One of Oxford’s oldest colleges, Balliol College dates back to the 13th century, although the precise date is disputed. The architecture of this rambling college is predominantly from the 19th century, though parts of the Front Quadrangle are as old as the 15th century. It takes its name from its founder, John de Balliol.
There is a small charge to enter Balliol College, which gets you access to the Victorian-era chapel, the gardens, and sometimes the dining hall. As Balliol is architecturally less spectacular than colleges such as Christ Church and lacks the literary connections of, say, Merton, it’s not an especially common destination for organized Oxford walking or cycling tours, most of which stop at the frontage rather than exploring within. Most travelers visit independently, while exploring central Oxford on bicycle or foot.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Balliol College is especially of interest to travelers with a curiosity about British politics.
- Avoid looking through windows, especially during term: Students and academics live and work here.
- There is wheelchair access to much of the ground level at Balliol College, but you will need to advise the porters ahead of time.
How to Get There
Balliol College is located in central Oxford, on the corner of Broad Street and St. Giles. Almost everyone explores Oxford on foot, or perhaps by bicycle, and it’s generally easiest to arrive by train or bus. Most London trains start from Paddington, while the popular Oxford Tube coach service stops at Victoria, Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill Gate, and Marble Arch. Drivers typically leave their vehicles in park-and-ride zones outside the city.
When to Get There
Balliol College is open to visitors from late morning until late afternoon, or dusk, whichever comes sooner, but closes occasionally for college events. Like other Oxford colleges, it can get very busy during the summer months, particularly on weekends. Plan to visit during shoulder seasons, and/or earlier in the day, for a better experience.
Balliol College Alumni
Balliol College has an impressive roster of alumni, particularly in the turbulent field of British politics. Authors including Graham Greene and Aldous Huxley studied here, along with three British prime ministers, the controversial politician Boris Johnson, and intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, John Evelyn, and John Wycliffe.