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15 Best things to see & do in Oxford

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe
  • Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

The palace from above with a lake on the side

Bucket List Experience

Blenheim Palace

Birthplace of Winston Churchill, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2,000 acres of Capability Brown-designed gardens, a gargantuan palace dating back to the early 18th-century – Blenheim is almost bewilderingly rich in heritage.

This Baroque beauty was built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne and a grateful nation in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704. Passed on down through the generations, it’s now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family.

The Palace holds spectacular collections of art, furniture and porcelain, housed in ornate, grand state rooms. Alongside, there’s a new, interactive exhibition dedicated to Winston Churchill – and you can also see the tiny room where he was born.

There are several themed tours on offer – of the Marlborough’s private apartments, of the ‘downstairs’ where the servants worked (ala Downtown Abbey), buggy tours of the formal gardens, and of the stables – offering a deeper insight into life here in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Adult price: £32

Good for age: 13+

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

The outside of the Ashmolean Museum. A stately building with pillars on either side of the entrance. There is a crowd of visitors walking up the stairs.

Bucket List Experience

Ashmolean Museum

Oxford University’s Ashmolean spreads 3,000 years of history over five floors, with Egyptian rooms to rival the British Museum, a whole floor dedicated to 19th-century and pre-Raphaelite European art, and a unique collection of artefacts from every corner of the world.

Browse through the centuries – from ancient terracotta figures and sculptures from the Near East, statues and sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome, up to more recent ceramics from Delft and intricately-carved Islamic artefacts. There’s a cleverly thought out ‘Spotlight Trail’ that will guide you through the museum, stopping off at 12 highlight objects. Great for adults and kids.

Good for age: 13+

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

An aerial view of All Souls College cloister. An intricate sandstone building with arched windows and a clockface, has a rectangular grass court in the centre. A public road is visible to the left, and other Oxford buildings and the treeline is visible in the background.

Bucket List Experience

Oxford University Colleges

Oxford is a city dominated by its world-famous university, with 38 spectacular colleges dotted around the city centre. Founded between the 12th and 15th centuries, these bastions of world-class education offer visitors the opportunity to stroll through centuries of British history, where a litany of impressive historical figures – from prime ministers and presidents to famous scientists – once lived and studied.

The architecture is equally impressive, from the wonderful, 15th-century Gothic towers of Magdalen College to the beautiful gardens and quads at 13th-century New College.

It’s worth doing research beforehand, as each college offers something different. Art-lovers should head to Christchurch, which has a spectacular art collection, including works by Rubens and Michelangelo, while University College is famous for its stained glass.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 18+

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Four numbered wooden punts (boats) lined up next to each other on the river's edge. In the background there is a bridge with two arches, and a man standing, pushing a punt along with a large pole. There are two passengers in his punt.

Bucket List Experience

Punting on the River Cherwell

Punting – whereby long, slim boats rather like a Viennese gondola are propelled along by plunging and pulling a ten-foot pole in and out of the water – is the quintessential Oxford experience. It’s also an ideal way to see the architecture of the colleges and the surrounding countryside, whilst escaping the crowds.

Punts can be hired in various locations, from Port Meadow, just north of the centre, to Magdalen Bridge, right by Magdalen College or from the Cherwell Boathouse.

Adult price: £16

Good for age: 6+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Just setting foot into this spectacular museum is an experience; built in 1860, it has a stunning Gothic interior, with 126 columns supporting the striking glass and iron roof.  The space houses over seven million exhibits from the natural world, alongside an archive of over half a million manuscripts.

The Main Court is the place to start exploring, famous for its ‘skeleton parade’, with over a dozen animals exposed down to their bones.  Other highlights include the world’s most complete dodo skeleton, the trilobyte wall and a spectacular collection of gemstones.

Good for age: 6+

Bridge of Sighs

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

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

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.

Good for age: 18+

Pitt Rivers Museum

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Inside the Pitt Rivers Museum. The room is full of glass display cabinets full of objects. A large totem pole rises from the centre of the room and there are several floors visible.

Experience

An overwhelming array of archaeological and ethnographic finds from all over the world, with over half a million objects alongside early photographic and sound archives.

Good for age: 8+

Bodleian Library

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

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

Experience

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.

Good for age: 18+

Oxford Castle and Prison

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

The exterior of Oxford Castle and Prison. Buildings made out of pale stone. The closest building has white painted bars across the windows. There is a small strip of grass in front of the buildings.

Experience

An imposing, partly-ruined Norman castle, kids will love exploring the 18th-century prison cells, the candlelit crypt, and the climb up St George’s Tower (101 steps) gives wonderful views across the city.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 8+

Museum of the History of Science

  • Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom (UK)

The outside of the Museum of the History of Science building. A cylindrical pale yellow sandstone building with arched windows and a wooden door.

Experience

An extraordinary collection of scientific instruments and artefacts, dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, with highlights including Einstein’s blackboard and a Roman disc sundial. 

Good for age: 13+