The Most Beautiful Oxford University Colleges

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Oxford’s colleges are architectural gems, each with its unique character and charm. As you wander the cobblestone lanes and tranquil quads, the city’s rich educational history surrounds you. Though all the colleges have merit, certain ones stand out for their extravagant architecture, lush gardens, and celebrity graduates.

Here are the top five most beautiful Oxford University colleges.

Christ Church College

Founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey, Christ Church is one of the best Oxford colleges. The majestic Tom Quad features well-manicured lawns surrounded by elegant buildings and the stately Tom Tower, home to Great Tom, the bell that rings 101 times nightly. Wander through the impressive Christ Church Cathedral with its intricate stone carvings and stained-glass windows.

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Fans of Harry Potter will recognize the Great Hall, which served as inspiration for the film Hogwarts Dining Hall. Notable alumni include philosopher John Locke and poet W.H. Auden. With opulent architecture and lovely gardens, Christ Church tops the list for beauty.

Magdalen College

This college’s crowning jewel is its deer park—a beloved green space allowing visitors to glimpse graceful deer and enjoy riverside walks under shady trees. Magdalen’s cloister quad offers gorgeous architecture: an intricately carved tower and a peaceful oval lawn surrounded by stone columns. Climb to the top of Magdalen Tower for scenic views of Oxford’s skyline. Magdalen also boasts an impressive alumni roster: writers Oscar Wilde and C.S. Lewis and influential politicians. Magdalen charms visitors with its abundant greenery and prominent architecture.

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New College

Founded in 1379, New College features magnificent Gothic buildings and one of Oxford’s oldest quads. Stroll through the striking chapel with its carved wood ceiling, stained glass, and elaborate stonework. The college’s lush gardens provide a peaceful escape: stroll along the historic city wall with views of towers and spires, then explore the garden’s many nooks filled with vibrant blossoms. New College has a literary lineage as well, counting Percy Bysshe Shelley and Hugh Grant as alumni. With storied architecture and verdant gardens, New College creates an alluring scene. Read more in Pros and Cons Oxford Colleges.

Merton College

Merton’s highlight is the impressive Mob Quad, England’s oldest quadrangle. Constructed in the 13th century, the stone buildings encircle peaceful green spaces filled with well-clipped lawns and colourful flower beds. Merton Library stuns with ornate 14th-century architecture including vaulted stone ceilings and tall Gothic windows. Wander through Fellows Garden filled with winding paths, shady trees, and benches perfect for relaxing. Notable Mertonians include astronomer and physicist Thomas Bradwardine, fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien, and four Nobel laureates in science. Merton’s historic buildings and gardens create a serene oasis in bustling Oxford.

Worcester College

While Worcester’s buildings date back seven centuries, what sets it apart is its exquisite gardens. The Lake Garden boasts two peaceful lakes filled with ducks, surrounded by lush flower beds and towering trees. The college’s main quads offer architectural interest as well, with medieval stone buildings covered in vines and flanked by vibrant flower gardens. The ornate Chapel dazzles with soaring stained glass windows carved wood stalls, and a charming hammerbeam ceiling. The small but prestigious college calls writer Lewis Carroll of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” fame one of its famed attendees. Worcester’s gardens steal the show, crafting an idyllic pastoral setting.

Exploring Oxford’s colleges allows you to soak up centuries of history while enjoying world-class architecture and greenery. Each college has its charms: perhaps the striking medieval cloisters of Magdalen or the grand expanse of Christ Church. You may find inspiration peering out New College’s stained glass windows, relaxing in Worcester’s gardens, or wandering the ancient Mob Quad of Merton. Each college contributes captivating beauty to the streets of Oxford.