Magdalen College

Stepping into Magdalen College’s grounds feels like stepping into a totally different world.

Magdalen College, one of the largest and most famous colleges, is home to an impressive courtyard, gorgeous cloisters and a deer park, hidden in the heart of Oxford. The C.S. Lewis connection makes it even more meaningful especially when you are taking a stroll along Addisons’s Walk trying to imagine him and Tolkien walking the same path.

Founded in 1458 by Bishop Wayneflete of Winchester, the college owns some remarkable buildings, including the famous Gothic Bell Tower from which the college choir sings a Latin hymn on May 1st at 6:00am each year to public crowds below to celebrate the beginning of spring. This old tradition, which began in the late 15th century, has survived until now, meaning the night before is spent dancing and pub crawling while awaiting the sunrise.

Things to do - Oxford University Colleges
Things to do - Oxford University Colleges
Things to do - Oxford University Colleges

Its quiet and tucked away location, far from the hustle and bustle of Oxford, makes Magdalen College the perfect destination for taking a romantic or meditative walk amongst its 100 acres of woodlands. Throughout the different seasons you can enjoy the transformation of its tranquil gardens. In the spring, this is a downright jewel of the city with wildflowers in bloom. Visiting it then you will be able to see why Lewis stayed there for so long…

Take a look at this stunning video of Magdalen College Oxford from Skyvantage on Vimeo.

You can make the most of a sunny day by having a bite outside by the river in The Old Kitchen Bar, which is the oldest building on site dating from the 1300s, and admire the river that runs behind it while watching people punting.

Want to see more? Visit the full gallery and get to know Magdalen College better.

On your way back, don’t forget to enter the chapel. It’s a small delight with ornate woodwork, lots of original medieval stained glass and an altar painting attributed to Tintoretto. If you are free in the evening you can join one of the evening services starting at 6pm with the choir which gives such a different experience after a day at work.

Top facts about Magdalen College:

  • Magdalen’s bell tower is the tallest medieval tower in Oxford which dates back to 1492.
  • Funding for Magdalen College was enhanced by a lavish endowment: 55 manors contributed to its funding (compared with 31 for Merton, 24 for All Soul’s and only 3 for Exeter).
  • Magdalen’s famous Deer Park, also known as Magalen Grove, is home to herd of deer who grazed on the college’s grounds since 1700.

Walk through the cloister and find the majestic hall on the upper end of a steep staircase. This is where students, lecturers and fellows lunch and dine.

There is a lot of confusion around pronunciation of the name of the college. Though nowadays spelt in the biblical and continental way, ‘Magdalene’, the College name is customarily pronounced ‘Maudlyn’.

From its cloisters and beautiful chapel to its expansive and tranquil gardens, Magdalen College is a must visit place but make sure to bring your camera as there will be several nice photo opportunities awaiting you!

Things to do - Oxford University Colleges
Things to do - Oxford University Colleges
Things to do - Oxford University Colleges

Opening hours:
January to late June: 1pm to dusk or 6pm
Late June to the end of September: Noon to 7pm
October to December: 1pm to dusk or 6pm

Tickets and Prices:
Adults – £5.00
Over 60s, children, students – £4.00
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children aged 7 or over) – £14.00.
Children under 7 years of age are free of charge.

Have a coffee and a treat by the river at Magdalen’s College The Old Kitchen Bar, which has an open seating area that looks out over the punting house and part of the canal.

Bring binoculars or a zoom lens to see the amusing stone characters that decorate Magdalen College.

Image credits: Magdalen College by Meraj Chhaya and Adrian Scottow.

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