After having called Oxford my home for almost three years, I can say with confidence that it is one of the prettiest cities I have ever visited and lived in. Even though it isn’t the biggest, the city of dreaming spires can never bore you. It is rich in cultural wonders, as well as astonishing natural spots. It will charm you with hundreds of years of history and conquer your heart with its modern and funky bars, pubs, and mouth-watering restaurants. So, ready to walk the same streets as Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, and J.R.R. Tolkien?! Here is your 3-day Oxford itinerary.
Read More: Five Literary Cities in the UK.
Arriving in Oxford
Oxford is located in the South-East of England, about 96km away from London, and 106km away from Birmingham. Its proximity to these two major cities makes it easily accessible both via plane and land.
London to Oxford by Plane
If you’re traveling by plane, I suggest you land at Gatwick or Heathrow. These two airports are well-served by direct buses to Oxford. The cheapest and fastest bus company is Oxford Airline. You can either buy your tickets in advance or get them on the coach. The price for a return ticket varies from £20-32, depending on the airport you are traveling from.
Alternatively, if you’re landing at Luton or Stansted airports, you can buy your bus tickets through the National Express website. Unfortunately, these airports are quite far off and you’ll spend a minimum of 2.5 hours on the bus to get in town.
You could also decide to land at Birmingham International Airport and catch a train from there. That will take you about an hour, but flights here are usually a tad more expensive.
London to Oxford by Land
Are you already in the country and would like to reach Oxford? No sweat! There are multiple ways to do it. First, you could jump on a train from either Marylebone or Paddington Station. These two train stations in London are the only ones that offer direct services to the city.
Otherwise, if you’re on a budget, you can catch the Oxford Tube from Victoria Station instead. This is a fantastic service that runs 24/7. A return ticket is £15. I highly recommend it.
To Oxford from Other UK Cities
The UK is well-served in terms of public transportation, so you won’t have any issues reaching the city of dreaming spires from anywhere in the country. I suggest checking the National Rail website or the National Express search engine to look for the most affordable and quickest options for your location.
Read More: Four Day London Itinerary for Book Lovers.
When is the best time to visit Oxford?
If I were you, I would visit Oxford during the summer months. June is probably best as there are fewer tourists than in the following two months. Unfortunately, we can’t always do what we want, so here’s an outline of Oxford’s climate and what you could encounter when.
November to March: The climate in the UK is renowned for being very rainy. However, to my own surprise, Oxford isn’t THAT rainy. During the winter it is undoubtedly cold, sometimes temperatures go below zero, but it doesn’t rain as often as in other parts of the country. If you’re planning on coming between November and March, buckle up because it is very chilly. And don’t forget your umbrella, you never know!
May to September: End of Spring and Summer in Oxford are lovely. The parks are green and filled with families and groups of friends having barbecues and swimming in the river. Cherry trees are blossoming and the sun shines over the usually gloomy colleges.
October and April: These are the middle months. You could be extremely lucky and have a warm day, go for a stroll in the park, and have a punt in the river while enjoying the sunshine. Or you could be extremely unlucky and witness the storm of the century.
I must admit, no matter the month you visit, Oxford is always incredibly beautiful and won’t disappoint you.
3-Day Oxford Itinerary
Arrive in Oxford and settle in. Drop your luggage at the accommodation and start heading towards the city centre.
Your first stop is going to be the Botanical Garden. The price to get in is £6, but you can stay inside as much as you like. If it is a nice day, I suggest you grab a book or a pair of headphones before leaving the hotel and chill for a while after the end of your self-guided tour. The garden is huge and filled with a variety of plants, including carnivore ones! It’s the perfect location to relax a little after a long journey.
For lunch, head to the colourful Holywell Street and inside the Turf Tavern. An iconic pub hidden behind the traditional British houses. Sit outside and enjoy an avo-burger with skin-on fries. Delish!
Next on your list is the Radcliffe Camera, followed by the Bridge of Sighs and the Bodleian Library. These are three of the main top attractions in the city, with reason. A few minutes’ walk away from each other, these magnificent buildings are the heart of Oxford’s ancient city centre.Take some snaps and admire their iconic architecture. You might even encounter some Oxford students in their gowns, and there is nothing more Oxfordian than this.
To keep up the academic theme, head to Blackwell’s in Broad Street. This huge bookshop is the ideal place to spend all your money. Given where you are, you might want to buy the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland. Oxford has greatly inspired the authors of these three masterpieces, and, who knows, the next big author might be you!
After filling your backpack with knowledge, go grab a pint at the White Horse, the oldest (and probably tiniest) pub in town, and finish your day at the Westgate rooftop. Have dinner at Victor’s and then move to the Alchemist for some smoky cocktails.
Stretch your muscles and get ready for a brand-new day in the city of dreaming spires. Go to town and head to Bill’s for an out-of-this-world breakfast. I suggest getting the fruit pancakes as they are incredible.
Once you’re done tasting these heavenly foods, start your University of Oxford tour. Head to Christ Church, the most famous and most renowned of all colleges. Multimedia tours cost £15 for adults and £14 for seniors, students, and children (5-17 years old). Here you will encounter hundreds of Harry Potter fans.
That’s right! Christ Church was used to film a few scenes of the worldwide acclaimed Harry Potter movies, and its dining hall inspired the one of Hogwarts. You might want to (re)watch the movies before you arrive!
