The Six Best Things To Do in Oxford

Oxford is perhaps best known for its word-class University, and the brilliant minds that have studied there. As impressive as the University and its architecture is (and it is impressive!), Oxford has much more to offer.

Take a look at our top 6 things to do in Oxford. 

1. take a trip to the ashmolean museum

The Ashmolean was founded in 1683 and is Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology. The exhibitions within are wide-ranging and there is something to interest everyone, be it Egyptian mummies or Stradivarius violins.

Admission is free, and you can spend hours pouring over the galleries. If you don’t know where to start, you can even go on a free tour that focuses on something different each time – see which tours and events are going on in the museum here to plan your trip!

There is even a rooftop restaurant on the top floor, so you can enjoy beautiful views over Oxford after exploring the museum!

If you want to try other museums in Oxford, have a look at our guide.  

Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Oxford

2. Peruse the covered market

Opened in 1774, the Covered Market still contains more than 50 traders today! This Grade II listed market has been in continual use for 250 years, and visitors can still see the original iron roof supports.

A permanent market in the centre, just off from high street shops, you can spend ages perusing the shops which range from gift shops, bakeries, and traditional market shops such as butchers and greengrocers.

There is even some beautiful street art on the walls near one of the entrances from Market Street.

There are some wonderful flower shops from which Oxford students purchase their carnations before their exams in accordance with Oxford tradition and some delicious lunch spots - try Sasi’s Thai or Alpha Bar!   

3. oxford castle

Just a short walk away from the busyness of the high street and shops you can immerse yourself in Oxford’s history in the Oxford Castle and Prison. This Norman castle was used as Oxford’s prison following the English Civil War and still stands, partly ruined, on the edge of the town centre.

You can go on 1 hour long tours, after which you’ll be left to explore the castle and prison grounds at your own leisure.

In the summer months there are outdoor theatre performances in the grounds of the castle, using the castle walls as a scenic backdrop to well-known Shakespeare plays.   

4. Explore university parks

After your trip to the Ashmolean if you keep walking away from the town centre, you will come to the beautiful University Parks. Owned by Oxford University, this includes a cricket pavilion used by the Oxford University Cricket Team, a beautiful duck pond, an array of exotic plants and plenty of open space to relax.

Part of the park is designed as an arboretum, and so is a calm shaded walk on busy hot days in summer.

The park is open to the public during the day and is a great way to relax after exploring busy tourist spots in the centre.   

5. try out punting

You can’t have a trip to Oxford without trying out punting! It is a little tricky to get the hang of, but after a little while of pushing yourself round in circles on the river, you’ll be off down the River Cherwell in no time.

The two main boathouses you can hire punts out from are Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and the Cherwell Boathouse. Whilst Magdalen is more central, the Cherwell Boathouse can often be a little quieter, so you can choose whichever suits the rest of your plans to explore the city!

Many visitors to Oxford rent out a punt for a few hours and bring a picnic – a great way to explore more of the city when your feet get tired!  

6. harry potter tour

You can’t leave Oxford without having toured the Harry Potter Sites! Visit Christ Church, the Hall of which was inspiration for the Great Hall, and whose cloisters you can see in the Philosopher’s Stone when Ron ‘eats slugs’.

Visit the Bodleian to see the Infirmary in four of the films, and where the students learn to dance in The Goblet of Fire under the instruction of Professor McGonagall, and many more highlights including:   

  • The New College Tree
  • Duke Humphrey's Library
  • Museum of Natural History
  • New College Cloisters

You can explore these spots and many more on the Oxbridge International Summer School. It’s an opportunity not only to study, but also to explore the city and experience life in Oxford.

Be sure to look at the 5 best things to do in Cambridge too!  

5 Best Things To Do in Cambridge