If you’re long overdue a city break, few places in the UK can offer a sense of escapism like the City of Dreaming Spires can. Oxford is one of the country’s most historic spots, famed around the world for its superb university and stunning classical architecture. In addition to its noble reputation and postcard-perfect beauty, Oxford is an exciting cultural hub with no end of things to see, do, eat and drink – particularly if you love spending time in the open air.
Being a great city to navigate on foot and with plenty of green spaces, you can expect to spend lots of time outdoors when you take a trip to Oxford. If that sounds right up your street, here are a few of our favourite things to do al fresco.
Suitable for: a moment of calm!
How to get there: head for the eastern end of High Street, and you’ll find the garden opposite Magdalen College
Oxford is a city rich in history, so you may not be too surprised to hear that its Botanic Gardens are the oldest in Britain, founded as far back as 1621. But their influence goes far beyond even that. Oxford Botanic Gardens served as inspiration for an awe-inspiring list of brilliant minds through the years, including fantasy novelists like Lewis Carroll and J.R.R Tolkien who were taken in by the gardens’ beauty and sense of whimsy.
With over 5,000 different species of plants set across tiered gardens and greenhouses, it’s not hard to see why. This floral paradise feels a world away from the city’s bustling streets, and certainly puts on a show no matter what time of year you visit.
Best for: couples and party groups
How to get there: head east along High Street and turn left just after the Botanic Gardens down towards the Cherwell
Price: from £22.00 per hour in the week and £24.00 per hour at the weekend for a punt that accommodates up to five people
There’s nothing more quintessentially Oxfordian than punting. This eccentric activity has been a regular haunt of the city’s residents – and in particular its many thousands of students – for as long as anybody can remember, and it’s a truly idyllic way to unwind on your otherwise packed-out Oxford itinerary.
You’ll find a few boathouses around the city, but one of the most beautifully set has to be Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, aptly located beside Magdalen college. Simply swing by and pay for your hire, before using your paddle to push out over the gentle water. You’re then free to head upstream, downstream and stop to lounge and snooze as you please – so long as you leave plenty of space for other punters to pass by!.
Best for: history and architecture lovers
How to get there: head to the northern end of the city centre along Banbury Road, and take a right once you reach St Anne’s College
Surrounded on three sides by beautiful Oxford colleges and grand Victorian mansions, University Parks is the city’s premier green space. Sitting over vast acres of land that used to belong to Merton College, the space was owned up and reorganised for sports and recreational use during 1864.
As one of the city’s best loved places to gather, you’ll almost always find something going on at University Parks. There’s plenty of places to bring a picnic or start a ball game, while you might find a game of cricket, tennis or football you can join in. You might even be able to try your hand at Quidditch – no, really. For a slower pace, there are areas like Mesopotamia, Norham Gardens and the Science Area to laze around in.
Suitable for: family days out
How to get there: make tracks for Folly Bridge, at the southern end of the city centre along St Aldate’s
Price: start at £8.00 for adults, £4.50 for children and free for under 3s (longer and more specialist trips will cost more)
Oxford is a city surrounded by water, so why not make the most of it? Salter’s Steamers Boat Trips are one of the region’s most wholesome days out, as you explore the sights and sounds of the River Thames as it snakes its way through the city and beyond.
The long and narrow boat offers plenty of seating, and runs between Oxford and Abingdon while passing sights like Christ Church Meadows, Iffley Church, Rose Island, Culham Motocross and Abingdon Lock. Part of the boat is well sheltered by canopies so even if the weather isn’t perfect, and provided you’ve packed some warmer clothes, you can enjoy a boat trip all year round – though do check the schedules as journeys can be less frequent in the wintertime.
Suitable for: great for party groups and adrenaline junkies
How to get there: make for the south east of the city along Iffley Road and follow signage for Florence Park, or take the City 5 Bus from outside the train station
Price: £30 per person for a 75-minute lesson
Fancy yourself as a burgeoning trapeze artist? Why not see if you really have the skills at High Fly Trapeze Oxford. This one-of-a-kind acrobatics school gives visitors the chance to twirl, spin and flip their way through the air, learning all manner of stunts and moves in the process.
Anyone over the age of six is welcome to have a go, and they’ve all the equipment you need to trapeze just like they do at the circus, including an enormous cable rig and safety netting. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted. But who knows, you might discover a skill you never knew you had!
You’ll need at least a weekend to take in all of these attractions, not to mention the countless other draws you can find around the city. With Jurys Inn Oxford, you’ll have a cosy and comfortable place to call base whenever you’re not out exploring. Located a little to the north of the city centre beyond the beautiful Port Meadow, you can look forward to kicking back in our on-site bar or dining in our Marco Pierre White Steakhouse.
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