The top days out in Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is surely one of England’s finest counties; home to the city of Oxford and a host of charming villages and historic market towns. Both the River Thames and the River Cherwell wind their way through the county, providing opportunities for sailing, rowing and, of course, punting in Oxford. This is a county of open countryside and ancient woodland – to the west, you’ll find the Cotswolds and to the south-east The Chiltern Hills.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

There are so many places to visit in Oxfordshire from model villages and museums to wildlife parks, botanic gardens and stately homes. Whether you’d like your day out in Oxford to include shopping, theatre, galleries or museums, you won’t be disappointed.  Indeed, there are so many places to visit in Oxford that you’ll be spoilt for choice. 

We have categorised our day trips by occasion, although these locations are of course worth visiting for many reasons.

Top things to do with your friends 》

Top things to do with children 》

Top free attractions 》

Top places to go shopping 》

Top places for afternoon tea 》

And you can view our interactive map to discover the attractions closest to you, and our developments in Oxfordshire by clicking here.


If you’re visiting Oxford in September, don’t miss out on Oxford Open Doors.  This is a weekend that celebrates Oxford’s heritage and culture by giving everyone the chance to get behind Oxford’s closed doors.  People are invited to explore the colleges, university buildings and green spaces together with a range of other varied and hidden heritage sites across the city – many of which are not usually open to members of the public. The organisers also put together several free and paid events throughout the year, some for members only. You can see a list of these events here.

Another website to take a look at is  This is a comprehensive, locally-run resource for residents and visitors alike, packed with events, things to see and do, details of what’s on at the theatres and museums, essential sightseeing, attractions and restaurants recommended by the people who live in Oxford.

We have selected our favourite things to do in and around Oxfordshire and we hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit as many of them as you can.

Bourton on the water sign
A bench and fountain at Oxford Botanic Garden

Top things to do with your friends in Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace

This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Woodstock, is a fascinating place to visit. 

Built between 1705 and 1722 as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough from the English nation as a reward for his military victories, it is one of the largest stately homes in the country and the only non-episcopal or royal residences to bear the name ‘palace.’   It is also the birthplace and first residence of Winston Churchill.  The palace, park and gardens are open to the public and the palace is connected to the gardens by a miniature railway.  There are formal gardens, a walled garden, a sensory garden, a butterfly house and a maze as well as an opportunity to ‘walk in Churchill’s footsteps.’  The stables house an interactive exhibition and a visit to one of the palace shops is a ‘must.’  The estate also hosts concerts, festivals and art exhibitions. 

Find out more 》


Waddeston Manor

Just over the border in Buckinghamshire, this French Renaissance-style chateau was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in 1874 to house his collection of fine art.  

Today, a visit to this National Trust Property should also include a stroll round the Victorian-style gardens with their ornate fountains, statues, Rococo-style aviary and woodland playground. When it’s time for lunch or afternoon tea, there’s the Manor Restaurant and the Stables Café and the gift and wine shop stocks fine wines and unique items inspired by the art collection.

Find out more 》


Broughton Castle, Banbury

This moated and fortified manor house, set in parkland, has been in the same family since 1447 and, today, is the home of the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele.

The core of the house was built in 1306 and the gatehouse in early 15th century but most of the house we see today was built in the 1550s.   The Ladies’ Garden was created in the 1890s by Lady Algernon Gordon-Lennox (the Gordon-Lennox family included the Duke of Richmond).   The house holds open days and booking is essential. 

Find out more 》

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Waddeston manor

Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley

This is a magical place with beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers, classical borders, modern planting and long vistas.

Home to the renowned horticultural college between 1932 and 1971, the emphasis was on food production but over the past 20 years the gardens have developed and grown.  Today, you can experience the Formal Garden, the Mary Rose Garden, a Waterlily Canal and the Long Colour Border as well as a small arboretum in the meadow beyond the canal.  There’s a plant centre in the kitchen garden and a shop, gallery and museum in the restored farm buildings.

