How to spend one day in Oxford like a local, with 10 things to do in Oxford. #uktravel #daytrip

When I arrived in Oxford on a sunny afternoon at the beginning of August my Servas host, Deirdre sat down with me and explained Oxford to me using a little paper tourist map of all the Oxford colleges.

She explained to me that Oxford is basically a crossroads from which the city grew and that around the crossroads in the city center I would find all the exciting and historical highlights the city has to offer.

The next day, with the little map in my pocket I set out to explore this fantastic and unforgettable city. This post is a summary of all the things I saw and did in one day in Oxford, and it includes all the recommendations I got from my host Deirdre on how to explore Oxford like a local.

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Walk Along the River Thames

House boat on the River Thames in Oxford

Did you know the famous River Thames runs not only through London but also Oxford? The river is lovely as it leaves the city in the south and flows in the direction of London. Along the river are the houses of the different rowing clubs of the Oxford University and if the weather is beautiful, you can see the rowing teams practice on the river.

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Peek Into All the Oxford Colleges

One of the beautiful colleges in Oxford

Tourists often ask: Where is Oxford University? The simple answer to this: Everywhere.
Oxford University is made up of 38 separate colleges, each with its own charm and beauty. Some are open to the public for free; others cost an entrance fee. If you have the time, I recommend you take a peek into all of them. If you don’t have the time because you are only one day in Oxford, have a peak in the ones you walk by. Usually, you can see inside the little gardens from the entrance even for the ones that aren’t open to the public.

Visit Christ Church College

Christ Church College in Oxford

Christ Church College is the most famous of all the Oxford Colleges, and therefore it is most popular. And because it is the most popular, it is the most expensive. A shame really. For this reason, we only had a look at the garden outside the College and did not visit the inside of the imposing buildings.

But if you want to visit here are all the important information for a visit to Christ Church College including opening hours and admission fees.

See Oxford From the Top at St. Mary’s Church

Oxford from the top

There are two observation points in Oxford that allow for a fantastic view over the city. One is Carfax Tower, the other one the tower of the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Our host Denise recommended we visit St. Mary’s Church and it was a great experience. The winding steps to the top are very narrow (and probably not for you if you are claustrophobic). At the top, it is the same. The little balcony leading around the tower is so narrow that you need to find little nooks so other people can pass you by. But the views are impressive.

Take a Tour of Bodleian Library

Bodleian Library in Oxford

You can visit the courtyard of Bodleian Library the main research library of Oxford University and one of the oldest libraries in Europe, for free, but if you want to get inside the building, you have to participate in a tour. The cheapest tour costs only 1 Pound and is for a 10 minute tour to the 14th Century Divinity School. Of course, there are other; longer tours were you will see more of the historic library as well.

See a Free Exhibition at Weston Library

Weston Library is part of the famous Bodleian Library. It is mainly interesting because of ist changing free exhibitions. Until 28th of October 2018, you can still admire the J.R.R. Tolkien Free Exhibition called Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth with many original letters, maps and other kinds of drawings from the feather of the creative genius who created Hobbits and other fantasy beings.

Learn About Nature at the Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum in Oxford

Not only the collection of skeletons, minerals and bugs are impressive in Oxfords’ Natural History Museum, but the building itself is so remarkable that a visit should be high on your Oxford bucket list. If you only have one day in Oxford don’t skip this stop for any reason.

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Be Curious at the Science History Museum

The Museum of the History of Science is across the Weston Library (next to the old Bodleian Library. This little and very cozy museum explores the history of science displaying old scales, compasses, globes, maps and other measuring devices collected through the centuries. You will be in and out in a couple of minutes, but since it is free, I encourage you to have a look anyway.

Eat at the Turf Tavern

Turf Tavern in Oxford

After some exploring during your one day in Oxford, you will get hungry sooner or later. A visit to the Turf Tavern is a cultural as well as a culinary highlight of Oxford. It has been a filming location not only of Harry Potter but also other British TV shows, and movies, something beautifully written boards all over the premises will attest to.

We shared a fish and chips plate with different kinds of deep-fried fish and some delicious chips (french fries) and washed it all down with some local beer (for Taka) and cider (for me).

Have Some Cream Tea at Vaults and Garden

Cream Tea at Vaults and Garden in Oxford

On a sunny day, you can enjoy your cream tea in the garden of Saint Mary’s Church on a rainy day in the vaults at a little place called appropriately Vaults and Garden. We had a big pot of Earl Gray tea and some delicious scones with clotted cream and strawberry and raspberry jam. It was delicious and the atmosphere sitting in front of the church in the afternoon was fantastic.

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Getting Around Oxford

Oxford is easily walkable, and there really is no need to buy a bus ticket if you don’t stay outside of the city center.

If you are like me and prefer to stay on the outskirts, it is really cheap to get a bus return ticket into the city. You just need to remember where to get on and off because there are no displays on the buses.

If you are coming by car, it might make sense to park at one of the park and ride facilities outside the city and take a bus from there to the city center. It will be much cheaper than parking in the city center.

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Where to Stay in Oxford

I stayed with another fantastic Servas host, and cannot stress enough that people who want the real cultural experience wherever they go should try Servas for themselves. In Oxford, I had a lovely host who showed us the way to Oxford on foot along the river and gave us all the valuable tips on what to see and where to eat in the city. Basically, everything I write about in this post was a recommendation by my host.

Conclusion About My Day in Oxford Like a Local

There is so much to see and do, that one day in Oxford can never be enough. I enjoyed Oxford immensely; it was my second favorite city during my trip around England (my favorite destination was Bath). This post should have given you some ideas on what do in Oxford including lots of recommendations from a local.

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How to spend one day in Oxford like a local, with 10 things to do in Oxford. #uktravel #daytrip
How to spend one day in Oxford like a local, with 10 things to do in Oxford. #uktravel #daytrip


Authors Note:
None of the experiences in this post are in any way sponsored and have all been payed for by myself. The opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by purchasing products through my links!

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List