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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe

Graced by some of the most beautiful architecture in the UK, home to the world’s second-oldest university, and famous for its fictional inhabitants from Sebastian Flyte to Inspector Morse, few British cities are as imprinted on the general consciousness as Oxford.

There is evidence of teaching in the city from the 11th century; a millennia later the university still dominates, with 38 colleges dotted through the streets. Alongside the colleges’ dreaming spires, the city is famous for the diversity of its architecture, which spans every period since the arrival of the Saxons.

But beneath the layers of history, there is a real town going about its business, with excellent restaurants,  a wonderful covered market and world-class museums and galleries.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Blenheim Palace

Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

One of Britain’s greatest country houses, and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim boasts 300 years of history in a spectacular setting.

Best for ages: 13+ | £32

Ashmolean Museum

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A world-class collection of art and architecture in the heart of Oxford that ranges across 3,000 years of history, with Egyptian rooms to rival those of the British Museum.

Best for ages: 6+ | Free

Oxford University Colleges

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Oxford’s extraordinarily beautiful colleges have housed everyone from prime ministers to presidents, and pair centuries of British history with spectacular architecture.

Best for ages: 13+ | £3

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Punting on the River Cherwell

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Glide along the Cherwell in a traditional punt, and take in the spectacular architecture of Oxford’s iconic colleges from the tranquillity of the river.

Best for ages: 6+ | £16 | 1+ hours

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Inside the Bodleian Library Divinity School. The room has dark wooden seating and a vaulted, intricately carved stone ceiling.
Experience

Bodleian Library

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Dating back to the 14th century, the Bodleian buildings – including the Divinity School, Oxford’s oldest teaching room – are some of Oxford’s most beautiful. Visits by pre-bookable tours only.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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The bridge runs between two buildings above a cobblestone street underneath which people are walking. The bridge is arched sandstone with rectangular glass windows.
Experience

Bridge of Sighs

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

One of the city’s iconic Insta shots, this raised bridge, linking two sections of Hertford College is notable for its similarity to the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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The exterior of University Church of St Mary. A sandstone church with shrubbery outside, illuminated by golden hour sunshine.
Experience

Church of St. Mary [and climb the spire]

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A 13th-century church which was the first university building. Climb the spire for wonderful views over the Oxford Colleges and the surrounding Oxfordshire countryside.

Best for ages: 6+ | £5

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A small room with pale wooden floors, white walls, and two golden chandeliers. Rows of red cushioned tiered seating rise up from a central space. There is a dark wooden organ with golden pipes against the back wall.
Experience

Coffee Concerts at Holywell Music Room

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Held every Sunday, these classical concerts are the chance to see world-class performers in the Holywell Music Room, the oldest, purpose-built music room in Europe.

Best for ages: 18+ | £15 | 1+ hours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

2-3 Hour Cycle Tour of Oxford

2-3 Hour Cycle Tour of Oxford

Oxford

Oxford is a beautiful city packed full of fascinating and historic architecture, spacious countryside, relaxing rivers and canals and has be...

£35 | Rating 4.82 / 5 [176 ratings]

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90 Minute Private Guided Walking Tour in Oxford

90 Minute Private Guided Walking Tour in Oxford

Oxford

Oxford zealously guards its architectural heritage which boasts the possibly finest collection of historical buildings in the United Kingdom...

£20 | Rating 4.63 / 5 [33 ratings]

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Afternoon Tea Sightseeing River Cruise in Oxford

Afternoon Tea Sightseeing River Cruise in Oxford

Oxford

This wonderful river cruise in Oxford includes a sumptuous traditional afternoon tea served aboard the boat. The 1.5-hour cruise takes in th...

£49 | Rating 4.76 / 5 [242 ratings]

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Cotswolds Villages and Oxford Full Day Tour from London

Cotswolds Villages and Oxford Full Day Tour from London

London

Explore top UK destinations including Oxford, and the Cotswolds on this adventurous 11-hour tour from London. Delve deep into the rolling hi...

£72 | Rating 4.48 / 5 [106 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Tower House

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A charming B&B in a 16th-century townhouse, right in the heart of the city centre and close to all the main sights.

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Head of the River

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

An idyllically-situated gastropub with rooms overlooking the River Isis, with a buzzy restaurant and terrace serving well-made Modern British dishes.

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Cotswold Lodge Hotel

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A classically-styled hotel in an elegant Victorian mansion, with an award-winning restaurant.

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Porterhouse Grill & Rooms

Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

A super-chic small boutique hotel with rooms above the best steak house in the city.

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When to go

Oxford is a year-round destination, and thus constantly busy with tourists. In the autumn months (September to October), the city has a particular energy, with new and old students flooding into town after the long summer break. It’s at its most beautiful in late spring, before the hordes of international tourists appear in July and August.

Getting there and away

Oxford is a one-hour drive from London Heathrow, just over an hour from London. Trains to Oxford take around an hour from London Paddington, and it’s an easy ten-minute walk into the centre of town. The Oxford Tube is a coach service that runs every hour from several points around London.

Getting around

Like most English towns, Oxford has reasonably good public transport, clogged roads and expensive parking. With relatively flat terrain, pleasing surrounds, and a good network of bike lanes, cycling is the best way to get around town (and even into the surrounding countryside). Bike hire shops are ubiquitous.

The Oxford Sightseeing Bus stops at the train station every ten minutes and is the lazy way to tick off all the sights.