20 Best Things to Do in Oxford: A Journey Through History and Knowledge

Things to Do in Oxford

Nestled amidst the rolling hills of southern England, Oxford is a city steeped in history, academia, and culture. Known worldwide for its prestigious university, this “City of Dreaming Spires” offers more than just educational excellence. With a rich tapestry of museums, historical landmarks, and architectural wonders, Oxford is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

If you’re pondering over things to do in Oxford, let us guide you through a journey that intertwines the ancient with the modern, the mysterious with the enlightening.

1. Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Museum
Photo: Google Maps/Redwan Halim

Topping the list of things to do in Oxford, the Ashmolean Museum stands as a testament to human civilization’s journey. Established in 1683, it holds the distinction of being the world’s first university museum. Inside, visitors are greeted with an unparalleled collection of art and archaeology, spanning ancient and contemporary epochs.

From Egyptian mummies to Renaissance paintings, from the exquisite artifacts of the Indus Valley to modern masterpieces, the Ashmolean is a melting pot of history, art, and culture. The thematic arrangement of the exhibits allows for an immersive experience, making the Ashmolean much more than just a museum – it’s a time machine.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH, United Kingdom.

2. Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Photo: Google Maps/Humai Verdi

If the Ashmolean introduced you to human civilization, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History acquaints you with the natural world’s wonders. Housed in a neo-Gothic building adorned with spires and statues, this museum is a visual treat even before you enter. Inside, the grandeur continues with a vast collection of mineralogical, zoological, and geological specimens.

The iconic glass-roofed court, lined with towering columns and bathed in natural light, sets the stage for exhibits ranging from dinosaur skeletons to dazzling gemstones. For those intrigued by the mysteries of the natural world, this museum is among the essential things to see in Oxford.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PW, United Kingdom.

3. Pitt Rivers Museum

Pitt Rivers Museum
Photo: Google Maps/Pil Koo

Hidden behind the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum is a world of anthropological wonders. It feels like stepping into the mind of an eccentric Victorian collector. With a unique “cabinet of curiosities” approach, the museum showcases over half a million objects, photographs, and manuscripts that shed light on human culture and creativity.

Organized thematically rather than geographically, the displays offer insights into topics like body art, weaponry, musical instruments, and rituals from diverse cultures worldwide. Dimly lit and densely packed, the Pitt Rivers Museum offers an experience akin to a treasure hunt, making it an unmissable item on the list of things to see in Oxford.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: S Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PP, United Kingdom.

4. Oxford Botanic Garden

Oxford Botanic Garden
Photo: Google Maps/Martin Deane

Nestled by the serene River Cherwell lies one of the most peaceful things to do in Oxford: visiting the Oxford Botanic Garden. Established in 1621, it proudly stands as the oldest botanic garden in the UK. This green oasis, spread over 4.5 acres, offers a refreshing break from the city’s scholarly ambiance. Here, visitors can wander through a myriad of flora, ranging from medicinal plants to exotic species.

The themed sections, including the glasshouses with tropical and desert climates, showcase the plant kingdom’s diversity. Whether you’re a botany enthusiast or simply seeking tranquility, the Oxford Botanic Garden promises a rejuvenating experience.

Entry Fee: GBP 6.30; Location: Check Map
Address: Rose Ln, Oxford OX1 4AZ, United Kingdom.

5. Christ Church Meadow

Christ Church Meadow
Photo: Google Maps/Md Akhtaruzjaman

A sprawling green expanse in the heart of Oxford, Christ Church Meadow is where the city’s historic essence meets its natural beauty. This floodplain meadow offers picturesque views, with the spires of Oxford rising majestically in the backdrop.

Popular amongst locals and tourists alike, it’s the perfect spot for picnics, leisurely strolls, or watching the world go by beside the River Thames. As the day draws to a close and the sun casts golden hues on the meadow, the place takes on an ethereal beauty, making it one of the most enchanting things to do in Oxford.

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Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Oxford OX1 4JF, United Kingdom.

6. Christ Church College

Christ Church College
Photo: Google Maps/André Augusto Cella

Stepping into Christ Church College feels like entering a realm of academia and grandeur. Renowned not just for its academic legacy but also for its architectural splendor, this college is one of Oxford’s largest and most esteemed institutions. Visitors are often left spellbound by the Great Hall, which served as an inspiration for the Hogwarts dining hall in the Harry Potter films.

The college’s cathedral, with its awe-inspiring architecture, resonates with historical and spiritual significance. Exploring the quadrangles, chapels, and gardens of Christ Church College is undeniably among the top things to do in Oxford, offering a blend of education, history, and cinematic charm.

Entry Fee: GBP 18; Location: Check Map
Address: St Aldate’s, Oxford OX1 1DP, United Kingdom.

7. Magdalen College

Magdalen College
Photo: Google Maps/Greg Pallas

Majestically overlooking the River Cherwell, Magdalen College exemplifies Oxford’s academic spirit and architectural brilliance. Founded in 1458, its historic edifices and sprawling grounds hold tales of centuries past. The college’s deer park, cloisters, and the iconic Magdalen Tower are just some of the highlights awaiting visitors.

