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Free Things to do in Oxford

Monday 03 July 2023

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For Brits and tourists alike, Oxford is one of the UK’s most popular cities to visit. Its historic architecture, fascinating cultural heritage, and utmost Englishness draw in visitors in their thousands, and with so many fantastic ways to spend your time in Oxford, we’re not surprised!

However, we know that finding entertaining things to do on a budget can be tricky. Whether you’re searching for the best Oxford attractions free of charge or for less expensive ways to see the city – we have put together our list of the best free things to do around Oxford. Come along with CrossCountry to discover the best ways to spend a day in Oxford – all for free!

How to Get to Oxford by train:

Before you can explore all the wonderful, budget-friendly delights that Oxford has to offer, travel in style and comfort with CrossCountry. Our trains run directly to Oxford Station from a variety of cities and towns around the UK; including Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Bournemouth, Guildford, and Crewe.

Make sure to book your tickets in advance to get the best price.

Learn in the Ashmolean Museum

Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean Museum has been Oxford’s home of art and archaeology for hundreds of years – and it is one of the best free things to do in Oxford. Their collection has everything from Egyptian mummies to European textiles, ceramics to prehistoric objects; whatever period of history fascinates you, you can be sure to learn something new at the Ashmolean Museum. If you’re exploring Oxford with young children, be sure to pick up a Family Trail guide to keep your little ones intrigued.

For a special treat and panoramic views of Oxford, why not visit the rooftop restaurant and terrace? Serving food and drinks throughout the museum’s opening hours, this is one of Oxford’s must-see spots.

A woman and a child, looking at statues while sitting on a bench.

Cycle Along the Water

Oxford is a cycling city – all over the city centre and beyond you will notice just how popular cycling is. So, why not get involved and discover a different side of Oxford by cycling the Oxford Canal or the River Thames?

Oxford Canal runs into the city centre from the North and offers a view of the city’s natural life. We recommend joining the canal from Hythe Bridge and cycling along to Port Meadow country park to catch a glimpse of their native ponies, cattle, horses, and wildfowl. The River Thames runs through the city and offers a great opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle. If you’re planning to add a cycling day trip to your itinerary, you can hire bicycles from one of Oxford’s many cycle rental businesses. If you’re bringing your own bicycle, be sure to check CrossCountry’s policy on bikes on board.

Admire Oxford’s Colleges

One of the primary attractions bringing tourists to Oxford each year is the stunning architecture associated with Oxford University’s many colleges. Walking through Oxford city centre, you can marvel at the traditional English beauty of colleges like Christ Church, Oriel, and Trinity, but some require a ticket to enter and explore. A little outside of the centre, though, you can find Worcester College, which is completely free to enter. The stunning lawn surrounded by ivy-clad architecture offers a unique view of college life at Oxford, and it is surely one of the best places to visit in Oxford for free.

Explore the Covered Market

Of course, we can’t promise that you won’t be tempted to buy some lunch, an ice cream, or even some artisan ingredients while you’re visiting. However, Oxford’s Covered Market is free to enter and is an absolute treasure trove for foodies! Whether you feel like sampling fresh Greek cuisine, indulging in speciality Colombian coffee, or maybe treating yourself to gourmet chocolates, the Covered Market has a dynamic range of refreshments to enjoy.

A coffee shop in Oxford Covered Market with a several people sat outside.

Look at the street performers in Bonn Square

Oxford is a vibrant city, and this is especially clear along the streets of the city centre. Buskers, magicians, and other street performers are dotted all around the main shopping streets, as well as the covered market – so there is plenty to entertain yourself with! Have a stroll around the city centre; it won’t take you long to secure the best spots for watching performers and enjoying the local sounds and sights. If you’re lucky enough to see Oxford on a sunny day, grab a bit of lunch from the local market and enjoy a picnic with entertainment added in.

Discover the Pitt Rivers Museum

A hidden gem full of hidden treasures, the Pitt Rivers Museum is one of Oxford’s most unique historical sites. The museum has an astoundingly wide-ranging collection of historical and cultural artefacts from around the world, and in recent years the Pitt Rivers Museum has dedicated itself to redressing colonialism within its collection. With multiple levels of display cases housing everything from weapons and armour to masks and jewellery, children and adults alike are sure to find something fascinating to learn about.

Pitt Rivers Museum with two balcony levels, featuring display cases and a Totem pole.


If you’re planning a free trip to Oxford, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best historical places in the UK, the best forests in the UK, or the best cinemas in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.

Written by Julia

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