11 Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire (UK)

Are you looking for the best things to do in Oxfordshire? Oxford, also known as the “city of dreaming spires,” is a lovely city that is full of interesting places to visit.

It doesn’t matter if you experience Oxford’s world-class heritage on a punt ride down the Cherwell, a candle-lit Evensong in a university chapel, or a visit to museums and galleries filled with ancient treasures; you won’t be able to deny the city’s reputation for its rich history.

You can go to hallowed halls and libraries where Nobel Prize winners, prime ministers, and literary giants spent their formative years; you can check out world-class museums; you can dine in the city’s finest restaurants, or you can wander the laneways and take in the atmosphere.

The best part is that many of the city’s most popular attractions do not charge admission fees. Alongside all of the commotion that the university generates, however, you will find a rich industrial past, meandering waterways that are begging to be explored by kayak or paddleboard, and a robust arts and music scene that gives this most conservative of cities a little bit of an edge.

Although I may be partial, I think Oxford is one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom. Putting aside any preconceived notions, there are very few locations in the United Kingdom or Europe that can compete with the city’s stunning architecture and rich history.

Read more about them here: Best Places to Visit in the UK.

There is always something new to find in Oxford, some hidden location, regardless of how many times you’ve been there or how familiar you are with the city. Find out about some of Oxford’s most popular attractions as well as some of the city’s lesser-known gems. Are you prepared for an adventure? Let’s go.

Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire (UK)

1. Bicester Village

If going shopping is something that interests you, then a trip to Bicester Village is an absolute necessity for you. Although it is claimed that almost every outlet centre in the world sells luxury goods, the level of luxury that can be found in this place is unfathomable. 

Fendi, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and many other prestigious fashion houses are just some of the labels that can be found at Bicester Village’s over 160 different shops.

From Oxford, you can reach the outlet mall by taking the bus (which will take you 30 minutes) or the train (which will get you there in 15 minutes). It’s best to make appropriate preparations in advance because the weekends and holidays tend to be very busy times.

2. Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History is a neo-Gothic architectural masterpiece that is hung with dinosaur skeletons, decorated with butterflies and beetles and is the permanent residence of Oxford’s fabled dodo.

Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Since its establishment in 1860, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has grown into an important hub for the conduct of scientific research due to its extensive and illustrious collections. The much-loved structure that houses it is a vital icon for visitors all over the world.

The museum has the appearance of a cathedral, and its architecture is just as impressive as the extensive collection it houses. The Oxford University Museum of Natural History was originally established as the university’s centre for scientific study.

Over seven million scientific samples are currently housed in the museum; these include five million specimens of insects, half a million specimens of fossils, and half a million specimens of zoological life. A sizable catalogue of archival material relating to influential naturalists like Charles Darwin, William Smith, William Jones, and James Charles Dale is also housed here.

Have I already mentioned that there is no charge to enter?

It would be to your advantage if you did not overlook the beehive that is stashed away on the second floor. You will be able to observe a colony of European honey bees hard at work in this location. It is one of only a few observation hives in the UK, and it has glass sides so that you can watch the colony without risking harm to yourself or the bees.

3. Bridge of Sighs

Although I’m sure there are other Bridges of Sighs in other parts of the world (please don’t judge me), I was under the impression that this one was unique to Cambridge and Venice. Anyway, the actual name of the bridge is Hertford Bridge, and it is one of the attractions in the area that visitors should not miss.

Bridge of Sighs in Oxfordshire
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Bridge of Sighs

It is said that the Bridge of Sighs got its name from the sound of students sighing as they crossed it after successfully completing their exams; however, this is something about which we are not entirely certain.

If the bridge had a name while I was there, it would be called the “Bridge of Cries,” after all the tears that were shed there. I swear the tests I took for my university were stressful.

When you take a walk around the city of Oxford, it is still one of the most important places to visit and without a doubt one of the most enjoyable things to do in Oxford.

4. Blenheim palace

If you have a thing for historic buildings like castles and palaces, you are going to adore the Blenheim palace.

Read more about the Beautiful Castles and Palaces in the UK.

The enormous Blenheim palace is located in the middle of extensive parkland and features both formal and landscaped gardens. It is now the residence of the 12th Duke of Marlborough and is also the site of ongoing celebrations and events. It is notable for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit Blenheim Palace

Visit this baroque pile in the countryside of Oxfordshire if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and get a glimpse of how the other half lives. Even though it’s not a palace in the traditional sense, judging by its size and splendour, it looks like it could easily pass for one.

Learn about this National Treasure’s 300-year history as you explore its opulent State Rooms, visit the house where Winston Churchill was born, stroll through the parklands, get lost in the yew maze, see Ai Weiwei’s monumental Gilded Cage, and admire the portraits, tapestries, and exquisite furniture. All of this can be done while taking in the breathtaking scenery of the parklands.

Also, do not pass up the chance to go on the “Upstairs Tour” and get a sneak peek at the private apartments that belong to the Marlborough family. This is your chance to see where famous people like Sylvester Stallone, Bill Clinton, and Charlie Chaplin have stayed in the past.

