Visiting Oxford, England on a budget? Find out the best free things to do in Oxford with your family. Scroll down for all the info!
This list of free things to do in Oxford England was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Are you visiting Oxford and wondering if it’s possible to do this trip on a budget?
Considering how expensive it is to travel to London, it’s a fair question! Luckily, there are tons of free things to do in Oxford.
Oxford is famous for its prestigious university and literary history. With cobblestone streets and miles of open green spaces, just wandering around is one of the top things to do.
You won’t feel like you’re missing out!
There are lots of other free and cheap things to do in Oxford for £10 or less too.
This list covers all the best options for your itinerary whether you’re visiting on a day trip or a weekend break.
23 Cheap and Free Things To Do in Oxford
The world’s first university museum, the Ashmolean is a blend of ancient antiquities and modern art spanning multiple centuries and continents.
Not only are the exhibits fascinating, but the 17th-century building is beautiful too.
It receives around one million visitors every year and is without a doubt one of the best free museums in Oxford.
Bridge of Sighs
Move over Venice, Oxford has its own Bridge of Sighs! It’s one of the best sights to see in Oxford.
You’ll find this ornate, 19th-century bridge on New College Lane. It’s the perfect place for some family photos.
Pitt Rivers Museum
Do you have an eccentric relative who swears they have lots of rare and interesting treasures somewhere in their attic? Augustus Pitt Rivers was that relative.
Except he was a 19th-century English Army officer and archaeologist who traveled the world, so his treasures are actually fascinating!
The Pitt Rivers Museum is one of the best museums in Oxford. You’ll find an abundance of quirky anthropological objects like totem poles, skeletons, weapons, and shrines.
Oxford University Colleges
One of the best things to do in Oxford, regardless of whether you’re traveling on a budget, is to visit some of the University of Oxford colleges.
You can really feel the weight of the history as you walk around these beautiful quads and libraries.
But the most popular colleges, like Christ Church, charge £15+ for tickets!
Plenty of colleges (at least 17) are just as beautiful and they are free and open to visitors without an appointment. Some of the best options are St. Peter’s, Lincoln College, and Somerville College.
Colleges that charge £5 or under that you might prefer to visit are University College and Trinity College.
Bodleian Library’s Divinity School
Some of the best Harry Potter things to do in Oxford are to visit filming locations from the movies.
While locations in Christ Church College and New College cost £10+ to visit, entrance to the Bodleian Library’s Divinity School is only a couple of pounds per person.
The Divinity School room stood in for the hospital wing in the earlier films. It was also the location where Professor McGonagall taught the kids how to dance for the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire.
University Church of St Mary the Virgin
Located on the city’s High Street, one of the best places to visit in Oxford for free is the University Church of St Mary the Virgin.
It’s a 14th-century Gothic cathedral that seems impossibly huge. You won’t have to go too far out of your way to visit this church as it’s close to the Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, and other key university buildings.
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Yes, some of the best free things to do in Oxford is to visit all the museums! Oxford University Museum of Natural History also has no charge for entrance.
This immense building is known for its huge collection of animal skeletons (including large fish) and taxidermied creatures. It’s a little creepy, yes, but you won’t find another natural history museum like it.
Watch Punting on the River Cherwell
Punting is a quintessential Oxford experience. It’s a type of sailing in a flat-bottomed boat in shallow waters where the punter (who stands up like a gondolier) can move the boat by pushing against the river bed with a long pole.
But it costs around £40 to rent a punting boat with a professional punter for 30 minutes!
One of the most romantic things to do in Oxford with your partner is to sit on the banks of the River Cherwell and watch the punting boats sail by. It’s very satisfying to watch newbie punters crash into other boats like bumper cars.
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum
Visiting the Botanic Garden and Arboretum is not free, but at just over £5+ per ticket, it’s definitely one of the top cheap things to do in Oxford.
It’s the oldest botanic garden in Britain with around 5,000 different species both outdoors and in their greenhouses.
The Covered Market
The Covered Market is one of the things to do around Oxford that marries the historic and the modern.
It’s an 18th-century indoor market with Victorian lamps and a tiled floor with stalls selling the latest books, independent skincare brands, flowers, and fresh produce.
There are also some cafes and cheap eats here too. You can walk around for free or pick up some souvenirs at a minimal cost.
Christ Church Meadow
Visiting Christ Church College might be one of the top things to do in Oxford UK but it’s not budget-friendly. However, Christ Church Meadow is one of the top free places to visit in Oxford.
It’s right next to the River Cherwell and River Thames. On weekends, you’ll see Oxford University students playing sports like rugby on the field.
Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera
The Radcliffe Camera is part of the Bodleian Libraries complex and is a must-see in Oxford. It’s an 18th-century, circular Palladian-style building near Broad Street so you won’t miss it.
