Oxford is a place that’s steeped in history, some world-renowned architecture and I think it has some sort of famous university there too? Okay, jokes aside, the university is incredible and even if you don’t study there, the colleges are a must-see when in Oxford. That being said, it isn’t just all about the colleges, there are so many of the best things to do in Oxford that you’ll probably be running from pillar to post to see all the spots.
With that being said, I wanted to show you some of my favourite spots and the best things to do in Oxford. It really is a fun, cool, quirky and yummy city to visit.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out all the incredible tours and tickets for Oxford at GetYourGuide. They have a 24-hour cancellation policy which means it’s totally easy to cancel or switch your tours to make the most out of your visit.
Take a look at the best things to do in Oxford. Have the best trip!
1.) Christ Church College
If you are an ardent Harry Potter fan (who isn’t?!) and love gothic architecture, you must visit the Christ Church college in Oxford.
Not only is it one of the oldest (founded in 1525) and largest of all of Oxford’s colleges but it also served as the filming location for the Harry Potter movies (which you can follow on this trail).
In fact, the Great Hall of Hogwarts is inspired by its Great Hall. Consider us sold!
Obviously, Christ Church College is much more than Harry Potter, so make sure to stop off at the Tom Tower (the main entrance to Christ Church) and listen for Great Tom which rings 101 times every night at 9:05 pm.
This signifies the first 101 scholars that were admitted to the college and use Oxford Time which is actually 5 minutes behind the now used, GMT time. Hence 5 minutes after 9 pm.
Oh yeah, it’s also the loudest bell in all of Oxford – so it’s hard to miss it!
Also, if you want a historic tour of Oxford, book this official Oxford walking tour around the city and the university. It’s a great way to see the city with your family and so incredible.
2.) Blenheim Palace
So, not too far from the city, Blenheim Palace is one incredible palace and grounds you should go and visit for the day. It’s well worth booking these tickets to head inside and see all the incredible rooms and ornate designs.
Honestly, words don’t do this palace justice, it’s just on another scale, with the palace itself recognised and protected by UNESCO World Heritage.
Interestingly, this was the home of Winston Churchill and you can still see his locks of hair that hang in the bedroom (it’s slightly weird to see but something you kinda can’t stop looking at).
Make sure to check out the stunning halls, and the Column of Victory and explore the epic gardens. If you’re a fan of the TV show The Royals or Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix), you might recognise this spot. It really is one of the best things to do in Oxford and certainly a highlight.
Alternatively, if you want to spend more time exploring the wider area, book this incredible tour of Blenheim Palace, the Downton Abbey Village and the wider Cotswolds area. It’s totally amazing and really great if you’re only in Oxford for a few days.
3.) Thirsty Meeples
So there’s one spot that I love going to in Oxford, that’s even better if some dreary rain follows you to Oxford, that is Thirsty Meeples. It’s a board game cafe that’s literally filled with thousands of board games to play! I swear, I could spend all day here.
Just make sure to book a table in advance as it can get very busy during the weekends, especially. Prices are around £5 per person and you can stay for around 3 hours (much longer too if it’s quiet). Honestly, it’s such a great spot.
Don’t forget, you can easily partner this up by booking a fun bike tour around Oxford. The tour lasts a few hours and is a great way to explore some of the best things to do in Oxford.
4.) Oxford Castle
If you are a total history buff (yes, that is me if you wondered), you should definitely take one of the tours offered at Oxford Castle. It has a remarkable history and is definitely one of the best things to do in Oxford.
Learn all about the history of this castle with a prison, climb up St. George’s Tower for a stunning view, descend down to the 900-year-old crypt (not as creepy as it sounds), and finally explore the 18th Century prison.
For a truly unique experience and plush stay in an actual (old) prison, you can spend the night at one of the many cells-turned rooms at the Malmaison Hotel.
5.) Bodleian Library
Founded in 1598, this magnificent library is one of the oldest libraries in all of Europe and is truly a sight for sore eyes. It really is one of the best things to do in Oxford and a spot that’ll have any bookworm salivating at first sight!
