things to do in oxford

Last Updated on: 12th June 2024, 04:46 am

Are you looking for the best things to do in Oxford? Look no further than this guide to Oxford tourism. As one of the UK’s most iconic destinations, Oxford boasts a diverse range of attractions and activities that are sure to appeal to visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture lover, or simply looking for a memorable holiday spot, Oxford has it all.

Explore the charm and beauty of this historic city with my comprehensive overview of Oxford’s top attractions, from the iconic landmarks of the town centre to the world-class museums and academic excellence of the University of Oxford. Whether you’re travelling solo, with friends, or with family, Oxford’s natural beauty, shopping scene, dining options, and family-friendly activities will make for an unforgettable experience.

So why wait? Start planning your next trip to Oxford now and discover why this stunning city tops the list of must-see destinations in the UK.

Things to Do in Oxford

1. Exploring Oxford’s Historic Landmarks

One of the most fascinating things to do in Oxford town centre is to explore its iconic landmarks that showcase the city’s rich history and architecture. From medieval churches to the world-famous University of Oxford colleges, the landmarks in Oxford are a reflection of its enduring cultural heritage.

The University of Oxford has been at the forefront of education for centuries, and its buildings in the town centre are a testament to its academic excellence. Among the most renowned landmarks are the Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Bodleian Library, where visitors can walk through the halls where some of the greatest minds of history studied.

Carfax Tower, located in the heart of the city, offers a panoramic view over the historic centre and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. For a spiritual experience, Christ Church Cathedral, founded more than 1,000 years ago, is a highlight not to be missed.

To delve deeper into Oxford’s history, I highly recommend the Oxford Castle and Prison tour. Visitors can go back in time and discover the lives of prisoners during the castle’s use as a prison.

“The landmarks in Oxford are a reflection of its enduring cultural heritage.”

Landmark Description Location
Radcliffe Camera A beautiful circular building used as a reading room for the Bodleian Library Radcliffe Square
Sheldonian Theatre An iconic 17th-century building, used for academic ceremonies, concerts, and lectures Broad Street
Bodleian Library One of the oldest libraries in Europe, with a collection of more than 13 million printed items Broad Street
Carfax Tower A prominent landmark with stunning views over Oxford High Street
Christ Church Cathedral A beautiful cathedral with a long and impressive history of its own St Aldate’s

Exploring Oxford’s historic landmarks is a trip back in time with rich cultural experiences and admirable scenery.

oxford landmarks

2. Museums and Cultural Experiences in Oxford

As a cultural hub, Oxford offers a myriad of opportunities to explore, learn and absorb new knowledge. Plan a visit to Oxford’s world-class museums and immerse yourself in art, history, and science.

One of the most prominent and renowned museums in Oxford is the Ashmolean Museum, the oldest public museum in the UK. The vast array of art and artefacts, including works by Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Picasso, showcases the museum’s unique collection of Eastern and Western art and antiquities.

The Museum of Natural History, also located in Oxford, houses an extensive collection of specimens divided into three major sections: Life, Earth, and Environmental Science. From the iconic Oxford Dodo to fossils, animals, and minerals, visitors will find an array of jaw-dropping displays.

Another must-visit museum is the Pitt Rivers Museum which boasts an impressive collection of anthropology and archaeology items from different cultures and regions worldwide. The Pitt Rivers Museum is known for its unique displays, which often showcase objects by form and function instead of by culture.

Exploring Museum Opening Times and Prices

Most of Oxford’s museums are free to enter, providing an affordable way to explore and enrich your cultural experiences. However, opening times and prices may vary. The Ashmolean Museum and the Museum of Natural History are open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm, and the Pitt Rivers Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Museum Name Free Admission? Opening Times
Ashmolean Museum Yes 10 am – 5 pm, seven days a week
Museum of Natural History Yes 10 am – 5 pm, seven days a week
Pitt Rivers Museum Yes 10 am – 5 pm, Tue to Sun

No matter your interests, Oxford’s museums cater to all kinds of curiosity, and they make a perfect family-friendly activity. The rich exhibits, educational activities, and interactive displays leave a lasting impression on visitors of all ages.

3. Discovering Oxford’s Academic Excellence

If you want to experience the academic legacy of Oxford, the University of Oxford is a must-visit destination. Founded in the 11th century, the University of Oxford is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, attracting brilliant minds from all over the globe. Take a leisurely stroll through the college courtyards and let the stunning architecture of the university buildings take your breath away. The University of Oxford is unquestionably one of the top oxford attractions.

One of the highlights of the University of Oxford is the Bodleian Library, the second-largest library in the UK, with an impressive collection of over 13 million books. The library has been a part of the university for over 400 years and has played a major role in academia and research in the UK and beyond. The Bodleian Library is undoubtedly a must-visit attraction for book lovers and intellectuals alike.

