Things to do in
Oxford

Historical colleges, a medieval university, and fascinating museums await in this famous seat of learning.

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Our most recommended things to do in Oxford

Oxford: University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide

1. Oxford: University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide

This Oxford University and city walking tour begins in central Oxford and is designed to show you the world behind the doors. The small group size enables the student guide to give a personalized account of university life. Visit one of the university’s oldest colleges and the Bodleian Library. Learn about the history of the university colleges, including All Souls College, Trinity College, Oriel College, Hertford College and Merton College and also the Radcliffe Camera, the University Church of St. Mary and more. You’ll get an equally in-depth history about the town. Hear about ceremonies at Oxford, famous graduates, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and also how the most powerful Archbishop of Canterbury was burned at the stake in Oxford.

Oxford: University and City Walking Tour

2. Oxford: University and City Walking Tour

Join a university-educated guide, with years of experience and local knowledge of Oxford City and colleges, and explore the dreamy spires of one of the oldest univerities in the world on a 90-minute walking tour. Go inside some of the city’s most historic colleges, such as New College, founded in 1379 and more recently seen in the Harry Potter films and television productions of Inspector Morse and Lewis. Visit Exeter College, founded in 1314, and another favorite on most tours. Stop by Hertford College, with its romantic façade and Bridge of Sighs, instantly recognizable from Brideshead Revisited. See the University Library and learn about the collegiate system unique to Oxford and Cambridge. Discover famous alumni who studied and taught at the university, including the infamous Dr Spooner, whose portraits hang in New College Dining Hall and whose name is given to the playful linguistic phenomenon of spoonerisms.

Oxford Experience Cruise

3. Oxford Experience Cruise

This 50-minute long river cruise takes you on a fascinating stretch of the Thames River, starting with the University Regatta Course and heading towards the quaint Iffley village. This section of the river – referred to by the locals as the Isis – is one of the liveliest, and paints an accurate picture of the bustling river life. As you make your way down the river, you'll see the ancient Folly Bridge, Christchurch College and Meadows, the university rowing houses, and Iffley Lock. The waterways next to you contain rowers, punt boats, and pleasure cruisers, and are equally interesting to watch. During the cruise, your captain will share some history of the river and gladly answer any questions. Your cruising vessel will be one from a fleet of many Edwardian-style river launches. These boats combine the elegant lines and teak interiors of the early 1900s with environmentally-friendly zero-emission technology of today.

Blenheim Palace Admission Ticket

4. Blenheim Palace Admission Ticket

Discover the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Wonder at this masterpiece of 18th century Baroque architecture, which houses some of the finest antique collections in Europe. Take a tour of the State Rooms and admire the portraits, tapestries and exquisite furniture while learning about the 300-year history of this National Treasure. Visit the Churchill Exhibition and learn all about the life of the great Prime Minister, starting with his birth at Blenheim Palace in 1874. The exhibition features photographs, extracts from his diaries, artefacts and a number of other elements. Explore this World Heritage Site set amongst over 2000 acres of parkland landscaped by one of the UK’s most famous landscape architects, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Take a stroll up to the Grand Cascades or around the lake to admire some of the finest views in England. Discover the array of Formal Gardens, including the Rose Garden, Churchill Memorial Garden, Water Terraces and Secret Garden. A short miniature train ride away from the Palace is the Pleasure Gardens, which boasts a Giant Hedge Maze, Butterfly House, Lavender Garden, and an exhibition about how the Gardens have been used and maintained throughout the Palace’s history.

Oxford Castle and Prison: Guided Tour

5. Oxford Castle and Prison: Guided Tour

Discover 1,000 years of Oxford’s history - Oxford Castle & Prison is an award winning visitor attraction with a past stretching far beyond your imagination. For hundreds of years, the site has held both famous and infamous residents, serving time as a religious site, a home for royalty, and a center of justice as the County Jail. Built in 1071 and only closed in 1996, Oxford Castle & Prison is a site with so many fascinating tales to tell. From the modern day stretching all the way back to the barbaric medieval era. The site has links to the birth of education in Oxford, the famous legends of King Arthur, the valiant escape of Empress Matilda and the infamous modern-day cases of murderers and criminals. Led by a costumed tour guide, the rich history of the castle and prison will be revealed as you climb the Saxon St. George’s Tower, descend deep underground into the 900-year-old Crypt, explore the Victorian Prison D-Wing and Debtors' Tower, and scale the Mound of the 11th century Motte-and-Bailey castle. After your 50 minute tour, you will be led into the exhibition wing where you can explore at your own leisure.

