Things to do in Oxford that are worth your time

Things to do in Oxford that are worth your time
Oxford, England. Courtesy of Expedia

Here are the best things to do in Oxford, one of the most charming and historic cities in England.

The beautiful, bookish city of Oxford, with its handsome, honey-coloured streets, grand university buildings, and world-class museums, is the perfect place to follow in the footsteps of political giants, explore hushed quads, and drink in a pub where literary classics were first discussed. While Oxford is a city of 44 colleges, it is also a city where town and gown have been quiet rivals for years, and car production is just as important as cutting-edge scientific research. Discover how complex and compelling Oxford is, despite its international reputation. Wander its ancient lanes, paddle its backwaters, and discover what every local knows. Right now, these are the best things to do in Oxford.

The Oxford University. Courtesy of Britannica

Discover Oxford Colleges

Oxford is the university of choice for many visitors, and with its colleges scattered throughout the city, you can't miss them. Many visitors choose Oxford as their university of choice, and with its colleges scattered throughout the city, you cannot miss them. Despite their smaller size, smaller colleges like Balliol and Merton with their chained libraries are just as impressive. A candle-lit Evensong is a delight to attend if you're visiting during the late afternoon, along with the quads, dining halls and grounds.

Oxford University Church. Courtesy of Music at Oxford 

Take a tour of the city's landmarks

View Oxford's finest landmarks from the tower of University Church. In the Bodleian Library, there is the Radcliffe Camera, an imposing circular building. It also houses the beautiful medieval Divinity School, while next door is the Sheldonian Theatre, where 27 British Prime Ministers, 50 Nobel Prize winners, and 120 Olympic medalists have graduated. Blackwell's, Oxford's most famous bookstore, is just around the corner from the Bod's main courtyard - a browse is one of the best things to do in Oxford.

The Story Museum. Courtesy of Globetotting

Explore the best museums in Oxford

In terms of culture, Oxford punches above its weight for a small city. There are many attractions in Oxford, but the most famous is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses Egyptian mummies, Japanese netsuke, and Stradivari's 'Messiah,' one of the most famous violins in the world. The Pitt Rivers Museum, on the other hand, displays everything from Roman shoes and Siberian knickers to ceremonial headdresses and magic charms in Victorian glass cases. If you're visiting with family, don't miss the Story Museum, where treasured tales come vividly to life.

Courtesy of Cherwell Boathouse

Explore the city from the water

You're never far from the water in central Oxford, thanks to the Thames, the Cherwell and the Oxford Canal. The traditional day out is to hire a punt at Magdalen Bridge or the Cherwell Boathouse and wander along the city's backwaters to view college lawns and open meadows. You could hire a punt chauffeur if you want to sip champagne as you drift along, but you'd miss half the fun. Alternatively, you can kayak around the city or take a river cruise with a chauffeur. 

Cowley Road Carnival | Street view, Cowley, Scenes
Courtesy of Pinterest

It's worth checking out Cowley Road

Want a Turkish barber, a Tibetan momo, or a late-night pint of milk? The place to go is Cowley Road. Liveliest and most colorful neighbourhood in Oxford, Cowley Road offers food from around the world, live music, boho vibes, and one of the country's most beloved community cinemas. There are gigs at the Bullingdon and the O2, movies at the Ultimate Picture Palace, vintage clothing at Reign Vintage, and a contemporary art gallery set up in the owner's front room on Magdalen Road.

Logic Lane. Courtesy of Pinterest

Don't go along with the crowd

Oxford rewards curious walkers with hidden treasures tucked away among its well-known landmarks like Logic Lane, Deadman's Walk, and Dame's Delight. However, if you venture a little farther afield, you'll see another side to Oxford. Explore Port Meadow for expansive skies and grazing cows, or walk from Folly Bridge to Iffley for old-school boozers, college boat houses and horse-filled meadows. Cross the river at Iffley Lock to find a village of thatched cottages and St Mary's Church, a 12th-century gem.

Courtesy of Modern Art Oxford

Take a look at some great art

Contemporary art hub Modern Art Oxford is a small-scale gallery featuring big-name artists such as Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin. Additionally, there is a lovely café in the foyer, where local artists usually exhibit their work. Nearby, you'll find the city's other major arts venue, The Old Fire Station, a theater, exhibition space, and café offering edgy arts, community events, and a changing schedule of gigs and events.

The Bodleian Library. Courtesy of Casambi

Have a look around

If you don't have much time and would like to learn more about the city, a guided tour is well worth your time. The good news is that there is a tour to suit almost every interest in Oxford. It doesn't matter if you're a Harry Potter fan, a high-brow literature buff, want to get the inside scoop on university colleges or want to find Inspector Morse's favorite drinking holes, there's someone to guide you along. Find Oxford's best foodie haunts, discover hidden rooms at the Bodleian or learn about the city's ghosts.

Courtesy of The Oxford Artisan Distillery 

Spirits made from heritage grains

TOAD produces whiskey, gin, vodka, and liqueurs from heritage wheat and rye varieties found in the thatch of medieval roofs, set in a city park overlooking the dreaming spires. The distillers here go to extraordinary lengths to create their unique flavours while also building a regenerative farming system. Find out how the distillery operates, see their beautiful stills Nemo and Nautilus, and taste some of their finest spirits as you tour the distillery.

The Bear Inn. Courtesy of Butcombe Brewery

Explore Oxford's nightlife

You'll find something to do every night of the week in Oxford since there are over 40,000 students. There are medieval pubs like The Bear Inn (established in 1242), student favorites like The Turf Tavern, or something more contemporary like the Varsity Bar on the roof. A place to go for live music is well off the beaten track, on an industrial estate in Botley, where Tap Social combines brewery, community space, and social enterprise to serve ‘criminally good’ beer. The Jericho Tavern will always be known for launching Radiohead's and Supergrass' careers.

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