What to See and Do in Oxford, England

blenheim palace oxford

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Oxford and as soon as I arrived my immediate reaction was, ‘why haven’t I been here before?

Oxford is one of those beautiful cities I knew I’d visit ‘one day‘ but it took me far too long to make ‘one day‘ a reality. I knew all about the stunning architecture, Oxford University, the Harry Potter filming spots and the old-fashioned streets that make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, so I knew Oxford would be a city I’d love.

But like many places in the UK, I hadn’t visited because I knew Oxford would always be there, just a couple of hours away and therefore not a priority. If you’re anything like me, I highly recommend making a weekend trip to Oxford a priority because this gorgeous city lived up to every high expectation I had! In fact, Oxford exceeded my expectations because the city was also much more modern and stylish than I’d thought. There are loads of great places to eat and drink, the nightlife is amazing, the shopping is brilliant and there’s a young, enthusiastic energy to the city.

Not only that but Oxford also has this geeky vibe that I absolutely loved. If you’re someone who could happily spend a day mooching around second hand bookshops, digging around the shelves searching for forgotten gems and then finding a quiet spot next to the river to read your new books (with a good coffee and a cake of course!) then Oxford is the city for you.

How to get to Oxford

Train — I caught the train to Oxford and found it to be a really simple journey. Oxford station is well connected and when you arrive there will be buses and taxis waiting outside to get you to your hotel.

Car — If there are two or more people travelling to Oxford then you’ll probably find that it’s easier and cheaper to drive — but check with your accommodation if there will be anywhere to park! Oxford is a very expensive city to park in and not all hotels will have parking available. Not big on driving yourself around while on vacation? Consider hiring a chauffeur service. If you’re coming from the United States this might not be an obvious choice — chauffeurs aren’t a big thing in the U.S. But in England, do as the English do. Here, airport transfers by chauffeurs is a very common thing. Why fight traffic and parking when you can have a professional driver do it for you? Like many of the chauffeur services Cars Exec offers Oxford airport transfers, as well as rides to and from just about every United Kingdom airport, at reasonable rates. Rates low enough that their services are very competitive with traditional taxi services.

Bus — The most affordable way to get to Oxford is via coach or bus. Check out Mega Bus for seriously cheap fares!

Where to stay in Oxford

I highly recommend the Jurys Inn Oxford Hotel and Conference Venue. It’s a four star hotel just outside the city centre. There’s a bus stop just outside so it’s easy to get in and out of the city (without the hassle and expense of trying to park!)

The hotel had a £13m refurb in 2017 and it shows. It’s modern, cosy and spacious with 240 stylish bedrooms. This was my sixth stay at a Jurys Inn hotel and, as always, it was perfect. I always find their hotels to be easy. The beds are so comfy, the rooms are lovely and have everything you need, the staff are so nice and the breakfasts are amazing! Jurys Inn have these beds called DREAM beds and, oh my goodness, they’re amazing! They should seriously sell these beds in the hotel shop! I was also lucky enough to have an executive room so my room was slightly bigger and had a coffee machine!

You’ll probably be spending most of your time in Oxford exploring the city centre but if you need a quiet evening then the hotel has a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill and there’s Coopers Bar for informal meals throughout the day. There’s also a Costa Coffee in the lobby and if you have an executive room then you’ll have lots of vouchers to use at Costa! You’ll find plenty of other Oxford tips and destination ideas at oxfordcity.co.uk.

Things to do during your Oxford visit

If this is your first trip to Oxford then here are some suggested things to do in Oxford. These were my favourite things and I mostly discovered them through recommendations from readers.

oxford botanic garden

Relax in Oxford Botanic Garden

The gardens are a perfect place to relax when your legs start to get tired. There’s a riverside cafe within the gardens where you can watch people punting along the river. The greenhouses were my favourite part of the gardens as it’s like stepping into different worlds!

Visit Blenheim Palace

Finally, if you’ve got half a day spare then I’d definitely squeeze in a trip to Blenheim Palace. This was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. It’s a World Heritage Site boasting and there are over 2000 acres of landscaped parkland and formal gardens too!

Oxford Free Walking Tour

This was the second most recommended thing to do in Oxford. At least 20 people recommended doing the free walking tour which is a 2-hour tour led by the city’s students. Of course, it’s not really free as you are expected to tip your knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide!

The tour is a great introduction to the city and will take you to some of the most beautiful colleges and interesting spots. I also find that starting your trip with a guided tour is great as you can chat to your guide and get their recommendations for places to eat and drink too.

Visit Oxford’s Covered Market

This was definitely the most recommended thing to do in Oxford! Everyone told me about the Covered Market!

It’s a lovely, quaint market (that’s covered, would you believe!) and it’s filled with over 50 local stores selling crafts and foodie treats. I recommend stopping at Ben’s Cookies while you’re in the market for the most delicious, cakey cookies!

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