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20 Must-Visit Attractions in Oxford

Radcliffe Camera | © Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr
Radcliffe Camera | © Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr
Picture of Sarah Dawson
Updated: 25 August 2017
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From the glorious architecture to its fascinating history, Oxford is jam-packed with fantastic things to see and do. Planning a trip to the ‘city of dreaming spires’, but have no idea where to start? We’ve whittled it down to 20 of the very best attractions you really don’t want to miss.

Bodleian Library

Library, University
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Interior of Bodleian Library
Interior of Bodleian Library | © JJFarq/Shutterstock
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The main research library of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and without a doubt one of the most beautiful. Sat proudly in Radcliffe Square, it’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
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Sun:
12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Mon:
9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Tue:
9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Wed:
9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Thu:
9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri:
9:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 4:00 pm

University of Oxford Botanic Garden

Botanical Garden, University
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Oxford Botanic Gardens
Oxford Botanic Gardens | © Tejvan Pettinger/Flickr
Founded in 1621, the Botanic Garden is a haven of tranquillity in the heart of the city centre. Beautiful herbaceous borders, vibrant glasshouses packed with incredible plants from around the world and colourful flowers make this celebration of nature a must-see.
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Sun:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Mon:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Tue:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wed:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Thu:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Fri:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sat:
9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Oxford Castle Unlocked

Step back in time with a unique guided tour around Oxford’s historic castle. Costumed characters reveal the interesting history behind the building, plus you have the chance to climb the Saxon St George’s Tower for a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of the city, as well as explore the ancient crypt and prison.

Oxford Castle Unlocked, 44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford, UK, +44 1865 260666

Oxford Castle | © ExFlow/Shutterstock

Oxford Castle | © ExFlow/Shutterstock

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Museum, University
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Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Oxford University Museum of Natural History | © Lyudmila Voronova/Shutterstock
Inside this striking neo-Gothic building you’ll find the University’s captivating collections of geological and zoological specimens. There’s plenty here to keep all the family hooked, with highlights including the most complete remains of a Dodo in the world, and awe-inspiring dinosaur skeletons.
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Sun:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mon:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Pitt Rivers Museum

Museum
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Interior of Pitt Rivers Museum
Interior of Pitt Rivers Museum | © Geni/WikiCommons
This quirky museum is a real feast for the eyes, with over half a million objects and artefacts from around the world displayed in rows and rows of glass cabinets, on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. From Japanese Noh masks and Hawaiian feather cloaks to gruesome shrunken heads, there is so much to discover here you’ll want to keep coming back to uncover more.
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Sun:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Mon:
12:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 4:30 pm

Radcliffe Camera

Library
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Radcliffe Square
Radcliffe Square | © Lies Thru a Lens/WikiCommons
No trip to Oxford would be complete without taking in the grand architecture of the Radliffe Camera. Dominating the city’s skyline for centuries, the ‘Rad Cam’ was originally built to house the University’s Radcliffe Science Library and now serves as a reading room for the Bodleian Library.
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University Church of St Mary the Virgin

Church
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The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford
The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford | © David Iliff/WikiCommons
With its distinctive decorated spire and beautiful architecture, St Mary’s is one of Oxford’s most-loved buildings. A church has stood on that site since Anglo-Saxon times and was adopted as the first university building in the very early days of Oxford University. Take a trip up to the top of the 13th-century tower for unbeatable views across the heart of the city.
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Ashmolean Museum

Museum
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Museum exterior
Museum exterior | © Ashmolean Museum
For a fantastic, free day out, head to the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. Here you can explore half a million years of art and archaeology spread out of five fascinating floors. With everything from Egyptian mummies to Uccello’s masterpiece, The Hunt in the Forest, you won’t run out of things to see!
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Sun:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mon:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

University Parks

Park, Sports Center
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University Parks, Oxford
University Parks, Oxford | © Ed Webster/Flickr
Spread out of 70 acres, University Parks is a green oasis right in the heart of the city. With a great choice of walks, a stunning collection of trees and plants and plenty of open-space, it’s the perfect spot for enjoying a relaxed picnic and watching the world go by. Chances are you’ll be able to catch a game of cricket, lacrosse, football or even Quidditch – yep, you read that right!
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Modern Art Oxford