University of Oxford

Aside from the library, the university offers various exhibitions, lectures, and talks throughout the year. Whether you are a current student or a visitor, you can witness the vibrant academic atmosphere that has shaped the city for centuries. You may also be interested in visiting the Ashmolean Museum, the university’s museum of art and archaeology, which houses a vast collection of treasures from around the world. It is one of the finest oxford attractions worth seeing.

4. Unforgettable Oxford City Tours

When visiting Oxford, getting a comprehensive overview of the city’s highlights is essential, and one of the best ways to do this is by embarking on one of the many guided tours available. There are different tours to suit every preference, from walking tours that take you through the historic streets to punting tours along the River Cherwell.

oxford sightseeing

A walking tour is an excellent way to explore Oxford’s charm and beauty on foot, with a knowledgeable guide to show you around. You can visit the city’s iconic landmarks, colleges, and museums while learning about their fascinating history and unique features. For a more relaxed way to experience Oxford, take a punting tour along the River Cherwell, where you can sit back and enjoy the picturesque scenery.

Oxford City Walking Tours

Tour Name Description Duration Price
Oxford Walking Tours A general walking tour covering the city’s history, culture, and architecture. 2 hours £18 pp
Scholars and Scandals Tour A tour focused on Oxford’s literary history, famous writers, and scandals. 1.5 hours £15 pp

Punting Tours in Oxford

Tour Name Description Duration Price
Oxford Punting A punting tour along the River Cherwell, with an expert guide to navigate the way. 1 hour £22 pp
Private Punting Tours A private and customizable punting tour for families and groups. Various options From £140

Whichever tour you choose, you are guaranteed to discover Oxford’s beauty and charm with a knowledgeable guide who will provide historical context and show you the best hidden gems that the city offers.

5. Experiencing Oxford’s Annual Events

Attending one of Oxford’s annual events is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the vibrant atmosphere of the city. From literary festivals to holiday markets, there is always something happening in Oxford that will leave you with unforgettable memories.

The Oxford Literary Festival

One of the most popular events in Oxford is the annual literary festival, which takes place in early spring. This festival features talks, signings, and panels with famous authors from around the world. Previous guests have included Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, and J.K. Rowling. Whether you’re a bookworm or just looking for a unique experience, the Oxford Literary Festival is not to be missed.

May Morning Celebrations

Another unique event that takes place every year in Oxford is the May Morning celebrations. On May 1st, the streets of Oxford come alive with music and revelry as locals gather to welcome the arrival of spring. The festivities usually start with the singing of traditional songs from the roof of Magdalen College, followed by a lively parade through the streets.

Event Name Date
Oxford Literary Festival April
May Morning Celebrations May 1st
Oxford Christmas Market November-December

Oxford Christmas Market

If you’re visiting Oxford during the holiday season, be sure to check out the Christmas Market. This market offers a variety of festive treats, crafts, and gifts, and is a great place to get into the holiday spirit. Delicious food and warm drinks are also available, making it the perfect place to escape the cold winter weather.

oxford events

With so many exciting events to choose from, your visit to Oxford is sure to be unforgettable. Don’t miss out on these unique cultural experiences that showcase the city’s vibrant community spirit.

6. Enjoying Oxford’s Natural Beauty

After exploring the city’s historical landmarks and cultural offerings, take a moment to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds Oxford. There are several Oxford attractions that showcase the serene landscapes of the city, which are perfect for a tranquil afternoon or day trip.

University of Oxford Botanic Garden

One of the best places to visit in Oxford to appreciate its natural beauty is the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. Established in 1621, the garden boasts over 5,000 plant species and is a haven for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll and admire the diverse collection of trees, flowers, and shrubs, or attend one of the events or exhibitions hosted in the garden.

River Thames

Another way to experience the natural beauty in and around Oxford is to take a peaceful walk along the River Thames. The river flows through the city centre and offers stunning views of the city’s iconic landmarks and picturesque scenery. Hire a boat, enjoy a picnic by the water’s edge or simply relax and soak in the tranquility of the surroundings.

Cotswolds

Located a short distance from Oxford, the Cotswolds is a stunning area of natural beauty that is definitely worth a visit. The rolling hills, idyllic villages, and picturesque landscapes make it a popular destination for hikers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts. Stroll through quintessentially English towns like Bourton-on-the-Water and Broadway, or visit the famous Blenheim Palace for a day of architectural and natural wonders.

7. Shopping and Dining in Oxford

As an avid foodie and shopping enthusiast, I can confidently say that Oxford offers an exceptional shopping and dining experience. Whether you’re seeking luxury boutiques or independent shops, designer brands or vintage finds, the bustling Oxford Town Centre has it all.

