For a city with so much history and classic British culture, it’s really no surprise that Oxford has such a huge array of incredible celebrations to get involved with throughout the year.
Whether you’re a fan of food festivals or you want to get to grips with some of Oxford’s charming long-standing traditions, here’s a small selection of fantastic events hosted in and around the famous university city.
Founded in 1974, Oxford Music Festival is a celebration of the city’s classical musical heritage. Watch young talent perform some of the most well-known compositions, attend a masterclass taught by a professional or even apply to play in the festival yourself (applications close the previous October).
When: Late January/early February
Fans of folk music will be in their element at this Oxford festival. As well as performances from local and international folk musicians, its programme also include ceilidhs, Morris dancing and unique workshops.
When: End of April
Combining open air concerts with an eco-friendly ethos, this Oxford-based festival in Cornbury Park has become one of the most popular music events in the UK. As well as hosting some of the best bands and solo artists on the planet, it also includes a whole host of theatre, arts and wellbeing events.
When: Last weekend of July
One of Oxford University’s major “bumps” boat races held in the city, Torpids sees over 100 teams of eight rowers soaring along the River Isis and attempting to bump into boats in front of them to eliminate them from the competition. The series of races are traditionally started with a blast of cannon fire and can be watched from Oxford’s riverbanks or bridges.
When: Early March
A centuries-old Oxford tradition, this sees students and locals heading to Magdalen Tower at 6am on May Day to listen to the Magdalen College choir sing hymns and to hear the tower’s bells ring out for twenty minutes. This is usually followed by other fun events nearby, from Morris Men to live bagpipe music.
When: 1st of May
Go behind the scenes at some of Oxford’s top heritage sites which aren’t usually open to the public during this annual open house event run by the Oxford Preservation Trust. Past locations include Oxford Castle & Prison and All Souls College.
When: 2nd weekend of September
While it doesn’t take place in Oxford itself, this prestigious boat race is one of the top events on the Oxfordshire county calendar. It sees thousands flocking to Henley-on-Thames dressed in their finest to watch crews race along the river.
When: End of June/early July
Celebrating all things female, this important festival has been going for over 25 years and includes a range of inspirational talks, workshops, film screenings and lively debates at locations in Oxford and the surrounding area.
When: Late February to early March
As a university city that has spawned some of the UK’s greatest writers, this festival is a real must-see for bookworms. It attracts some of the biggest names in the literary world for talks, workshops and readings at the Christ Church Campus and other central locations. Tickets for each individual event typically cost between £5 - £15.
When: Late March/early April
Oxford’s annual Pride festival takes place across a few weeks in early summer and celebrates the local LGBT community with various vibrant events and performances, plus a huge parade on the final weekend of the festival.
When: Mid-May to early June
Fans of the occasional pint or those simply obsessed with craft ales should definitely check out this lively festival. Organised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), it takes place at the historic Town Hall and offers you the chance to taste over 150 locally brewed beers and cider.
When: Last weekend of October
If you’d rather a glass of wine, book your Jurys Inn Oxford hotel stay in September to make the most of the Oxford Wine Festival. Taste award-winning wines and rare vintage bottles sourced from English vineyards, plus tipples from wineries located across the globe.
When: Early September
Part of a UK-wide food festival (the largest in the country), Oxford Foodies Festival takes place at South Park. As well as stalls laden with local produce and pop-ups from top Oxford restaurants, there’s also usually live music and other amazing entertainment.
When: Late August
If you or your kids are big fans of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, you’re in luck as there’s a whole day dedicated to the enchanting tale in Oxford. Organised by the Story Museum, check out themed treasure hunts, readings and guided walks to spots in Oxford which helped inspire the world-famous fairy tale.
When: 6th July
Take a drive just outside the city centre to the charming suburb of Headington for this fun-filled weekend of children’s events, from a traditional fete complete with stalls and old-fashioned games to amazing activities like balloon art and face painting.
When: Beginning of June
Oxford’s biggest Guy Fawkes celebration takes place at South Park and includes a huge firework display and a roaring bonfire. It’s been celebrated in the park for over 50 years and ticket costs from the event all go to local charities.
When: Early November
If you’re keen to plan a pre-Christmas getaway with the kids, Oxford is a great choice thanks to fantastic festivities like the annual Christmas Lights Festival. Spread across three days in November, it sees the city centre come alive with dazzling light displays, lively music and festive-themed stalls.
Where to stay in Oxford
Whatever time of year you decide to visit, why not stay at our 4-star Jurys Inn Oxford located just a short drive from the heart of this historic city? As well as offering spacious rooms and great onsite facilities, you’ll also be well placed for attending festivals both in the city and just beyond.
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