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The Bridge of Sighs Oxford is a skyway that hangs over New College Lane beside the Bodleian Library.
Although not open to the public, the passageway connects two buildings in Hertford College for students to easily walkthrough.
It was built for convenience but today it is an icon of the city and somewhere that tourists and photographers flock to every day.
Here is a complete guide for the Bridge of Sighs Oxford with the history and how to visit!
Bridge of Sighs Oxford history
The Bridge of Sighs was completed in 1914 with the design by architect Sir Thomas Graham Jackson.
He is best known for his work in the schools of Brasenose College, Trinity College, and Hertford College.
Jackson was charged with redesigning much of Hertford College including the New Hall, New Quad, and a chapel.
Although the Hertford Bridge was meant to be a convenient walkway for the students of the college, it is now a popular landmark in the city.
Tourists and photographers flock here to take photos of this gorgeous bridge every single day!
Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?
Although the official name for this walkway is the Hertford Bridge, it is more commonly known in Oxford as the Bridge of Sighs after the famous bridge in Venice, Italy.
It was never meant to be a replica of the Bridge of Sighs and looks more like the Rialto Bridge if you were to compare it to one. But, the name has stuck and so there it is!
If you didn’t know, the Bridge of Sighs in Italy was an enclosed passageway over the Rio di Palazzo.
It connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace and was a place where prisoners would be taken to their execution years ago.
The nickname comes from the ‘sighs’ of prisoners who could be heard crossing over it to the block!
Hertford Bridge facts
- The Bridge of Sighs is Grade II listed building and is designed after the Quadrature of the Parabola. This was developed by Archimedes in 3BC.
- There was a legend that says the students at Hertford College were the heaviest in the city following a health survey. So, they shut the bridge to encourage students to take the stairs – of course, this is completely false!
- You may recognise this bridge being featured in Inspector Morse and X-Men: First Class.
- Just under this bridge, you can also just catch a glimpse of the New College Oak Tree that is featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!
- The Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge looks very similar but was built 100 years before this bridge!
How to visit the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford
The best place to admire the Bridge of Sighs would be to walk to New College Lane in the city. It’s here you’ll find it connecting two buildings of Hertford College.
The Bridge of Sighs is hard to miss in Oxford, especially if you’re taking the tourist route.
You’ll instantly spot it if you’re visiting the Sheldonian Theatre or the Bodleian Library complex. It’s also only a short walk away from the Radcliffe Camera and St Mary’s Church Tower.
Can you walk over the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford?
Unfortunately, the Bridge of Sights in Oxford is not open to the public or for guided tours.
The access is exclusively for those attending Hertford College, tutorial fellows, and those who have graduated. You may see students crossing it on your visit as it’s close to student accommodation.
I’m sure it looks better admiring the architecture of this bridge from the roadside rather than being inside the bridge anyway!
The best view of the Bridge of Sighs
Encountering the Bridge of Sighs, even from the roadside, is always a captivating sight but one of the best views of the Hertford Bridge can be seen from the top of the Sheldonian Theatre.
If you climb to the very top of the building, you’ll be greeted by one of the best indoor panoramic views of Oxford from their Cupola.
There are plenty of rooftop views in Oxford but this one I found the most compelling as you saw the city from a different perspective.
If you just wanted access to the rooftop and the theatre it will cost you £4 an adult but guided tours can also be booked for £8. Click here for more details.
Make a stop at the Turf Tavern
If you walk just beyond the Bridge of Sighs, you’ll find a tiny alleyway that will lead you to the Turf Tavern pub.
It’s one of the only places in the city where you can still order old English Mead and it’s more of an institution these days.
The building dates back to the 14th-century and you’ll find all the famous names who have had a drink here in the past such as Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, C. S. Lewis, and Stephen Hawking. It also featured in an episode of Inspector Morse.
They serve up drinks throughout the day or you can enjoy a lazy lunch or dinner here. There is a cosy indoor fireplace for colder days and an outdoor terrace when the weather is fine.
Things to do near the Bridge of Sighs
- Bodleian Library – You cannot leave Oxford without a tour of one of the Bodleian Libraries. You can book many guided tours to places like Duke Humphrey’s Library but my favourite place was the Divinity School. It is £2.50 for a self-guided tour.
- Radcliffe Camera – One of the most iconic landmarks in Oxford, this magnificent circular building is a working library as part of the Bodleian Library complex. Even if you don’t choose to go inside, you can admire it from the outside in the courtyard!
- St Mary’s Church Tower – For some of the best views in all of the city, you must visit St Mary’s Church Tower. You can climb 127 steps to the viewing platform at the very top embellished with gargoyles. From here, you’ll see a birds-eye view of Radcliffe Camera, The High Street, and All Souls College.
- New College – If you wanted to take a tour of one of the colleges, then New College is the place to do it. Despite the name, it’s one of the oldest and largest colleges in Oxford. If you’re a Potterhead, this was a filming location in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. You can take a tour of their cloister courtyard where Draco was turned into a ferret!