Art Gallery
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Barbara Kruger, Modern Art Oxford
Barbara Kruger, Modern Art Oxford | © Jun/Flickr
Established in 1965, Modern Art Oxford is the place to go for cutting-edge exhibitions of the very best international contemporary art. With an aim to make modern art accessible and engaging to all, it’s a breath of fresh air among the other more historic buildings and museums in the city.
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Sun:
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Port Meadow

Park
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The Thames on Port Meadow
The Thames on Port Meadow | © Flickr
You wouldn’t expect to find a large stretch of ancient open meadow land in the city, but that’s precisely the charm of this tranquil slice of Oxford countryside. Take a walk through the wildflowers, past grazing horses and cattle, before stopping for a pint at the ever-popular 17th-century pub, The Perch.
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The Covered Market

Market, Shopping Mall
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The Covered Market, Oxford
The Covered Market, Oxford | © CBCK/Shutterstock
Opened to the public in 1774, the Covered Market has been a hub of Oxford life ever since. Inside this striking building, you’ll find a fantastic mix of permanent stalls and shops selling all kinds of things. From fresh fruit and veg to jewellery, it’s all here. Take a wander around and soak up the lively atmosphere of this world-famous market.
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Sun:
11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mon:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge
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Officially named Hertford Bridge, but more commonly referred to as the Bridge of Sighs, this decorative skyway joins two parts of Hertford College, over New College Lane. It picked up its nickname due to the supposed similarity to the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, and is now a much-loved Oxford landmark and the site of many a selfie.
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Christ Church

Cathedral, Church, University
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Christ Church
Christ Church | © Moomusician/Shutterstock
Arguably the most well-known of the colleges that make up Oxford University, Christ Church sits at the very heart of the city. Explore its rich history as you walk through Tom’s Quad, the Hall (which inspired Hogwart’s Great Hall in the Harry Potter films), the majestic cathedral and picturesque meadow.
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Sun:
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Mon:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Tue:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Wed:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Thu:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Fri:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat:
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Punting on the River Cherwell

You can’t visit Oxford without giving punting a try. Hire a boat from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, pack a picnic and go for a punt down the scenic River Cherwell. It’s a quintessentially Oxford, timeless way to spend an afternoon – especially when the sun is shining!

Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, Magdalen Bridge, Oxford, UK, +44 1865 202643

Punting on the River Cherwell | © Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock

Punting on the River Cherwell | © Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock

The Sheldonian Theatre

Building, Theatre
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The Sheldonian Theatre
The Sheldonian Theatre | © Greir/Shutterstock
This breath-taking Grade I listed building, the first major design by world-famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, is where it all happens for Oxford University students. Inside these hallowed walls students are admitted to the university and receive their degree. The theatre also regularly holds classical music concerts, so treat yourself to tickets to really experience the grandeur of the place for yourself.
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Blackwell’s Bookshop

Bookstore
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Wondering why a bookshop is on this list? Blackwell’s isn’t your typical bookshop! An integral part of University life, Blackwell’s is the biggest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK, stocking hundreds of thousands of titles. The famous Norrington Room boasts a whopping three miles (5km) of shelving, earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single room selling books.
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Sun:
11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mon:
9:00 am - 6:30 pm
Tue:
9:30 am - 6:30 pm
Wed:
9:00 am - 6:30 pm
Thu:
9:00 am - 6:30 pm
Fri:
9:00 am - 6:30 pm
Sat:
9:00 am - 6:30 pm

University of Oxford Merton College Chapel

University
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Merton College Chapel
Merton College Chapel | © Michael D Beckwith/Flickr
There’s something very atmospheric about this beautiful 13th-century chapel. From the gorgeous Gothic exterior and enormous east window, to the absolutely magnificent organ – built in 2013 by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders and transported all the way from Iowa, America – the church is a visual delight.
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