Things to do in Oxford

Historical colleges, a medieval university, and fascinating museums await in this famous seat of learning.

Our most recommended things to do in Oxford

Oxford: University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide

1. Oxford: University and City Walking Tour with Alumni Guide

Step inside Oxford University and explore the grounds on a guided walking tour. Admire the iconic architecture and learn about university life from your student guide. Visit one of the university’s oldest colleges and the Bodleian Library. Learn about the history of the university colleges, including All Souls College, Trinity College, Oriel College, Hertford College, and Merton College, the Radcliffe Camera, and the University Church of St. Mary. Get an equally in-depth history of the town. Hear about ceremonies at Oxford, famous graduates, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and also how the most powerful Archbishop of Canterbury was burned at the stake in Oxford.

London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour

2. London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour

Enjoy a full day of English heritage visiting the exquisite Windsor Castle, captivating Stonehenge, and the beautiful university city of Oxford. On this day trip departing from London, you get the whistle-stop tour of these unique sites with interesting commentary from your guide along the way. Start your day at Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of HM King Charles III. Visit the magnificent State Apartments still used for state occasions and royal receptions (if option selected). Take some time to explore the castle grounds and the 14th century St. George's Chapel, where you can admire one of the most beautiful examples of medieval church architecture in England. Next, go to the standing stones of Stonehenge, still clouded in mystery as an amazing feat of human engineering. Explore the prehistoric stone circle and learn about the theories around its construction (if option selected). Continue to the university city of Oxford, known as "The City of Dreaming Spires." A seat of learning since 1249, it's an idyllic location to explore on a fascinating walking tour.

Oxford: Christ Church Harry Potter Film Locations Tour

3. Oxford: Christ Church Harry Potter Film Locations Tour

Enjoy a 2-hour walking tour introducing the making of Harry Potter in Oxford and a 1-hour entry ticket and audio guided tour inside Christ Church College. See and hear about both Harry Potter and Lewis Carroll’s legendary characters, such as Alice and the Mad Hatter.  Book in advance to beat the queues at Christ Church, Oxford's most popular tourist attraction. Admire views onto Christ Church Meadows on the borders of the rivers Cherwell and Isis. See longhorn cattle graze and the dreamy spires of Merton College and Corpus Christi. See inside the Divinity School, another Harry Potter film site, at the Bodleian Library (access permitting) one of the oldest libraries in Europe. On any dates when Christ Church may be closed, instead visit New College, another great Hogwarts film site. Visit the Divinity School and see Christ Church's cloisters and staircase that were used as inspiration for the Great Hall.

From London: Windsor, Oxford & Stonehenge Full-Day Trip

4. From London: Windsor, Oxford & Stonehenge Full-Day Trip

Embark on a full-day guided tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford from London. Take the scenic route through the lush English countryside in a comfortable air-conditioned bus. The first stop on this tour is Windsor Castle. With its sweeping landscaped gardens and turreted Round Tower, it is easy to see why the castle is the Queen’s favorite weekend residence. Enjoy a fascinating through-the-keyhole peek at the lavish State Apartments, home to priceless artworks by Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci. You can also visit Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and St George’s Chapel - the final resting place of the monarchs of old, including Henry VIII. The tour then moves on to spectacular Stonehenge. You will never forget your first glimpse of the monolithic rock formation rising up against the skyline of the Salisbury Plain. Theories abound as to Stonehenge’s mysterious origin. Was it intended as a religious temple? An astronomical clock? A Bronze Age burial ground? Make up your own mind as you explore this unique landmark. Your final stop of the day is the charming university town of Oxford. Here you will enjoy a walking tour with free leisure time. Stroll the captivating college courtyards and cobbled lanes of this historic university town. The tour will finish at approximately 07:15 PM in London.

London: Harry Potter Studio Tour and Oxford Day Trip

5. London: Harry Potter Studio Tour and Oxford Day Trip

Join a full-day bus trip from London which combines a trip to the Warner Bros Studio Tour 'The Making of Harry Potter' with a walking tour of Oxford University. Start your tour at the historic city of Oxford, home to England's oldest university. Enjoy a guided walking tour that takes you past famous college buildings, cloisters, quadrangles, and cobblestone squares. See the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, and selected colleges. Enjoy free time to explore all that Oxford has to offer at your own pace. Continue to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour and begin your magical experience at The Making of Harry Potter. Discover behind-the-scenes secrets and hear about the filmmaking techniques used to make the magic of the Harry Potter films. Visit the most recognizable set features from the films: the Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the Ministry of Magic, 4 Privet Drive, the Weasley kitchen, Hogwarts Express, and Diagon Alley. Board the original Hogwarts Express train and see a recreation of Platform 9-3/4. Explore the interior train carriage set that was featured during filming and take a selfie with a luggage trolley as it disappears through the brick wall.

