10 Free Things to Do in Oxford, England
01Search for Sharknado
The 440 pound, 25-foot shark is embedded head-first in the roof of a house in Headington, a suburb of Oxford. The Headington shark first appeared in August 9, 1986, on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The sculpture is an expression of protest and anger against the use of nuclear power and weapons.
The shark was controversial when it first appeared. Oxford City Council tried to have it removed several times over the course of 6 years. Due to community support of the shark, it was allowed to remain.
The shark was renovated on its 21st anniversary in August 2007.
02Picnic in Port Meadow
02See Old Friends
If fossils are your fancy, be sure to stop by the Museum of Natural History. This free museum displays many of Oxford University’s natural history specimens, such as dinosaur bones, insects, and geological displays. To top it all off, the museum collection is housed in a neo-Gothic building that is a feast for the eyes.
Because the museum is free and educational, it is a popular destination for school field trips. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds of school-age children and moms with strollers in tow.
Location: Parks Road
Hours: Daily, 10am – 5pm
03Explore the Strange
Location: Parks Road
Entry: The Pitt Rivers Museum can only be accessed through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. If you have any trouble finding it, simply ask anyone from Oxford to point you towards “the museum with the shrunken heads.”
04Mess About on the River
Location: Magdalen Bridge Boathouse
Cost: Free to watch. £22/hour to rent a punt (extra for a chauffer; a £30 refundable deposit is required)
05Step Back in Time
06Follow in the Footsteps of Literary Greatness
Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, created his famous “Alice in Wonderland” stories for Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. Fantastic as it was, “Wonderland” was rooted in the environs around Oxford, including the Thames River, Christ Church College, the Natural History Museum, and The Perch tavern.
A group of literary academics known as the Inklings sprung up in Oxford which included famous writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The Inklings met regularly in the Eagle & Child pub in St. Giles to discuss literature and their own work. A plaque and a letter signed by both Lewis and Tolkien mark their favorite nook. C.S. Lewis’ grave can be found at Holy Trinity Church at Headington Quarry, where Lewis worshipped for 30 years. J.R.R. Tolkien is buried with his beloved “Luthien,” his wife Edith, at Wolvercote Cemetery off Banbury Road and Five Mile Drive.
07Take a Walking Tour of Oxford
Meeting Point: Broad Street
Hours: Monday to Friday and Sunday: 10am (July & August only), 11am, 12:30pm & 2pm; Saturday: 10am, 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm & 3:30pm.
08Live Like a Student
09Stroll Through the Covered Market
Dating back to the 1700’s, the Covered Market features over 50 independent stalls and stores, including food and vegatable stalls, coffee shops, florists, fishmongers, and fashion boutiques. The Market is a great place to grab something to eat, especially if you’re looking for something on the go. While you’re there, stop by the Cake Shop and admire the master bakers as they craft their sweet creations.
The Covered Market can be accessed from the High Street, Market Street, or through the Golden Cross in Cornmarket Street.
10Picnic in Port Meadow
Port Meadow – west of Oxford and only a 15-minute walk from the city center – is England’s oldest and largest continuous meadow. Visitors are privy to strolls among wild horses, sheep, and plenty of birds, with views of the Oxford skyline. It’s a great place to plan a picnic and relax amongst nature. Entry is through Walton Well Road or Aristotle Lane and the most popular route is to walk up the west side of the Meadow until reaching The Perch pub.