To make things easier, book this family-friendly city tour that takes in the library and loads of other Oxford gems, too. We love it!
Make sure to walk around the central quad and the exhibition space or take a guided tour. The library itself also holds the Gough Map which is a medieval map of Great Britain – it’s considered to date back almost 800 years.
6.) Pitt Rivers Museum
Pitt Rivers Museum is definitely one of the best things to do in Oxford if you like a little history or anthropology.
This museum houses over half a million objects from different parts of the world and the best part is that it has no interactive displays or computers. Just dim lighting and glass cases that feels like you’ve walked into a private collection – it’s so cool to see.
Oh yeah, make sure to take a peek at the pretty macabre ‘Treatment of Dead Enemies’ collection, too.
7.) Ashmolean Museum
When it comes to museums, Oxford certainly is in abundance and you really won’t struggle to find one you love.
Not only is the Ashmolean Museum one of Britain’s oldest public museums, but it’s also one of the best things to do in Oxford if you want to see some international collections dating all the way back from the 17th Century.
Established in 1683, this museum now houses collections from all over the world including Islamic art, Egyptian mummies, Indian textiles, ancient documents, and many, many more spread across four floors.
Oh yeah, and try the rooftop restaurant for some amazing views too.
8.) Go see the Rad Cam
You cannot go to Oxford and not visit one of the most iconic and possibly most photographed buildings in the city, the Rad Cam (or actually the full name, The Radcliffe Camera).
Built in the 1700s, it’s possibly one of the oldest examples of a round library in England. Every time I visit Oxford, I always have to see the Rad Cam, there’s just something about it. I suppose, like going to London and seeing Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Now, the only real way to go inside the Rad Cam is by joining one of the amazing tours around Bodleian library and other key places near the library itself.
You can usually book tickets about 2 weeks before your trip and I’d definitely advise doing this as some peak times fill up fast. It really is one of the best things to do in Oxford.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous hotel close by (and near Christchurch) pop into the Museum Hotel, Oxford. You’ll love it.
9.) Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Continuing with the museum spree, here’s one more that you can’t afford to miss and in my humble opinion one of the best things to do in Oxford when it comes to choosing which museums to explore.
The Victorian Gothic architecture of the building itself always gets me, it’s just so beautiful and amazing to see. Add to that the over five million exhibits that include a towering T-rex skeleton and you’ve got yourself one hell of a museum experience.
10.) Magdalen College
Yes, yes, I know I keep harping on about the colleges, but there are so many beautiful ones in Oxford that I know you’ll love.
Set amidst lots of woodlands, it has its very own; river walks, private lawns, and a deer park (Say what!), this 1458 college looks like something right out of a fairytale book. Admission charges to enter this college are about £5-15 (approximately) but well worth it for a little gander – it really is a gorgeous spot.
It’s no wonder that writers like CS Lewis, Oscar Wilde, and Julian Barnes wrote such inspiring works after reading here.
Oh, also, I nearly forgot! Head down to Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and you can actually go punting across the river. If that’s not your thing, book this river cruise in Oxford that’ll take you around the greats, like the; Folly Bridge, Christchurch College and Meadows, and more.
11.) Merton College
Oxford is a haven of historical treasures and I promised I wouldn’t make this just about the colleges but there are some that you really just have to see.
Just make sure to add Merton College, which is one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. Founded in 1264 AD, you can visit the oldest academic library in Europe here as well as get a taste of different architectural styles over the centuries.
Again, it really is one of the best things to do in Oxford – to see all that history is just fascinating.
12.) Bridge of Sighs
There are a few Bridge of Sighs around the world (don’t judge me) but I always thought this was just in Cambridge that I used to pass every day whilst living there. Anyway, the actual ‘real name’ is Hertford Bridge and is well worth seeing whilst in the area.
Apparently (though, still not too sure about the accuracy of this), the Bridge of Sighs got its name because of the students sighing when passing through during their exams.
I tell you if the bridge was named whilst I was there it’d be called the ‘Bridge of Cries’, I swear my University exams were stressful.
Still, it’s one of the main spots to see and easily one of the best things to do in Oxford when you’re strolling around the city.