Things to do in Oxford – My Top 10!

June 2, 2015

Amy Trumpeter

I recently spent a year in Oxford, England, teaching and exploring the city. I love Oxford because it shows British culture and heritage at its finest. Oxford University is one of the top Universities in the world, ranking number 3 according to Times Higher Education.

The great thing about spending more than just a week in a city is that you get to see all the best bits, and then find out about the cool, quirky stuff as well! Here’s my list of the Top 10 things to do in Oxford….

Top 10 Things to Do in Oxford

1. Explore Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is the only non-Royal UK Palace. It is spectacular inside and out, and the view across the Queen Pool has been described as the finest in England. Make sure that you allow at least an hour and a half to explore inside the palace and a further 2 hours to see the grounds.

Blenheim Palace Queen Pool
The view of the Queen Pool, Blenheim Palace, Oxford. Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

2. Go inside Oxford Castle

Oxford Castle is a Medieval Castle in the heart of Oxford near Westgate Shopping centre. It was actually used as a Prison until 1996. Walk up the steps to explore the tower and have an amazing view of Oxford from the top. Time it so that you get a guide on entrance (this comes included in the price). He or she will tell you some interesting (and gruesome) stories about the prisoners.

3. Have a Peach Bellini on the Rooftop of the Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum provides a great day out, particularly if you love art and archeology. I had a fantastic day at the museum, and timed it so that I could see the Tutankhamun Exhibition. Sadly, this exhibition has now finished, but there are many exhibitions on all the time, so check out the Ashmolean Museum Website if you would like to see something special.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

Many people don’t realise that the rooftop garden will provide you with a scrumptious afternoon tea (or peach bellini – my drink of choice!) and a spectacular view of the Oxford Spires.

Ashmolean Museum
Peach Bellini and Gin and Tonic on the roof of the Ashmolean Museum.
Photo Credit: Valerie Fierens

4. Book a table for Board Games at Thirsty Meeples

If you like a bit of geek chic, you’ve got to visit Thirsty Meeples! Thirsty Meeples is a board game cafe situated on Gloucester Square (near the big Odeon and STA travel). Basically, you book a table, order yourself a milkshake, tea or something stronger (they are now licensed!) and choose from over 1000 board games to play with your buddies.

Not sure which to choose? No worries, a game guru will come over to help you out and make recommendations based on your theme of choice.

Thirsty Meeples
A selection of board games at Thirsty Meeples, Gloucester Square, Oxford
Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

5. See where Harry Potter was Filmed

Oxford is a haven for any Harry Potter fan, with many University Buildings being used as film sets. The Bodleian Library was used as the infirmary in four Harry Potter films.

Christ Church includes the tower and staircase used as a set for the Philosophers stone and Chamber of Secrets, and the Dining Hall in Christ Church College was the inspiration behind the Grand Hall in Hogwarts. The Cloisters in New College were part of the set for The Goblet of Fire. For further information, see the visit Oxfordshire Harry Potter Guide.

6. Oxford Botanic Gardens

See over 5000 beautiful plant species at Oxford Botanic Gardens, including cacti, chilli peppers and carnivorous plants.

Botanic Gardens Featured
Oxford Botanic Garden Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

7. Eat in Thaikhun Thai restaurant

Thaikhun Restaurant on George St in Oxford is not just any Thai restaurant – it feels like you are actually walking into Bangkok! Have a selfie in the tuc-tuc, decipher the Thai wall signs and eat the amazing food. Choose from a selection of curries, noodles and street food.

Thaikhun Restaurant
The tuc-tuc in Thaikhun restaurant on George Street. Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

Check out the Reviews for Thaikhun on TripAdvisor.

8. Explore the Covered Market

The Oxford Covered Market is a free and easy way to explore British culture. There are over 50 independent shops.

9.The Natural History and Pitt Rivers Museums

Both these museums are walkable from the City Centre and free to get in. You can make a donation if you can afford to and if you wish. The Natural History Museum contains life and earth collections for you budding zoologists and geologists.

The Pitt Rivers museum is home to fantastic archeological and anthropological discoveries of the ancient world.  It contains the collections of the University, including an ancient Egyptian collection and South Asian collection (my favourites!).

Things to do in Oxford
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.
Photo Credit: Amy Trumpeter

10. A Night out at Purple Turtle

Let’s finish this with a crazy night out on the town! I recommend Purple Turtle (off Cornmarket Street) on the rock/indie night. It’s a little studenty, but has a fantastic ‘grungy basement’ feel to it and has a great atmosphere. Make sure that you take ID – most bars in Oxford ask for a passport or drivers license on the door.

If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay, book into the Oxford Backpackers Hostel.

I’d love to hear how you get on in Oxford. What did you get up to? Did you take me up on any of my recommendations? Please comment below!

You can also read about the Top Oxford Attractions on TripAdvisor and Top 10 Itinerary Experiences in Oxford.