Heading to Oxford?
These Oxford travel tips and suggestions for the best things to do there are the perfect way to make sure that you’ve got the real scoop on what it’s like to visit Oxford and how to make sure your trip is a success, whether you’re spending one day in Oxford or a few days or more.
From transportation to attractions to general need-to-knows, enjoy these travel tips for Oxford from someone who loves visiting this great English city!
- 1. You don’t need a car
- 2. Make time for the Harry Potter walks
- 3. Find the Sheldonian Heads
- 4. Avoid the Summer months if possible
- 5. Use the public transportation connections to London
- 6. Eat in the Covered Market
- 7. Understand the difference between Oxford University and Oxford Colleges
- 8. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help
- 9. Go punting
- 10. Save money by eating picnics in the parks
1. You don’t need a car
Oxford is one of the most walkable cities in the UK, and you don’t need a car and shouldn’t bring one to Oxford (unless you just happen to be on a road trip there, in which case park it somewhere and then walk!)
Once in the city, walking and using public transportation like the buses if necessary is far easier than driving and will make sure that you truly make the most of your time.
2. Make time for the Harry Potter walks
Most people associate London with being the filming location for Harry Potter, and indeed the studio work was done there.
However, much of the exterior sets and on-location shots for Harry Potter were actually filmed in and around Oxford.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, make room in your schedule for a Harry Potter walk in Oxford to see famous filming locations.
3. Find the Sheldonian Heads
One of the most unique things to do in Oxford is to find the Sheldonian Heads (there are 6 in total). These funny head statues have a long history in Oxford, and you can find them on a stretch of road that ends with the Museum of the History of Science (where you’ll find two).
Challenge your travel companions to walk down the street and see who can find them all first.
4. Avoid the Summer months if possible
While summer is arguably the best weather time in the UK, it’s the worst time to visit Oxford if you want to avoid crowds.
Oxford itself isn’t huge, and what happens in the summer is that visiting students from around the world as well as plenty of tourists descend upon the city and cause what can only be described as a little bit of chaos.
If you have flexibility in your schedule, visit Oxford in the “shoulder season,” which is April, May, September, and October for fewer visitors to compete with.
5. Use the public transportation connections to London
Oxford is a very well-connected city, but one of its closest connections is to London.
Whether you’re coming from London to Oxford or you want to take a day trip to London while staying in Oxford, you can either take the train from Oxford Station into Marylebone Station in London, or you can hop on the Oxford Tube, which is actually a quick service bus!
Bus tickets are cheaper with more stops throughout Oxford, but whichever way you travel, take advantage of that easy link to another beautiful and iconic English city.
6. Eat in the Covered Market
There are so many restaurants in Oxford to choose from, but one of the best places to eat is actually in what is known as the Covered Market.
The “Covered” part is excellent for if you get caught in the rain, but there are also plenty of cafes and food options here to choose from, making it an excellent place for lunch.
If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, you can’t go wrong with Moo’s Milkshakes (the flavor options are out of this world).
7. Understand the difference between Oxford University and Oxford Colleges
Often, you may see signs for different “colleges” in Oxford, like Christ Church College or Brasenose College.
If you’re not familiar with the UK educational system and the Oxford University system in particular, this can be confusing.
Are these random “colleges” or small educational institutions? Where exactly is Oxford University?
Oxford University is actually a combination of 44 colleges spread throughout the city. So a student will be attending “Oxford Uni,” but they will actually apply to one of the specific colleges within the university to live and study at.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help
Oxford residents are typically very friendly and welcoming and more than happy to help point you in the right direction or tell you more about what they love about Oxford.
As long as you don’t interrupt a person holding a briefcase who seems to be flying down the street late for a meeting, you should interact with and get to know the local students and residents who call this gorgeous city home. They won’t bite!
One of the best places to meet the locals, of course, is in a pub!
9. Go punting
Punting means different things to different people depending on the context, but in Oxford, if someone tells you to “go punting,” it means a type of boat ride that happens on a river.
The boat itself is called a “punt,” and you can have someone else steer it for you or you can try it with friends.
Go punting from the Magdalen Boathouse in the summer months to take in Oxford from an entirely different perspective and take part in one of the most popular local pastimes when the weather is warm.
10. Save money by eating picnics in the parks
Oxford is an incredibly green city with plenty of parks, and one of the best ways to save money while you’re in Oxford if you’re on a bit of a budget is to eat lunch (and dinner in the warmer, lighter months) in the parks.
Simply stop by any food shop like Sainsbury’s and grab yourself a “meal deal,” which typically includes a sandwich, crisps, and a drink, and take it to somewhere like Oxford University Parks to sit on a bench and eat while you watch the world go by.
You’ll save a ton of money, get some Vitamin D, and get to appreciate what Mother Nature has to offer in Oxford!
Kalyn runs Girl Gone London