With any luck, a read of our Sightseeing page will have convinced you that Oxford has enough to keep visitors occupied for a week, a month, or possibly even the rest of their lives. However, we are conscious that many people only experience the city in day trip format, often as part of the London-Oxford-Bath-Stonehenge tourism axis. If you are pressed for time, keep reading. We've listed below what we think are the top ten things in Oxford that simply cannot be missed.
Oxford Top 10
1) Oxford University's Historic Colleges
It's what everybody has come here to see, and for very good reason. The 38 colleges which comprise the University of Oxford are iconic, architecturally diverse and endlessly atmospheric. Nobody is going to visit them all, so it is important to be selective. Some of our favourites include the riverside splendour of Magdalen, the lovely gardens of Worcester and the bold modernism of St Catz. Read about these and more on our University Sightseeing page.
2) The Ashmolean Museum
The oldest public museum in the UK is also one of the finest. Its collections span everything from ancient Egypt to contemporary China, and all have been enhanced by their elegant, light-filled surroundings. Wind your way to the top of the galleries and then celebrate with tea, cake and views over Oxford from the museum's rooftop Restaurant.
3) Christ Church Meadow
A beautiful flood-meadow that is so utterly lovely you will scarcely be able to believe it is located in the heart of a city. Good for strolling, picnics, punting, jogging or, best of all, admiring the University's very own herd of longhorn cattle (which, legend has it, were originally a gift from Bill Clinton). Particularly recommended early in the morning, when a layer of mist can often be found hanging over the river.
4) The Pitt Rivers and Natural History Museums
Either one of these museums would be worthy of a visit in their own right, but since they are both located in the same building they absolutely cannot be overlooked. The bright, cheery surroundings of the Natural History Museum are a fun counterpoint to the atmospheric dinginess of the Pitt Rivers. While exploring the latter, make sure that you seek out the cabinet of shrunken heads.
The quintessential Oxford activity is also the best way to see many of the city's riverside sights. Pack a picnic, stow away your phone and be prepared to get soggy. Read our Guide to Punting for more information and crucial advice on how not to fall in.
6) Radcliffe Square and the Sheldonian Theatre
Indisputably the most beautiful public square in the city - and possibly the most beautiful in the whole country, Radcliffe Square spans the high gothic University Church at one end to the Bodleian Library at the other, with the iconic Radcliffe Camera nestling picturesquely in between. Just round the corner, you can still catch regular concerts in the extraordinary, grade 1 listed surroundings of the Sheldonian Theatre.
7) Ancient Pubs
For all of the University's history, some of the oldest establishments in Oxford are actually pubs. The Turf and the Bear, for example, both have 13th-century origins and admirably lopsided roofbeams. See our Food & Drink page or our Pub Crawls guide for more details.
8) Port Meadow and Binsey
Since most of Oxford is precariously located on an island and prone to seasonal flooding, the city has more than its fair share of meadows. If anything this one is even more tranquil than Christ Church. Stroll across the river to earn your drink at the Perch pub in the charming hamlet of Binsey, where Gerald Manley Hopkins lamented the loss of the Binsey Poplars.
9) The Covered Market
Perhaps unexpectedly for somewhere as historic (founded in 1774) and quaint, the Covered Market still somehow manages to actually remain useful. The carcasses of pheasants, turkey and even whole deer hanging from its rafters are a reminder that this is still very much a living, functional place to go shopping. Also the proud home of the majestic Ben's Cookies.
10) Cowley Road
Vibrant, diverse and now increasingly gentrified, Cowley Road is the artery running through the 'other Oxford' and the site of the city's annual summer Carnival. Good for window shopping and coffee shop hopping by day; even better for eating out, pub crawling and live music by night. Some of our favourite places here are Moya, Yeti, Rick's and the Cape of Good Hope: take a look at our Food & Drink guide or our Shopping page for more recommendations.