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Oxford Off the Beaten Path

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Famously known as the city of dreaming spires, Oxford’s main attractions centre around its university, whose beautiful historic buildings have featured in numerous works of literature, films, and TV series. However, Oxford still has plenty of secret places and open spaces to explore. If you want to get out of the busy city centre to see Oxford like a local, follow my guide to the best of its lesser known attractions.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Like a Local

10 Places

9 City Tips

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Map

10 Places

Pitt Rivers Museum

Speciality Museums

Headington Shark

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Iffley Lock

Points of Interest & Landmarks

Ben's Cookies

Restaurants

Oxford Canal

Bodies of Water

Oxfork

Restaurants

Mini Plant Oxford

Factory Tours

Magic Cafe

Restaurants

The Rusty Bicycle

Restaurants

Bate Collection

Speciality Museums

Sarah F's City Tips

  • It is customary to tip 10-15% of the bill at restaurants, but you don't need to tip for ordering drinks at the bar (unless the service is exceptional).
  • Don’t try to cram too much into one visit. Make a list of the main things you want to see, and allow plenty of time to "experience" each place.
  • If you’re a first-timer to Oxford, take the tourist bus to get around the main attractions and find your bearings.
  • Oxford city centre is easy to walk around, and many of the top attractions are in the heart of the city.
  • If you have your heart set on dining at a particular restaurant, book a table in advance. (Many restaurants accept reservations online.)
  • Hire a bike to get around the city, as it's faster than on foot. (And watch out for fellow cyclists – there are thousands of them!)
  • If you have to drive, leave your car at one of the "park and ride" sites at Pear Tree, Water Eaton, Thornhill, Redbridge, or Seacourt. From here, you can catch a bus to the centre.
  • Don’t even think about driving in the centre of the city, as there’s very little parking.
  • Oxford is always busy. Even in summer when the university students have left, you’ll find that the city is full of foreign language students.
  • Save
    Pitt Rivers Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    Shrunken heads and other macabre artifacts can be found in this museum founded by General Pitt Rivers. Crammed with curiosities (including a giant totem pole) collected by British explorers, the Pitt Rivers Museum shows the changing cultures of the world. There are now about 500,000 weird and wonderful objects to discover.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Entrance is free.
    • The entrance is via the Natural History Museum, which you can visit at the same time.
    • There are many exhibits to see, so allow plenty of time to explore here.
    • Open from 10am-4.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday (and Bank Holidays), and from 12pm-4.30pm on Monday.
    • Disabled access is available.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 185 things to do in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • tons of things behind glass 23/04/2018
    • Fascinating visit 23/04/2018
    • Pitt Rivers Museum
    Address:
    Pitt Rivers Museum South Parks Road
    Oxford OX1 3PP
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 270927
    Hours:
    Mon
    12:00 - 16:30
    Tue - Sun
    10:00 - 16:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Headington Shark
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    One of the quirkiest sights in town (even by Oxford standards) is a headless shark sticking out of an ordinary house on the city’s outskirts. The Headington Shark has been an institution since 1986, when homeowner Bill Heine first commissioned it to make a statement against CND and nuclear power.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • The shark can be found on top of No. 2 New High Street.
    • The shark was created by sculptor John Buckley. It is made of fibreglass and is 25 feet long.
    • You can catch a bus from Oxford train station to Headington.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #49 of 185 things to do in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Unusual...but fun. 12/04/2018
    • strange addition to a terraced st 19/03/2018
    • Headington Shark
    Address:
    No 2 New High Street
    Headington
    Oxford OX3 7AQ
    England
    Phone:
    +44 7763 693225
    Other:
  • Save
    Iffley Lock
    Points of Interest & Landmarks
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    Iffley Lock, on the River Thames in Oxford, has an 'olde worlde' charm, taking you back to a more peaceful era. The lock was built in the 17th century, and is a beautiful sight surrounded by trees in an area brimming with wildlife.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • It’s a lovely stroll from Oxford city centre to Iffley Lock, perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.
    • While at Iffley, wander around the medieval village, which is home to a pretty Norman church with stained-glass windows, as well as several pubs.
    • Stop in at nearby Isis Tavern to watch the rowers on the water.
    • You can park your car in the village and walk to the lock.
    • Take time to visit the ancient Iffley Meadows, a beautiful nature haven with a whole host of birdlife, and fritillaries in spring-time.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #20 of 185 things to do in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Beautiful stretch of river near Oxford with waterfront dining 22/04/2018
    • It's like a heaven 16/04/2018
    • Iffley Lock
    Phone:
    +44 1865 777277
    Other:
  • Save
    Ben's Cookies
    Restaurants
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    The best cookies come from Ben’s, a chain that's been legendary for its fantastic variety of chewy, gooey, crispy treats since 1983. Pick up a selection of flavours to go, and use them to keep your energy levels up as you walk or cycle around Oxford.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Ben’s Cookies can be found in the covered market — just follow the fabulous aroma!
    • The cookies are a bit pricey but worth every penny.
    • There is usually a queue, so be prepared to wait.
    • The chocolate ones are the best, in my opinion.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 536 restaurants in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Gorgeous, warm cookies! 19/03/2018
    • Warm, Delicious Cookies Fresh Out of the Oven 14/03/2018
    • Ben's Cookies
    Address:
    108-109 Covered Market
    Oxford
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 247407
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:00 - 16:00
    Mon - Sat
    09:15 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Oxford Canal
    Bodies of Water
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    Many people head for the River Thames to play on the water, but the Oxford Canal provides a more peaceful alternative. Once an important transport link between London and the Midlands, the Oxford Canal is now a beautiful place for boats, ducks, moorhens, swans, and joggers.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Walking along the towpath is a wonderful way to see Oxford without the crowds.
    • Go at sunset for some stunning scenes.
    • You can enjoy a short or longer walk alongside the canal towpath, and there are various pubs along the way for refreshments.
    • You can hire a rowboat by the hour, or rent a narrowboat (barge) for a longer holiday.
    • Dress casually in flat shoes or trainers.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #28 of 185 things to do in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Sludgy quagmire 28/03/2018
    • Inspiring to see the old waterways in good use. 24/03/2018
    • Oxford Canal
    Phone:
    +44 1869 340348
    Other:
  • Save
    Oxfork
    Restaurants (European)
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    Oxfork, in east Oxford, is the place to go for a fabulous Great British breakfast. The eggs are organic, and there are plenty of veggie options. And for lunch and in the evenings, Oxfork also serves a British take on tapas, with great dishes for sharing.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Oxfork is open from 8am-5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday; and from 8am-10.30pm the rest of the week. The kitchen is open from 10am daily.
    • Oxfork can get busy, so be prepared to wait — or make a reservation.
    • This is a great place for a family brunch or for a late breakfast after a "night on the town".
    • It’s a bit out of the way, but worth the journey if you’re a big breakfast fan.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #0 of 0 restaurants in
    • Overated 13/03/2017
    • Lovely Brunch 01/11/2016
    • Oxfork
    Address:
    36 Magdalen Road
    Oxford OX4 1RB
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 243280
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    08:00 - 17:00
    Fri - Sat
    08:00 - 22:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Mini Plant Oxford
    Factory Tours
    Sarah F Says:

