Here are some free things to do in Oxford.
In preparation for the book, I intend to release this December (What to do in Oxford: A virtual tour). I have decided to give back to those who want to know more about Oxford and her hidden gems. Albeit that Summer has come to an end, I spent the last few weeks back in my hometown of Oxford. Bright, beautiful and full of sunshine, mixed with spires. I thought I would share some of the fun experiences and places to visit that will cost you nothing but the most precious thing, time.
I have selected from a wide variety of locations and tried to pick things that will inspire, relax, and bring a few smiles I’m sure.
Christ Church Meadows
If you want some relaxing and inspirational sites in the centre of a city, you cannot go far wrong with a walk through Christ Church Meadows: an inspiring place for writers, tourists, students and townsfolk. The path can start from St. Aldates or the Folly Bridge and there are two entrances to the north near Merton College. The meadows are heavily linked to Alice in Wonderland, and it is said that Alice and her two sisters planted three trees together in the park, although we do not know where. We also know that C. S. Lewis took walks through the park, and J. R. R. Tolkien who was at Merton must have looked at and walked through the meadows. It has the river Cherwell cutting through it, and as you walk blissfully along you will see people punting along on little boats known as punts. On particularly hot days, which we are now having more frequently, you will find people swimming in the river Cherwell. There are also cows in the centre of the field, allowed to graze throughout the summer.
Oxford, England, OX1 1DP
Phone: +44 (0) 1865 276492
Mon-Friday: 24 hours
Sun – Sat: 06:00 – 21:00
Down on St. Giles, you can see on the first left the first Museum in the world. Or at least the first museum’s second location. Looking like an ancient Greek temple, with huge columns reaching several stories high. Inside you will find a huge variety of artefacts from across the world, including Japan, Greece, Rome, and ancient England. Drawings by Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Guy Fawkes’ lantern and The Alfred Jewel linked to Alfred the Great.
Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2PH
Phone: +44 1865 278000
Mon-Sun: 10:00 – 17:00
This castle has been around for almost 1000 years and was constructed after the invasion of William the Conqueror. Over the centuries its function changed from the castle, which was involved in two civil wars and was to become derelict. After the last civil war with Parliament and the King, the castle was converted to a prison in the 1700s and continued to operate as one until 1996. The prison featured in several movies, including the Italian Job. Now it operates as a hotel, bars and cafes are strewn across the castle.
Oxford Castle & Prison
44-46 Oxford Castle, Oxford OX1 1AY
Phone: +44 (0) 1865 260666
Mon-Sun: 10:00 – 17:30
Free Walking Tours
If your appetite for knowledge of the city has been wetted but not filled, you can attend free guided tours of the city with Footprints Tours. They last for two hours and are led by Oxford students. They meet outside the Fudge Kitchen on 5 Broad Street, OX1 3AJ.
Phone: +44 (0) 207 55 88 706
Mon-Sat: 10:00 – 17:30
Sun: 10:00 – 17:30
After all of that walking, you do deserve a snack and I have found one on Broad Street, which is where the Free Walking Tours end. The Oxford Fudge Kitchen is next to the Martyrs Cross and does offer free samples. With a large variety of fudge it’s hard not to think you won’t be able to find something.
5 Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AJ
Phone: +44 (0) 1865 794154
Mon-Sat: 10:00 – 17:30
Sun: 10:00 – 17:30
Victorian swimming baths
Now there is an opportunity for a swim in the river Cherwell. However, there are many hidden old swimming baths in Oxford.
Swimming baths in rivers had become a fad in the Victorian era and swimming baths were built into them. However, since the 1980s the local councils stopped maintaining and operating the swimming baths. So, I do warn that you swim at your own risk.
On the Botley Road, there is the Tumbling bay, where you will still see river swimmers. There are other spots including Parson’s Pleasure and Dame’s Delight off New Marston, which was one of the few places that nudist swimming was allowed.
Abbey Rd, Oxford OX1 1HW
Parson’s Pleasure and Dame’s delight.
Oxford OX3 0EY
I hope some of these free things in Oxford help you have a great day in the city centre.
If you would like to know more about the imagination tour please look at my previous blogs.