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Best Things to do in Oxfordshire

Best Things to do in Oxfordshire

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Looking for things to do in Oxfordshire? We’ve got you covered with this insider’s guide to the idyllic region.

Bordered by 6 other counties, Oxfordshire boasts plenty of things to do. From exploring the historical treasures in Oxford and Blenheim Palace to retreating to a spa for a pamper weekend, these are the Oxfordshire attractions you don’t want to miss.

Things to do in Oxfordshire

Oxford

Oxford Aerial View

Where better to begin than by spending some time in Oxford?

The historic city, famed for its university and dreamy spires, is filled with so many things to do (you can check out some of our favourites here). Not to mention the incredible food and traditional pubs… Oxford really has got something for everyone.

From wandering around the impressive Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera to scoping out plants in the Botanic Gardens and visiting iconic college buildings, you would ideally need to spend a good weekend in the city to even cover the basics. 

Queen's College
Shutterstock

If you’re only in Oxford for a day, don’t stress. We’ve got the perfect 24 hour itinerary for you.

We also love this guided tour of the university and the city – being led around by a local guide really is one of the best ways to explore somewhere new.

Chilterns

A.k.a The Chiltern Hills, one of the best places to go in Oxfordshire are the idyllic hills on the outskirts of the county. The entire area is filled with beautiful market towns such as England’s smallest, Watlington. There are so many places to explore. 

Sitting halfway between Oxford and London, this area of outstanding natural beauty is ideally located and provides a perfect escape from the busy city. Agriculture and industry still rule heavily here, so the area is filled with working farms that play a huge role in UK industries. 

Of course, no matter where you decide to visit, you’re never too far from a classic British pub – think roaring fires and perfectly-poured pints. Bliss.

Blenheim Palace

Looking for things to do near Oxford? You need to visit the beautiful Blenheim Palace

With over 300 years of history (including the birth of Winston Churchill), this palace is a stunning World Heritage site with plenty of grounds to explore. 

By plenty, we mean there is over 2000 acres to wander around – pretty grassy areas and an immaculate formal garden await. 

Head inside and be wowed by the Palace State Rooms: gilded rooms with floor to ceiling tapestries. Delve deeper into the history that shaped the palace.

This Blenheim Palace guided tour includes a visit to the palace itself, as well as some other quintessentially British locations. There’s even a Downton Abbey spin on the tour, though you won’t need to be an expert on the popular tv series to have a great time.

The Cotswolds

Rolling hills, pretty meadows, and babbling streams; it’s safe to say that you’re going to want to visit The Cotswolds. This dreamy area is filled with wonderful walks, quaint villages, and traditional pubs worth making a pit stop at. 

Whilst The Cotswolds actually span around 800 square miles – crossing counties like Warwickshire and Gloucestershire – visiting Oxford’s portion is one of our favourite things to do.

We recommend taking a guided tour to make things a little bit easier – save yourself running around like a headless chicken. This half day tour will give you a brief overview of this gorgeous region, or if you want to delve a little bit deeper, a full day tour is a great shout. This one even includes some visits to quirky little cafes and local shops.

Bicester Village

Shopaholics will adore this Oxfordshire attraction. Bicester Village (FYI, it’s pronounced Bista) is a designer shopping outlet where you’ll definitely be able to snag a bargain or two.

Bursting with high end stores including Mulberry, YSL, and Balenciaga, the outlet is designed to look a little bit like utopia – uniform pastel buildings are fronted by white windows and plenty of potted plants.

A word of warning: it can get very busy here as lots of tourists visit in the afternoon. Get there early and head straight to the Farmshop restaurant for a delicious brunch to fuel you up for a shopping session. And to make dropping some serious cash a little bit easier.

Abingdon

Abingdon
River Thames approaching Abingdon Bridge going downstream by Peter Facey, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Abingdon is a sleepy little market town in Oxfordshire, and one of the top places to explore. 

With a long and rocky history, including Roman occupation and a key role in the agriculture industry during Medieval times, this town has plenty of historical things to see and do. Not to mention it’s absolutely flipping gorgeous. 

How to spend a day in Abingdon, we hear you ask? First of all, swing by Java for a Hungarian pastry-filled brunch before taking a stroll along the Thames Path.

Spend the afternoon soaking up the sun in Abbey Meadows park (finger’s crossed about the weather) or hide from the rain in the County Hall Museum (way more likely).

Woodstock

Next door to Blenheim Palace, Woodstock is another Oxfordshire market town – and we think this one might just be our favourite.

The town actually started off as a coach stop for the Royal Hunting Lodge, which would later become the site of Blenheim Palace. Today, Woodstock is a hidden nook waiting to be explored.

