Nestled in the heart of south-central England lies the enchanting city of Oxford, steeped in a rich history that dates back to the 8th century. Famous for being home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, the University of Oxford, this vibrant city boasts breathtaking medieval architecture that transports visitors back in time. Immerse yourself in the fascinating past as you explore the iconic Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera, marvel at the Ashmolean Museum, or step back into medieval England at Oxford Castle. And for those seeking adventure, we've covered everything in this top 35 things to do in Oxford list, from exploring the city's history to great shopping and restaurants, making sure you never run out of options.
1. Take a Walk Through Time at the Ashmolean Museum
If you’re looking for things to do in Oxford, then this tops the list. The Ashmolean is England's oldest public museum, having opened in 1683. Their collections range from ancient Egypt to modern China and house a massive collection of antiques and artefacts from art and archaeology. There are several impressive antiquities on display, including Guy Fawkes' lantern and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel studies.
2. Visit Oxford Castle and Prison
Oxford Castle, located just south of the Westgate shopping center, is a classic motte and bailey castle that has served as a royal residence, a court of justice, and a gaol for petty criminals over the centuries. Today, you can visit the site and learn about its 1,600-year history; go underground into the candle-lit crypt; explore the prison cells from the 18th century; or step outside and climb the castle's outdoor mound for panoramic views of the city.
3. Shop Local at the Covered Market
What better way to spend a free Saturday morning than wandering the alleys of Oxford's historic Covered Market? Take a stroll through the historic Covered Market, which has been around for over 200 years. Since its inception in 1774, the market has been home to local tradespeople and shopkeepers, who fill the area with a variety of vibrant stores and pop-up trader stalls. Take a tour of the Oxford Covered Market and taste local food and drink, such as chocolate from The Oxford Chocolatier or coffee from The Missing Bean.
4. Check out the Bodleian Libraries
The world-famous Bodleian Libraries, which attract thousands of culture-seeking tourists and students alike, are renowned for their prestigious academic collections and beautiful architecture. The library, which first opened its doors to scholars in 1602, has grown over the centuries to accommodate its growing collection of books, manuscripts, and paperwork.
5. Visit the History of Science Museum
On a rainy day in the city? Take a stroll down Broad Street to the city's History of Science Museum. Explore the museum's collection of objects, inventions, and stories about how innovators changed the world to learn about the history of science. The museum houses a wide range of man-made artefacts, including historic mathematical, medical, and microscopic equipment as well as the first astronomical devices. The museum also features interactive displays, which allow visitors to handle some of the exhibits and gain a deeper understanding of how they work.
6. Take a Look At C.S. Lewis' Home
The Kilns, also known as C.S. Lewis' house, is located on the outskirts of Oxford's Headington Quarry. The house has become famous for being the location where the author wrote his collection of Narnia Series books, as well as other classics. However, fans of the novels may recognise it from its appearance in the Narnia books.
7. Visit the Botanic Garden
The University of Oxford's Botanic Garden and Arboretum is one of the best places to visit in Oxford. It is the oldest botanical garden in the UK and boasts a stunning 130 acres of wildlife and woodland for you to escape the bustling city and recharge. Over 6,000 different plant species are grown on-site in the grounds and greenhouses, all of which contribute to scientifically important research.
8. Sight-See the Famous Bridge of Sighs
Make sure the Bridge of Sighs is on your list of must-see attractions in Oxford. The Bridge of Sighs, located opposite the entrance to the Bodleian Library, is a covered skyway that connects Hertford College's two buildings across New College Lane. The Bridge of Sighs, known for its uncanny resemblance to the bridge of the same name in Venice, has become a popular tourist destination after appearing in TV shows such as Inspector Morse and films such as X Men: First Class.
9. Visit the Oxfordshire Art Gallery
If you're a lover of contemporary art, then a visit to the Oxfordshire Art Gallery is a must-visit destination in Oxford. Located in the heart of Oxfordshire, the gallery showcases a wide range of contemporary art from the area, giving visitors an opportunity to experience the rich artistic culture of the region. The artwork on display is not only visually stunning but also thought-provoking, allowing visitors to engage with the art and its underlying messages. In addition to the artwork, the gallery also hosts a variety of events, such as artist talks, workshops, and exhibitions, providing visitors with an immersive experience into the local art scene.
