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10 amazing things to see and do in Oxford

Friday 06 September 2019

A city full of history, stories and charm, Oxford is place bursting with quintessentially English things for you to experience. So if you can see yourself punting down a canal while passing historic university buildings, exploring castles and taking high tea in a classic hotel, Oxford could become the highlight of your trip to Britain!

Here's a list of the best things to do while on your visit to the city of dreaming spires.


1. Indulge in some retail therapy

This city has some seriously great places to shop. So, whether you’re a fan of farmers' markets or luxury goods, Oxford has you covered. Head out to one of the weekly farmers' markets and you’ll find some great fresh produce, or take a trip to Bicester Village where you’ll find the highest-quality designer brands.

2. Go punting on the River Cherwell

One of the most picturesque and relaxing ways to soak up the atmosphere and see the sights of Oxford is on a canal. Whether you hire a punt or jump on a relaxing little cruise, chilling out on the waterways is an activity that no trip to Oxford would be complete without.

With 80 punts available to hire, Cherwell Boasthouse is a great place to start your traditional Oxford adventure. So get your friends together for a trip down the River Cherwell, trail your fingers in the calm waters or even have a picnic on a river bank. You could also stop for a pint at a local pub or simply marvel at the historic university buildings with the breeze in your hair.

3. Visit a museum

Visit the first-ever public museum - the Ashmolean. Discover ancient Greek and Roman statues, Egyptian mummies and Lawrence of Arabia's robes. Full of interesting artifacts and exhibitions, the museum is sure to satisfy every curious mind.  Alternatively, head over to the Museum of Oxford where you can dive into the city’s rich past.

4. Explore the university buildings

When you think of Oxford, images of the famous university campuses instantly spring to mind. So why not take a stroll through the gardens, see the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Great Hall at Christ Church, visit the Bodleian Library, and admire the Radcliffe Camera.

No matter what part of the university you visit you will be surrounded by a wealth of beauty, history and knowledge!

5. Take a walking tour

If you prefer exploring on foot, why not join a walking tour! Go on an expert-led guided exploration, or pick up a map from the visitor centre. Soak up the history, architecture and traditions of Oxford – the tour takes around two hours, but you’ll will feel like an Oxfordian in no time!

6. Discover the city's gardens

Christchurch meadow, looking towards Folly Bridge, Oxford, along the Thames path

For a relaxing day in one of Oxford’s glorious green spaces, head to the Oxford Botanic Garden. Founded in 1621, it was the first botanical gardens in the UK. You can also discover some of the gems behind the university walls. Worcester College has a lake, and Christ Church has a whole meadow!

These green spaces are the ideal place to enjoy the relaxed and slow-paced delights of life in this university city - bring a cosy blanket and a book of poetry and you have all the makings of a perfect student-style afternoon.

7. Savour high tea

Afternoon tea is an English favourite, so why not experience this delicious tradition in one of Oxford’s most luxurious settings. The Randolph Hotel has a reputation for some of the finest scones, clotted cream and jam going, so build up an appetite exploring the city and canals and prepare for some serious indulgence!

8. Unlock the secrets of Oxford Castle

Oxford is known across the world for its history and architecture, something you can see for yourself when you climb the Saxon St George’s Tower at Oxford Castle, the city's oldest building.

Go underground to the 900-year-old crypt, take a tour of the prison and then explore the castle in your own time, for a great day of spooky fun.

9. Enjoy a pint


Want a taste of British culture with a side of literary history, too? When in Oxford you can sit in the same seat that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien sat in, while sipping on a pint at the Eagle and Child pub, an old haunt of theirs.

Another pub with a strong connection to literary classics is the Lamb & Flag. Known to be the place where Thomas Hardy wrote his novel Jude the Obscure, this pub lies right next to, and is also owned by, St John’s College. This is a staple of Oxford University life, so grab yourself a pint and become part of the scholarly crowd!

10. Get on your bike

Cycling is a wonderful way to get around Oxford, and there are plenty of cycling tours to choose from. Enjoy a relaxing pedal around the city, stopping at various hidden gems, cultural highlights and culinary spots along the way!

A great way to get familiar with the city is on a City Sightseeing bus tour, which will take you to Christ Church College, Oxford Castle and Oxford Museum of Natural History, among other landmarks.

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