What are the best things to do in Oxford, and why make a day trip from London to Oxford? Oxford has the wonderful Ashmolean Museum, the many fine university buildings and colleges to visit or look at, a fascinating Botanic Garden, literary pubs, the chance to try your hand at punting on the river, or spotting the several Harry Potter film locations in the town.
New College Lane in Oxford
This is the oldest public museum in Britain. Highlights include a good collection of French artists such as Monet, Manet, Cezanne and Renoir, ancient Egyptian mummies and other items. The Ashmolean also has the Alfred Jewel, which is a crystal that has been dated to the time of King Alfred and which has a reference to Alfred carved on it.
Balliol was founded in 1263 and through its doors since then have passed such notable students as Hilaire Belloc, Aldous Huxley, Richard Dawkins, Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Among its most notable features are the burn marks by the cross on Broad Street where the Protestant Archbishop Cranmer and two of his Bishops were burned alive during the reign of Queen Mary for their religious beliefs.
The Bodleian Library has always been one of the most photographed buildings in Oxford, even before it had a starring role in the Harry Potter movies. You can't see inside the Library but can visit the Divinity School, which is well worth it. The School has also become a Harry Potter movie location: Hogwarts Sanatorium. On top of the Bodleian Library is the 18th century dome, the Radcliffe Camera.
Christ Church College
Christ Church's magnificent dining hall is now even more famous around the world as it is also the Hogwarts School dining hall in the Harry Potter films. It's the largest and the grandest of all the Oxford colleges, has the largest quadrangle in the city and its 800-year-old chapel is also Oxford's Cathedral. It appears in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited as well as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. No fewer than 13 British Prime Ministers attended Christ Church College, as did poet WH Auden and writer Richard Curtis of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame.
Famous Oxford literary pubs include the White Horse (52 Broad Street), which appears in several Inspector Morse TV episodes, and the Eagle and Child (49 St Giles), haunt of J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, amongst others. It's definitely worth taking a break and having a drink in one of these.
Magdalen College in Oxford
Magdalen (pronounced 'Maudlin', just so you don't get caught out) was founded in 1458 and has some of the most beautiful grounds in Oxford. Writer C.S. Lewis taught here, and among the students over the years have been Oscar Wilde, Sir John Betjamen, Andrew Lloyd Webber and P.G. Wodehouse.
Museum of the History of Science
Housed in a building dating from 1638, this is a fascinating collection of scientific instruments. Don't miss the gruesome medical instruments, or the restored old chemistry lab down in the basement.
Pitt Rivers Museum
This is a wonderful surviving example of a Victorian museum, from the time when new parts of the world were being discovered and a vast array of exotic and unusual items brought to Britain and put on display.
Punting on the River
If the sun shines then you just have to go punting on the river (right), and you can hire punts at Magdalen Bridge on the River Cherwell or Folly Bridge on the River Thames. Punting is harder than it looks so you might want to pay someone to do the hard work while you relax.
University of Oxford Botanic Garden
The Botanic Garden was founded in 1621 as a physic garden, where medicinal plants could be cultivated and studied. It now contains about 7000 specimens, and garden lovers may find themselves wanting to spend hours here. For them it will definitely be one of the very best things to do in Oxford.
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