From London: Oxford and Cotswolds Villages Day Trip

6. From London: Oxford and Cotswolds Villages Day Trip

Embark on a full-day guided trip to Oxford and Cotswolds from London. See the historic Oxford University, explore the Cotswolds villages, and admire the lush English countryside. Depart London and travel by a luxury Mercedes minibus and spend the morning exploring the beautiful university city of Oxford. Wander amongst the listed buildings and colleges, and climb one of the vantage points for breathtaking views of the spires. Marvel at the Ashmolean Museum's collection before making your way to the quaint Cotswolds villages to see traditional tiny cottages built from stone. Arrive at the village of Burford, the Gateway to the Cotswolds, and lose yourself in this bustling market town. Make the short journey to Bibury and stroll to the famous and fairytale-like Arlington Row. Admire these 14th-century cottages and gain an insight into the history from your guide. After, enjoy the scenic ride back to London.

City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

7. City Sightseeing Oxford Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Home to the oldest University in Britain, Oxford is an architectural marvel. You'll get fantastic views of its honey colored buildings as well as tantalizing glimpses of the hushed courtyards of its many Colleges. Visit the International award winning Oxford Castle Heritage area and you'll travel by the Ashmolean, the Sheldonian, the historic Carfax junction - see this and more on the City Sightseeing tour of Oxford. Your Tour Itinerary Stop 1 - Railway Station Stop 2 - Park End Street Stop 3 - Bus Station Stop 4 - New Road Stop 5 - West Gate  Stop 6 - Speedwell Street Stop 7 - Christ Church Stop 8 - Brasenose College Stop 9 - The Queens College Stop 10 - The Plain Stop 11 - St. Cross Road Stop 12 - South Parks Road Stop 13 - Wadham College Stop 14 - Trinity College Stop 15 - Parks Road Stop 16 - Banbury Road Stop 17 - Woodstock Road Stop 18 - Browns Restaurant Stop 19 - Magdalen Street East Stop 20 - Randolph Hotel

Oxford: Official University and City Walking Tour

8. Oxford: Official University and City Walking Tour

Explore Oxford, the city of Dreaming Spires, on a walking tour with an expert guide from the city’s tourism board. Be shown the city’s most famous sights, uncover its hidden history, and enjoy all the astonishing stories about Oxford's key characters- real and fictional. Meet your guide at the grand and very old Broad Street (once the city's ditch) let them know where you come from and any special Oxford interests you may have and they will do their best to incorporate those.  Go to Martyrs' Memorial, the scene of terrible religious retributions in medieval times, and on to the oldest tower at St Michael of the Northgate built in Saxon times. Then, make your way to the very heart of the University and the inspiration behind Harry Potter's Hogwarts School. Pass by the pubs where the Inklings used to meet to discuss their writing as well as the pubs where Inspector Morse was filmed and the most popular student drinking holes in days of old. Discover the city that is home to several of Britain's most famous literary characters - both fictional and real - such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, Philip Pullman, and Colin Dexter as well as some of their most famous creations like Lyra and Will, and Inspector Morse. Admire Oxford's stupendous architecture, gargoyles and grotesques, so wonderfully preserved from every historical period and style, and take a stroll through the breathtaking Radcliffe Square. Cross the whimsical Bridge of Sighs as it's fondly known, just like the ones in Venice and Cambridge. See the Bodleian Libraries from the outside in the splendid Old Schools Quadrangle. Learn about the city’s famous museums including the Museum of the History of Science, containing Einstein's blackboard, The Pitt Rivers, once home to shrunken heads, and the fabulous Ashmolean, which was one of the very first ever museums in the world. If time allows, walk as far as to the beautiful Christ Church Meadows, where punting happens and cattle graze; a truly pastoral and quintessential English scene.