10. Climb Carfax Tower
As the city's tallest structure, it's also the best place to take in the amazing Oxford cityscape. In Oxford today, the historic Carfax Tower wields considerable power. To prevent the city from becoming overly modernised, it is now illegal to build any building higher than 74 feet tall in central Oxford.
11. Indulge Your Creativity At The Story Museum
Oxford is well-known for producing world-famous authors such as Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien. As a result, The Story Museum is a must-see for those looking for things to do in Oxford. Many people consider it to be one of the most enjoyable museums to visit, with interactive exhibits, storytelling sessions, and dress-up opportunities. From the restroom door, which warns of Moaning Myrtle, to the Story Craft room, which will have you soaring in the sky with Philip Pullman's fantastic creatures, every inch of the building contains subtle literary references.
12. Spook Yourself Out With Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trail
Bill Spectre's theatrical ghost tours, which run all year, delve into Oxford's past, with spooky shenanigans suitable for all ages. The tours are award-winning, with a variety of props, tricks, and costumes used to make the experience even more terrifying. This experience is not for the faint of heart, as you may encounter some eerie occurrences along the way. But for those who love the thrill of the unknown, the ghost hunt is a fantastic way to get a closer look at Oxford's spooky side and you wouldn’t want to miss this on on your things to do in Oxford checklist.
13. Discover Narnia
You do not want to miss the birthplace of Narnia, in your things to do in Oxford itinerary. Fans of C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia series can go behind the scenes and visit some of the locations that inspired his famous novels. Plan your route to include stops at pubs where C.S. Lewis and his fellow "Inklings" met and discussed their fantasy fiction. You should also visit Radcliffe Square, where a carefully carved ornate door, opposite University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, bears an uncanny resemblance to features in the film franchise.
14. Enjoy a Coffee Concert at Holywell Music Room
If you're looking for things to do in Oxford on a Sunday morning, you won't find a better option than a Coffee Concert in Holywell Music Room. Coffee Concerts, which began in 1986, are weekly music events that take place every Sunday morning in the stunning Holywell Music Room. The concerts, as the name implies, are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee, which is included with all ticket purchases.
15. Go punting
It's impossible to compile a list of the best things to do in Oxford for students without mentioning punting. Punting is a time-honored and uniquely Oxford sailing tradition in which long and narrow boats (punts) are gently guided along the river by an individual using a quant pole. You can hire traditional punts, rowing boats, or pedalos and go punting on the River Thames or the River Cherwell.
16. Investigate the Inspector Morse Tour
A tour of the pubs, colleges, and streets that inspired Colin Dexter in the Inspector Morse detective series is a must-do in Oxford for fans of the Inspector Morse detective series. Inspector Morse Tours the areas Morse and his sidekick Lewis frequented when trying to solve a case. This is one of the most interesting things to do in Oxford. Episodes of the show have featured the historic Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleian Library, and the world-renowned Ashmolean Museum.
17. Harry Potter Locations Tour
Take a Harry Potter tour of Oxford and visit some of the locations used in the movies, such as Christ Church College and the Bodleian Library. Oxford, with its historic buildings and cobbled streets, was a perfect location for the Harry Potter films. The tour takes you to some of the most famous locations used in the movies such as Christ Church College, which was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ Great Hall and was also used for some of the filming. The Bodleian Library was also used as the Hogwarts’ library, and it is a must-see for any Potter fan. This tour is one of the best things to do in Oxford, with a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the wizarding world and see the film locations in real life.
18. Go Ice Skating at Oxford Ice Rink
Do you want to try something new? Why not try your hand at ice skating at the Oxford Ice Rink? This leisure centre is open seven days a week and offers a variety of skating sessions, including lessons, general skating, and disco skating in the evenings. Not a fan of ice skating? You can also attend events hosted by the Oxford Figure Ice Skating Club or games played by the Oxford City Stars, the city's official ice hockey team, if looking for more interesting things to do in Oxford.
19. Play Crazy Golf at Junkyard Golf
Junkyard Golf was one of the best entertainment activities/things to do in Oxford, that came out of the renovation of Oxford's Westgate Centre. The venue features quirky courses that are made entirely from recycled materials, giving it a distinct and eco-friendly appeal. Each course has its own distinctive theme, from a carnival-inspired course to a neon-lit sci-fi course, there is something for everyone. Additionally, the venue has a fully licensed bar, serving an array of drinks and cocktails, making it a perfect spot for a night out with friends.