A climb up the tower on May Morning, a beloved Oxford tradition, offers a melodic treat as the choir sings to herald spring. The college’s botanical treasures, including the Addison’s Walk, provide peaceful pathways lined with trees and plants. To truly experience Oxford’s essence, a visit to Magdalen College is indispensable

Entry Fee: GBP 9.50; Location: Check Map
Address: Oxford OX1 4AU, United Kingdom.

8. University Church of St Mary the Virgin

University Church of St Mary the Virgin
Photo: Twitter/Peter Coffman

Positioned at the heart of Oxford’s historic city center, the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is not just a place of worship but also an architectural marvel that stands as a testament to Oxford’s rich past. This church, boasting an amalgamation of Gothic and Baroque styles, has been a significant spot for university rituals since the 13th century.

Climbing its tower offers visitors a panoramic view of the Oxford skyline, punctuated by the dreamy spires of the university’s many colleges. The church, with its intricate stained glass windows and centuries-old organ, is a must-visit for those keen on delving into the spiritual and architectural heritage of Oxford.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: The, High St, Oxford OX1 4BJ, United Kingdom.

9. Oxford Castle & Prison

Oxford Castle & Prison
Photo: Google Maps/Tackleberg

Venturing a little off the traditional academic trail introduces visitors to a darker, more intriguing side of Oxford’s history. The Oxford Castle & Prison complex, parts of which date back to the Norman era, offers a journey through the city’s penal past.

Here, you can traverse the 900-year-old crypt, explore the prison cells, and ascend the St. George’s Tower for another stunning city view. Along with its rich history, the castle grounds often play host to events and theatrical performances, blending education with entertainment and solidifying its place on the list of things to do in Oxford.

Entry Fee: GBP 17.50; Location: Check Map
Address: 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford OX1 1AY, United Kingdom.

10. Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace
Photo: Google Maps/Nattawan S

A short drive from the city center will bring you to the magnificent Blenheim Palace. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this palatial estate is not just an architectural masterpiece but also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Set amidst over 2,000 acres of exquisitely landscaped gardens and parklands, the palace offers a sumptuous display of Baroque architecture.

Inside, the state rooms brim with art, tapestries, and other treasures. With its rich history, stunning grounds, and the Blenheim Palace maze, this attraction offers a regal experience and is a can’t-miss for those exploring the broader Oxfordshire region.

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Entry Fee: GBP 43.00; Location: Check Map
Address: Woodstock OX20 1PP, United Kingdom.

11. Port Meadow

Port Meadow
Photo: Google Maps/Lauren McEwan

Returning to the city’s natural charms, Port Meadow offers a sprawling ancient grazing area along the River Thames. This untouched floodplain, dating back to the Iron Age, remains one of Oxford’s most beloved spots for relaxation and recreation.

Home to free-roaming horses and cattle, this vast meadow is a favorite for picnickers, birdwatchers, and those seeking a serene escape from urban hustle. The skyline of Oxford, viewed from this pastoral setting during sunset, offers a visual treat, juxtaposing the city’s urban and rural beauties.

Entry Fee: -; Location: Check Map
Address: Walton Well Rd, Oxford OX2 6ED, United Kingdom.

12. History of Science Museum

History of Science Museum
Photo: Google Maps/History of Science Museum

Taking a step back in time, the History of Science Museum in Oxford transports visitors into the captivating world of scientific advancements. Located in the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum building, this institution boasts a remarkable collection of early scientific instruments from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

From astrolabes to microscopes, from Einstein’s chalkboard to medieval globes, the exhibits provide a tangible link to the luminaries of science and their groundbreaking discoveries. For anyone with a passion for history and science, a visit to this museum is an illuminating experience and a top thing to do in Oxford.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Broad St, Oxford OX1 3AZ, United Kingdom.

13. The Sheldonian Theatre

The Sheldonian Theatre
Photo: Google Maps/Don Constance

Designed by the legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren, The Sheldonian Theatre is an epitome of 17th-century architectural grandeur. Its distinctive eight-sided cupola offers one of the most iconic views of the Oxford skyline. While primarily used for the University of Oxford’s ceremonial events, the theatre also plays host to a range of concerts, lectures, and performances throughout the year.

Its ornate ceiling, depicting the allegory of Truth descending upon the Arts and Sciences, is an artwork in itself. A symbol of Oxford’s cultural heritage, The Sheldonian Theatre is a beacon for arts and academic pursuits.

Entry Fee: GBP 4.50; Location: Check Map
Address: Broad St, Oxford OX1 3AZ, United Kingdom.

14. Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library
Photo: Twitter/LetsDiscover

An institution synonymous with knowledge and academia, the Bodleian Library is one of the oldest and most renowned libraries in Europe. As the main research library for the University of Oxford, it houses a mind-boggling collection of over 13 million printed items. Its historic reading rooms, such as the Duke Humfrey’s Library, have been the workspace for numerous scholars and famed personalities throughout the centuries.