Oxford: Afternoon Tea Sightseeing River Cruise

6. Oxford: Afternoon Tea Sightseeing River Cruise

Traveling down the University Regatta course, the boat passes Christ Church Meadows, the University College Boat Houses, and other landmarks on your way to Iffley lock. This is often a busy and vibrant section of the river where training rowing crews, punts, and pleasure boats jostle for river space in a wonderful display of Oxford at play. Passing through the lock at Iffley is an experience in itself. The river scenery and fascinating buildings combine to form a picture perfect location. Beyond Iffley you will travel into the tranquil water meadows that surround Oxford and there are abundant opportunities to spot wildlife amongst the green banks and overhanging willows. The boat turns for home at Rose Island, a favourite destination of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell on their river journeys. Aboard the boat an indulgent afternoon tea is provided by the renowned riverside restaurant, the Folly. The traditional menu typically includes: a selection of finger sandwiches, homemade scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, a selection of cakes, tarts, or petit fours, and tea.

Oxford: Official University and City Walking Tour

7. Oxford: Official University and City Walking Tour

Explore Oxford, the city of Dreaming Spires, on a walking tour with an expert guide from the city’s tourism board. Be shown the city’s most famous sights, uncover its hidden history, and enjoy all the astonishing stories about Oxford's key characters- real and fictional. Meet your guide at the grand and very old Broad Street (once the city's ditch) let them know where you come from and any special Oxford interests you may have and they will do their best to incorporate those.  Go to Martyrs' Memorial, the scene of terrible religious retributions in medieval times, and on to the oldest tower at St Michael of the Northgate built in Saxon times. Then, make your way to the very heart of the University and the inspiration behind Harry Potter's Hogwarts School. Pass by the pubs where the Inklings used to meet to discuss their writing as well as the pubs where Inspector Morse was filmed and the most popular student drinking holes in days of old. Discover the city that is home to several of Britain's most famous literary characters - both fictional and real - such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, Philip Pullman, and Colin Dexter as well as some of their most famous creations like Lyra and Will, and Inspector Morse. Admire Oxford's stupendous architecture, gargoyles and grotesques, so wonderfully preserved from every historical period and style, and take a stroll through the breathtaking Radcliffe Square. Cross the whimsical Bridge of Sighs as it's fondly known, just like the ones in Venice and Cambridge. See the Bodleian Libraries from the outside in the splendid Old Schools Quadrangle. Learn about the city’s famous museums including the Museum of the History of Science, containing Einstein's blackboard, The Pitt Rivers, once home to shrunken heads, and the fabulous Ashmolean, which was one of the very first ever museums in the world. If time allows, walk as far as to the beautiful Christ Church Meadows, where punting happens and cattle graze; a truly pastoral and quintessential English scene.

City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

8. City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Home to the oldest University in Britain, Oxford is an architectural marvel. You'll get fantastic views of its honey colored buildings as well as tantalizing glimpses of the hushed courtyards of its many Colleges. Visit the International award winning Oxford Castle Heritage area and you'll travel by the Ashmolean, the Sheldonian, the historic Carfax junction - see this and more on the City Sightseeing tour of Oxford. Your Tour Itinerary Stop 1 - Railway Station Stop 2 - Park End Street Stop 3 - Bus Station Stop 4 - New Road Stop 5 - West Gate  Stop 6 - Speedwell Street Stop 7 - Christ Church Stop 8 - Brasenose College Stop 9 - The Queens College Stop 10 - The Plain Stop 11 - St. Cross Road Stop 12 - South Parks Road Stop 13 - Sheldonian Theatre Stop 14 - Trinity College Stop 15 - Parks Road Stop 16 - Banbury Road Stop 17 - Woodstock Road Stop 18 - Browns Restaurant Stop 19 - Magdalen Street East Stop 20 - Randolph Hotel