Oxford Castle and Prison: Guided Tour

9. Oxford Castle and Prison: Guided Tour

Step into 1,000 years of Oxford’s history with a costumed tour guide. Climb the Saxon St. George’s Tower, descend deep underground into the 900-year-old Crypt, explore the Victorian Prison D-Wing and Debtors' Tower, and scale the Mound of the 11th-century Motte-and-Bailey castle. Built in 1071 and only closed in 1996, Oxford Castle & Prison is a site with so many fascinating tales to tell. From the modern day stretching all the way back to the barbaric medieval era. The site has links to the birth of education in Oxford, the famous legends of King Arthur, the valiant escape of Empress Matilda and the infamous modern-day cases of murderers and criminals. For hundreds of years, the site has held both famous and infamous residents, serving time as a religious site, a home for royalty, and a center of justice as the county jail. After your 50-minute tour, you will be led into the exhibition wing where you can explore at your own leisure.

Oxford City Twilight Ghost Tour

10. Oxford City Twilight Ghost Tour

Hold on tight for this 75-minute walking tour of Oxford with a difference. The relaxed evening walk explores many of Oxford's back streets and alleyways, in search of some of the city’s legendary spooks. Oxford has many different ghost stories, from tales of heretic bishops to soldiers shot at dawn during the English Civil War. Your guide will bring them all to life, to the extent that you might even believe some of them are true! Stroll around the oldest parts of the city, where the highest abundance of spectral activities are located. See ghostly sites such as the location where the bloody town versus gown riots began. Visit mysterious graveyards, see the mournful Bridge of Sighs, and follow in the footsteps of Dead Man's Walk.

Frequently asked questions about Oxford

What top attractions are a must-see in Oxford?

What are the best day trips and excursions from Oxford?

The best day trips and excursions from Oxford are:

Burford

Insider tips: Planning a trip to Oxford

Paul & Mark are full time travel bloggers who discover hidden gems and local specialities on their blog Anywhere We Roam. They spent 7 years living in the area, compiling their favourite things to do in Oxford.

What should I do on my first trip to Oxford?

One of the most iconic sites in Oxford is the Radcliffe Camera; the iconic dome-topped round building in the centre of the city. The best way to see it, and the charming cobbled-stoned square it resides in, is from the top of St Mary Virgin Church tower. The other unmissable attraction in Oxford is the Bodleian Library. The reading room with medieval books and wood panelling is so atmospheric it was used as the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter Films.

What are some hidden gems to see in Oxford?

One of the most unique experiences in Oxford is having a pint at the Turf Tavern; a creaky old pub dating back to 1381. With low wooden beams, an open fire and traditional ales, it's a classic English pub with past regulars including ex-Prime Ministers and famous students. The Pitt River’s Museum is another cool place to visit. It has a huge collection of strange objects from all over the world including an intriguing early human tattoo exhibition.

How much time should I spend in Oxford?

With a compact centre, it's easy to see many of the main sights on a day trip to Oxford including the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, and several of the colleges. On a second day you could take a guided tour of one of the colleges, punt on the river and visit some of Oxford's world-class museums.

What food is Oxford known for?

Although steeped in history, Oxford's student population has helped forge a modern & independent café scene. Head to St. Michael's Street for an excellent choice of tasty brunches; Turl Street for great independent coffee; and the neaby covered market for artisanal baked goods amongst a mish mash of enticing stalls.

What is the best way to get around Oxford?

As a compact city, Oxford is easily explored on foot. Most of the main attractions are contained within the old town centre and strolling the small laneways and cobbled streets is one of the best ways to see this charming university town. A punting tour along the river is and excellent way to see Oxford's parks and leafty surrounds.

What are the best months to visit Oxford?

May to June is the best time to visit Oxford when the gardens are in full bloom and the students are starting to celebrate the end of the academic year. May is the busiest month for festivals, including Oxford May Music – a celebration of music, science and arts in the city – making it a great time to visit before the busy summer period.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Oxford?

The main attractions are located in the centre of Oxford, but for a taste of the real student life, head to Jericho. Lined with colourful terrace houses, Jericho is home to trendy cafes, international food and independent retail shops. Don't miss Raoul's bar for expertly created cocktails in a lush but relaxed setting.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

Most of the great restaurants in Oxford are in the centre, making it easy to wander around and pick something from the wide selection on offer. On a nice day, it's great to take the leisurely stroll from the centre town along the River Thames where you can eat at several of the boathouses overlooking the water.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?

