This will be a compelling guide to the best free things to do in Oxford, with some exciting entries like seek hidden gems.
We have been living in London for the last 7 years or so, and after such a long time we understood that sometimes you need a break from the hectic life. Oxford is the perfect day trip to escape and relax a bit, close enough to don’t get stressed by the journey, but far away from the sounds and smells of a big city.
Within an hour and a half, you will be immersed in a completely different atmosphere, compared to London. Oxford is a quiet town, mainly hosting business trippers and students. You need a proper itinerary filled with free stuff to do in Oxford to live an incredible day out from London at your pace.
It’s time to introduce you to the best things to do in Oxford for free and some unique free things to do in Oxfordshire. You will see the free colleges to visit in Oxford, perfect picnic spot, punting on th thames and many more activities.
Oxford City Guide
The beautiful city of Oxford is well known for its many prestigious Colleges but is also referred often to as the city of Dreaming Spires. Its ancient history can be traced back to over 9 centuries, establishing it as a fervent city for over 800 years now.
Located not far away from London, is in the middle of beautiful Oxfordshire. Around the area, you can feel the proper British style and breathe the countryside vibes.
Filled with historic buildings, colleges, prestigious museums, Oxford is also a vibrant city with many pubs, clubs and an incredible coffee shop scene. This is one of the best day trips from London, ideal at any time of the year.
When to visit Oxford
While in Uk is always a good idea to visit Oxford. In summer you can enjoy the beautiful countryside without the hot temperatures of central London in July and August. Consider the period from May through September for a quick Oxford day trip. The temperatures in this period are about 20°C.
Winter is the coldest month in Oxford with temperatures from 3°C to 10°C. It’s not easy to find snow in Oxford, however, this might happen in January or February, but doesn’t last for more than a day.
Autumn in Oxford is pretty amazing, with the parks and the Colleges full of leaves and brown-Orange-Red colours all around.
For the best of Oxford consider the period from April to May, when the city hosts incredible festivals. The Oxford Jazz Festival, English Music Festival, The Chocolate Festival and many others are all around this time.
How to reach Oxford from London
There are two main ways to reach Oxford from London by public transport, taking the train or on a bus.
The services are frequent and don’t cost a lot. Many commuters make the journey and return for study or work. The connection takes about 1h and 15 minutes.
London to Oxford by Train
Trains depart from Paddington Station or Marylebone. The journey is about 1 hour and will leave you at Oxford Railway station which is about 5-10 minutes walking from the city centre.
London to Oxford by Bus
Oxford Tube and National Express are the main links between the two cities. The service is active 24 hours and is direct, with no stops in between. You can get a coach from London Victoria. The bus stop in Oxford at Gloucester Green.
LONDON TO OXFORD TRAINS
Free things to do in Oxford, UK
London Paddington to Oxford | 53 minutes journey | 1st Class available | Tickets from £5.40
Check on Sunday morning with a return about 5.30pm | The Service runs from 4am to 12.30am
London Marylebone to Oxford | 1h 10 minutes journey | Tickets from £8
The Service runs from 5am to 1am
Free things to do in Oxford? Index guide!
Things to do in Oxford for free
- Ashmolean Museum
- Museum of Oxford
- Modern art Oxford Gallery
- Pitt River Museum
- Picnic in a park in Oxford
- Free Walking tour of Oxford
- Enjoy at Radcliffe Square
- College hopping
- See the beautiful Tom Tower
- Seek hidden gems in Oxford
- University Church of St Mary the Virgin
- Roam around the Covered Market
- Get along legendary film locations
- Read a book in a quiet coffee shop or bookshop
- Wander around the colourful houses on Oxford High Street
- Take a selfie at Bridge of Sighs
Things to do in Oxford free Map
16 things to do in Oxford for free
Wander around Oxford’s free museums
Oxford is one of the UK’s most popular cities, and this attracts many visitors from all over. This is mainly because of the worldwide famous colleges that are in town. So, culture and heritage are the very attractions of Oxford, and thanks to that a visitor can take advantage of the Free Museums in Oxford.
There are several free museums to enjoy, real cultural hubs for adults and kids with no admission fee. What a bargain, right?
