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Inside Christ Church Dining Hall aka the “Harry Potter Dining Hall”

Did you know that the “Harry Potter dining hall” at Oxford University is actually the canteen for students at Christ Church? Here’s what really goes on in the infamous Christ Church dining hall.

Inside Christ Church dining hall

Many people comment that Oxford University looks like Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

It should come as no surprise then that it was actually used as a Harry Potter filming location on a number of occasions.

Christ Church is often referred to as the “Harry Potter college” and that is, in fact, why I applied there!

The most famous Harry Potter location here is undoubtedly Christ Church dining hall, which was the inspiration for the Harry Potter dining hall in the Harry Potter films.

With portraits lining all four walls, tall ceilings and long benches for diners, it’s easy to see the resemblance.

Whilst there is no enchanted ceiling or floating candles, and there are but three benches instead of four, it still feels pretty magical.

NB. The hall itself was never used as an actual Harry Potter filming location, but a number of other places dotted around Christ Church were! Check out my Oxford Harry Potter tour here for more info.

What the tourists probably don’t appreciate is that this magnificent hall is the regular dining space for students at Christ Church.

Yep, students at Christ Church get to dine in the Hogwarts dining hall three times a day, every single day.

So what *really* happens in this famous dining hall? Here’s an insight from an Oxford University alumna who used to visit the hall every day!

Students eat here every day

It may come as a surprise that this beautiful dining hall is actually just the regular canteen and dining space for students at Christ Church. Students can eat all three meals a day in here if they wish.

Most students will choose to dine in here every single evening as there aren’t actually any kitchens on-site at Christ Church.

It’s also pretty darn cheap and a nice way to see your friends every evening. Shame the food is pretty awful though (more below!).

Inside Christ Church dining hall at Christmas (the Harry Potter dining hall!).

There are two dining slots each evening

There are two sets of dinner each evening – informal and formal hall. It’s not exactly a regular canteen as the food is brought to each student at the tables so there’s no queueing with a tray as you’d expect in an ordinary canteen.

At least, that’s how it always was when I was there. Since leaving, I believe students now pick up their own dinner at informal hall, but formal hall remains the same.

Students can rock up to whichever sitting they feel like but formal hall comes with some extra pomp that means it usually takes a lot longer.

At formal hall, you must be wearing a gown. Yes, students must wear a gown in order to be able to eat in the hall at 7pm. This perhaps sounds ridiculous, but it is tradition.

If you’re a first year student, you wear a “commoner’s gown” (yes, seriously), which is a short gown with no sleeves.

Once you’ve sat at least one set of exams, you’ll get to upgrade your gown to a “scholar’s gown” if you achieved a distinction (more like Professor Snape’s robes, long and flowy).

The only difference is that at formal you must wait for everyone to enter the hall and for grace to be read before you can begin eating.

This means those sitting at High Table, the professor’s table at the top of the hall, have to have entered.

A gavel is knocked three times when the hall is full, at which point everyone would have to stand up for grace. Grace is then read by a scholar and is entirely in Latin:

Nos, miseri homines et egeni, pro cibis, quos nobis ad corporis subsidium benigne es largitus, tibi, Deus Omnipotens, Pater Cælestis, gratias reverenter agimus; simul obsecrantes, ut iis sobrie, modeste atque grate utamur, per Jesum Christum Dominum Nostrum, Amen.

Some readers rushed through it, keen to get it over with, others really took their time. I’m sure you can imagine what the hungry students thought of that.

On the odd occasion, students would play drinking games and challenge each other to drink for as long as grace was being read. This wouldn’t end well.

The hall is closed every day at lunchtime between 11.45am and 2.00pm when the students are eating so if you want to visit this Oxford dining hall, Harry Potter fans should make sure not to visit during those times.

The food is… awful!

Despite the extravagant setting, Christ Church Great Hall serves some of the worst food out of any Oxford college.

To be fair, it’s also one of the cheapest dining halls at the university so I suppose you get what you pay for.

Can you guess how much those three course meals cost?

The dining ticket costs £163.56, which gives students a three-course meal every single night for 8 weeks. That’s £2.92 for a three-course meal! As a cost-conscious student, I was pretty pleased about this.

Plus, if you attended formal, there were usually lots of leftovers from the first dinner sitting so if you were really hungry then you’d want to go to formal dinner.

I don’t miss much about the food but I do miss the daily bread rolls and breaded brie days!

Only the tutors can sit at high table

Just like at Hogwarts, there is a long table stretching perpendicular to the long benches at the very top of the hall.

This is where the professors and tutors eat and they even enter from a separate door to the side.

In fact, the meal at formal hall cannot begin until the tutors have come in and are seated. They too will be wearing gowns but theirs tend to be much fancier than those donned by the students.

You can only sit at high table if you’re invited by one of the professors so few students ever got to experience this.

Black tie guest dinners are held twice a term

Twice termly there are “guest dinners”, which were fancy black tie dinners to which each student could bring a guest. They cost £25 per person including wine and the food was exquisite.

Those who eat at high table have a different chef to the rest of the students and this is the chef who prepares the guest dinner meals.

These are honestly some of the best meals I’ve ever had, and not just because of the copious amounts of wine. Plus, dinner was rounded off with the bashing of a gong. You can’t make this s*hit up.

Students would usually then head to the college bar and later out to a club, still in their fancy garb.

What’s more, every three years Christ Church holds a white tie commemoration ball. Students can purchase dining tickets to these and the ball will start with an absolute feast – usually four or five courses and with plenty of wine.

The food at these events was even better but the tickets are incredibly expensive.

Check out this post to read about a special Harry Potter Halloween dinner held in the same hall!

Students sit termly exams here

At the start of every term, Oxford University students are made to sit “collections”, an informal exam to check that your brain hasn’t gone completely flaccid over the holidays.

For students here, these are held in the Christ Church college dining hall.

Oh, and you have to be wearing your gown. Yes, the gown again! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing underneath your gown (trackies, pyjamas, whatever you fancy), but you must be wearing your gown on top.

I hope that was a fun insight into Christ Church hall, Oxford!

How to get to Oxford

By Train 

There are regular trains from all major UK stations to Oxford. If you are coming from London, you will need to go via London Paddington. Oxford 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.

By Bus

If you’re planning to come by bus, aim to get off at either Oxford High Street or Gloucester Green bus station depending on your first Oxford destination.

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. 

By Car

Oxford is easily accessible via the M4, M25, M40 and A roads.

Where to Stay in Oxford

Love this post? Check out these other posts about Oxford University:
The Best Oxford Colleges
What is it Like to Study French at Oxford?
What Happened at my French Interview at Oxford?
Oxford University French Reading List
8 Do’s and Don’ts When Choosing an Oxford College