One of the best places to shop in Oxford is the covered market. Operating for around 200 years, the market has everything from groceries to crafts; homewares to clothing. The streets immediately surrounding the market are also great for checking out the local shopping. Don't miss Blackwell's Bookshop - something of an institution in Oxford.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Oxford?

It's great to take advantage of the compact nature of Oxford and stay somewhere in the centre of town. This way you can easily walk to the attractions during the day as well as the restaurants and bars in the evening. For a completely different option, the beautiful Cotswolds Villages are nearby providing an excellent base for a weekend stay in the country.

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Oxford?

One of the best family-friendly activities in Oxford is a tour of the Harry Potter film sets where you can relive the magic and learn more about the colleges at the same time. Another family favourite, ideal for spending an afternoon, is Thirsty Meeples, a board game café with over 2,700 different games to choose from.

What is the best thing to do in Oxford for solo travelers?

Oxford is a great place for solo travellers with lots of attractions that are perfect to experience by yourself. Wander around the impressive Ashmolean Museum, unwind in the beautiful Port Meadow grassy park or spend a quiet day popping in and out of the striking colleges.

What is the best thing to do in Oxford for couples?

There's no better way to show off your skills to your other half than to try punting on the River Cherwell. There's a reason the students practise for hours before mastering the skill. If it all looks too much, you can always book a guided punting tour. End the day at the Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant, the perfect spot in Oxford for a romantic dinner.

What are the best annual events in Oxford?

One of the best annual festivals in Oxford is the Summer Eights, a four-day rowing competition between the colleges. The event takes place on a narrow stretch of the River Thames and the banks are filled with spectators enjoying the race. The other big event on the Oxford calendar is the Foodies Festival held on the August bank holiday weekend. It's one of the biggest food events in the UK.

What are the best things to do around Oxford?

Oxford is on the edge of the Cotswolds, one of Britain's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Taking an afternoon walk in the Cotswolds is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors around Oxford. The most picturesque is the easy circular route around the village of Minster Lovell which visits a beautiful 15th century ruin set beside a lovely river. Minster Lovell is around 30 minutes’ drive from Oxford.

What's a local recommendation for neighborhood New College?

New College is much less visited than some of the more famous colleges in Oxford, but the cloisters are something of a hidden gem and well worth exploring. They are beautifully designed with exquisite attention to detail. Visit the spot where Draco Malfoy was turned into a ferret in the Harry Potter movie, The Goblet of Fire.

What are some tips for visiting the top attractions in neighborhood New College?

Each of the colleges have different opening times based on the academic year, often for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. It’s a good idea to check the opening times in advance so you can plan which colleges you can visit on your trip.

What are some fun facts/history behind neighborhood New College?

Oxford's contributions to the world include the development of penicillin and lithium-ion batteries, the discovery of antibodies and the process for predicting weather. It has educated 28 British prime minsters, 2 US presidents, and several celebrities including Hugh Grant, Emma Watson and Kate Beckinsale.

Other Sightseeing Options in Oxford

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What people are saying about Oxford

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 11,765 reviews

What started out as a search for sold-out Harry Potter Tour tickets turned out to be a very welcome day-trip! We were welcomed at the bus by our very energetic guide Rachel. While driving towards our first stop Rachel already started providing small insights into both Oxford and Harry Potter, which was perfect to get into the day's mindset. At the center of Oxford itself we got both historical and current facts about Oxford nicely mixed with fun Harry Potter facts ... 10 Points to <insert HP House here>! The second part of the day was what my sister and I originally signed up for, the Warner Bros HP Studio Tour. Since I was last here, a lot of new set pieces and props have been added, making it a new and refreshing experience once again. If you're a Potterhead, this is a place to visit! Original sets, props, green-screen interactivity, screens everywhere explaining what you are seeing. (not spoiling all the info) All in all a long but very fun and enjoyable day! Kudos to guide Rachel!

Highly recommended day trip for the destination, professionalism and timings. Christo, our driver and guide was amasing. He was knowledgeable and very friendly, which made the experience even better. Very professional with a small group of people. Thank you.

Debra was super knowledgable, included little tidbits along the day. they trip was well planned and executed. Plan your queueing in a busy day specially for food and drinks when needed.

Nice tour trip! Absolutely worth the money! The guide Pablo is very professional and was very helpful!

The tour was great and our tour guide Peter was very informative, nice and funny!