Enjoy the atmosphere of the beautiful Ashmolean Museum, roam around the history of the city in the Oxford Museum, home of the heritage of the colleges.
The Ashmolean Museum, as mentioned above, is one of the free entry museums in Oxford. This is also one of the most famous cultural locations in the city, and the first University Museum opened in 1678.
In the beautiful and endless wings, you can find masterpieces drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Greek amphoras and other finds from the Greek Era. The Ashmolean Museum also preserves the famous death mask of Oliver Cromwell, along with archaeological collections of various epoques, paintings, old coins, swords and more.
The museum, after long development and some extension works, reopened its doors in 2009. Check their website to find the exhibition on show at the moment. In the past, the museum hosted incredible galleries with paintings, artefacts, treasures and discoveries, unique in the world.
The museum is free to enter, and you can give a donation for its maintenance if you want, but it is not mandatory.
Museum of Oxford
Another great museum with proper British history in it. The Museum of Oxford, as you might understand, will take you on a long trip along with the local history and passages through the epoques of one of England’s famous cities.
If you have just one day in Oxford this might be skipped, but if you have been in town other times, or have a few days it is worth visiting. The Oxford Museum is free and preserves artefacts from the beginning of the settlement. A long haul through Époque passing by the Medieval era to the Civil War and the two World wars. Check their website for all the information and temporary exhibitions.
Modern art Oxford Gallery
If your curiosity about culture in Oxford is not full yet, go and check the Modern Art Oxford Gallery. This is the ideal place for people who have been to Oxford already. The Gallery offers rotating exhibits that range from modern to contemporary art, with dancing performances from time to time, and live painting sessions as well.
This is another location to include in your guide to free things to do in Oxford and is accessible to all families. If you are visiting Oxford with kids, it is good to know that the gallery hosts regular activities for kids as well.
Pitt Rivers Museum
This is a very special museum, free to enter in Oxford. This host collection of Archeological and anthropological pieces from various epoque. The Pitt Rivers Museum is part of the Oxford University Museum. The complex is located next to the Natural History Museum of Oxford and can be accessed just through it.
Oxford Botanic Garden
The Oxford botanic garden was established in 1621 to study plants for medicinal use. Like any other place in Oxford is focused on the study of flora and fauna, preserving rare species and paying attention to their adaptation to climate change The Botanic Garden of Oxford contains over 5000 species and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in Britain.
Oxford or Cambridge?
This might be a huge question that we are not able to answer. If you have time is always suggested to visit both, at least you can compare it. Both locations are very beautiful. Oxford looks like more a small town, instead Cambridge is totally build around the College life. Check our guide to Oxford and Cambridge to understand the most suitable for you!
Outdoor Things to Do in Oxford for Free
Take a blanket and organize a picnic in a park in Oxford
It is not happening very often that the day is not cloudy, not saying that it is not raining. However, if it is a shining day, good to prepare your blanket and find a cosy spot in one of the amazing parks around Oxford.
We miss the seaside of our hometown but often found relaxing a full day with a picnic in the park. You can do that in Oxford, and enjoy the green meadows of the colleges or city parks. Port Meadow is the largest one, at a short walk from the city centre. The vibes and feeling of the countryside mixing with the calm and calmness of this beautiful place.
Christ Church Meadow ideal spot
If you are looking for other open areas to have your romantic picnic in Oxford, consider the Christ Church Meadow. The open space is one of the favourites by locals, but not so crowded, easy to reach and wide enough to do sport as well.
Go on Free Walking tours in Oxford
Like everywhere else we suggest booking a free walking tour in the city, same as for Oxford. This will allow you to learn about history, legends and some fun facts about Oxford.
The city centre of Oxford is walkable and nice too, allowing you to go around the narrow alleys, discovering the history behind the brick walls. This free activity in Oxford is run by locals, passionate about history and willing to showcase the beautiful places of the town. –
Enjoy the moment at Radcliffe Square
This is the symbol of Oxford, the place pictured in any postcard about the college city. Radcliffe Square is the iconic location of the rounded Radcliffe Camera. Surrounding this beauty you have got the best colleges and architecture of Oxford, with the Bodleian Library and Divinity School, the Brasenose College and All Souls College looking at the central building and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin guarding it.