20. Visit the Oxford Covered Bridge
For a truly unique and memorable experience in Oxford, a visit to the Oxford Covered Bridge is a must. This iconic bridge spans the River Thames and is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. What makes the bridge truly special is its unique design: it's one of only a handful of covered bridges in the UK, and its wooden structure and rustic charm make it a sight to behold. As you cross the bridge, you'll be treated to stunning views of the river and the surrounding countryside. A visit to the Oxford Covered Bridge is a must on any Oxford itinerary.
21. Walk along the High Street
As you take a stroll down the High Street, you are surrounded by a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The street is lined with an array of shops, offering everything from clothes to electronics, jewellery to books, and more. You can hear the sound of people chatting, music playing and the clinking of cups and plates from the various cafes and restaurants that line the street. As you continue your walk, you will find street performers, artists, and musicians, who add to the lively atmosphere. With so much to see and do, the High Street is an ideal place to spend a day out with friends or family.
22. Visit the Oxfordshire Art Gallery
If you're a lover of contemporary art, then a visit to the Oxfordshire Art Gallery is a must-visit destination in Oxford. Located in the heart of Oxfordshire, the gallery showcases a wide range of contemporary art from the area. The gallery features a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, and installations, all created by local artists. The artwork on display is not only visually stunning but also thought-provoking, allowing visitors to engage with the art. In addition to the artwork, the gallery also hosts a variety of events, such as artist talks, workshops, and exhibitions, providing visitors with an immersive experience into the local art scene.
23. Watch a show at the Oxford New Theatre
The Oxford New Theatre is a vibrant cultural hub that offers a diverse range of performances to cater to various interests. The theatre is located in the heart of Oxford and has a rich history of hosting some of the world's most renowned performers. With its stunning interior and excellent acoustics, the venue is perfect for experiencing live entertainment at its best. Whether it's a Broadway musical, a gripping play, or a live music concert, the Oxford New Theatre has something to offer for everyone. Don’t miss out on this and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Oxford, soak in the cultural scene, and have a memorable experience that will last a lifetime.
24. Visit the Oxford Artisan Distillery
The Oxford Artisan Distillery is a must when looking for things to do in Oxford for anyone interested in learning about the distilling process and tasting some of the finest spirits in the UK. As the only organic grain-to-glass distillery in the country, the distillery offers a unique experience for visitors. You will learn about the different techniques used to create the various spirits, including vodka, gin, and whiskey, among others. One of the highlights of the tour is the tasting session, where visitors get to sample the different products that are produced at the distillery.
25. Explore the Oxford Escape Room
Visit the Oxford Escape Room and try to solve puzzles and clues to escape within a time limit. They offer different themed rooms, including Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland. If you're in the mood for a thrilling challenge and a uniquely fun thing to do in Oxford, look no further. With a variety of themed rooms to choose from, this escape room offers a fun and interactive way to put your problem-solving skills to the test. It's a great way to bond with friends, family, or colleagues and an excellent opportunity to exercise your brain and get your adrenaline pumping.
26. Stroll through the Oxford Science Park
The Oxford Science Park is a hub of innovation and cutting-edge research, where scientists and entrepreneurs work together to develop solutions that can make a real difference in the world. The Science Park is home to a range of companies, from small start-ups to multinational corporations, all working to solve some of the world's most pressing problems. Visitors can learn about a range of innovative technologies, from advanced medical devices to sustainable energy solutions, and discover the many ways in which science is shaping the future. Whether you're a student, a researcher, or simply someone interested in the future of science and technology, the Oxford Science Park is a fun thing to do in Oxford.
27. Climb the tower of St. Mary's Church
For an unrivaled view of the charming city of Oxford, climb the tower of St. Mary's Church. As you make your way up the winding staircase, the anticipation builds, and the reward at the top is simply breathtaking. From the dizzying heights of the tower, you can see panoramic views of the historic city, including the spires of numerous colleges, the Radcliffe Camera, and even the dreaming spires of Oxford University. Soak up the stunning scenery and take in the sweeping vistas, capturing memories that will last a lifetime. If you're looking for an unforgettable experience in Oxford, climbing St. Mary's Church tower is an absolute must!