Find out more 》


Wychwood Brewery

The brewery is open for public tours most Saturday and Sunday afternoons throughout the year, but you do need to book. 

The tour lasts approximately two hours and takes you through the brewing process of Wychwood & Brakspear beers, from the raw ingredients to the finished product taking in the copper, mash tun and double drop system.  After the tour, you’ll be able to sample the Legendary Hobgoblin and a range of Wychwood and Brakspear bottled beers and, of course, to buy some from the brewery shop to take home with you. 

Find out more 》


Bodleian Library Tours

If you’re visiting Oxford with friends, it’s worth taking a tour of the world-famous Bodleian Library.

The library dates back to 1488 with the library, as it stands today, opening in 1602.   Countless famous scholars have studied in the library including Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein.  There are three guided tours available – a 30 minute tour, a 60 minute tour and a 90 minute tour – these differ in price but all must be booked in advance (which may be done online on the website).  

Find out more 》


Oxford Botanic Garden

This is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world.

Founded in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research, today it contains over 5,000 different species. The historic walled garden is a green oasis of calm in the centre of the city and you can see seven display glasshouses with tropical rainforests, the world’s largest water lilies, carnivorous plants, desert cacti and alpine flora.

Find out more 》

Waterperry Gardens
Bodleian Library Oxford
Oxford Botanic Gardens

The top things to do with your children or grandchildren in Oxfordshire

Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford

This is Oxfordshire’s largest and most impressive zoological centre. 

Exhibits include a high-rise giraffe walkway so you can see the giraffes eye-to-eye.  There are Asiatic lions, white rhinos, zebra, giant anteaters, one of the UK’s largest collections of reptiles – and more.  You’ll be able to watch the penguins and the lemurs being fed each day, visit the children’s farmyard and adventure playground and take a trip on the narrow gauge railway. The park also has daily activities which you can find online here.

Find out more 》

Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford
Crocodile at Crocodiles of the World, Witney

Crocodiles of the World, Witney

Visit the UK’s only dedicated crocodile zoo and you’ll see a whole variety of species including the Siamese crocodile, the Chinese alligator, Nile crocodile and American alligator.

Children between the ages of 6 and 14 can enjoy a junior crocodile keeper experience – spending time working with the keepers, meeting many of the animals up close and helping with the feeding – this is a great birthday treat.  There’s also a ‘Meet The Meerkats’ and a ‘Komodo Dragon Experience’ when small groups of children can help feed the animals.  You’ll need to book tickets for the zoo and for the experiences. 

Find out more 》

Oxford Spy Mission Treasure Trail

This makes an ordinary day in Oxford something special. All you do is download a PDF booklet which guides you along the trail – or you can have one delivered. 

You only need one booklet for the family so it’s not an expensive advantage.  There’s no need for guides or organised groups, you can take as long as you need to complete the trail and you learn about Oxford’s history whilst working as an undercover special agent.

Find out more 》


Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway

This standard gauge heritage railway runs along the foot of the Chilterns escarpment and the young and young at heart can enjoy a seven-and-a-half-mile round trip from Chinnor station to Princes Risborough on steam and vintage diesel trains, passing through Thame. 

It’s worth checking the website for the timetables – which usually operate on Sundays and Bank Holidays and Thursdays during the school holidays.

Find out more 》


The Model Village, Bourton on the Water

If you’re visiting the Cotswolds – the Model Village at Bourton on the Water is just over the border in Gloucestershire. 

Built of Cotswold stone, it’s the only Grade II listed model village in the country.  You can see the River Windrush flowing under Bourton’s famous bridges, providing a backdrop to the miniature beeches, cherry and chestnut trees.  You can hear music in the tiny model church and can wander the lanes peering into all the different buildings. Find out more 》


Fairytale Farm, Chipping Norton

Ideal for younger grandchildren, Fairytale Farm is a truly inclusive experience, where everything is accessible, and everybody is welcome.

