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Best Things to Do in Oxford: A Guide to Exploring the City of Dreaming Spires

There are a great many things to do in Oxford, a city that effortlessly marries rich history with vibrant contemporary culture. Known globally for its prestigious university, stunning architecture, and captivating literary heritage, Oxford offers a wealth of experiences for visitors. This article will outline many things to see and do in Oxford.

Is Oxford Worth Visiting?

The answer is absolutely yes! Oxford, one of England’s most famous cities, is undeniably a destination worth exploring.

The allure of Oxford lies in its distinguished University of Oxford, renowned globally for its centuries-old tradition of scholarship and intellectual prowess. Visitors are captivated by the grandeur of the University’s colleges, the timeless charm of the Bodleian Library, and the iconic Radcliffe Camera. These landmarks epitomize Oxford’s cultural significance and offer a glimpse into a world where knowledge, innovation, and heritage converge harmoniously.

Oxford also boasts many museums, parkland, and art. This city offers an extraordinary blend of academia, culture, and picturesque landscapes. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a literary lover, or simply seeking a memorable day out, Oxford has something magical to offer. 

Places to Visit in Oxford

Oxford is a city that effortlessly blends history, academia, and modern vibrance and is home to many wonderful sights and attractions. Let’s delve into some of the best things to see and do in Oxford.

History and Culture

Blenheim Palace

things to do in oxford: blenheim palace

Among all the Oxford attractions, Blenheim Palace is a must-see, with 300 years of history and 2000 acres of beautiful landscapes to discover. It is a massive country house with landscaped formal gardens and extensive parkland. This is a place where you can escape the city and glimpse how the other half lives in this baroque pile in the Oxford countryside. It was the birthplace of Winston Churchill and is now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough, as well as regular festivals and events. You will find exhibits that tell the story of their lives and the lives of those who have run the Palace and Estate for three centuries through diaries, artefacts, photographs and film.

Oxford Castle & Prison

things to do in oxford: oxford castle & prison

The 1,000-year-old castle and former prison were recently redeveloped into one of the most popular places to visit in Oxford. Part of the old prison was transformed into the Malmaison Hotel, and the remainder, plus the original castle, has reopened as a museum telling the stories of the castle from 1071 until 1996. Climb to the top of the Saxon St George’s Tower for a panoramic view of the city and brave the underground tour to the ancient crypt beneath what used to be St George’s Chapel. Admission to the castle is by guided tour only, and visitors under five years of age will not be permitted access to St George’s Tower due to health and safety regulations.

Ashmolean Museum

things to do in oxford: ashmolean museum

The Ashmolean Museum is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683. It is the oldest public museum in the UK and the world’s first university museum. The Ashmolean’s collections are extraordinarily diverse, representing most of the world’s great civilizations, with objects dating from 8000 BC to the present day. There are paintings of Camille Pissarro, works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Anglo-Saxon artefacts, pre-dynastic Egyptian relics, Chinese antiquities and so on. Appreciating ancient civilizations and art here is one of the best free things to do in Oxford.

Harry Potter Filming Locations

things to do in oxford: harry potter filming locations

Oxford is a great place to discover the secrets of Hogwarts. Exploring the magical world of Harry Potter is one of the most fun things to do in Oxford for Muggles and Wizards alike! The gothic vaulted ceiling of the Divinity School was used as Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Christ Church College’s staircase was used to film the famous entrance scene where Professor McGonagall meets Harry, Ron and Hermione. The staircase leads them up to the Tudor Great Dining Hall, which was used as an inspiration for the great Hogwarts Dining Hall. There are more similarities between Oxford and Hogwarts to explore, so book a private Harry Potter Highlights Walking Tour.

Universities and Education

University of Oxford

Visiting one of the world’s best and most prestigious universities is certainly on the list of best things to do in Oxford, England. The University of Oxford comprises 39 independent colleges, and their quads and buildings can be found all over the city. Many colleges open their doors to visitors for at least a few hours daily. Many of them are free to visit, and some charge a small fee. Many famous Oxford attractions are at the University of Oxford, including the Ashmolean Museum, Museum of Natural History, Bridge of Sighs, Christ ChurchWeston Library, and Bodleian Library, one of the most important libraries in England. If you are going to study here, there are many options for student accommodation near the campuses.

Oxford Brookes University

things to do in oxford: oxford brookes university

Oxford Brookes University (formerly known as Oxford Polytechnic) is a public university in Oxford, named after its first principal, John Henry Brookes. It is one of the UK’s top modern universities with a local, national and international reputation for teaching and research excellence. Oxford Brookes University has four campuses, with three primary sites in and around Oxford and the fourth in Swindon. You can book an on-site campus tour on the university’s website, and the tours are led by their Student Ambassadors, who are all current students. Explore the award-winning academic and social spaces, lecture halls, state-of-the-art library, sports facilities, cafes and more.

Parks and Green Spaces

Botanic Garden

things to do in oxford: botanic garden

When planning your things to do in Oxford, don’t miss a trip to the Botanic Garden. It is the oldest botanic garden in the UK and home to over 5,000 plant species. The garden is big enough to drown out the city’s noise and let you wander around stroking roses and gazing at the River Cherwell, which runs alongside it. It is separated into two areas, the Walled Garden and the Lower Garden, and both have been planted to offer interest throughout the seasons. No refreshment facilities are available on-site, but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic with them. A day ticket is also valid to the Harcourt Arboretum.

