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What to do in Oxford

16 June 2021

Nicknamed the City of Dreaming Spires, the famous city of Oxford is a destination with bags of charm, sophistication and romantic appeal.

Oxford cityscape

Home to the illustrious university and renowned as the playground where literary greats such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis drew inspiration and conquered their art, the captivating city of Oxford offers all manner of fun things to do from exploring castles to trying your hand at punting.

Although scholarly types might feel more of a connection to the city than most, there is certainly plenty to interest a wide variety of tastes. We may just have found your next day trip or mini-break...

Tour the castle

Take a guided tour of the fascinating Oxford Castle where captivating characters reveal the stories of their life within the walls. Climb the Saxon St George's Tower for 360 degree views of the city before descending into the depths of the castle's crypts and dungeons.

Even if you’ve lived your whole life in the UK, there’s always somewhere new to discover. Find out more here

Visit the University

Whether you go out of your way to see it or not, there's no escaping the historic Oxford University. But why admire it from a distance, when many of the colleges allow visitors? Christ Church, Baliol College and Magdalen College are among those that offer guided tours. Prices and tour times vary, so check the Oxford University website to find out what will be open during your visit.

An afternoon at the museum

If you are partial to a museum or two, you've come to the right town. From the impressive neo-Gothic building that houses the Museum of Natural History to the curious ethnographic eccentricities that can be found at Pitt Rivers, Oxford is a treasure trove for the museum-loving folk.

However, if you just have time for just one, consider the Ashmolean with its magnificent collection of priceless paintings, archeological finds and fine art.

Punt along the river

Relax on the River Cherwell with this traditional Oxford past-time. Hire spots such as Magdalen Bridge Boathouse offer punts, rowing boats and pedalos, so even if your balance isn't up to the standard required to steer a punt, you can still have some fun on the water. Alternatively, hire a chauffeur to ensure none of your party goes overboard - let the professionals handle it.

Bask in literary history

Enjoy a drink in the old stomping ground of The Inklings, the literary group which included CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and Hugo Dyson. Visit The Eagle and Child pub on St Giles' Street, where the group would enjoy regular lunches in the 'Rabbit Room' at the back. It was at one of these very meetings that, in 1950, CS Lewis first shared his novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Take a distillery tour

The Oxford Artisan Distillery lets you take a peek behind the scenes to find out how heritage grains are turned into craft gin. After seeing the beautiful copper stills at work and enjoy some sample spirits. If that whets your appetite enjoy a gin and tonic or cocktail in the sun.

Visit the library

Founded in 1602, Oxford's Bodleian Library is the largest academic library system in the UK, and one of the oldest libraries in Europe. There are over 13 million printed materials inside the Bodleian Library, second only to the British Library. If that sounds a little dry you might be more interested to hear that this stunning building was also one of the Harry Potter filming locations, with the library's Divinity School used as the Hogwarts infirmary. Also worth a visit is the nearby Radcliffe Camera, which the library took over in 1861. If you're not afraid of heights a spectacular view of Oxford awaits at the top of the narrow spiral staircase.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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