One of my favorite places to explore is the Covered Market, an indoor marketplace that houses over thirty local vendors selling everything from artisanal cheeses to handmade jewelry. The market’s vibrant atmosphere is well complemented by the mouth-watering aromas of freshly cooked food, which lure visitors to stop for a quick bite.

If you’re looking for a more traditional dining experience, Oxford offers a diverse range of restaurants serving up everything from Italian cuisine to delicious street food. One of my favorite spots is the The Old Bookbinders Ale House, a charming pub that serves up a range of hearty pub grub alongside a selection of local beers and ciders.

Name of Restaurant Cuisine Location
The Old Parsonage Hotel British Cuisine Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6NN
Spiced Roots Caribbean Cuisine 106 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1JE
Victors Oxford International Cuisine 59A Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

And let’s not forget the city’s pubs and bars – Oxford is home to some of the best drinking spots in the UK. Whether you prefer a lively student bar or a more intimate and relaxed drinking establishment, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.

My Top Picks for Shopping and Dining in Oxford:

  • The Covered Market – a vibrant indoor market with an eclectic mix of local vendors
  • The Old Bookbinders Ale House – a charming pub serving up delicious grub and local beers
  • The White Rabbit – a popular student pub with a lively atmosphere and affordable drinks
  • The Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant – a restaurant with an impressive view of Oxford’s skyline and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine

8. Family-Friendly Activities in Oxford

If you are planning a day out in Oxford with your family, there are plenty of enjoyable activities to choose from. Here are some of the best family-friendly things to do in Oxford that cater to all ages.

Visit the Story Museum

The Story Museum in Oxford is a unique and imaginative experience that brings stories to life through interactive exhibits and displays. With rooms dedicated to classic tales and modern stories, children can explore and learn while having fun. Don’t miss the Narnia Experience, which takes you on a journey through the magical world of C.S. Lewis.

Explore the Oxford Castle and Prison

The Oxford Castle and Prison is a fascinating historical site that offers tours and exhibitions suitable for children and adults alike. Walk along the castle’s walls, explore the crypt, and discover the history of the prison and its inmates. The castle also features a gift shop and a café, making it a perfect spot for a family day out.

Enjoy a boat trip along the River Thames

Take a break from the city’s bustling streets and enjoy a leisurely boat trip along the River Thames. Choose from a variety of boat tours that offer different routes and durations, and enjoy beautiful views of Oxford’s picturesque landscapes.

Activity Description Price Range
Visit the Story Museum Interactive exhibits and displays £8-£35
Explore the Oxford Castle and Prison Historical tours and exhibitions £10-£25
Enjoy a boat trip along the River Thames Leisurely boat tours £12-£40

All activities are reasonably priced, and some offer discounts for families and children.

With these fun and exciting activities, planning a family day out in Oxford has never been easier. Get ready for a memorable experience for the whole family.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Oxford is truly a gem in the heart of the United Kingdom, offering a plethora of exciting things to do and see. As someone who has explored this beautiful city extensively, I can confidently say that Oxford has something to offer for everyone. Whether you are a history buff, culture enthusiast, or just someone looking for a memorable vacation, you will not be disappointed. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in Oxford. Cheers!

FAQ

What are some must-see historic landmarks in Oxford?

Some must-see historic landmarks in Oxford include the Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower, and Christ Church Cathedral.

What are the top museums to visit in Oxford?

The Ashmolean Museum, Museum of Natural History, and Pitt Rivers Museum are some of the top museums to visit in Oxford, offering a diverse range of art, history, and anthropology exhibits.

Is the University of Oxford open to visitors?

Yes, the University of Oxford is open to visitors who can explore the college courtyards, Bodleian Library, attend exhibitions, lectures, and witness the vibrant academic atmosphere the university offers.

What types of city tours are available in Oxford?

There are various guided tours available in Oxford, including walking tours that cover historic streets and punting tours along the River Cherwell, providing different perspectives of the city.

What annual events can visitors enjoy in Oxford?

Visitors to Oxford can enjoy annual events like the Oxford Literary Festival, May Morning Celebrations, and the Oxford Christmas Market, which offer unique cultural experiences and celebrations.

Are there natural attractions to explore near Oxford?

Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty surrounding Oxford by visiting the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, taking a walk along the River Thames, or exploring the picturesque Cotswolds nearby.

Where are the best places to shop and dine in Oxford?

The Covered Market is a top spot for shopping in Oxford, while dining options range from traditional British cuisine at The Old Parsonage Hotel to international dishes at Victors Oxford, offering a diverse culinary experience in the city.