Cutteslowe & Sunnymead Park

things to do in oxford: cutteslowe & sunnymead park

Cutteslowe & Sunnymead Park is the largest park in Oxford, located north of the city. This vast, leafy park is a beautiful place to escape the busy city, offering visitors gorgeous sprawling woodland and nature areas. The park provides a variety of sports. You can choose between cricket, football, basketball, table tennis, beach volleyball, and tennis, or find hidden treasures with geocaching. If working up a sweat isn’t your thing, you can visit the ducks at the tranquil duck pond, take a picnic on the lawns in the summer, or see which flowers you can name in the ornamental flower beds and wildflower areas.

Shopping and Dining

Covered Market

things to do in oxford: covered market

Shopping must be one of the top things to do in Oxford. Located right in the heart of Oxford city centre, our world-famous Covered Market is home to over 50 specialist independent traders. Many of the businesses are family-owned, having been passed on through generations. They sell fresh produce, gifts, fashion, flowers, toiletries, hats, and jewellery, providing a unique showcase for the best in local crafts, food and drink. You will enjoy the personal bespoke customer service and first-class products that have made our market an integral part of Oxford’s cultural identity. In addition to shopping, you can listen to live music, learn a skill, or enjoy some comedy.

Bicester Village

Bicester Village

The last item on our list of the best things to do in Oxford, UK, is to discover more than 150 boutiques from heritage fashion houses and cutting-edge designers at the luxury shopping destination Bicester Village. Sitting in the Oxfordshire countryside, the Village is home to renowned brands, including Mulberry, Swarovski, Saint Laurent, ZEGNA and more – all offering remarkable year-round savings on the original retail price, up to 60% off. Plus, there is a superb selection of restaurants, cafés and pop-ups. If you can’t make it to the Village, try a virtual shopping appointment by phone or WhatsApp and browse their brilliant boutiques from wherever you are.

Find Accommodation in Oxford

Whether you are a tourist to Oxford or planning to study at Oxford’s universities, you may need to find accommodation there. Oxford offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Many accommodations are conveniently located within walking distance of major attractions, ensuring you can make the most of your visit. From luxurious hotels and charming bed and breakfasts to budget-friendly hostels and self-catering apartments, you’ll find the perfect place to rest your head after a day of exploring.

For international students who need to rent a house in Oxford, uhomes.com is a trustworthy website where you can find high-quality and cost-effective options, including private properties, shared rooms, and student accommodation in Oxford. Different rental periods are available for different types of rooms, which can meet your various needs. 

Things to Do in Oxford with Kids

Oxford offers a vast range of activities for families with kids of all ages. Let’s explore the top things to do in Oxford with kids and create lasting memories with your little ones during a family day out in Oxford. 

The Story Museum

best things to do in oxford with kids: the story museum

Is there anything more interesting than a story? The Story Museum is a celebration of children’s literature and a fantastic place to spark their imagination and creativity. Therefore, your kids will meet their favourite book characters, enjoy storytelling sessions and attend unique events and workshops. With only £3.50 – £14 per person, you can enter the mysterious Whispering Wood, where each tree has a tale to tell and a secret to reveal, board the Story Craft and fly through a thousand years of Oxford’s history or enjoy a live performance at the Woodshed Theatre.

Millets Farm Centre

best things to do in oxford with kids: millets farm centre

One of the best things to do in Oxford for families is to have fun on the farms. Rural life and farming is an essential aspect of British culture. Farms in Oxford offer opportunities for families to pick their own produce and learn more about local wildlife and crafts. Millet’s Farm in Abingdon is truly homegrown and has been run by the Carter family since 1952. It is less a working farm but a more ever-growing family attraction, with an indoor play barn, bird of prey and wildlife centre, adventure golf, farm shop, fly fishing club, crafts shack, garden centre and playground. Plus, a lot of those are free to visit.

Florence Park

best things to do in oxford with kids: florence park

If you are visiting Oxford and need a place to take your children for outdoor activities, Florence Park is a great choice. Florence Park has three fantastic play areas, five tennis courts, a high fly trapeze, or miniature golf (charges apply). The surrounding lush green fields with beautiful flower beds and lovely paths for walking/cycling/jogging. You can take a break at the café or stop by the ice cream booth. You can also have a picnic here when the weather is fine. It may be tricky for parents of different age groups who want to do different things, but you can have a nice day out here.

Oxford Wet n Wild

Oxford’s Wet n Wild is one of the best places to visit in Oxford on a hot day, and it has fun activities for your children. Oxford’s Wet n Wild Aqua Park at Queenford Lakes Watersports Centre is an industry-approved aqua park by the Royal Life Saving Society. It opens from May until September. You can hire a paddleboard or a kayak and enjoy the water inflatable park, too! This activity in Oxford is suitable for children aged 6+ and a minimum of 1.2 metres in height who know how to swim. If you are hungry or thirsty, there is also the Wandering Kitchen Cafe, ready to welcome you for a well-deserved break.


Oxford is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and modernity. Whether exploring its world-famous university, strolling through lush gardens, or discovering its hidden gems, Oxford offers an enriching experience for every visitor. Plan your trip today and uncover the wonders of the City of Dreaming Spires.


Yes. Oxford’s charming streets, historic buildings, and picturesque scenery create a delightful environment for pedestrians to explore. The city’s compact layout makes it easy for visitors to navigate on foot and immerse themselves in the rich heritage and vibrant culture.

Yes, parts of the Harry Potter films were filmed at Oxford University. Specifically, various locations within the university, such as the Bodleian Library, Christ Church College, and the Divinity School, served as iconic backdrops for scenes in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Tourists visit Oxford for many reasons, drawn in by the city’s rich tapestry of history, culture, and academia. The enchanting colleges offer visitors a glimpse into the prestigious world of higher education. The city’s vibrant cultural scene, including museums, theatres, and galleries, ensures that there is always something fascinating to experience in this dynamic hub of knowledge and creativity.

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