Set on High Street in the heart of town, graduates-only All Souls College is Oxford’s most elitist institution. Only the university’s best and brightest are invited to sit the entrance exam, and just two are accepted as fellows each year. Fifteenth-century architecture mingles with Hawksmoor and Wren detailings for pure tranquility.
There is no charge to visit All Souls College, which is open to guests for just a couple of hours during the day. Many travelers explore on foot, as part of a self-guided walking tour of the key Oxford colleges, but others enjoy the historical expertise and colorful anecdotes a guide can provide—some Oxford walking tours are led by current or former students of the university. Whether you opt for a walking tour or a bicycle tour, check carefully to see whether they enter the college, as many simply pass by.
Things to Know Before You Go
- All Souls College is a must for history buffs and lovers of architecture.
- All Souls College is a place of study and reflection, so be mindful about noise.
- Steep stairs mean there is only limited wheelchair access to All Souls College. Phone ahead or ask your tour provider about access to the library.
How to Get There
All Souls College is located in central Oxford, on the corner of High Street and Catte Street. Almost everyone explores the colleges on foot, or occasionally by bicycle, and it’s often easiest to arrive by bus or train. Most London trains start from Paddington, while the popular Oxford Tube coach service stops at Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill Gate, Marble Arch, and Victoria. Drivers typically leave their vehicles in park-and-ride zones outside the city.
When to Get There
All Souls College closes at Easter, over the Christmas and New Year period, and for the whole month of August. Outside those times, it’s open to the public in the early afternoons only, excluding Saturdays. As with many Oxford colleges, it can get very busy on Sundays, and throughout June and July; visiting in the May or September shoulder seasons is recommended.
A Short History of All Souls College
Henry Chichele, then Archbishop of Canterbury, established All Souls College in 1438 as a center for prayer and learning. Celebrated fellows over the years include the architect Sir Christopher Wren, whose sundial is on display in the North Quad; T. E. Lawrence, of Lawrence of Arabia fame; and the philosopher Isaiah Berlin.