Oxford: Scenic Sightseeing Cruise with Gourmet Picnic

9. Oxford: Scenic Sightseeing Cruise with Gourmet Picnic

This cruise travels through the city past famous landmarks including Christchurch College and Meadows, the University boathouses and regatta course, the Head of the River and Folly Bridge . From the river passenegers take in a side of Oxford's heritage rarely seen by visitors to the city. Quaint Osney Island, well-loved allotments and gardens and majestic and ancient Port Meadow are off the tourist trail but represent some of Oxford's most beautiful and intriguing scenery. Port Meadow, a vast area of common land, has remained little changed since prehistoric times and supports plants and bird-life in abundance. At the top of Port Meadow is Godstow. Godstow was the ultimate destination of Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll when they followed an identical route to this trip while composing 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. It is also the site of Trout Island, an inspiration for another of Oxfords literary icons, C S Lewis, and his stories of the land of Narnia. Your picnic lunch is provided by riverside restaurant, The Folly, and typically includes: • An selection of finger sandwiches • Homemade quiche or tart of the day • Homemade scones with strawberry jam, clotted cream and fresh strawberries  • Elderflower presse Served in a traditional picnic basket with napkins, crockery and glasses (to be returned to the crew at the end of the cruise). Drinks to take aboard can be purchased at the departure point.

London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour

10. London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour

Enjoy a full day of English heritage visiting the exquisite Windsor Castle, captivating Stonehenge, and the beautiful university city of Oxford. On this day trip departing from London, you get the whistle-stop tour of these unique sites with interesting commentary from your guide along the way. Start your day at Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Visit the magnificent State Apartments still used for state occasions and royal receptions (if option selected). Take some time to explore the castle grounds and the 14th century St. George's Chapel, where you can admire one of the most beautiful examples of medieval church architecture in England. Next, go to the standing stones of Stonehenge, still clouded in mystery as an amazing feat of human engineering. Explore the prehistoric stone circle and learn about the theories around its construction (if option selected). Continue to the university city of Oxford, known as "The City of Dreaming Spires." A seat of learning since 1249, it's an idyllic location to explore on a fascinating walking tour.

Frequently asked questions about Oxford

What top attractions are a must-see in Oxford?

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Oxford

Paul & Mark are full time travel bloggers who discover hidden gems and local specialities on their blog Anywhere We Roam. They spent 7 years living in the area, compiling their favourite things to do in Oxford.

What should I do on my first trip to Oxford?

One of the most iconic sites in Oxford is the Radcliffe Camera; the iconic dome-topped round building in the centre of the city. The best way to see it, and the charming cobbled-stoned square it resides in, is from the top of St Mary Virgin Church tower. The other unmissable attraction in Oxford is the Bodleian Library. The reading room with medieval books and wood panelling is so atmospheric it was used as the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter Films.

What are some hidden gems to see in Oxford?

One of the most unique experiences in Oxford is having a pint at the Turf Tavern; a creaky old pub dating back to 1381. With low wooden beams, an open fire and traditional ales, it's a classic English pub with past regulars including ex-Prime Ministers and famous students. The Pitt River’s Museum is another cool place to visit. It has a huge collection of strange objects from all over the world including an intriguing early human tattoo exhibition.

How much time should I spend in Oxford?

With a compact centre, it's easy to see many of the main sights on a day trip to Oxford including the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, and several of the colleges. On a second day you could take a guided tour of one of the colleges, punt on the river and visit some of Oxford's world-class museums.

What food is Oxford known for?

Although steeped in history, Oxford's student population has helped forge a modern & independent café scene. Head to St. Michael's Street for an excellent choice of tasty brunches; Turl Street for great independent coffee; and the neaby covered market for artisanal baked goods amongst a mish mash of enticing stalls.

What is the best way to get around Oxford?

As a compact city, Oxford is easily explored on foot. Most of the main attractions are contained within the old town centre and strolling the small laneways and cobbled streets is one of the best ways to see this charming university town. A punting tour along the river is and excellent way to see Oxford's parks and leafty surrounds.

What are the best months to visit Oxford?

May to June is the best time to visit Oxford when the gardens are in full bloom and the students are starting to celebrate the end of the academic year. May is the busiest month for festivals, including Oxford May Music – a celebration of music, science and arts in the city – making it a great time to visit before the busy summer period.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Oxford?

The main attractions are located in the centre of Oxford, but for a taste of the real student life, head to Jericho. Lined with colourful terrace houses, Jericho is home to trendy cafes, international food and independent retail shops. Don't miss Raoul's bar for expertly created cocktails in a lush but relaxed setting.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Most of the great restaurants in Oxford are in the centre, making it easy to wander around and pick something from the wide selection on offer. On a nice day, it's great to take the leisurely stroll from the centre town along the River Thames where you can eat at several of the boathouses overlooking the water.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

One of the best places to shop in Oxford is the covered market. Operating for around 200 years, the market has everything from groceries to crafts; homewares to clothing. The streets immediately surrounding the market are also great for checking out the local shopping. Don't miss Blackwell's Bookshop - something of an institution in Oxford.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Oxford?