This last is also the best viewpoint over the square. Hiking up the bell tower of the church you will have a complete view of Radcliffe Square and the city of Oxford. This is subject to ticket entrance, but wandering around the square is already one of the best free things to do in Oxford.
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Might be unknown to many but Carfax Tower is what remains of the old St. Martin’s Church, dated back to 1122. This old 13th-century worship place was partially demolished in 1896 to make the local traffic more viable.
The tower is 74 feet tall and is the tallest building in central Oxford. You can climb the top of the Carfax Tower to admire the beautiful landscape. The 99 steps lead to a small space with a view over Oxford Skyline. The entry to the tower costs £3, so is not properly a free thing to do in Oxford, but watching it from outside definitely is.
Visit the tower if you have time and are willing to check the historical site of the British town, this is open every day from 10 am to 3 pm. In October the tower closes instead at 4 pm and from April to September hours are longer closing at 5 pm.
Walk across Folly Bridge
This is one of the iconic bridges in Oxford, a passage that stands out among other bridges in town. Folly Bridge is incredible, and what makes it unmissable free things to do in Oxford is its history and inspirational function in the life of Oxford. The passage was opened in 1827 inspiring several literary works.
The bridge passes by an island on the River Thames, connecting the two sides of Oxford through Abingdon Road. Check the exact location of the bridge.
Alternative Tours on the River
You can’t miss visiting a few colleges while in Oxford. I guess this is the main reason you are visiting Oxford. While some of the most prestigious colleges charge an entrance fee, sometimes even high to avoid huge crowds, there are some others completely free.
The most incredible suggestion is to visit the All Souls College, free to visit from 2 pm to 4 pm Monday to Sunday. The college was founded by Henry VI and gives you one of the best tours in town.
Among these free colleges, there is also Balliol College and Christ Church College. Above you can see the inside of the Christ Church College, which we highly suggest visiting. These free things to do in Oxford will fulfil your day in the city.
See the beautiful Tom Tower
Tom Towe is the iconic bell tower of the main entrance of Christ Church College. Enjoy the walk across the typical green English meadow, passing by the central fountain and reach the entrance “Tom Gate”.
The bell tower is stunning and is one of the symbols of the college town. Built in 1681-1682 and designed by Christopher Wren, it is one of the architectural masterpieces in Oxford. The beautiful Late Gothic style has its best in the beautiful dome.
Impossible not to include this building in our guide to the best free things to do in Oxford, even if it is possible to admire just the outside. Just to mention inside the tower is housed the loudest bell in Oxford, called the Great Tom.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
We have already mentioned some of the best Colleges to visit for free in Oxford. Write down also the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. This beautiful 14th-century church is free to visit and is opposite the Radcliffe Camera. An incredible jewel in Oxford.
Visiting inside the church is free, be careful because is an active worship place, respect the rules. If you want to get the best of this spot in Oxford you should climb the tower, from the top you can admire the incredible landscape and the Oxfordshire. However the tower is not free, but the fee is on a budget and payable on the spot without reservation.
Roam around the Covered Market
Who doesn’t love markets? We are totally into that. Visiting a market you can get into the skin of a town, catch the soul of the locals and try food from vendors. Oxford Covered Market is beautiful, with over 50 independent vendors selling goods even at the weekend. Note down the Covered Market is one of the coolest things to do in Oxford for free. Roam around the alleys, visiting cheese shops, cakes and some independent cool coffee shops.
While writing this guide to the free things to do in Oxford, I was waiting for the moment to tell about the Covered market. This beautiful place is more visible than the soul of Oxfordshire.
Get along legendary film locations
As many know some of the sightseeings and iconic places in Oxford served as filming locations for Harry Potter, and many others were inspirational for the authors. However, it is less known that Oxford is also the birthplace of Alice in Wonderland.
Lewis Dodgson, best known as Lewis Carroll, was inspired by Oxford writing the adventures of Alice in wonderland. Today you can find a shop completely dedicated to the story.
There are many tours in place in Oxford, taking you right into the action. Visiting all the film locations will give you the best Oxford day out ever. Check out some great film location tours in Oxford.
