Touring Harry Potter’s Oxford

Oxford is one of the best places in England. I never tire of Oxford. There’s something special about it.

During my first trip to England as an undergraduate, I spent a semester in Bath in a programme in conjunction with Oxford University. We even spent some time in uni accommodations at University College.

Kendall and I had single rooms apart from the rest of the group — behind the kitchen staircase. It was like something out of Harry Potter. Somehow I ended up with a spacious room with two living areas.

Now, since I was back in England, I wanted to return to Oxford.

Nostalgia is a seductive drug.

I took the train from London and changed at Reading. The bus from Oxford’s train station took me into city centre. There were only two things I wanted to do: take a tour of the Bodleian Library and revisit Univ College.

On my way to the library I passed Hertford Bridge, alternatively known as the Bridge of Sighs.

Hertford Bridge

Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs at Herford College

The Oxford Ghost Tour we did as undergrads told us this bridge is (allegedly) haunted. I didn’t see any ghosts, but I was there in the late morning. I did, however, see tourists crowding around the far end. It’s an absolutely lovely photo spot.

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library, aka ‘the Bod’ to Oxford scholars, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, buildings constructed and in use since the Middle Ages.

Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library of Oxford University

With over 12 million printed items, it’s the second largest library in Britain (the largest is the British Library).

This place is the dream of book nerds such as myself.

The points of interest I had the most interest in visiting were the Radcliffe Camera (Latin for ‘room’) and Duke Humphrey’s medieval library. I visited on a Friday and, unfortunately, the extended tour including the Camera is only offered on Wednesdays and over the weekend.

Thus, I had to be content with admiring its exterior.

Radcliffe Camera

Exterior of Radcliffe Camera at Oxford

That’s not hard to do because it’s architecturally stunning. Built in 1737-49, the Camera was designed by James Gibbs in the neo-classical style for the Radcliffe Science Library.

Couple at the Radcliffe Camera

Couple sitting outside the Radcliffe Camera

For my Bodleian Library Tour, I chose the 60 minute Standard Tour. It includes the 15th-century Divinity School, the Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court, and Duke Humphrey’s medieval library.

My favourite item in the Divinity School is Sir Thomas Bodley’s chest. Bodley (d 1613) was an English scholar who devoted his life to restoring Duke Humphrey’s Library and re-founding the library at Oxford; thus, the library was named in his honour.

The chest has an intricate locking mechanism and requires multiple keys to unlock it.

The Divinity School was built in the Perpendicular Gothic style and its ceiling with lierne vaulting.

Hey Harry Potter fans. Does the Divinity School look familiar?

It should. It was used as the Hogwarts Infirmary in The Philosopher’s Stone and Half-Blood Prince as well as the dance lessons scenes in Goblet of Fire 

While today the Convocation House is used for meetings or hired as a private venue, in the past it served as a meeting chamber for the House of Commons during the English Civil War.

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Convocation House

The oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library is Duke Humphrey’s Library. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest son of Henry IV.

We only saw the one section of the Duke’s library. We weren’t allowed beyond the security desk (yes, there is security in the library. Multiple checkpoints throughout the Bodleian actually).

Inside Duke Humphrey’s Library, the books sit like prisoners — literally chained to their wooden shelves. Apparently it was common practice in medieval libraries in order to thwart inadvertent or blatant theft. Our guide also explained that the books in that library were placed with the spines hidden. The books were coded so patrons had to buy booklets to decipher which books they sought.

It’s also a Harry Potter filming location. Restricted Section anyone?

Unfortunately no cameras are allowed, and it’s the only place I really wanted to photograph. Luckily, the internet has some.

Duke Humphrey’s Library was used in numerous other library scenes.

The Bodleian Tour itself was underwhelming. I was disappointed. I don’t want to outwardly blame our guide, but I’m pretty sure it was because of our guide. Her stories were not captivating. Plus. the most time she spent on something was the wall with monetary donor names. After she commented on it at length, she had us stare at it for several minutes while she tried to figure out what happened to some missing guests.

Maybe take the mini tour to save yourself 30 minutes.

Below is a really well produced video from the Library. It’s worth a watch.

Next on my list: Univ College.

When travelling I seem to encounter a lot of bad luck. Places and attractions seem to always be closed when I try to see them. While visitors can typically tour the colleges, Univ doesn’t allow visitors — only during the summer holiday.

The guard was kind enough to allow me to take a photo from the courtyard.

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Courtyard of Univ

I asked to buy an official Univ t-shirt and he obliged. I already owned a Univ hooded sweatshirt; therefore, this time I purchased a Univ fleece zip-up. My shopping didn’t stop there. As a rowing enthusiast, I had to get the Oxford Boating Club t-shirt and a Oxford Uni hat.

I went a touch overboard with the Oxford branded gear (as I write this post wearing my Univ fleece).

Bonus: Christ Church College

I’m still a Harry Potter fan, but when I visited Oxford as an undergrad I was a fanatic. Seeking out Harry Potter-related locations was my obsession.

I didn’t have the chance to return to Christ Church College during my latest visit to Oxford; however, I had these from my first trip.

Christ Church College is famous in the Harry Potter world for its Great Hall, which inspired the Hogwart’s Great Hall, and its staircase.


There you have it: my recent visit to Oxford and the Harry Potter filming locations (plus the bonus pics of Christ Church College from my undergrad visit).

A thorough documentation of the filming locations can be found here.

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Until my next adventure ~

Jenn

 

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6 thoughts on “Touring Harry Potter’s Oxford

  1. Hiya. Yes, Oxford is inspiring! As a guide, I get to soak it in. My tip for readers is stay the night, as few visitors stay the night, so walking around its medieval streets can be almost spookily quiet, compared to daytime crowds. Christchurch suffers from queues, so thats why I take my Harry Potter tours instead to New college and the Divinity school film sites. Hey, I bet you’ll fall in love with Oxford tour too! Please try out my daily range of tours including Morse & Harry Potter & tours to suit all ages & interests. See http://www.visitoxfordtours.com

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  2. Inspiring post, Jenn! I can’t wait to visit Oxford. I really enjoyed the pictures as well! Confession, I just watched Harry Potter for the first time, so it was fun to see pictures of the locations that inspired Hogwarts.

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  3. Pingback: Top 10 Places in England to Visit | Sonder Scribbles

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