I recently spent a year in Oxford, England, teaching and exploring the city. I love Oxford because it shows British culture and heritage at its finest. Oxford University is one of the top Universities in the world, ranking number 3 according to Times Higher Education. The great thing about spending more than just a week in a city is that you get to see all the best bits, and then find out about the cool, quirky stuff as well! Here’s my list of the Top 10 things to do in Oxford….
Top 10 Things to Do in Oxford
Oxford is an amazing city to explore, and it is so small that it’s easily explored on foot. In fact, Oxford is one of the most walkable cities in Europe. The most amazing things to do in Oxford include Blenheim Palace, Oxford Castle and the University colleges. I’ve also thrown in a few extra ideas and eateries in there for you!
1. Explore Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is the only non-Royal UK Palace. It is spectacular inside and out, and the view across the Queen Pool has been described as the finest in England. Make sure that you allow at least an hour and a half to explore inside the palace and a further 2 hours to see the grounds. Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill.
It’s a fine example of the English Baroque architectural style. The garden’s are also very beautiful and you might even dare to enter the Marlborough Maze! It is possible to book a visit with or without a guided tour.
Howe to get there – Bus from Oxford City Centre – S3 or S7
Blenheim Palace website: https://www.blenheimpalace.com/visitus/
2. Go inside Oxford Castle
Oxford Castle is a Medieval Castle in the heart of Oxford near Westgate Shopping centre. The castle was built for William the Conquerer in 1073 (building commenced in 1071). Oxford Castle was actually used as a Prison until 1996. Walk up the steps to explore the tower and have an amazing view of Oxford from the top. Time it so that you get a guide on entrance (this comes included in the price). He or she will tell you some interesting (and gruesome) stories about the prisoners.
How to get there: Walkable from Oxford City Centre
Oxford Castle website: https://www.oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk
3. Have a Peach Bellini on the Rooftop of the Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum provides a great day out, particularly if you love art and archeology. I had a fantastic day at the museum, and timed it so that I could see the Tutankhamun Exhibition. Sadly, this exhibition has now finished, but there are many exhibitions on all the time, so check out the Ashmolean Museum Website if you would like to see something special. The usual exhibitions include contemporary art and an Egypt Mummy exhibition.
Many people don’t realise that the rooftop garden will provide you with a scrumptious afternoon tea (or peach bellini – my drink of choice!) and a spectacular view of the Oxford Spires. The Museum itself is free to get in other than the temporary exhibits which are paid for separately.
How to get there: Walkable from the centre of Oxford
Ashmolean Museum website: https://www.ashmolean.org
4. Book a table for Board Games at Thirsty Meeples
If you like a bit of geek chic, you’ve got to visit Thirsty Meeples! Thirsty Meeples is a board game cafe situated on Gloucester Square (near the big Odeon and STA travel). Basically, you book a table, order yourself a milkshake, tea or something stronger (they are now licensed!) and choose from over 1000 board games to play with your buddies.
You usually pay a £6 per person cover charge for the games table and then pay additionally for any cake, tea and sandwiches that you order (or pay £7.50 without food and drink). Not sure which to choose? No worries, a game guru will come over to help you out and make recommendations based on your theme of choice.
How to get there: Walk to Gloucester Green in the city centre
Thirsty Maples website: https://thirstymeeples.co.uk
5. See where Harry Potter was Filmed
Oxford is a haven for any Harry Potter fan, with many University Buildings being used as film sets. The Bodleian Library was used as the infirmary in four Harry Potter films. Christ Church includes the tower and staircase used as a set for the Philosophers stone and Chamber of Secrets, and the Dining Hall in Christ Church College was the inspiration behind the Grand Hall in Hogwarts. The Cloisters in New College were part of the set for The Goblet of Fire.
Of course any of the Oxford colleges are wonderful to visit, not just the Harry Potter ones, so if you need to check about opening times of the colleges use this website here:
6. Botanic Gardens
See over 5000 beautiful plant species at Oxford Botanic Gardens, including cacti, chilli peppers and carnivorous plants. There are also several palm houses containing different biomes such as arid, rainforest and desert. If you would like to explore the Botanic Garden and Magdalen College, you can purchase a joint ticket for these two attractions which works out cheaper than paying for each one individually.
How to get there: Walkable from Oxford City Centre
Botanic Garden website: https://www.obga.ox.ac.uk/visit-garden
7. Eat in Thaikhun Thai restaurant
Thaikhun Restaurant on George St in Oxford is not just any Thai restaurant – it feels like you are actually walking into Bangkok! Have a selfie in the tuc-tuc, decipher the Thai wall signs and eat the amazing food. Choose from a selection of curries, noodles and street food. You don’t always have to book a table, but it might be a good idea on a Friday or Saturday night.
Thailkhun website: https://www.thaikhun.co.uk/thai-restaurant/oxford
8. Explore the Covered Market
The Oxford Covered Market is a free and easy way to explore British culture. There are over 50 independent shops.
9.The Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums
Both these museums are walkable from the City Centre and free to get in. You can make a donation if you can afford to and if you wish. The Natural History Museum contains life and earth collections for you budding zoologists and geologists.
The Pitt Rivers museum is home to fantastic archeological and anthropological discoveries of the ancient world. It contains the collections of the University, including an ancient Egyptian collection and South Asian collection (my favourites!).
10. Churches of Oxford
Finally, why not visit some of the beautiful Churches in Oxford. The University Church of St Mary’s on the High Street is free to get in and a beautiful example of gothic architecture. You can also visit Christ Church Cathedral, St Michaels, St Barnabus (Jericho) and Magdalen College Chapel.
How was your Trip? Please comment on my Blog!
If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay, book into the Oxford Backpackers Hostel.
I’d love to hear how you get on in Oxford. What did you get up to? Did you take me up on any of my recommendations? Please comment below!