What to do in Oxford

Put the books away: Here’s what to do in Oxford

A trip to this academic city is sure to leave you feeling inspired and invigorated

Dating back to the 12th century, Oxford is the oldest English-speaking University City in the world, and a popular destination for both students and tourists alike. Similar to the UK’s other prestigious university, Cambridge, there is no singular campus in Oxford, but rather a collection of 40 colleges, buildings, libraries and museums. Many colleges are open to the public at certain times of the years so you can come and wander around the beautiful grounds and soak up its incredible history. Whether you come for the University or stay to look around the rest of the town, there are plenty of fun things to do in Oxford.
Take a tour
The best way to see all of Oxford is to take a walking tour. You can either pick up a map from the visitor centre or book a guided tour to help you discover parts of Oxford you probably wouldn’t normally see. There are lots of themed tours that you can choose from, depending on what you’d like to see, including an Alice in Wonderland tour and haunted ghost walks. These Oxford activities include a basic University and City tour for first-timers, while Oxford regulars can explore Medieval Oxford, famous film sites and movie locations, or literary and architectural Oxford. If you really want to get into the school spirit, there are cycling routes, or if you prefer to take it easy, hop on an open-air bus tour.
Look around Christ Church
Christ Church is by far the most iconic college in Oxford, and is the setting for Brideshead Revisited, Alice in Wonderland, and the Great Hall in Harry Potter. Films and books aside, Christ Church is also famed for its award-winning Cathedral Choir and Picture Gallery, one of the most important private collections of drawings in the UK, with work by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo. While it’s still a working academic and religious institution, it’s also open to the public most of the year. Once you’re inside, you can see the famous landmarks, Tom Tower, by Christopher Wren, and the Cathedral Spire, a familiar sight on the Oxford skyline.
Grab a pint with literary legends
Oxford boasts many important alumni, including Stephen Hawking, Rowan Atkinson, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher, Oscar Wilde and Emma Watson. Two other famous Oxonians are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – in fact, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings while living in Oxford! While working as the Merton College Professor of English Language and Literature, Tolkien formed a meeting group called The Inklings with Lewis and other friends. They were regulars at The Eagle and Child pub on St Giles’ Street and would come here to drink and discuss characters, plotlines and drafts. Today, you can enjoy a pint of one of the pub’s award-winning ales and enjoy a traditional English lunch, in the very spot that these great authors once sat.
Try your hand at punting
One of the best activity days out is taking to Oxford’s famed waterways. You can hire a boat and have a go punting with its long pole – it’s much harder than it looks! Otherwise, you can let someone else do the hard work and sit back and enjoy the scenery from a steamer or river cruise.
Take a dip at the Oxford University pool
The Oxford swimming pool is usually only open to students or members, however the pool does offer a free trial swim. Located on Iffley Road, next to the Sir Roger Bannister Running Track, you can drop by and take a dip in the 25m, 8-lane pool. It’s open seven days a week, with morning swimming from 6am on weekdays. A little further out from the city centre is another swimming complex, the Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, which offers a 25m competition pool, learner pool, fun pool, sauna and gym classes.

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