Things to do in Oxford
With various places along the river to start from, there are plenty of sections of river to choose. whether you hire a punt all day or just for a hour. It’s a perfect way to take in the views and have some fun along the way. Be warned; punting is not actually as easy as it looks and can be hard work, so maybe hire one for an hour to start off with! The best places to pick up a punt are the Head of the River pub, Magdalen Bridge Boathouse or Cherwell Boathouse.
In an area known as Oxford’s ‘newest old quarter’ is Oxford Castle, built in Norman times and later used as a prison. Today, the site hosts a variety of events throughout the year and has an exciting hub of bars, restaurants and the Malmaison Boutique hotel. If you’re visiting Oxford in the summer, you must go to one of the Oxford Castle Summer Night concerts or open-air cinema evenings.
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology is the world’s first university museum. Founded in 1683, it is one of the oldest public museums in the world and an example of the fine architecture you’ll find all around Oxford. The museum has a long and complicated history, and is a very different museum than it once was. Starting out in the early 1600s, the museum housed only a few portraits and artefacts, massively increasing its collection in the late 1600s to include Guy Fawkes’ Lantern, and a sword said to have to been given to Henry VIII by the Pope. The present Ashmolean was created in 1908, with a combination of the old Ashmolean museum and the University art collections.
The museum has become one of Oxford’s main attractions and is free to enter. Even if the artefacts don’t interest you, the building itself is definitely worth a visit.
Oxford’s famous University makes it a perfect destination for academics and book-lovers. The Bodleian Library is home to more than 6 million books and has been known throughout the world since the 17th century.
Leaving from outside Balliol College, the free walking tours are perfect if you are a first time visitor to Oxford. The tours take 2 hours and are completely free of charge – although the guides do ask for a tip if you’ve enjoyed the tour! A brilliant way to find out about the history of the univeristy city.
Blenheim Palace is situated in the village of Woodstock, just 8 miles north-west of Oxford, and hosts the Blenheim International Horse Trials in late summer. Attracting world class riders and thousands of spectators, this 3 day event has everything from classic cars to children’s bouncy castles, plus hundreds of stalls – something for all the family.
The Palace is surrounded by a magnificent lake and 2,100 acres of parkland. Currently home to the 11th Duke of Marlborough, it is also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. If you’re not a fan of eventing, the Palace itself is stunning, and opens daily from 10:30 to 17:30 until 28 October. From 31 October to 9 December, the Palace and gardens open from Wednesday to Sunday only. The Park is open all year round from 09:00. except for Christmas Day.
Hot News – Blenheim is to host the London 2012 Olympic eventing team qualifier!
For three weeks a year in May, Oxfordshire holds more than 500 free art exhibitions and events. The Oxford Artweeks festival enables visitors from all over the world to view art in all its different forms, with events spread across the county, including some exhibitions in the Castle.
The third and final week of the Artweeks is usually centred in the city, where nearly 200 art venues open their doors to the public, free of charge.
The Oxfringe Festival, held in early April each year since 2007, provides entertainment in different venues around the city. Starting with just two literary events in 2007, the festival expanded to over 150 events in 2009 and over 30 venues in 2010. The festival includes everything from award winning comedians and poetry recitals to operatic performances on punts down the river.
Travel and transport in Oxford
Oxford is easily accessible by public transport, both internationally and within the UK. If you are arriving at or departing from Oxford by bus, the central bus station is a 5 minute walk from Oxford city centre; Oxford train station is at the end of Park End street and is just a 10 minute walk from the city centre. Direct trains between Oxford and London Paddington run approximately every 30 minutes, connecting Oxford with the capital. Check for cheap train tickets when you plan your visit – Advance tickets can save you up to £17 against the cost of Anytime train fares from Oxford to London.
Oxford station is run by Great Western Railway, with North and South services also operated by CrossCountry and Chiltern Railways, connecting Oxford with Birmingham New Street (via Banbury) to the North, and services via Reading to the South.
Many of the roads in Oxford city are now pedestrianised and parking is limited; visitors by car are advised to use the Oxford Park and Ride (with free parking), located all around the city.
For more information on trains to and from Oxford, enter your journey details into the MyTrainTicket journey planner on our homepage.
*Price based on cheapest available one way Standard Class Advance ticket, excluding £1.50 booking fee per transaction. Based on payment with a debit card and ticket collection from a self-service ticket machine at the station (free of charge).