One of the most enjoyable aspects of being in Oxford is staying in college. It just so happens that each time I go, I stay in a different college, but I would stay in any of these again if there are openings next time. I've stayed in Christ Church, Lincoln, Wadham, Oriel, and Queen's.
There are many delights to staying in colleges. You get to be in a historic college, explore the quadrangles, eat in the dining hall, and stay in the heart of Oxford. It is really nice to feel secure, because as you enter, you pass the porter, who guards the entrance the each college, and then you are inside the walls of a college with a chapel, hall, library, rooms, gardens, etc... As a guest, I don't have access to the library and certain rooms, but I get breakfast in hall each morning, which is such a wonderful experience every day (not to mention saves money on buying breakfast out each day!).
The people make it so pleasant. I have met the nicest people who work in the colleges. They have given me WiFi access when it wasn't included, they've chatted away about Oxford, and they are more than willing to help. I will admit that sometimes there are quirks to the rooms that create a little challenge (such as no WiFi, no mirrors, plugs in inconvenient spots, or the tiniest shower that is difficult to use) but the porters and the scouts are always so nice wherever I have stayed. On this trip, due to availability, we had to switch colleges halfway through, from Oriel to Queen's (the above photos are all from Oriel College). When we arrived in Queen's, the head porter was there with a trainee porter, who didn't check us in with the expected greeting and helpful information. So, the head porter decided to walk us to our room in the back quad, explaining many helpful things to us along the way, and he even carrying my mom's luggage up the stairs to our door on the third floor!
If you are looking for something fancy, this isn't the way to go. The rooms are basic and since students live here, there isn't any decor, but you will have all you need. The rooms are really clean and the scouts service them everyday (sometimes not as often on weekends).
I always end up on the top floor each place I stay, which means my legs get in shape, but it also means the views out the windows are lovely. I have a deep love of rooftops in England, with chimneys, bells towers, and sloping attic roofs. I spend many evenings at the windows watching the sunset and listening to the bells chime throughout the city with a dreaminess cast over me. You get used to all the bells chiming throughout Oxford. You grow to love the bells, and can enjoy the different sounds and times that each tower maintains.
For me, experiencing the history, living in the history, as if I was a student living there is what I love so much about staying in college.