10 Reasons You Should Visit Oxford at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Oxford Light in November
Oxford Light in November | © Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr
Sarah Dawson

Home to one of the most famous universities in the world, Oxford is a city steeped in history and alive with culture. Behind the elegant architecture of the honey-coloured college buildings lies a buzzing city with so much to offer. Here are just 10 reasons why you need to add the City of Dreaming Spires to your must-visit list…

Because everyone needs to trying punting

For the ultimate Oxford experience, take to the water and cruise down the river in a punt. It’s been an Oxbridge tradition since before the 1880s, so hire a punt, pack the essentials (strawberries and Champagne), head out on the river and pretend you’re the lead in a classic English rom-com.

Christ Church Meadow Walk

It’s a book-lover’s paradise

Blackwell’s bookshop has to be seen to be believed. It’s the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK and home to the famed Norrington Room, featuring over three miles of book shelf space — the perfect place to get that hit of ‘real books’ smell. Oxford also has a rich literary history, from The Inklings (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and co.) propping up the bar at The Eagle and Child pub to Thomas Hardy using the city as inspiration for the setting for Jude the Obscure, and Lewis Carroll writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, right here.

Blackwell of Oxford

They know how to make a good cocktail

Oxonians appreciate the finer things in life, something backed up by the wealth of incredible cocktail bars in the city. For a seriously top-class cocktail experience, head to Raoul’s Bar, where you’ll be blown away by the creative cocktail menu and intimate surroundings. The Duke of Cambridge has been a stalwart on the Oxford bar scene since 1981, and is the place to go for delicious cocktails served by friendly staff. Cheers!

Have we mentioned the buildings…?

The architecture here is gobsmackingly beautiful. From the golden, stately university buildings to the atmospheric 13th-century pubs, wander through the cobbled streets of Oxford and let the beauty of the city sweep you away.

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford

Academia rules, OK

Oxford is a city with learning at its very heart; from the sight of students cycling past on their way to lectures or chilling out by the banks of the river, to the many illustrious college buildings that fill the landscape, the University and its legacy is everywhere. Each college has its own unique character, and with most open to visitors at certain times it’s well worth a look to see what lies inside these mysterious buildings.

Nuffield College in Oxford

You can catch a film in style

Forget your multiplexes, if you want a cinematic experience you won’t forget check out Grand II listed The Ultimate Picture Palace on Cowley Road. Here you can watch recent releases from around the world, as well as old classics, in a beautiful Art Deco auditorium. There’s even a small bar at the back of the cinema, so you can enjoy a glass of wine while you watch the film. Sounds pretty good, right?

The Ultimate Picture Palace

May Day celebrations are legendary

May Morning, celebrated on the 1st May each year, is an Oxford institution. This traditional celebration of the coming of spring kicks off at 6am, with the Magdalen College choir singing Hymnus Eucharisticus from the Great Tower. Soak up the atmosphere as the bells ring out across the city for 20 minutes, then immerse yourself in the fun that follows, with Morris Men dancing and live music.

May Morning in Oxford

It might look familiar…

Harry Potter fans should make the pilgrimage to the Great Hall inside Christ Church College, which was the inspiration for the Great Hall at Hogwarts in the films. The College, as well as the Bodleian Library, Duke Humphrey’s Library and New College were all used as locations in the Harry Potter films, and there are plenty of walking trails or tours you can follow to see for yourself.

The Great Hall, Christ Church

The museums are incredible

There is a museum here for everything, almost. Whether you’re after an art fix – try the Museum of Modern Art – or want to come face to face with a dodo – that will be the Oxford Museum of Natural History – you’ll find it in this incredible city. Even if you think you’re not a museum kind of person, you really should check out Pitt River Museum, home to half a million objects from all over the world crammed into glass cabinets and filling any viable space on the walls and ceiling. Expect the weirdest and most wonderful collection of knick-knacks and oddities imaginable!

Interior of Pitt Rivers Museum

And the scenery is pretty special too

Step off the High Street into Britain’s oldest botanic garden and you’ll instantly be transported from city centre to an oasis of calm. This 17th-century stone-walled garden is a beautiful place to get away from it all, but if you’re after something a little less formal head to picturesque Port Meadow, the largest area of common land in Oxford. This beautiful open pasture features stretches of pretty meadowland teaming with wildlife.

Port Meadow Winter

Find places to stay with our partner, Hotels.com

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,100 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article