Things to do in Oxford | Activities

From punting to ice skating, ghost tours to river cruises, there’s so much to see and do in Oxford!


There’s a great day out to be had at Oxford Ice Rink, less than 10 minutes’ walk from the train station, near Westgate shopping centre. With public and family skating sessions on every day, there’s always an opportunity to hit the ice, and if you want to show off some cool moves you can boogie on ice during their disco nights!

A helping hand is offered during group and individual skating lessons, and they even hold special sessions for parents and under fives. Check their timetable to see exactly what’s on while you’re around.

The Ultimate Picture Palace

Speed demons can race their friends head to head with the professional racing simulators at The Race Hut. They have immersive screens and real-life feedback, bringing you as close to the F1 grid as possible without actually putting you in the seat. Compete on world famous tracks for a chance to claim your trophy and have a photo taken on the winner’s podium.

Competitive types can also reign supreme at Laser Kombat Oxford in the Cowley district. Equip yourself with futuristic laser guns and enter the fog-filled battle zone if you dare. You can either team up or go lone wolf and fight your way to the top of the scoreboard.

If you’re a fan of board games and tabletop geekery, set phasers to fun. Thirsty Meeples in Gloucester Green has over 2,500 games to play, a treasure trove ranging from strategy and role playing to the ridiculous Ugg-Tect that compels you to whack friends on the head with a caveman club. Staff are on hand to help you select and play a game. They’ll bring hot drinks, sandwiches or, if you prefer, craft beer to your table. If you’re eating, it’ll cost you a fiver per person for three hours, and if you fall in love with the game you can even take it home.

Escape room enthusiasts can test their skills at Ex(c)iting Game Oxford or Oxford Castle and Prison’s Jailbreak Escape Room. Small groups should try Ex(c)iting Game, where you can choose between two scenarios. Jailbreak offers you the unique chance break out from an actual jail – albeit an unused one. Be warned, only groups of ten or more should attend unless you’re willing to spend a pretty penny.

Film buffs have a selection of cinemas to choose from with two Odeon Cinemas, on George Street and Magdalen Street, Phoenix Picturehouse in Jericho and The Ultimate Picture Palace just off Cowley Road. Phoenix Picturehouse is a two-screen arthouse, specialising in indie and world cinema. The Ultimate Picture Palace is Oxford’s only independent cinema, showing a varied and advert-free mix of films in their Grade II listed art deco building.

A recent addition to Oxford’s list of activities, tours of The Oxford Artisan Distillery, or TOAD, are making waves as a top way to lift spirits. Concocting gins, vodka and other spirits on the east side of South Park, TOAD is the first artisan distillery in the city. They’ll show you every detail of their process, from grain to bottle, with 45- or 90-minute tours, ending with that all important tasting session.


Make sure you get to know Oxford properly by spending a little time on the River Thames, or the Isis as it’s known locally. Punting on a lazy summer afternoon is the quintessential Oxford activity.

Hire a punt at Magdalen Bridge Boathouse or Cherwell Boathouse – they come with or without a chauffeur depending on how brave you feel – and float along the Isis or Cherwell, past meadows, woods and city landmarks, for anything between £15 and £30 per hour, depending on when and what you hire.

Oxford River Cruises

If punting sounds too risky, with Oxford River Cruises you can enjoy the river on a firmer footing. Sightseeing river tours set off from Folly Bridge, meandering north to Port Meadow and south along the University Regatta course. The shortest tour takes half an hour and costs under £10, while the longest ‘Spirit of Oxford’ tour is 2.5 hours long for around £30.

Golfers can head to Hinksey Heights Golf Club, just over 10 minutes’ drive from our Abingdon hotel. Their links-style Championship Course is set over rolling hills of heathland with excellent city skyline views in the distance. If you fancy something different, trade your golf ball in for a larger model on the Footgolf and Rugbygolf courses.

Those lucky enough to be in Oxford on a hot, sunny day can take a dip in Hinksey Outdoor Pool, just off Abingdon Road, a mile south of the city centre. The pool is actually heated, so even on a cooler day you’ll find it a relaxing swim. Check the timetable to see what activities they have scheduled.

If you’re planning an afternoon for kids you can’t go wrong with Cutteslowe Park and Miniature Railway, where 42 acres of green space, a playground, paddling pool, crazy golf course and a miniature railway track await your adventurous spirit. Cutteslowe is about three miles north of the city centre and a 25-minute drive from our Witney hotel.

Cycling trails

Be like the locals and get yourself a bicycle; it’s the best way to see Oxford and its stunning countryside.

Hire one of more than 300 bikes from Bainton Bikes Hire & Self Guided Cycle Tours on the northern end of Walton Street – if you reach Zheng you’ve gone too far.

There’s a hefty deposit, but the actual rental charge is reasonable. For only £10 for a whole day, you’ll have unrivalled freedom to explore city streets, riverside footpaths and national cycle routes.

Cycling trails

The Oxford to Bicester Cycle Route is the beginning of route 51 on the National Cycle Network, which stretches all the way to the east coast in Suffolk. The 17-mile route to Bicester mainly follows quiet roads, with delightful views of the River Cherwell. Bicester itself is a quaint market town with a designer outlet shopping centre.

A shorter adventure is the 12-mile and one-hour long journey on the Oxford to Witney Cycle Route. Head north out of Oxford on Woodstock Road, where the cycle track continues alongside the A40. Witney is a charming Oxfordshire town with a market square dating back to the Middle Ages.

Walking tours

Running for over 30 years, what Oxford Walking Tours don’t know about the city isn’t worth knowing. The day tours take guests around the city’s historic points of interest including the oldest colleges in the city, while you can also book up ghost tours, literary tours and even Tolkien tours.

Run by ex-students and locals, Footprints Tours Oxford aims to showcase the drama, prestige and downright bizarre across their full-day excursions, bike tours and family and large-group tours.

With a variety of props, costumes and a ghoulish delivery, the Bill Spectre Ghost Trail reveals the city’s spookiest sights and tales every Friday and Saturday evening. Named as one of the best guided walks in the UK by The Guardian, the near two-hour tours leave from the castle or the Tourist Information Centre with tickets available online.

Looking for a hotel in Oxford?

There are plenty of reasons for visiting Oxford. Whether it's the world-famous university, Westgate shopping sprees, world-class museums, or the waistband-busting food scene, you can take your pick from four wonderful Oxford hotels with parking. Each one is an excellent base for exploring this most-fascinating of cities.