The Radcliffe Camera, Rad Cam for short, is usually near the top of people’s lists for things to see in Oxford. It is Oxford University’s central library and not open to the public except for some select guided tours (find out more here). The iconic round shape of the library, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, is what attracts hoards of tourists each year and Radcliffe Square is usually teeming with tourists taking photos outside one of Oxford’s top attractions.
There are a distinct lack of sky scrapers and tall office blocks in Oxford (thank God), making the Rad Cam one of the tallest buildings in the city. As such, you’ll often see its round dome poking out as you wander around the city. But where can you get the best views? I can assure you it is not from standing right at the bottom of it with your phone pointing upwards as most tourists seem to think!
Keep on reading to find out where to get the best views of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.
Radcliffe Square is, unsurprisingly, a square, which means there are four different vantage points to capture the Radcliffe Camera from simply by standing in these four corners. They are Catte Street (two ends), St Mary’s Passage and Brasenose Lane. More info below.
Catte Street runs between the side of All Souls College and the Rad Cam and from these two corners you can get a wonderful view of the Radcliffe Camera with all the surrounding architecture too. The view from outside Hertford College is my favourite because there’s a large tree, which you can just see on the left below, that blooms wonderful pink flowers during the spring months. Unfortunately I took the below photo during the winter months so all you’ve got here is some bare branches! You’ll have to trust me on this one.
St Mary’s Passage
St Mary’s Passage is one of my favourite streets in Oxford because of its numerous literary connections. To find out more read my literary tour of Oxford. For now though I’ll tell you that the lamp post you see on the left there is THE lamp post from The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis, which is why I think this capture is very special.
Passage to the Bodleian
If you head over to the other side of the Rad Cam, towards the main Bodleian library, you’ll see a small passageway with a beautiful metal gate. If you wait for the tourists to clear (you might be there a while…) and squat down low, you can get a beautiful picture of the Radcliffe Camera with this ornate gate in the foreground.
The final passage leading off from Radcliffe Square is Brasenose Lane. If you approach from the centre of Oxford towards the Radcliffe Camera, the Rad Cam will slowly come into view. This is one of the most beautiful walks in Oxford and I was wowed every time I went down this street!
If you now head inside Brasenose College, just look up and you’ll see what I mean about the Rad Cam poking its head out everywhere! Brasenose is a lovely college so definitely take this opportunity to wander around the rest of the quads too.
Outside The Vaults
Opposite the Radcliffe Camera is a quaint little restaurant and cafe called The Vaults. The view from standing just outside the Vaults is great because you can get a picture of the Rad Cam straight on, whilst most other spots featured here are at an angle. If you go right up to the entrance to the Vaults you might also be able to capture some greenery sticking out from the perimeter around The Vaults for a more interesting photo. The passageway pictured is how students enter the Rad Cam so you’ll likely find students walking up and down there.
Inside The Vaults
The view from outside is great as you can really the full shape of the Rad Cam but when leaving The Vaults, I spotted this gorgeous capture of the Rad Cam through the windows and I couldn’t resist taking a snap! The great thing about the Rad Cam is that you can see it poking out wherever you are in the centre of Oxford so I loved discovering this new instagrammable location in Oxford.
Check out this post for more brunch spots in Oxford, including Vaults & Garden.
Exeter College Fellows’ Garden
The view of the Rad Cam from inside Exeter College is unfortunately off limits to public as the Exeter College Fellows’ Garden is private. These beautiful gardens back out onto Radcliffe Square, which means that from inside Exeter College walls you get a glorious view of this Oxford dome. If you stand in the garden below you’ll see the top of the Rad Cam peeking out to say hello. Walk to the end of the garden and go up to the viewing platform of sorts and you can get a much clearer view of the Rad Cam and the rest of Radcliffe Square.
Check out this post for more info on Oxford University’s most beautiful colleges.
Whilst all the views I have mentioned thus far have been centred around Radcliffe Square, this one will require you walk a little way out of the centre of the city. You’ll want to head along the High Street, onto St Clement’s Street then continue all the way to Headington Road where you will be able to find the entrance to South Parks. It’s quite a walk but definitely worth it if you’re looking for a sunset view over Oxford! From South Parks you can see why Oxford is called the city of dreaming spires! Unfortunately the view is often marred by cranes and scaffolding but you can just see the dome of the Radcliffe Camera poking out in the centre.
St Mary’s Church Tower
I’ve saved the best til last as nothing beats the view over Oxford from the top of St Mary’s Church Tower! Since the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is right opposite the Rad Cam, this vantage point offers fantastic views down over the whole structure and the city beyond. You can see right into Brasenose College and All Souls College to your right and left, which is an added bonus. The only problem is that it’s pretty high up – and there’s no lift! Of course being an old church the only way to get up here is to climb the steep, narrow steps (127 in total). This definitely isn’t for those are claustrophobic or particularly unfit.
Tickets to climb the tower cost £4 and more information can be found on their website here.
So those are just a few of my favourite views of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford and some of the most instagrammable spots in Oxford too!
How to get to Oxford from London
The Oxford Tube is a super convenient and cheap bus service that’ll take you from the centre of London straight into the heart of Oxford. If you’re taking this route, I’d recommend getting off at the High Street so that you can walk to Radcliffe Square in just 3 minutes.
Oxford is only an hour / hour and a half drive from the centre of London. It’s a very easy drive down via the M4, M25, M40 and A roads.
There are regular trains from London Paddington to Oxford. The station is a little way out of the city centre but you can then take a bus or walk into town. Book via the Trainline for the cheapest tickets.
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