It's great to take advantage of the compact nature of Oxford and stay somewhere in the centre of town. This way you can easily walk to the attractions during the day as well as the restaurants and bars in the evening. For a completely different option, the beautiful Cotswolds Villages are nearby providing an excellent base for a weekend stay in the country.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Oxford?

One of the best family-friendly activities in Oxford is a tour of the Harry Potter film sets where you can relive the magic and learn more about the colleges at the same time. Another family favourite, ideal for spending an afternoon, is Thirsty Meeples, a board game café with over 2,700 different games to choose from.

What is the best thing to do in Oxford for solo travelers?

Oxford is a great place for solo travellers with lots of attractions that are perfect to experience by yourself. Wander around the impressive Ashmolean Museum, unwind in the beautiful Port Meadow grassy park or spend a quiet day popping in and out of the striking colleges.

What is the best thing to do in Oxford for couples?

There's no better way to show off your skills to your other half than to try punting on the River Cherwell. There's a reason the students practise for hours before mastering the skill. If it all looks too much, you can always book a guided punting tour. End the day at the Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant, the perfect spot in Oxford for a romantic dinner.

What are the best annual events in Oxford?

One of the best annual festivals in Oxford is the Summer Eights, a four-day rowing competition between the colleges. The event takes place on a narrow stretch of the River Thames and the banks are filled with spectators enjoying the race. The other big event on the Oxford calendar is the Foodies Festival held on the August bank holiday weekend. It's one of the biggest food events in the UK.

What are the best things to do around Oxford?

Oxford is on the edge of the Cotswolds, one of Britain's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Taking an afternoon walk in the Cotswolds is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors around Oxford. The most picturesque is the easy circular route around the village of Minster Lovell which visits a beautiful 15th century ruin set beside a lovely river. Minster Lovell is around 30 minutes’ drive from Oxford.

What's a local recommendation for neighborhood New College?

New College is much less visited than some of the more famous colleges in Oxford, but the cloisters are something of a hidden gem and well worth exploring. They are beautifully designed with exquisite attention to detail. Visit the spot where Draco Malfoy was turned into a ferret in the Harry Potter movie, The Goblet of Fire.

What are some tips for visiting the top attractions in neighborhood New College?

Each of the colleges have different opening times based on the academic year, often for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. It’s a good idea to check the opening times in advance so you can plan which colleges you can visit on your trip.

What are some fun facts/history behind neighborhood New College?

Oxford's contributions to the world include the development of penicillin and lithium-ion batteries, the discovery of antibodies and the process for predicting weather. It has educated 28 British prime minsters, 2 US presidents, and several celebrities including Hugh Grant, Emma Watson and Kate Beckinsale.

Planning Your Visit

  • How many days to spend in Oxford?

    You can spend a full three days visiting the main attractions in the city center, but why not add a couple more to explore its different neighborhoods, such as trendy Jericho or East Oxford and soak up that English culture?

  • Getting around

    Exploring the city on foot is the best way to take in the sights and sounds, especially during rush hour times. There are two bus companies which are Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach. A day pass, which is valid when traveling with either one, costs 4£, and you can buy it directly from the driver.

  • Where to stay in Oxford

    There are hotels in the bustling center itself, and you'll have everything at your fingertips. You'll also find accommodation just beyond the center, with easy access to go on a sightseeing expedition.

Good to know

  • Language
    English
  • Currency
    British Pound (£)
  • Time Zone
    UTC (+00:00)
  • Country Code
    +44
  • Best time to visit
    Oxford is great for a visit year-round, and with so many different festivals on offer throughout the year, it's best to plan your trip according to what you most want to do.

Other Sightseeing Options in Oxford

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What people are saying about Oxford

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 8,110 reviews

The tour was very informative. Matthew, our guide, was very knowledgeable and generous with his time -- the tour went over time as he had so much to tell and share. I would totally recommend this tour as it gives a detailed introduction to the history of the city.

Tom gave us a memorable tour which was full of historical and current detail about Oxford without being boring. He added some humour which made it relaxing and enjoyable. In fact, I wouldn't mind doing it all again! Well done Tom!

Sally is an excellent guide. With her vast knowledge and her extreme patience and understanding of our mobility problems were very much appreciated by us elderly members of our tour.

Ian was a fantastic guide and an expert driver. Lots of information and perfect balance of driving and time spent in each village.

The guide (Alice) was super knowledgeable and passionate. Loved this tour!