The Best Oxford Events: Season by Season
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Wondering if there are any annual events in Oxford? Our guide to the best Oxford events will help you plan your year.
Never miss a beat with this handy guide to what’s on in Oxford season by season. We’ve sifted through an entire year of Oxford events so you don’t have to and found the best ones that you need to mark on your calendar.
From morris dancing, flower shows and bonfire night to food festivals, there’s plenty to do year-round in Oxford. Here’s our guide to Oxford’s best annual events.
Unmissable Events in Oxford: Season by Season
Fun Oxford Events in Spring
Oxford Literary Festival
It’s no secret that Oxford is home to some of the literary greats – Lewis Carroll and J.R.R Tolkein are just two big names. That’s why the Oxford Literary Festival, usually held in March, is so special.
The event takes place across seven to 10 days and it’s packed with workshops and talks from literary luminaries all with insightful knowledge and interesting topics to get stuck into.
The epicentre of the festival is a collection of marquees at Christ Church College and the Sheldonian is also a host.
Folk Weekend Festival
Folk Weekend in Oxford is a community-based folk festival gaining traction since 2013. This fast-growing festival showcases a packed weekend of folk music, ceilidhs, dance, workshops and insightful talks.
Mostly run by volunteers, it’s one of the best community-led Oxford events that supports local musicians. Held in various venues across the city, it’s not just about the music at Folk Weekend, there’s also morris dancing, choirs, workshops and social dances.
Some events are free and others ask you to pay a little or pay more to suit your budget– we love how accessible this event is.
May Morning/May Day
May Day is a big deal in Oxford. Residents traditionally gather at 6am to hear a Latin hymn sung from the top of Magdalen Tower followed by breakfast.
The streets are lined with bagpipes, morris dancers and May Day revellers for a huge celebration that’s been an Oxford tradition for many years.
May Day is midday in North Parade (a short shopping street), filled with dancers and sessions in the Rose & Crown.
Fun Oxford Events in Summer
Blenheim Palace Flower Show
Blenheim Palace Flower Shower is an unmissable Oxford event. It’s the perfect place to discover your favourite plants in the stunning grounds of Blenheim Palace.
Whilst there, pick up an array of gardening goodies as well as beautiful flowers and gardening sundries.
The Blenheim Palace Flower Show has a delightful selection of food vendors serving everything from sandwiches, cheeses and pizzas– there’s lots of wines and gin to sample too.
Henley Royal Regatta
Oxford’s history of rowing runs deep, and so does its highlight event of the rowing calendar, the Henley Royal Regatta. This highly anticipated June event features crews from around the world going head to head at Henley-on-Thames.
The event spans six days of cheering teams on and riverside dining at one of the grounds restaurants. Dust off your Sunday’s best and get ready to place some bets on the boats, you might want to read up on the competitors first though so you don’t lose all your money.
Charlbury’s Riverside Festival has grown into Oxfordshire’s largest free festival and attracts visitors from beyond the picturesque spires. About 5000 festival goers attend every year over two days to celebrate local and bigger acts.
Located on Mill Field in Chalbury, overlooking the river, over 30 bands play across three stages playing rock, indie, folk and blues. There’s plenty of food, glorious food, at the Riverside Festival and two fully stocked bars.
The festival is run by volunteers, so although it’s free it really helps to keep eating and drinking lots of yummy snacks from the vendors.
Oxford Wine Festival
For the wine lovers! The Oxford Wine Festival takes place in early September, marking the end of summer. Gather at the Oxford Union with fabulous wines from over 40 leading merchants and vineyards and taste your way to the perfect bottle.
Chat to winemakers, discover your favourites and find out why you like them. As if the wine wasn’t good enough, there’s also live music, food and tastings from the world’s foremost wine educators.
St Giles’ Fair
The greatest and most prestigious fair in the country takes place in Oxford. St Giles’ Fair dates back to 1625 when it was a Parish Festival to celebrate the feast of the patron saint, St Giles.
The unique street festival sees the streets closed and lined with fairground rides, food vendors and games.
Ran by Oxford City Council, it’s the largest of its kind, and the streets are closed for two days. Visitors come from far and wide to experience this vibrant Oxford event and soak in the electric atmosphere.
Fun Oxford Events in Autumn
Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials
Strap in for four days of eventing action at Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. Dressage, cross country and showjumping all take place with the stunning Blenheim Palace as a backdrop.
Show Jumping also includes horses jumping over tractors and through arches – this is an Oxford event not to be missed.
At the horse trials, there’s plenty of on-site catering on hand throughout the event serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as on-the-go snacks so you needn’t worry about missing any of the action.
Thame Food Festival
Could there be anything better than a festival celebrating food and drink? No, we didn’t think so. Thame Food Festival’s big cookery stage will see demonstrations from some of the country’s leading chefs and bakers.
It’s not all about the demos though, of course there’ll be lots of food to eat. Expect street food stalls boasting everything from Asian dumplings, pizzas, Berlin-style doners and the gooeyest mac n cheese.
Shop at The Humble Country Shopping Marquee to give your kitchen the glow-up it deserves, listen to live music and get involved in the live dog show– well not literally.
Oxford Round Table Fireworks & Bonfire
Remember, remember… Oxford’s biggest firework display is the highlight of November and it’s all for charity. Oxford Round Table Fireworks & Bonfire takes place at South Park.
An enormous bonfire to commemorate the 5th of November can be spotted from miles away. You’ll also be able to ooh and ahh at the spectacular fireworks display with Catherine wheels and enormous rockets shooting into the sky.
Hebborns funfair is not just for the kids, whizz around on the bumper cars and head to the bar to toast Guy Fawkes night.
Fun Oxford Events in Winter
Oxford Christmas Light Festival
November – December
It’s time to get festive and pay Santa a visit at Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival, Oxford’s magical three-day event of culture, arts and community.
The weekend event includes sparkling light and sound installations, a festive market, music, dance and lots of free activities in venues across the city. The festival’s cultural partners host performances, exhibitions and workshops– most of which are free.
Grab yourself a mulled wine and pulled pork and apple sauce bun to enjoy the festivities at the unmissable Oxford Christmas event.
Turl Street Arts Festival
Turl Street Arts Festival is an annual event run by students from three Turl Street Colleges in Oxford. Lincoln, Exeter and Jesus come together for a week-long celebration of all kinds of performance arts.
Students and staff all get involved in this event and most performers are of a professional standard. Performances offer a wide range of arts from Greek theatre, 18th Century concerts, rock and jazz gigs to newly written theatre and film screenings.
You’ll experience it all at the Turl Street Arts Festival, but that’s what we love about this event.
Every year at the JdP music building, in the grounds of St Hilda’s, a spectacular music marathon takes place. The MASH Marathon features cutting-edge music from UK-based composers performing experimental, live electronic, contemporary, classical and instrumental music.
The evening-long event explores music as you’ve never heard it before and often verges on the brink of insanity, it’s not to be missed.
Practical Tips for Oxford Events
- Always check the event websites to see if the event is going ahead before making your journey. Dates vary each year so it’s worth double-checking well in advance.
- Some events require you to book tickets (even the free ones) so do this ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
- If events are volunteer-led and free, it would be helpful to make a purchase from food stalls to help with running costs if you can. Support small businesses!