Oxford is a charming city, famed for its prestigious university. It can be stuffy at times, feeling a bit too proper and strict, and lacking the cut-loose university town feel that cities like Bristol have. However, the city and old architecture is beautiful and I loved wandering through the campus and having a cheap beer at one of the student pubs. This city has a lot of history and the university is one of the oldest in the world. If that’s something you are into (I am!), consider a visit — it’s a short ride from London anyways. It’s an easy day or overnight trip and, since it’s a university town, there’s plenty of affordable options here too!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Oxford
1. Tour Oxford
2. Visit Balliol College
3. South Park
4. Hertford Bridge
5. The Ashmolean Museum
Other Things to See and Do
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1. University of Oxford Botanical Gardens
The Gardens are one of Oxford’s most scenic spots to take in the scenery and slower pace of town. It’s a great place for a quiet stroll, and admission is only 5 GBP (discounts are available for students and seniors).
2. Visit the Covered Market
This historical market is a great place to walk through and taste the local food. There are a lot of homemade meals served here, and it’s the best place to do some cheap shopping for groceries in the city.
3. Bodleian Library
As the main research library of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. It opened in 1602, and was based on the collection of Thomas Bodley. Presently, it has one of the largest collections of books in the world. The architecture on the building is very beautiful, making it definitely worth a visit!
4. Go punting
During the summer, punting is an ever-popular activity. Punting is essentially pushing a boat around the rivers and canals of the university of a pole. You can rent a boat or hire someone to take you, and many bring food and wine with them to make for a more interesting day. Rentals cost around 20-25 GBP per hour, and can fit up to 5 people.
5. Museum of Natural History
This museum holds the University’s scientific collections of zoological, entomological, geological, paleontological, and mineralogical specimens. The exhibits are devoted to the history and diversity of life on Earth. If you are interested in learning about nature, then this extensive collection is for you. Best of all, it’s free!
6. Oxford Castle Unlocked
This 1000 year old castle/prison is an interesting exhibit of medieval life. Originally built in the 11th century, there are plenty of stories to read about past inmates and the crazy forms of punishment that were practiced at the time. There is also a two-hour historical ghost walking tour that departs from here. Admission is 10.75 GBP, with discounts available.
7. St. Mary’s Church
Located on the Thames, you have to travel by boat to get here. The architecture of the church is really unique and well preserved. It is too often overlooked, so don’t miss it.
8. Blackwell’s Books
For the bookworm in you, this 10,000 square foot store is the largest bookstore in Europe. If you’re in need of some new reading material (or just like to browse) be sure to check it out.
9. Blenheim Palace
This underrated attraction is just eight short miles outside of Oxford. Featured in the movie Hamlet, it’s a magnificent place to check out. Aside from the amazing architecture, the rooms are preserved with their original furniture and the grounds include a beautiful garden and a butterfly house. Admission is steep, however, with adult tickets priced at 24 GBP.