes for the first two and fourth movie were filmed. Most notably when Harry sneaks into the restricted section of the library under the invisibility cloak and when the trio is trying to figure out what Harry should do for the second task in the Triwizard Tournament. Fun fact, the books are actually kept with their spines faces the back of the shelves in the library, but for the movie, they turned them outward and still kept the chains on them, which our tour guide found very distasteful.
We weren’t allowed to take any photos whatsoever inside the library. I was sad because it was GORGEOUS, but it did mean I paid more attention to the tour guide and actually learned a lot of history about the books in the library.
After the tour, we stopped in Blackwell’s Bookshop (where I again resisted urges to buy new books) across from the university. Then we just moseyed down Broad Street looking for lunch until we settled on pizza at Buongiorno e Buonasera.
After lunch, we finally head over to the most famous filming location for the Harry Potter movies: Christ Church! We saved it for last because it opened the latest. It opened at 2pm the day we went, so we thought showing up a little bit before 2:00 would suffice. But no. We waited in line for an hour in the blistering cold. Like it was so cold that people started leaving because they didn’t want to wait in line! Save yourself the trouble and buy tickets online (between £7-£10) so you don’t have to wait in the queue!
The first thing we saw was the marble staircase used to film two iconic Harry Potter scenes. The scene where Professor McGonagall welcomed all the first years and where Filch caught Ron and Harry trying to sneak in after flying to Hogwarts in Ron’s dad’s car. Had to snap a photo at the tome where the great Professor McGonagall stood.
Then we got to see the real inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall. It was so crowded that it was hard to walk through, so again, try to go maybe not right at opening.
Last stop in the church was the cloisters. This spot was used as a filming location for the scene where Hermione shows Harry that his father had been a seeker in Quidditch. I honestly, barely remembered the scene but the cloisters were just SO Hogwarts that I was freaking out. Like exhibit A:
After I finished fangirling, Kat and I got afternoon tea and coffee at The Rose and then explored the less touristy side of Oxford. We walked down Cowley Road and stopped at a cool record store/coffee shop and a thrift shop called Reign Vintage. Then we just went back to the hostel and chilled until we had to leave that night.
Places we missed
Oxford Punting – When I was doing research about the city, I found a punting tour that did little river tours! But considering it literally snowed while we were there this was out of the question
Ashmolean Museum – I found out about this museum Sunday morning from our hostel. I was immediately intrigued because apparently, they have an Egyptian exhibit, but we never made it
Oxford University Museum of Natural History – This was only on my list because other online article talking about Harry Potter in Oxford recommended it. They said film writers and producers had gotten inspiration from some of the artifacts to create some of the items in the films.
Oh and be sure to check out Kat’s post about our weekend as well!
Are you a Harry Potter fan?