Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, has more to offer than showstopping architecture and rich academic heritage. It’s also within easy driving distance of historical sights such as Stonehenge and Blenheim Palace, and the picturesque Cotswolds region. Here’s how to enjoy three days exploring Oxford’s treasures and beyond the city limits.
Begin your Oxford adventure with the essential sights, checking off some of the university’s architectural heavy hitters and landmarks, from the neoclassical Radcliffe Camera to Christ Church College. This can be done while listening to commentary from the top deck of a hop-on hop-off tour bus or—for more historical and local insight—as part of a guided walking or bike tour. You can also explore Oxford through the lens of famous TV shows and movies with tours that visit Harry Potter and Inspector Morse filming locations.
After a day of sightseeing, rest those legs on a leisurely cruise down the River Thames. Float past Christ Church Meadows and under Folly Bridge, stopping for a picnic dinner on the banks or for a 3-course meal at a riverside restaurant.
Oxford enjoys an enviable setting amid scenic rolling countryside, with many first-rate attractions nearby. History-keen travelers can take a day trip to two UNESCO World Heritage–listed sites: neolithic Stonehenge and the spa town of Bath. Spend the morning unpicking Stonehenge’s mysteries with the aid of an audio guide and the afternoon exploring the historical center of Bath. Alternatively, spend the day in the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding National Beauty known for its gently undulating hills and quaint, time-warp villages—among them Great Tew, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Bourton-on-the-Water.
Back in Oxford, dedicate the evening to pub-hopping around town. Sink pints of ale paired with pub grub in the cozy nooks of characterful establishments where authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to socialize.
Squeeze in another side trip this morning to the magnificent Blenheim Palace. Just a 20-minute drive or 40-minute bus ride from town, this grandiose 18th-century home was gifted by Queen Anne to General John Churchill for his military efforts. It’s a lavish affair, set amid 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of grounds that encompass parkland, formal gardens, a butterfly house, and a hedge maze.
Return to Oxford for an afternoon tour that introduces you to the best under-the-radar foodie spots, from streets stalls to artisan sellers. Follow up the food tour with a visit to an Oxford distillery, where gin, vodka, and other spirits are made using locally grown organic grains.
Come evening, sit down for dinner with a view at a waterside restaurant. You’ll find several options just outside the city center on the banks of the Cherwell and Thames rivers.