10 great things to do in Oxford this summer
20 April, 2019
Oxford is a vibrant city all year round, but summer is a particularly good time to spend time there. With students, tourists and locals all enjoying what is on offer, there is a constant buzz and plenty to keep everyone entertained!
Here are some recommendations for things to do which make the most of the warmer weather and lighter evenings.
1. Go punting on one of Oxford's rivers
There's nothing more relaxing than gliding along the river on a summer's afternoon, enjoying the wildlife and indulging in a spot of 'people-watching'.
There are three main boat houses in Oxford: one at Magdalen Bridge, one at Folly Bridge and one in North Oxford (the Cherwell Boat House). Punting takes a bit of getting used to if you are a novice, but you can always choose to have a 'chauffeur' if you'd rather a more relaxing eperience!
2. Have a picnic in the university parks
The University Parks are extensive, and very popular in the summer months. They even boast an actual Quidditch pitch on which Oxford students compete in the popular broomstick-based game just as they do in Harry Potter! Without the flying of course...
3. Have a walk in Port Meadow
For a change of pace, leave the hustle and bustle of the city centre behind and head to tranquil Port Meadow. This large open space is located on the outskirts of the city, and is a great place to relax with a book, or enjoy a picnic — or even go for a run if you are looking for more energetic pursuits!
It is said that Lewis Carroll was rowing a boat on the river through Port Meadow with three girls (one of whom was called Alice Liddell) in 1862 when they asked him to tell them a story — this would later become Alice in Wonderland.
4. Stroll around the Botanic Garden
Located just beyond the busy city centre, Oxford's Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. The garden was founded in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research. Today it contains over 8,000 different plant species. It's an interesting and calm place to spend a sunny afternoon.
5. Watch an open-air play
Every summer you can take in some Shakespeare at a range of venues around the city courtesy of The Creation Theatre Company. Performances have taken place in bookshops, college gardens and even the roof of the SAID Business School!
6. Enjoy some open-air cinema
One of the most enjoyable ways to spend a cool summer's evening is at an open-air movie screening. Cult Screens runs what they describe as 'the country's most luxurious outdoor cinema experience', screening both modern films and cult classics alike. This summer, the movie screenings will take place in a variety of locations throughout Oxford, including the Oxford Castle yard and outside the Natural History Museum.
7. Take a day trip to Woodstock
Most famous for being the home of spectacular world heritage site Blenheim Palace, the market town of Woodstock is just eight miles from Oxford and also has quaint tea shops and an artisan shop or two to explore. The palace, birthplace of Winston Churchill, is surrounded by beautiful lawns, where races, live music and screens showing the tennis are hosted during the summer.
8. Head out to the Cotswolds
Just a short train or bus ride from Oxford and you can be in the heart of the Cotswolds — rolling countryside with chocolate-box villages and lively market towns. Some of the most popular Cotswold towns in the vicinity of Oxford include Burford, Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the Water, and they are arguably at their finest during this time of year.
9. Take an open top bus tour of the city's sights
Oxford, like so many cities, has its own hop-on, hop-off bus tours, which can be a great way to take in all the city sights — particularly on a nice sunny days! The tours include audio guides in a range of languages.
10. Stretch your legs with an official Oxford walking tour
If you'd prefer to stretch your legs while you explore the city, guided walking tours will give you an insight into the history behind the city's quiet backstreets and secret corners. Several companies offer tours although there are also student guides who'll share their experience of university life as well. Themed tours of the university, literary locations, Alice in Wonderland, or Inspector Morse locations are all available.