Things to do in Oxford as an international teenage student

Whenever you visit a new city, one of the first things you’ll want to do is go exploring and discover the local area. For students in Oxford, this urge is especially prevalent as there’s so much history in and around the city. Many of the buildings are hundreds of years old and attract tourists from all over the world. From the world’s oldest English-speaking university to the second largest library in the UK, there are lots of educational locations for international students to visit in the city.

Travelling down the streets in the city of dreaming spires, you can walk in the footsteps of Nobel Prize winners, literary giants and British prime ministers. Even without stepping foot inside of a building, you can admire lots of beautiful architecture, including the circular 18th century Radcliffe Camera and the magnificent gothic style of many of the university buildings.

There are so many places for an international student to visit in Oxford that we’ve compiled a guide of our favourite locations to help you make the most of the city. Continue reading to discover the many museums, theatres and galleries that you should visit during your time in Oxford.

Which universities can I visit in Oxford?

A major draw for any student coming to Oxford is the actual university buildings themselves. There is so much history encased within the stone walls of the various buildings that many people have aspired their whole lives to visit. There are 39 colleges in total, which are all part of the central university. As they are self-governed and financially independent, each college has its own unique identity and its own stories to tell. Some Oxford colleges even open their doors to summer schools, such as the Oxford Royale Academy, giving students the opportunity to experience life at the world-famous university by taking classes in the lecture theatres and living within the halls of residence.

Everyone has their preferred college, but there are some that stand out amongst the rest. Christ Church and New College, for instance, are beloved around the world due to their feature in the Harry Potter films. Not only did the Bodley staircase in Christ Church appear several times during the first few films, but the college’s dining hall also served as inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall too. Fans will find the long tables, high ceilings and arched windows instantly recognisable due to the similarities with the Hogwarts’ dining hall that was specially built at the Warner Bros. studios.

The New College courtyard also makes an appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, during the scene where Mad-Eye Moody turns Draco Malfoy into a ferret. Keep an eye out as you walk around the college for the cloisters and old oak tree that formed the backdrop for that particularly memorable scene!

Many people consider Magdalen College (pronounced ‘Maudlyn’) to be one of the prettiest buildings at Oxford University. The college, which is located near to the city centre, looks almost like a castle with its tall turrets and stunning flower gardens. Another popular college to visit is Worcester College, largely thanks to the free admission for non-students.

All of the university parks are perfect for a relaxed, picturesque walk. You can often see families with young children, alongside the expected students, enjoying the gardens on a nice day.

What are the best museums to visit in Oxford?

Have you ever wanted to see a real Egyptian mummy? Or how about the lantern that Guy Fawkes was carrying when he was caught on the night of the attempted gunpowder plot? You can even catch a glimpse of Powhatan’s Mantle, an object that belonged to the father of Pocahontas. You can see these, among many other interesting artefacts at the world’s first public museum – the Ashmolean.

Visitors travel from all over the world to see the impressive historical and cultural collections that have accumulated in the Ashmolean Museum over several centuries.

Another must-see museum for people visiting the city is the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Some of the most popular exhibitions include the remains of the now-extinct Dodo bird and the 34,000-year-old bones of one of the oldest skeletons to be discovered in Western Europe.

Another museum that is located to the east of the Natural History museum is Pitt Rivers. It features a wide array of objects that are grouped together in a ‘democracy of things’, instead of in the sense of location or age. The museum includes items such as handmade ornaments, jewellery and weapons from around the world, many of which are thousands of years old.

The University of Oxford works closely with Pitt Rivers to provide seminars and tours of the collections housed in the museum. Some university courses also support internship programmes at Pitt Rivers, which means that you can work as part of the museum’s research team.

Another popular museum in the city includes the Story Museum, which although aimed mostly at families with young children, also hosts events such as Write Nights and Comic Club Plus, which are aimed at adults and teenagers.

Which literary areas of Oxford are worth visiting?

Alongside the university, Oxford is often associated with a multitude of authors and writers. Famous names that have some kind of connection to the city include Lewis Carroll, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. One of the most popular locations in the city with an obvious literary connection is The Eagle and Child pub, which was the base for the famous Inklings club, of which Tolkien and Lewis were members.

In addition, the city has become well-known as the home for the fictional detective Inspector Morse, who was penned by author Colin Dexter. Not only did Oxford feature in the Morse novels, but the city also prominently appeared in the television adaption of the series, which ran from 1987 to 2000. Dexter also frequented The Eagle and Child, although this was many decades after The Inklings did.

No tour of Oxford would be complete without a visit to the Bodleian Library. Oxford University students are automatically eligible to access the 28 libraries that form the Bodleian Libraries, as are affiliated academic visitors and university staff. It is the largest academic library service in the UK and houses over 13 million physical books, 80,000 e-journals, as well as a collection of rare books and other printed materials.

What are the best leisurely activities to do in Oxford?

If you’re in the mood to visit an art gallery, then Modern Art Oxford should be your first stop. It’s only a four-minute walk from Christ Church College and prides itself on being ‘one of the UK’s leading contemporary art spaces’. Along with showcasing a wide variety of art mediums, the gallery also hosts participatory and professional development programmes for students aged between 16 and 21 years old.

Modern Art Oxford has exhibitions, talks and events throughout the year that focus on various forms of art, including music and film. There’s also a gift shop and cafe on-site that you can visit after you’ve finished looking around the exhibitions.

Oxford Castle and Prison should be high on your tourist attractions list if you are a fan of history. Visitors can climb the 101 steps of the Saxon St George’s Tower to get amazing views of the city, including the many spires that dominate Oxford’s skyline. Beneath the stone structure is a 900-year-old crypt, which is said to be where the medieval scholar, Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote down the Legends of King Arthur.

In recent history, Oxford Castle acted as a prison until it was formerly closed in 1996. Throughout the tour of the site, you can learn more about the history of what life would have been like for prisoners, including the hard labour that they were forced to undertake.

Other highlights in Oxford include the Sheldonian Theatre, which is the ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford. A location to visit on a sunny day is The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which is the oldest botanic garden in the UK. The gardens feature over 5,000 types of plants from around the world and can be visited for free by students at the city’s universities.

There are many things that are part of the Oxford institution and should be visited by students in order to make the most of university life. Everyone has their own interests, but the places mentioned in this article are just some of the many things that you should visit so that you can say that you have properly explored Oxford.

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