Characterful shops and pubs line the main streets – many garnished with leafy foliage – and whilst you can explore the town fully in around an hour, it’s worth taking your time and snapping some adorable pictures for the ‘gram.

Farmoor Reservoir

If exploring charming market towns is not really your thing, head to Farmoor Reservoir for a real adventure. Boasting three nature reserves in one, this reservoir is the perfect place to go fishing or take to the water on a sailboat. 

Farmoor also has three bird hides where you’ll have the chance to spot nature – bring the kids along for a fun family day out. Make sure to stop off at the Waterside Café for a snack with equally-delish views.

Spa Retreat

Voco Oxford Thames

Dreaming about a weekend of total relaxation? Whilst nabbing a membership at Soho Farmhouse might be near-impossible, there are plenty of alternatives in Oxfordshire that do the same job. 

We love VOCO Oxford Spires, a gorgeous hotel situated just outside the city centre of Oxford. Not only are the rooms bright, airy, and modern, but the spa is excellent and the pool is HUGE.

VOCO Spires

Another alternative is Bicester Hotel and Golf Club – nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside, away from the busy city. Send the hubby off golfing while you’re primped and pampered, followed by a soak in the jacuzzi.

Didcot Railway Museum

Spending a day at the Didcot Railway Museum certainly is one of the more unique things to do in Oxfordshire – even those who lack a love for locomotives will find this museum ridiculously fun.

Over 200 years of railway heritage is on display here. From replica trains and an air raid shelter to a museum filled with little trinkets relating to the British railways. Spend the day nerding out and leave with a hoard of train facts in your arsenal. 

If you’re really keen, opt for a railway experience day. It’s a little bit like playing dress up – you’ll get to adorn your overalls and play train driver with the help of an actual expert. 

National Trust – Watlington Hill

Watlington Hill
Steve Daniels / Looking along Watlington Hill

With so many beautiful Oxfordshire points of interests, we think it would be plain rude not to explore a National Trust site. Luckily, Watlington Hill is nearby and boasts incredible views of the surrounding areas.

Famed for an unusual white chalk mark that brandishes the mound (it was actually carved into the site in 1764), Watlington Hill is considered a Site of Special Scientific Interest, along with neighbouring Pyrton Hill. 

Spend an afternoon exploring the beautiful site – take the 1.5 mile short walk and you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of some of the most breathtaking wildlife (and views) in the UK.

Go Golfing

Oxford Golf Course

If you’re a keen golfer, Oxfordshire is home to some of the best courses in the UK. We’re not just saying that… check them out for yourself.

Undoubtedly, the best golf course in the area can be found at the Oxfordshire Golf Hotel and Spa –  it’s also fairly reasonable, with a seven day membership costing £745. Or you can book just an afternoon slot on the website.

We also love Hinksey Heights Golf Club. Playing a round whilst overlooking Oxford? Can’t be beaten, in our opinion. 

Minster Lovell

Made up of three areas: Old Minster, Little Minster, and New Minster, and with a population of less than 2k, Minster Lovell is a picturesque town in Oxfordshire filled with chocolate-box cottages.

Honestly, we think you should visit for the endless Instagram possibilities alone, though the area’s interesting history and the Minster Lovell Hall ruins are other big pulls.

The hall was actually built during the 1430s by the Baron of Lovell and Holand (he was rich AF). After housing Francis, Viscount Lovell, among others, the hall was eventually demolished – but the remains are pretty impressive.

Uffington White Horse

Travelling to see a white horse etched into the landscape might seem totally unreasonable, but this very horse dates all the way back to the bronze age. And we think that’s rather impressive.

The horse is formed from white chalk that was laid in trenches, and you’ll get the best view (and photo) when standing directly across from the Vale. 

Oxfordshire is filled with weird little gems like this one, but the Uffington White Horse tops the lot as the surrounding area is so peaceful. Pack a picnic, hike across the rugged landscape, and enjoy picturesque views.

Batsford Arboretum and Garden Centre

Oxford Botanic Gardens eat your heart out, Batsford Arboretum is not messing about. 

With a 56-acre garden laden with trees, shrubs, and plants, the likes of Japanese maples, oaks, and bamboo trees all sit neatly within the area. The garden was inspired by oriental trees and blooms; wandering through really feels like you’ve been transported to a peaceful Japanese garden. There’s even a red soribashi bridge. 

What’s more, at Christmas the centre transforms into a magical wonderland filled with Christmas trees for purchase – which is worth the journey alone.

Resist grabbing yourself a new plant baby at the shop… or don’t.

Things to do in Oxfordshire: Map

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