There are plenty of things to do in Oxford on a day trip, and it’s quite easy to get to the city from London even when traveling on your own (no need for an expensive tour!) Oxford is VERY quintessentially British, with, of course, the world-famous University of Oxford present around the entirety of it, making it a very relaxed, student-focused city to explore.
Before we get into the list of cool things to do in Oxford on a day trip from London, here’s some important info to know beforehand…
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How to Get from London to Oxford
I personally do not recommend taking one of those expensive day tours that take you to, like, five cities in one day. Oxford warrants an entire day and it’s super easy to get to from London, so save your money and take one of these public transportation options to get from London to Oxford.
Buses to Oxford from London
You can take the X90 bus from London to Oxford, which has free wifi, a toilet and goes direct to and from the cities, with multiple pick up spots in London. Tickets for adults are £14 roundtrip. You can compare train and bus options easily (and book tickets) on The Trainline.
Trains to Oxford from London
If you want to take a train to Oxford for the day (my preferred method), you’ll be taking a train from London Paddington station or London Marylebone station. Use The Trainline to search for train times on the day you want to travel, and try to book yourself onto a direct train if available.
You’ll want to book in advance as you’ll be more likely to find very cheap tickets.
The train ride is about an hour long, and you’ll be brought right into the centre of Oxford, an easy walk away from pretty much anything you’ll want to see there.
If you plan to take three or more day trips while in London then you might want to get a BritRail London Plus Pass to save some money.
Taking a car to Oxford from London
I don’t ever recommend anyone who is visiting London to rent a car, and to rent a car for a day trip to Oxford is way more hassle and money than its worth.
It’s possible to get a taxi to take you there but you can expect to pay £150+ each way, only if there’s no traffic…
What day of the week should you visit Oxford?
If you can avoid weekends, especially during the summer, there will be less crowds, plus sometimes the trains get packed on the weekends — standing room only, occasionally. Don’t worry, if you’re handicapped, someone will need to give up their “priority” seat.
The upside of visiting on a weekend, however, is that students around the city will be a little more relaxed, and if you visit on Sunday, you can enjoy a Sunday Roast (keep reading for more info on this.)
Transportation Options While in Oxford
The city is very walkable so you probably won’t need to take public transportation while you’re there. If you need a taxi, Uber is not available but you can call a taxi via Royal Cars.
9 Cool Things to Do in Oxford:
1. Go on an Oxford Walking Tour
Footprints Tours does a great free walking tour of the city, run by university students. Make sure you give a tip to your guide at the end of the tour, they survive off tips!
2. Go for a pub lunch
Oxford has lots of great pubs where you can either just have a drink or can have a proper pub lunch or dinner (either on your own or with the family.)
If you’ve found yourself with nice weather while on your day trip to Oxford, pop to Head of the River for a yummy pub lunch outside, on the river (duh.) Even if the weather doesn’t let you sit outside comfortably, eat inside, and if it’s Sunday, definitely get their Sunday Roast (even the veggie option is great.) If you have a big group, definitely book ahead on the weekends.
That’s the pub that I would definitely recommend but there are some other nice options around the city centre that you could easily try too.
3. Have a drink at Turf Tavern
Of all of the pubs in Oxford, the Turf Tavern is the most famous, for reasons that your tour guide will tell you if you do the free walking tour I mentioned earlier. It’s also one of the most popular pubs with the university students, so you’ll feel a bit like a local if you hang out and have yourself a pint (unless it’s school holidays and the students aren’t in town!)
In terms of things to do in Oxford on a day trip, this is the most chill, in my opinion…
4. Visit Modern Art Oxford
If you like modern art, this free museum is a great stop for you. The exhibitions change somewhat frequently so check the Modern Art Oxford website to see what’s on at the time you’ll be in having your day trip.
On the ground floor of the museum is a kid-friendly cafe so if you need to rest your feet for a bit you can do that before checking out the art.
5. Visit the History of Science Museum
At the History of Science Museum, you’ll find the “world’s finest collection of early scientific instruments from Europe and the Islamic World, including sundials and astrolabes of extraordinary beauty.” Its claim to fame, however, is a blackboard that has calculations on it that were done by Albert Einstein himself.
6. Browse The Covered Market
The Covered Market is exactly what the name says– it’s an indoor market featuring small shops that sell food, drinks, clothing and gifts. Pop in and grab a snack, or find something to take back home with you that will help you remember your day trip to Oxford.
7. Check out Oxford’s green areas
You’ll see that Oxford has lots of green spaces, but not all of them can be walked on or sat on because they’re part of the university and need to be preserved. But if you find yourself with a nice day then do take advantage of the green spaces that you ARE allowed to visit.
The free-for-all green areas can be found easily throughout your day of exploring (or head to the river to find them more easily) or you could opt to get tickets to see the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, which are just £5.45 for adults and free for kids under 16.
8. Go punting on the river (or just watch)
“Punting” is famous in both Oxford and Cambridge, and it’s essentially a method of boating that’s similar to gondolas in Venice. Someone stands in the boat and uses a pole to push it along the bottom of the river. If you have nice weather while in Oxford, punting is a lovely experience.
How to go punting in Oxford
There are a few places you can rent punting boats from in Oxford but the one with the most convenient location is Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. It’s a bit of a tricky thing to learn, you can be given basic training when you rent a boat or if you book a private tour guide via Footprints Tours you guide can do the punting while you relax and maybe even enjoy some champagne along the way…
If you don’t want to actually go on a boat, you can join the locals who, on a nice day, will always be found sitting on the banks of the river watching the punters go by.
9. Visit the Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum holds artifacts spanning zoology, entomology and geology, in an absolutely beautiful building. It’s free to visit and is a popular place for families as it’s quite kid-friendly, they often have activities for young kids to learn and be entertained.
You should now be sufficiently covered with things to do in Oxford on a day trip, and if you need some ideas for other places to visit while in London, check out my article on Great Day Trips from London.
More London Tips:
- 5 Day Trips To Take While Visiting London
- 3 Great Areas to Stay in London For A Local Experience
- How to Prepare For Your First 3 Days in London