The library also regularly hosts exhibitions, displaying some of its priceless manuscripts and artifacts. Exploring the hallowed halls of the Bodleian is not just about books; it’s about immersing oneself in centuries of knowledge and culture.

Entry Fee: GBP 2.50; Location: Check Map
Address: Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BG, United Kingdom.

15. Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera
Photo: Twitter/University of Oxford

An architectural jewel in Oxford’s crown, the Radcliffe Camera is an iconic neoclassical edifice that stands as a testament to the city’s academic spirit. Designed by James Gibbs and built between 1737 and 1749, this circular building, with its majestic dome and columned façade, is one of the most photographed structures in Oxford.

Although primarily a reading room for the Bodleian Library, its architectural splendor has made it a focal point for tourists and scholars alike. A symbol of the city’s commitment to enlightenment and learning, the Radcliffe Camera epitomizes the essence of Oxford.

Entry Fee: GBP 2.50; Location: Check Map
Address: Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BG, United Kingdom.

16. The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs
Photo: Google Maps/Arpita Banerjee

Named due to its resemblance to the famous Venetian bridge, Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs, officially known as Hertford Bridge, is a distinctive feature of the city’s architectural landscape. Connecting two parts of Hertford College, this skyway, adorned with its ornate stonework, is a marvel for photographers and onlookers alike.

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Its name, reminiscent of the sighs of students moving between their quarters and the college’s main building, is a nod to the academic rigors of university life. A stroll beneath or a view from a distance—either way, it stands as an emblem of Oxford’s blend of beauty and brains.

Entry Fee: -; Location: Check Map
Address: St John’s College, St John’s St, Cambridge CB2 1TP, United Kingdom.

17. Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford
Photo: Google Maps/Barbara P

Juxtaposed against the historic fabric of the city is Modern Art Oxford, a thriving space that celebrates contemporary visual arts. Founded in 1965, this dynamic institution has hosted works by some of the most renowned artists of our times, including Yoko Ono, Damien Hirst, and Tracey Emin.

With its rotating exhibitions, interactive installations, and public programs, it provides a refreshing and avant-garde counterpoint to Oxford’s traditional setting. For art aficionados and casual visitors alike, Modern Art Oxford offers a fresh perspective on creativity and innovation in the arts.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: 30 Pembroke St, Oxford OX1 1BP, United Kingdom.

18. Literary Oxford

Literary Oxford
Photo: Google Maps/Luisfe

The city of Oxford is steeped in literary lore. It has been the muse, abode, and academic haven for many literary giants. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, and Lewis Carroll are but a few who’ve treaded its cobblestones and been inspired by its ambiance.

Exploring the Eagle and Child pub, where Tolkien and Lewis once mused over their writings, or wandering the very alleys that inspired Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” transforms Oxford into a literary pilgrimage. Literary Oxford isn’t just about locations—it’s about immersing oneself in stories and histories that the city has nurtured and given to the world.

Entry Fee: -; Location: Check Map
Address: Oxford, United Kingdom.

19. The Covered Market

The Covered Market
Photo: Google Maps/Vanja Pajić

A delightful sensory experience awaits visitors at The Covered Market, Oxford’s historic marketplace since the 18th century. Buzzing with activity, the market is a confluence of traditional stalls, artisan shops, and eateries.

From fresh produce to handcrafted jewelry, from artisanal bread to bespoke shoes, it’s a microcosm of Oxford’s commercial and culinary culture. Whether you’re on the hunt for unique souvenirs, gourmet treats, or simply the ambiance of a traditional English market, The Covered Market promises a delightful excursion.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Market St, Oxford OX1 3DZ, United Kingdom.

20. Carfax Tower

Carfax Tower
Photo: Google Maps/TrailTale

Standing sentinel at the crossroads of Oxford’s primary streets is Carfax Tower, the remains of the 13th-century St. Martin’s Church. Ascending its 99 steps rewards visitors with a panoramic view of Oxford’s spires, rooftops, and bustling streets below. Often considered the very heart of the city, the tower serves as a vantage point, offering both a bird’s eye view of the present-day city and a glimpse into its historic past.

Entry Fee: GBP 3; Location: Check Map
Address: Queen St, Oxford OX1 1ET, United Kingdom.

Conclusion

Oxford, with its cobbled streets and historic spires, is not just a city but an experience. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, or simply a curious traveler, the city offers a plethora of experiences that satiate the intellect and invigorate the soul.

From the vast collections of the Ashmolean Museum, the verdant tranquility of the Botanic Garden, the historic intrigues of Oxford Castle & Prison to the bustling commerce of The Covered Market, there’s no end to the things to do in Oxford. Embark on this journey, and let Oxford weave its timeless magic around you.

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Hannah J

Hannah specializes in travel and lifestyle content. She has an innate ability to capture the essence of a place, from bustling city streets to serene mountain landscapes.