28. Explore the Pitt Rivers Museum
If you're a culture vulture looking for an enriching experience in Oxford, look no further than the Pitt Rivers Museum. With over half a million objects on display, the museum offers a fascinating insight into different cultures, traditions, and customs from around the world. From African masks to Japanese swords, the collection spans centuries and continents, showcasing the diversity and richness of human history. Wander through the dimly lit galleries and marvel at the intricate details of each exhibit, immersing yourself in a world of mystery and intrigue. The Pitt Rivers Museum is a true hidden gem in Oxford and a must-see for any curious traveler.
29. See the Sheldonian Theatre
No visit to Oxford would be complete without marveling at the Sheldonian Theatre, a stunning 17th-century building designed by the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren. Step inside this architectural masterpiece and be transported back in time to the golden age of academia. The Sheldonian Theatre has played a significant role in the history of Oxford, hosting everything from graduation ceremonies to concerts and even political speeches. Take a moment to soak up the history and elegance of this iconic building, and you'll be left with an unforgettable memory of your trip to Oxford.
30. Visit the Radcliffe Camera
One of the most iconic buildings in Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera is a must-visit attraction in Oxford, for any history buff or architecture enthusiast. This stunning circular structure was designed by James Gibbs in the mid-18th century and now houses the reading rooms of the prestigious Bodleian Library. As you approach the building, you'll be struck by the elegant symmetry of the design and the intricate details of the stonework. Step inside and be transported to a world of academic excellence.
31. Visit the Oxford Playhouse
For a night of entertainment and culture, head to the Oxford Playhouse, a renowned venue for live theatre and music performances. Situated in the heart of the city, the playhouse has been a fixture of Oxford's cultural scene since the 1920s, hosting some of the most talented actors, musicians, and performers from around the world. With a diverse lineup of shows, from classic plays to cutting-edge productions, there's always something to suit every taste and interest. So why not indulge in a little bit of culture and experience the magic of live performance while planning your Oxford itinerary.
32. Explore the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments
For a unique and fascinating experience in Oxford, music lovers should not miss a visit to the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments. This hidden gem of a museum houses over 2,000 instruments from around the world, ranging from the exotic and rare to the familiar and everyday. Marvel at the intricate details of a Stradivarius violin, or imagine the sound of a Chinese zither as you gaze upon it in awe. The collection spans centuries and continents, offering a glimpse into the history and diversity of music across cultures and time periods.
33. Tour the Oxford City Football Club
Sports enthusiasts looking for must-visit destinations in Oxford wouldn’t want to miss the chance to take a tour of the Oxford City Football Club, one of the oldest and most storied football clubs in England. Founded in 1883, the club has a rich history and has played host to some of the biggest names in English football over the years. On the tour, you'll get to explore the stadium, including the dressing rooms, tunnel, and dugouts, and learn about the club's fascinating history and achievements. You'll also have the opportunity to see memorabilia and artifacts from the club's past and present, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the team in training.
34. Visit the Magdalen College School Chapel
For a truly breathtaking spiritual experience in Oxford, a visit to the Magdalen College School Chapel is an absolute must. This stunning chapel is a hidden gem, featuring some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you'll ever see. From the moment you step inside, you'll be struck by the intricate details of the design and the vibrant colors of the glass. The chapel dates back to the 15th century and has a rich history, having played an important role in the religious and cultural life of Oxford over the centuries. The Magdalen College School Chapel is a must-see attraction in Oxford that is sure to leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.
35. Walk through Port Meadow
If you're looking for a peaceful escape to end your day from the hustle and bustle of Oxford city life, a walk through Port Meadow is just what you need. This vast expanse of open space offers stunning views of the city skyline, and is the perfect place to take a leisurely stroll or jog, have a picnic, or simply sit and soak up the tranquility of nature. Today, it is a designated nature reserve and is home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, foxes, and even the occasional deer. Whether you're a nature lover or simply seeking a peaceful respite, a walk through Port Meadow is a must-do activity in Oxford.
We hope you found our blog on things to do in Oxford interesting and informative. We’re not saying that the places we’ve listed are the only fun things to do in Oxford but they are definitely some of the best. You can easily tour around the city with the help of our Student City Guide: Oxford 2022. If you’re ever in Oxford and need some ideas on things to do, make sure to check out our blog for some ideas, and if you’re in need of accommodation you can also check out our website for some great student accommodation in Oxford!