Throughout the course of the year, Blenheim Palace plays host to a plethora of sporting and cultural events, thematic exhibitions, and guided tours, making it not only an important landmark but also a living, dynamic experience.

Each and every visit to Blenheim Palace is guaranteed to be an unforgettable and priceless experience for its guests.

If you go here, please be careful because it is one of the UNESCO Heritage sites in the UK. Are you interested in finding out about the UK’s 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

5. St. Martin’s Church Bladden, Oxfordshire – Burial Place of Winston Churchill

Churchill’s grave is in the churchyard of a small Anglican parish church in Oxfordshire. Many people would guess that he is buried at Blenheim, Chartwell, or one of London’s grand churches.

Sir Winston Churchill Graveyard in Oxfordshire
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Pay Respect to the burial site of Sir Winston Churchill

St. Martin’s Church is in the same parish as Blenheim Palace. Since Blenheim Palace is the family home of the dukes of Marlborough, most of the family’s non-royal members are buried there. Most dukes and duchesses are buried at the chapel at Blenheim Palace instead of at St. Martin’s Church.

People think that a church has been there since the 11th or 12th century, but most of the current St. Martin’s Church was built in 1891. The church is still going strong and has services every Sunday (visitors are welcome) and special events.

In 2015, an artist named Emma Blount made a beautiful stained glass window for the church that was called the Churchill Memorial Window. It was made to honour Winston Churchill.

Unlike the funerals of most people, Winston Churchill’s was thought about and planned for a long time before it happened. Earl Marshal Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, was in charge of the planning for Operation “Hope Not.” It started in the 1950s and was given the code name “Hope Not.”

Churchill’s funeral would include three days of lying in state at Westminster Hall, an elaborate procession through London with his coffin on a gun carriage, a funeral ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a river transfer aboard the Havengore, a military fly-by, cranes dipping along the Thames, and then a transfer at Waterloo Station to a special train that took the coffin to Bladon.

The Churchill locomotive, which has been saved and is often shown at the National Railway Museum in York, pulled the funeral train. Most of the train cars have also been kept. At least one of the Pullman carriages, Perseus, is in use on the Belmond British Pullman train we rode.

On January 30, 1965, he was buried at Bladon in a private ceremony that only his family and close friends were invited to. This article from The Telegraph, which came out 50 years after his funeral, is a great way to learn more about what happened at his funeral.

Winston Churchill is buried near other Churchill-Spencer family members and next to his wife Clementine, who died in 1977. In the churchyard are also the graves of his parents, his brother Jack, his children, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and other relatives.

Churchill’s original tombstone had to be changed because visitors had broken it. St. Martin’s is an active church and graveyard, so please be polite when you visit the churchyard.

You shouldn’t miss the grave of Winston Churchill, his wife, his parents, his children, his brother, and other Spencer-Churchill family members when you go to St. Martin. All of the graves are outside, in a small cemetery behind the church. You should go inside the church if it is open to see the Churchill Memorial Window and a small exhibition.

6. University of Oxford Botanic Garden

The oldest botanic garden in the United Kingdom and its surrounding 130 acres of woodland both contain a wide variety of plant and animal species from around the world.

Oxford University Botanic Garden
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Oxford University Botanic Garden
JMski, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

More than 6,000 different types of plants are housed in Oxford’s botanic gardens and giant glasshouses. These plants include specimens used to cure heart and cancer concerns, along with carnivorous plants and tropical wonders. The gardens were founded 400 years ago with the purpose of cultivating plants for use in medical research.

Also, a ten-minute drive away is the Harcourt Arboretum, which should not be skipped if you want to view spring magnolias, rhododendrons, and bluebells in their full glory, as well as the autumnal glow of acers and redwoods.

The English bluebells, rhododendrons, azaleas, and Acer trees that can be found at Harcourt Arboretum contribute to its breathtaking natural beauty throughout the entire year. You are welcome to explore it, discover some of the oldest redwoods growing in the United Kingdom, and see a selection of rare and endangered trees from around the world starting to grow along with tranquil British woodland and wildflower meadows that are awash in colour.

7. Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Square has one of the best views. The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings, such as the medieval University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the famous Bodleian Library, and the All Souls College, which was built in the 15th century. Radcliffe Camera, the round library in the middle of the square, is one of the most interesting buildings in the city.

You can’t go to Oxford and not see the Rad Cam, which is one of the most famous and possibly most photographed buildings in the city.

Radcliffe Camera in Oxfordshire
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Radcliffe Camera

It was built in the 1700s and may be one of the oldest round libraries in England. I have to see the Rad Cam every time I go to Oxford. It has a certain something. I guess it would be like going to London to see Big Ben or Paris to see the Eiffel Tower.

Now, the only natural way to get into the Rad Cam is to go on one of the great tours of the Bodleian library and other important places nearby.