Admiring the Radcliffe Camera from the outside is completely free. You can join a 90-minute Bodleian library tour to go inside the building but those cost £20 or more.
Designed by renowned architect Christopher Wren (who was also responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral in London), the Sheldonian Theatre is another iconic circular building.
It’s the place to go in Oxford if you want to peek at students arriving for their graduation ceremony!
Carfax Tower Views
One of the best activities to do in Oxford is to get as high as possible so you can admire this pretty city from above.
The Carfax Tower is just off High Street and climbing it is one of the best things to do in Oxford, England on a budget. Adult tickets start from just £3.
Looking for things to do in Oxford with kids? Check out Alice’s Shop.
Lewis Carroll was a scholar and teacher at Christ Church College and lived there for most of his life. It’s where he wrote his children’s classic book Alice in Wonderland.
It sells fun memorabilia connected to the young daydreamer as well as sweet treats.
Holywell Street Houses
Speaking of architecture, if you like Instagrammable places then look no further than Holywell Street.
Located near New College, there is a row of picturesque pastel-color houses. Walking along this street has to be one of the best free things to do in Oxford for photographers.
Oxford High Street
Described as “one of the world’s great streets”, the High Street is one of the top things to see in Oxford.
This street curves between Carfax Tower and Magdalen College and boasts several buildings from a range of eras.
It dates all the way back to the 10th century with Neoclassical, Medieval, Edwardian, Tudor, and contemporary buildings lining this diverse lane.
The Norrington Room at Blackwell’s Bookshop
Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street looks like any other chain bookstore in the UK, on the surface. But take the stairs to the basement and you’ll find The Norrington Room which is a book lover’s heaven.
This room holds around 150,000 books on three miles of shelves! Provided you don’t leave with any books (which is admittedly a tough challenge for most bookworms), it’s one of the most fun things to do in Oxford for free.
Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is the main church in Oxford and you’d usually need to pay the entrance fee to visit.
However, you can watch a local choir perform a 45-minute choral evensong service at 6 pm for free most days after the church shuts to visitors at 5 pm.
As you can imagine, the choirs that perform at Christ Church are exceptional. This is such a unique cultural experience and one of the top things to do in Oxford.
G & D Ice Cream Shops
Looking for cool things to do in Oxford? G & D Ice Cream Shops is an Oxford institution and a great way to literally cool down on a rare hot British summer day.
There are three shops around the city named George & Davis, George & Danver, and George & Delila. They’re all cafes but they are known for their homemade ice cream and seasonal flavors.
The Story Museum
One of the best family-friendly and free things in Oxford is The Story Museum.
You’ll find lots of fun and interactive exhibits related to storytelling and popular children’s books, including Alice in Wonderland. Lots of storytelling events are held here too.
Famous Literary Graves
Some of the most unusual things to do in Oxford are to visit the graves of literary icons who lived (and are buried) in the city.
J.R.R. Tolkien is buried at Wolvercote Cemetery and C.S. Lewis is buried in Holy Trinity Church’s graveyard.
You don’t have to travel too far out of the city center to find expansive green places to visit in Oxfordshire.
Port Meadow is a huge country park next to the River Thames with wild ponies, walking trails, and wildflowers. It’s one of the best things to do near Oxford for outdoorsy people and is within walking distance of the city.
Cheap and Free Things To Do in Oxford FAQs
Are the museums in Oxford free?
Visiting museums is a great way to spend days out in Oxfordshire for adults who love quirky historical facts. Luckily, most of the museums in Oxford are free.
The Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, Natural History Museum, and the History of Science Museum are free. So if you’re also wondering what to do in Oxford on a rainy day, museums are a great budget choice.
Is Oxford a cheap city?
Oxford is not a cheap city to live in or visit. Rent and accommodation prices are expensive in comparison to other UK cities and it’s generally pricier to eat out here.
However, Oxford has lots of cheap and free tourist attractions that make it easy to figure out what to do in Oxford, England on a budget. Many of them are the top things to do in this city period!
So, if you’re looking for cheap days out in Oxfordshire, don’t rule out Oxford.
Can you walk around Oxford University for free?
Yes, you can walk around Oxford University for free (many parts of it, at least), and visiting the university is one of the best free things to do in Oxfordshire County.
Out of the 44 colleges, at least 17 are free and open to the public including Corpus Christi College and Brasenose College. Visiting Oxford University colleges is a great way to spend a cheap day out in Oxfordshire.
Cheap and Free Things To Do in Oxford Wrap Up
Many of the top free things to do in Oxford are activities and attractions that you would want to see regardless of whether you’re traveling on a budget.
The University of Oxford has enough historic colleges with free entrance to keep you occupied for a week!
And for just a few pounds more, you can take advantage of all the cool cheap things to do in Oxford too.