10 Things To Do In Oxford, The City Of Dreaming Spires
9 Dec 2019
Oxford is a melting pot of old and young. It's lively with students cycling its lanes, while graceful, amber-coloured buildings tower above. The skyline is studded with the fairytale spires which give it that famous nickname. Visit ancient university buildings, seek out Harry Potter filming locations and punt along the pretty River Cherwell.
To help you graduate in 'Oxford-ology', we’ve rounded up ten of the city's best trips:
Ever dreamed of going to the University of Oxford? Well, now’s your chance! This ancient and prestigious institution is the oldest in the English-speaking world, having opened its books in around 1096. Keep an eye out for the Divinity School, where medieval architecture provides the perfect Instagram backdrop.
You can explore eye-poppingly pretty colleges on an Oxford University and city walking tour. You’ll be guided by a current or former student – ideal for getting all the insider info.
Bookworms will swoon over this one. Oxford’s Bodleian Library is the main research hub for the University of Oxford. It’s also the second largest library in the United Kingdom and one of the oldest in Europe. Got a few hundred years to take on its 12 million items?!
You can explore this treasured old building on a private walking tour of Oxford. Got a keen eye? You might even spot the parts that doubled up as the Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter movies.
If you’re anything like us, you love a good series to binge-watch. Oxford has been the backdrop for many popular English shows. Lewis, Endeavour and Inspector Morse's heroes all took to the city's streets to solve crime – and you see where these favourite fictional sleuths lived and worked. A tour dedicated to TV detectives allows you to indulge your inner investigator with a guided walk around various filming locations. Spend two thrilling hours discovering iconic spots and reliving moments from the screen.
Like most things in Oxford, the city’s Botanic Garden is pretty old – almost 400 years, in fact. This makes it the most senior in Great Britain. Spread over 130 acres and with more than 6,000 types of plants, it's a giant oasis of nature. It's also a great place to enjoy a quiet picnic. Pop into the city's famous covered market, just off the High Street, for some tasty local produce.
Before television and movies came along, Oxford was where some of the UK's most famous authors came to hang out and get creative. Many even went to the university before finding fame as writers. You might have heard of a few: Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis – and even Dr Seuss!
On a bike tour, you’ll zip around on two wheels, discovering the colleges where famous names once studied. Be sure to stop off for a pint at some Oxford pubs. The Eagle and Child is where The Lord of the Rings' JRR Tolkien used to drink.
This favourite pastime involves a little flat boat and a rather long pole. Intrigued? Basically, it’s a peaceful way of cruising along a small river. Oxford is one of the best places in the UK to try this quirky activity. There are a couple of spots in the city where you can hire punts by the hour.
A hop-on hop-off bus tour will take you to Magdalen Bridge. Watch dozens of boats gliding along the water before having a go yourself.
Along with filming in the Bodleian Library, the Harry Potter movies also set some scenes in stately Christ Church College. The Gothic halls became magical Hogwarts. Its Tudor Great Dining Hall is said to have inspired Hogwarts' own Great Hall. From one great school to another, accio Potterheads!
See the college and take on 1,000 years of history in three hours on bike and walking tour. Because you're our favourite student, you'll get a full day's bicycle hire to keep exploring.
Oxford is conveniently close to other historical places in the UK. Shakespeare fans can get a buzz from visiting The Bard’s hometown, around an hour's drive away. You'll see where the famous playwright was born, visit the leafy Stratford Butterfly Garden and discover the whimsical exhibits at the Mechanical Art and Design Museum.
Pay homage to Shakespeare on a Stratford-upon-Avon day tour from Oxford. You'll also visit the Cotswolds – a nature-filled area of south central England. Wander around the quaint little villages and be sure to stop off for yummy afternoon tea.
When you think of England, does Downton Abbey spring to mind? This 300-year-old masterpiece of stunning Baroque architecture is thought by many to be the real thing. It's 20 minutes outside of Oxford, and getting there is easy with this day tour from the city. You'll explore some of the 187 plush rooms with a guide to tell you all about their fascinating history. Be sure to see the lush manicured gardens too. They were landscaped by the famous 'Capability Brown' and feature the Water Terrace, a fragrant Rose Garden and other hidden treasures.
Another tick in Oxford’s plus column is its strong transport links. Trains run from the city to various parts of the UK and the buzzing capital of London is just an hour away. Take a day trip to see sights such as the artefact-laden British Museum. You can get a birds-eye view on the London Eye and mingle with waxworks of the stars at Madam Tussauds.
A BritRail Pass is a budget-friendly buddy if you're doing more than one trip. Choose the number of days to suit your itinerary and start making tracks!