Guide to Oxfordshire
Top 10 Must See
With an abundance of great places to see in Oxfordshire it’s a hard task picking out just 10 to feature. We’ve chosen a top 10 covering a broad range of interests and we hope you’ll find a few suggestions that appeal!
Or, if you’re looking for something to do here’s our Top 10 Must Do in Oxfordshire. Enjoy!
The University’s largest college, Christ Church sits between the heart of the city and tranquil meadow on the banks of the river. Stroll through Christ Church Meadow where Longhorn cattle graze and then enter the college’s elegant quadrangles, cloisters, hall staircase and libraries and soak up the atmosphere of this famous seat of learning, established in 1525. 13 British prime ministers studied here, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland was crafted here and numerous Harry Potter scenes were filmed here. University life carries on daily, so it’s a good idea to check their website before you visit to see which areas are open. The hall is closed most days from 12:00-14:00 so that the students can eat lunch.
A fascinating place to while away a few hours and experience famous collections representing the world’s greatest civilisations, ranging from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art. Don’t miss treasures including Guy Fawkes’ lantern - used that notorious night on the 5th November 1605; Raphael’s sketches; or the ancient Watlington Hoard, discovered by a metal detectorist in Oxfordshire a few years ago. The museum’s top floor restaurant is well worth a visit – simply for its lovely outdoor terrace with stunning views across Oxford’s rooftops.
Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and a World Heritage Site, the Blenheim Palace estate spans 2,000 acres and a history covering 300 years. The estate is truly vast so be prepared to do a lot of walking to get the most out of your visit. It’s well worth exploring, with a beautiful lake and bridge, a magnificent palace and spectacular gardens and woodland, creating an idyllic English landscape. A whole stack of events take place each year including fun runs, a triathlon, cycling days, food festivals, vintage car festivals, open air music events, a circus, Shakespearean theatre and even jousting tournaments. Check their website for full details of what’s on in 2019.
Blink and you might just miss it! This historic building dates back to the ‘70s – not the 1970s, but the 1770s! The thriving market has always attracted locals and the city’s visitors and today is home to a community of more than 40 diverse and independent businesses, selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, fine foods, flowers, gifts, clothing, shoes, jewellery and much more. There are several tasty places to eat and drink too. Walk in the footsteps of royalty - in May 2017 Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to this much-loved part of Oxford’s city centre. Plan your visit here.
Founded by John Harris in 1856, this independent brewery is one of only 32 family-owned breweries in the country. It’s a fine example of a fully operational Victorian Tower brewery and produces a great range of award-winning beers. We think it’s well worth a visit, so drop into the visitor centre to see the free museum, buy some beer and eat/drink at the rustic Malthouse Kitchen. If you want to learn more about Hook Norton’s history and the traditional brewing process, then the two-hour brewery tour including 30 minutes beer tasting is for you! This must be booked in advance, more details are available here. Evening tours can also be arranged by appointment for groups of 10 or more. Look out for the magnificent Shire horses in the stables that still deliver beer to the local pubs in the traditional way.
Brace yourself for all things weird and wonderful at this bizarre treasure trove of more than 55,000 items from across all ages and from all corners of the globe. Artefacts are grouped by type rather than time or region, so you’ll find large glass cabinets brimming with a jaw-dropping range of themed displays from ‘Puppets’ to ‘Instruments of Divination’. Look out for the notorious and slightly controversial ‘Treatment of Dead Enemies’ display case if you’ve ever wondered what a shrunken head looks like.
A couple of miles from Banbury, this privately-owned fortified castle sits on its own island, completely surrounded by a wide moat. Accessed via a stone gatehouse and bridge, the castle, its grounds and formal gardens are popular settings for film shoots (Shakespeare in Love, Jane Ayre and Wolf Hall). The stately rooms have real wow factor and it’s also one of the most beautiful places to laze on the grass and have a picnic. A tearoom is also available.
The library, in its earliest form, dates back to approximately 1320, making it one of the oldest in Europe and today, the second largest library in Britain, containing over 13 million printed items. A regular programme of guided tours allows you to see inside its historic rooms including the 15th century Divinity School, medieval Duke Humfrey’s Library and the impressive Radcliffe Camera.
This site embodies a century of car manufacturing history. Since 2001, when production of the new MINI began, almost three million cars have been manufactured to customers’ individual specifications on the plant’s assembly lines. Plant tours take around two hours and provide a fascinating insight into automotive production, from welding of steel parts into car bodies to the assembly of individualised interior equipment for each specific customer’s order. If you also love motor racing and have 14 like-minded friends, then the MINI Racing Challenge will be right up your street. An hour of head-to-head racing round legendary circuits in MINI’s state of the art racing simulators will provide ample thrills and exhilaration! Will you make it to the podium?! Call 01865 825750 for full details and to book.
Stop off at nearby Cowley Road and discover this vibrant, multicultural melting pot of shops, restaurants, bars and arts venues. Check out the comic book-themed Atomic Burger and the tapas at Kasbah. The Bullingdon and O2 Academy Oxford are great places to catch rising acts of the music world, or watch a film at Oxford’s only independent cinema, the historic art deco Ultimate Picture Palace. Every year in July the area’s unique character is celebrated at the Cowley Road Festival.
Land was given to create this central Banbury park in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and it has retained much of its Victorian charm with impressive stone gate piers at the entrances, an ornamental rose garden, bandstand, bowling green and aviary. Take a leisurely stroll, play a game of tennis on the courts (free to use), or work out in the park’s fitness area with five exercise stations including a rower and mini ski. Whilst in the historic market town, take a photo of Banbury Cross and the Fine Lady Statue, epitomised in the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Ride a cock horse’ – and try a famous Banbury Cake in one of the town’s cafes.