As soon as the tour is over, walk up to the Christ Church meadows and walk along the river. Other great colleges to visit are Magdalen College, New College, All Souls, and Corpus Christi. Oxford Walking Tours, in Broad Street, do guided tours multiple times a day and will take you to the most famous colleges in town. As a free option, check Oxford Foot Prints, these guys are Oxford University students and can give you an insider’s perspective of what it’s like to study at the number one university in the whole world. They’ll also have some interesting stories about college rivalries! So, if you’re feeling inspired and want to learn more about these historic buildings, tag along!
Order a lush burger at the Head of the River pub, enjoy the views of the river and the exceptional live music. Pay the bill and get ready for some fun! Right by the pub, Salter’s Steamers has a boat hire pontoon. This is where you’re going to have your first punting experience! Get on the punt and start gliding along the river. One hour will cost you £20, unless you want a chauffeur, in that case, it will be £60. Try not to get stuck in between rocks or fall in the water! It’s cold!
At the end of the hour, use your Mobike App to unlock a public bicycle and head towards Cowley Road. Take a seat at Kazbar or Café Tarifa and enjoy a few Estrella Galicia. Just before you’re too tipsy to move, walk to Antep Kitchen and have the best Turkish food in town. I recommend the Chicken Shish, but it is my favourite dish so I might be a little biased.
Finally, if you’re not too tired, there’s some feisty tequila shots waiting for you at Café Baba.
It’s time to shine. Go have a proper Colombian coffee at Coffee Roasters in the Covered Market and grab a pastry to get you started for the day. While you savour your pain au chocolate, walk to the Ashmolean Museum. This is one of Oxford’s most important museums, it holds a collection of thousands of years of artifacts, traditions, and history. But most importantly, entry is free! Before you leave, don’t forget to hit the rooftop bar for a fancy glass of prosecco.
Next on your Oxford itinerary, is Port Meadow. Just a short walk away from the Ashmolean, and close to the beautiful residential neighbourhood of Jericho, is one of Oxford’s most incredible parks. Ruled by the most elegant and free wild horses, Port Meadow is a must-see. Take some snacks and a beach towel with you, relax, get tanned and maybe go for a swim in the river.
Oxford is the city of knowledge, so we can’t only visit one museum! In the afternoon of your last day head to the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford’s Natural History Museum. You will be surrounded by hundreds of glass cabinets filled up with extraordinary remains. There’s SO much to see, by the end of the tour you will be hungry.
End your three-day escape in Oxford with style. Book a table at Gee’s and have a delicious Italian dinner in the most romantic restaurant in town. Follow up with a fancy cocktail at the Varsity Club Rooftop bar and enjoy Oxford’s incredible skyline.
Where to Stay in Oxford?
There is plenty of choice in Oxford when it comes to accommodation. So, you get to pick depending on the type of traveller you are.
On a budget: There are three hostels in Oxford: YHA, Backpackers Central, and Oxford Backpackers. All three are located very close to the train station and are in an optimal area for going out and exploring the city.
Mid-range: If you’re on a mid-range budget, I suggest checking the Oxford Townhouse and Oxford Cherwell B&B. Both have lovely rooms at ideal locations in town. Easy to reach and very well-served by buses.
High range: Big dollars in your pocket? Great stuff. Oxford offers some incredible options in terms of hotels. The most recommended ones would be Malmaison Hotel, The Old Bank, and The Randolph Hotel. All located in the city centre and within walking distance to all Oxford’s main landmarks.
Read More: 18 Unique Places to Stay in the UK.
How to get around Oxford?
Oxford is tiny, so you can pretty much walk anywhere. On top of that, there are buses and taxis, available to you at all times. However, the best way to visit the city is by bike. Shared bicycles are scattered all over the city and can be accessed via the Mobike app. The most incredible things to see and do in town are close to the city centre, and it usually never takes longer than 20 minutes to reach it if you’re staying nearby.
Best Hidden Paths for Bicycle Rides
On top of being the fastest mean of transport available in Oxford, with a bike you can truly explore the countryside and the local natural paths. Here’s my top 3 hidden paths for bicycle rides:
Iffley Lock: Get on your bike and ride along the river all the way to Iffley Lock. The scenery is incredible here and you will be in awe the whole time. Maybe stop at the ISIS Farm for a cheeky pint too!
Sandford-On-Thames: Head towards Abingdon and stop at Sandford. This is a beautiful little village by the river. It is as pretty as you’d see it in a postcard. If you feel like it, keep going until you reach Abingdon city centre and explore this historic town.
Blenheim Palace: This ride is a little longer than the other two but totally worth it. Make sure you get the path that goes via the countryside rather than the ring road. It will take you to Blenheim Palace, a Royal building where dukes and duchesses currently live. Entry is quite expensive, but the gardens are free and incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend it!
Final Thoughts on Oxford
As one of the prettiest cities in England, Oxford stands out for its architectural beauty and surprising natural surroundings. As it is located close to London and to the larger airports, it is easily accessible via plane and the biggest nearby cities. With plenty of things to do and see, Oxford is definitely one to add to your bucket list. I hope you enjoy your stay there and this three-day itinerary.
About the author: Marta is a part-time traveller based in Oxford, UK. While she’s not dreaming of where to go next, she builds bridges between cultures and people at EF Education First. Follow her blog, Temporal Globe, to learn more about her and her South American travels. You can also find her on Instagram.