8. Broughton Castle

Lord and Lady Saye and Sele and their children live in Broughton Castle with their family. Sir John de Broughton built the first medieval manor house around 1300, and much of it still stands today.

Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Broughton Castle
David Stowell, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It is on an island with a three-acre moat around it. Between 1550 and 1600, the castle got a lot bigger. At that time, it got beautiful plaster ceilings, beautiful panelling, and fine fireplaces.

William, the 8th Lord Saye, and Sele were very important to the country in the 1600s. He was against Charles I’s plans to rule without Parliament, and Broughton became a place where people who didn’t like the King could meet in secret. During the Civil War, William put together a regiment. He and his four sons fought at the Battle of Edgehill. The Castle was besieged and taken over after the battle.

In the Great Hall, there are weapons and armour from the Civil War and other times. People can also see the gatehouse, gardens, and park, as well as the nearby parish church of St. Mary, which was built in the 14th century and has many family tombs, memorials, and hatchments.

9. Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is the most famous and grandest college in Oxford. It was the model for Hogwarts, and it is also where Oxford’s cathedral is located.

Christ Church Cathedral Oxford
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Christ Church Cathedral College
Dmitry Djouce, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You might ask, “Why should I go?” Christ Church college in Oxford is a must-see if you are a huge Harry Potter fan (and really, who isn’t?) and love gothic architecture. If the beautiful buildings don’t get you, the history of Christ Church should, especially if you like politics, philosophy, science, or literature.

The list of graduates reads like a who’s who of famous world leaders, writers, and thinkers. Most of all, it’s interesting to look into the link between Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter.

Christ Church College has a lot more to offer than just Harry Potter, so stop by the Tom Tower, which is the main entrance, and listen to Great Tom ring 101 times every night at 9:05 pm. This means that the first 101 students who were accepted to the college used Oxford Time, which is 5 minutes behind the time that is now used, which is GMT. So, 5 minutes after 9 o’clock.

Oh, and it’s also the loudest bell in all of Oxford, so it’s hard to miss.

Don’t forget to go to the Great Hall to see the hidden door the dean used when he was late for dinner, which gave Lewis Carroll the idea for the rabbit hole, the long-necked firedogs, and the portrait of Henry VIII (which inspired the Queen of Hearts).

10. Aston Martin Museum

We also have a museum about Aston Martin cars. Can I say that the Aston Martin Museum is THE place for people who love the brand and want to learn more about it? They are the only museum that is all about Aston Martin.

They usually have 6-7 cars on display and a permanent exhibition of racing trophies and memorabilia, including Stirling Moss’s racing overalls and helmet, information about the history of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd, and cutaway engines to satisfy the curiosity of engineers of all ages.

I’m not sure how I feel about their quiz for kids, but I do know that it gets kids more interested in the museum.

The Aston Martin Museum also has a small gift shop with a variety of Aston Martin-related gifts, such as branded items from Aston Martin and 007/Bond in Motion, model cars, t-shirts, baseball caps, and more. There’s something for everyone, no matter how much money they have.

11. Uffington castle and White horse hill

You may also want to go to Uffington Castle, an Iron Age hillfort at the top of Whitehorse Hill. It is a large enclosure that is about 220 meters long and 160 meters wide. It is surrounded by a chalk-stone bank or inner rampart that is approximately 12 meters wide and 2.5 meters high, and it used to be lined with sarsen (sandstone) stones.

A grass-filled ditch about 3 meters deep and a second, smaller bank make up the outer rampart of Uffington Castle. From the west, you can get to the site by crossing a causeway between the ends of the inner wall that stick out. A gate would have closed this off.

Uffington castle and White horse hill
Best Things to Do in Oxfordshire: Visit the Uffington castle and White horse hill

Postholes and pits found during archaeological digs show that structures were built inside the enclosure while the hillfort was being used. At the very same time, nearby burial chambers have turned up pottery and coins.

The striking chalk-cut figure of a horse is 170 meters northeast of the hillfort and can be seen from several miles away.

From the tip of its tail to its ear, the White Horse is 111 meters long. It dates back to the later Bronze Age or Iron Age, between 1740 and 210 BC. It may have been a boundary marker or a sign of fertility, but no one knows for sure.

From at least 1677 until the late 18th century, a “scouring festival” was held every seven years at midsummer. During this time, people started cleaning the chalk outline of the horse and had a feast inside the hillfort.

Over time, the shape of the horse has changed. The current shape may only be a small part of the original aerial photo, which shows that a larger, more typical horse shape lies below. The shape has changed because the topsoil has shifted and been cut over and over again. At the moment, the head has a big “eye” and a “beak” that looks like a tusk.

Local legend says that the horse has something to do with St. George and the dragon. This is why the nearby hill is called Dragon Hill. This is a round hill that is approximately 10 meters high and has a flat top. It is likely that glaciers wore away the top of the hill, making it round.

Best things to do in Oxfordshire
Best things to do in Oxfordshire

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Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas and travel guides for travellers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

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