    Oxford is where the iconic Mini cars are built. You can take a tour of the factory in Cowley to see how these beautiful cars, now part of BMW, are put together. It's fascinating to see the robots at work and to see how much of the manufacture is automated. Even if you're not a car buff, this is a fabulous tour.

    Good for
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Plenty of parking is available at the factory.
    • Visitors are not allowed to bring food or drinks inside the premises.
    • Minimum age of visitors is 14, and 14-18-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult.
    • There is an entrance fee. You can book a tour in advance through the website.
    • Tours are offered from Monday to Friday and last about 2 hours 30 minutes.
    • You must wear comfortable shoes; high heels and open-toe sandals are not allowed.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 46 Tours in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Amazing insight into the world of car manufacture 06/04/2018
    • Plant tour 04/04/2018
    • Mini Plant Oxford
    Address:
    Eastern Bypass Road
    Cowley
    Oxford OX4 6NL
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 825750
    Price range:
    US$34 - US$34
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    08:30 - 20:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Magic Cafe
    Restaurants (Cafe, British)
    Sarah F Says:

    Magic Cafe offers gorgeous, tasty, home-made vegetarian food at very reasonable prices. If you like healthy food, good value for money, and a friendly, buzzing atmosphere, then this is the place to go!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • It’s very baby friendly, with plenty of parents bringing their children here for lunch.
    • Tables are large, so you may end up sharing — and making new friends.
    • The choice of dishes is limited but always of very high quality.
    • Magic Café is in Magdalen Road, just off the Cowley Road.
    • There’s a noticeboard by the door with plenty of information about events in the area.
    • The chunky vegetable soup is a meal in itself, and delicious to boot!
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #214 of 536 restaurants in Oxford
    • Quirky Vegetarian Cafe 30/03/2018
    • Good carrot cake! 15/03/2018
    • Magic Cafe
    Address:
    110 Magdalen Road
    Oxford OX4 1RQ
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 794604
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    The Rusty Bicycle
    Restaurants (Bar, Pizza, British, Pub)
    See more photos
    Sarah F Says:

    This friendly community pub has a great selection of beers. It's also popular for its pizzas and burgers, if you fancy a bite to eat. The Rusty Bicycle a great British boozer with entertainment on some evenings. And yes, it does have a rusty bicycle on the premises!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Hidden Gems
    • Like a Local
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Family
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • Takeaway burgers and pizzas are available, and they deliver.
    • Open from 12pm to 11pm, Monday to Thursday; 12pm to 1am on Friday and Saturday; and 12pm to 10.30pm on Sunday. The kitchen closes in the afternoon.
    • Rusty Bicycle also does tasty bar snacks, including home-made sausage rolls and pork pies.
    • Rusty Bicycle is baby- and dog-friendly.
    • The Rusty Bicycle is on Magdalen Road, just off the Cowley Road.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #52 of 536 restaurants in Oxford
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Love this pub 26/03/2018
    • Good atmosphere. 24/03/2018
    • The Rusty Bicycle
    Address:
    28 Magdalen Road
    Oxford OX4 1RB
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 435298
    Price range:
    US$11 - US$19
    Hours:
    Sun - Thu
    09:00 - 23:00
    Fri - Sat
    09:00 - 23:45
    Other:
  • Save
    Bate Collection
    Speciality Museums
    Sarah F Says:

    The Bate Collection will be music to your ears if you play an instrument. The museum has a splendid collection of more than 2,000 musical instruments from various historical periods, including brass instruments, saxophones, and string and percussion instruments. The Bate Library is also home to more than 3,000 books on musical instruments and music technology!

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • The Bate Collection is open from 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and some Saturday mornings.
    • The museum holds concerts, recitals, workshops and family-friendly activities. Ask about their upcoming schedule.
    • The Bate Collection is in the Oxford University Faculty of Music at St Aldate’s.
    • Admission is free.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #68 of 185 things to do in Oxford
    • A specialist place really, but worth popping in 08/02/2018
    • great collection of musical instruments through the ages 18/01/2018
    • Bate Collection
    Address:
    Oxford University Faculty of Music
    St. Aldate's
    Oxford OX1 1DB
    England
    Phone:
    +44 1865 276139
    Hours:
    Mon - Fri
    14:00 - 17:00
    Other:
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