The farm is divided into six main zones:  Huff and Puff for adventure play, the Enchanted Walk for a fairytale sensory experience, Alfie and Friends where you can meet amazing animals and see the new duckpond, Jack’s Yard with Mouse Town, Snow White Garden and Jack’s amazing beanstalk and you can milk Daisy the Cow, play in the sandpit and enjoy Rapunzel’s Kingdom indoor play area and finally, there’s the Wilderness Walk and Fairy Dell.

Find out more 》

Chinnor railway
The Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library Oxford
Bourton on the Water model village

The top free attractions in Oxfordshire

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683.

The world-famous collections range from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, telling human stories across cultures and across time. The Museum is open every day, 10am–5pm. Admission is free.

Find out more 》


Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum is one of Oxford’s most popular attractions, famous for its period atmosphere and outstanding collections from many cultures around the world, past and present.

Founded in 1884, it houses within an atmospheric building more than 500,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts from all over the world, and from all periods of human existence. Within these are exceptional objects of ritual significance, and objects made for tourists or trade. 

Find out more 》


Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford

The Museum of Natural History houses the University's scientific collections of geological and zoological specimens.

The Museum itself is a Grade 1 listed building, renowned for its spectacular neo-Gothic architecture. Among its most famous features are the Oxfordshire dinosaurs, the dodo, and the swifts in the tower.

Find out more 》


Wychwood Wild Garden, Shipton-under-Wychwood

This is a beautiful, private, woodland and garden with 12.5 acres of avenues, woodland and ponds, much of which was laid out in the 1860s. 

It is home to wildlife including many breeds of birds – and ducks.    Managed by a local charity, it is a place of peace and tranquility for local residents and visitors alike. 

Find out more 》


The White Horse, Uffington

The Uffington White Horse is a prehistoric hill figure, 360 feet long, formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk. 

Set on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill in Uffington, it was created between 1380 and 550 BC during the late Bronze or early Iron Age.  Today the site is owned and managed by the National Trust.   

Find out more 》

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
The Oxford University Natural History Museum

Top places to go shopping in Oxfordshire

Bicester Village

Bicester Village is home to more than 160 boutiques of world-leading brands… on sale, all year round.

Shop Tory Burch, The White Company, Under Armour and many more luxury fashion and lifestyle boutiques.  Eat at Soho House & Co’s farm shop restaurant & cafe. Open seven days a week and with ample free parking.

Find out more 》


Wallingford Markets

In addition to having a good selection of local shops, Wallingford is famous for its markets.  

The Charter Market, held every Friday, is where traders come to sell plants, eggs, cheese, fish, bread, fruit and vegetables, clothing, cards, gift wrap, pet food and more.  On Friday mornings, you can visit the Country Market in St Mary le More Church in the Market Place to buy homemade baked goods and preserves, plants, fruits and vegetable and crafts.  The Wallingford Local Producers’ Market is also held in St Mary le More Church but on Saturday mornings, selling food and crafts grown or made locally.

Find out more 》


Oxford Covered Market

Home to more than 50 traders selling fresh produce, gifts, fashion, flowers and jewellery, the Grade II listed, covered market showcases local crafts, food and drink. 

It first opened as a market in 1774 and has been rebuilt and enlarged several times but has been in continual use as a market for almost 250 years. The majority of businesses are independent and some go back generations.

Find out more 》


Westgate Oxford

Designed to make Oxford the ultimate retail and lifestyle destination, Westgate includes restaurants and cafes, a five-screen boutique cinema, sophisticated rooftop bars and dining and – of course – a host of retail outlets. 

Find out more 》


The Westgate Shopping Centre, Oxford

Top places for afternoon tea in Oxfordshire

By the time you’ve shopped and explored, you’ll be ready for afternoon tea. These are just a few of our favourites.

There are several websites providing details on afternoon teas in Oxfordshire including Afternoon Tea Online, Hardwick Parks and

Scones with cream and jam
Huffkins Bakery, burford
Tea and cake

View the interactive map of the top days out in Oxfordshire

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