Harry Potter Tour in Oxford
We encourage you to try some great experiences while visiting Oxford. Book a tour through the film locations in Oxford and enjoy an experience for adults and kids.
Wonderland for kids and adults. Alice’s Shop exists and is in Oxford. The beautiful place is designed around the fantasy story of Lewis Carrols, following the adventures of Alice and the White Rabbit.
The shop sells gift and collection pieces crafted about the story. The shop is located on St. Aldates, just opposite Alice’s childhood home. Visiting the shop is free, but will let you jump into a fantastic world.
Read a book in a quiet coffee shop or bookshop
We have already introduced the coffee scene of Oxford in many parts of this guide. Don’t know if it is the atmosphere you breathe while roaming around the narrow cobblestone alleys of Oxford, or something else. However, you should consider taking a break from your sightseeing, relax and get a coffee.
We suggest you check out the Society Café. This is the right move to start your day well, or after the launch of a coffee mug. The café has a cosy outdoor area, ideal for a sunny day (which is very unlikely).
Society Café | Open Monday to Sunday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm
If you are not a fan of coffee shops, head to one of the many Oxford bookshops. The atmosphere is quiet and ideal for relaxing. One of the suggested is Blackwell’s which is hosting regular events and exhibitions, offering to visitors a wide book collection.
The Blackwell first opened in the 1870s and due the huge success incorporated other buildings on Broad Street. This gave space to create one of the largest single rooms selling books in the world in the Victorian basement, named the Norrington Room, after Sir Arthur Norrington, former President of Trinity College, which is just next door.
Wander around the colourful houses on Oxford High Street
Well, it might just be the excuse to go shopping on the High Street of Oxford. This is what most makes Alessia happy on a day out in Oxford. Jokes apart, visiting Oxford in one day, you should consider strolling around one of the busiest streets in Oxford. Surrounded by amazing buildings you can walk along the traffic-free area of Oxford Old Town. Oxford High Street starts at Carfax Tower, going down for about 1 Km toward Magdalen Bridge.
In a middle way, you can find this coloured house that really stands out from the rest of the typical British Architecture.
Take a selfie at Bridge of Sighs | Hertford Bridge
The Hertford Bridge, or better known as the Bridge of Sighs of Oxford, is an awesome passage between the two wings of Hertford College. The Bridge crosses New College Lane and is a remarkable landmark of Oxford.
The perfect place to visit during your morning itinerary. Just at the exit of the Sheldonian Theater, you will find this architectural jewel. Is it easy to find students celebrating graduation around this area, and the Sheldonian Theater is the space for the event.
Student’s usually gather around this site to take photos. The nickname “Bridge of sighs” comes from the most famous bridge in Venice, because of the architectural similarities.
Special Days Out in UK | Selection of tours from Oxford
Oxford is an awesome hub where take some day trip around. The Oxfordshire itself is beautiful and allows you long walk paths, small hikes, and generally ideal location for families, couples and solo travellers.
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Q&A Free things to do in Oxford
What can you do in Oxford for free?
10 things to do for free in Oxford
Picnic in a park in Oxford
Go on a free walking tour in Oxford
Check Radcliffe Camera from outside
Walk across Folly Bridge
Go College hopping
Visit University St. Mary Church
Eat at Covered Market
Legendary film locations
Are museums in Oxford free?
Yes. Well not all of them, but like many of the public museums in the UK and also in Oxford, you can find museums for free. This is the case of the Ashmolean Museum and the Natural History Museum. Check also some of the greatest Colleges, which have museum collections inside free to enter.
Is Oxford worth a day trip?
Yes. We love our day trip to Oxford. It is a nice small town out of the chaos of London with a great attitude. Beautiful to walk on Queen St. completely traffic-free, shop in High Street, enjoy the beautiful Redcliffe Camera and relax in the Covered Market.
Is Oxford Castle free?
No. Unfortunately, there is an admission fee to pay to get into Oxford Castle. The visit is worth it, you will learn history and walk along with the rooms of the old town castle and prison.
Is Bodleian Library free?Yes. The Bodleian Library is subject to an entry fee, £2.50 per person, however, the exhibitions at the Bodleian Library are free to enter. You can book your ticket to the entrance on the official website.