15 places to go for under £15
Saving your pennies is all very well until you feel like you’re missing out when you’re travelling. Oxford is one of those places that can make you feel like you’re not spending enough money to get the full experience. In fact, some of the best things to do are dirt cheap, and you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg to experience how awesome this city can be.
1 – Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean is my top pick for bored or broke travellers in Oxford. Not only is it free entry, but the seemingly endless rooms can keep you entertained for hours. An awesome exhibition to check out if you’re there is the Young Art Oxford display, which shows the best works from high school students produced for the Young Art Oxford competition.
Cost: free entry
Young Art Oxford Exhibit: 4-6th May 2017
2 – Christchurch College & Grounds
While seeing the Great Hall that featured in the Harry Potter franchise is the main draw for tourists, the £7 entry fee also covers most of the inside of the college itself. However, if you’re saving your pennies, the Christchurch grounds are worth checking out. Entry is free and you can still get an awesome tourist shot of the college from the outside!
Cost: £7 Concession standard entry (or nothing for the grounds)
3 – Port Meadow
Port Meadow, though only a 20 – 30 minute walk out of Oxford’s centre, provides a peaceful retreat from the often traffic-blocked main streets of the town. You can find this perfect picnic spot much less crowded but fair warning – you’ll have to share it with some (friendly) cows. This is a prime sunset-watching spot, or if you’re a fitness fanatic the jog along the canals to get to the meadow itself is pretty easy and a really scenic run!
4 – Pitt Rivers Museum
If you’re interested in history or archaeology, or just want to see something new, Pitt Rivers is the place to go. It’s focus on archaeology means that it isn’t just another museum, and can provide a couple of hours of entertainment, especially on a rainy day! One thing to check out are the shrunken heads that the Pitt Rivers Museum is famous for – definitely worth a look!
Cost: free entry!
Pitt Rivers Museum
5 – May Day Celebrations
Christmas used to be my favourite day of the year until I experienced May day in Oxford. Not only are the clubs open until 5 in the morning, but as you emerge onto the dark streets, Oxford is completely transformed by dawn: people wearing flower crowns all crowd the streets around Radcliffe Camera and below the Magdalen College tower. Signs advertising free breakfast are everywhere, and the smell of bacon and fresh flowers fills the air. No one pushes or shoves in the crowd, and children are hoisted up onto shoulders or the wall running along the roadside to get a better view. At dawn, the Magdalen College choir starts singing at the top of the tower, and even though the roads are blocked back about 200 metres with people, everyone is silent. Even though its a city, Oxford manages to capture a sense of community that places like Sydney or London fail to do – just by dressing in flowers and waking up at the crack of dawn.
Cost: free! (including brekkie if you can find it)
6 – Uni Parks
Uni Parks is another natural retreat located a lot closer to the town’s centre. Only a 10 to 15 minute walk away, the park is surprisingly big and is frequented by students and tourists alike, providing a much needed retreat from city life. On any given day you can watch local rugby, soccer or cricket clubs practice and see students frantically revising (or giving up completely). The park itself backs onto the river, which separates the well kept grass and manicured bushes from a muddier and more unkempt walk across paddocks. If you’re up for an adventure, a walk through these fields is actually pretty refreshing, especially if you’ve spent the majority of your trip in large cities and towns.
7 – The Missing Bean
Google ‘best coffee in Oxford’ and The Missing Bean will be number one on your search list. Honestly, whether its for a hungover brekkie of smoked salmon bagels, or a catch up coffee or chai latte with an old friend, the Missing Bean has something for everyone – and is not only delicious but much more affordable than some of the bigger restaurants and cafes that line George Street.
Cost: £3.60 for a coffee
The Missing Bean
8 – Christmas Lights Festival
Closely competing with my love for May Day is the annual Christmas Lights Festival, where Oxford once again comes together in full force to celebrate. Beginning with a lantern parade by most of the local primary schools, you can then wander around the streets that are lit with christmas lights and lanterns. All around the town there are things to do and exhibits to see: a highlight was the night skating at the Oxford indoor skating rink (about ten minutes from George Street). If you’re a poor traveler, this is definitely the perfect opportunity to check out buildings and colleges that usually have entry fees. A lot of the colleges are open, featuring groups of carol singers that you can enjoy along with a paper cup of mulled wine and a fresh mince pie to drive the cold away.
Cost: free! (About £5 or so for mulled wine/mince pies)
9 – G&D’s Ice Cream
Open until midnight every day, there is definitely no excuse not to get a G&D’s ice cream while you’re in Oxford. The flavours change every few days and the choices are insane: ranging from a classic mango sorbet to flavours like ‘after eight’ and ‘super #?*! chocolate’. Though they can get a bit crowded, especially later in the night when everyone’s trying to get their ice cream fix, G&D’s is definitely worth a visit as they are not only an Oxford tradition, but insanely cheap too! You can find them in three locations around town: George & Davis on Little Clarendon Street, George & Danver on St Aldates and George & Delila on Cowley Road.
Cost: £1.25 for a single scoop
10 – Radcliffe Camera
Of course, you can’t go to Oxford without visiting the famous Radcliffe Camera, located behind St Mary’s in the centre of town. Not only is it a nice walk through the centre of Oxford, but entry to the Bodleian Library inside the building is free (though it is definitely worth checking out the opening hours for tourists before you go). Fun fact: one thing that tourists often miss is the unassuming but intricately carved wooden door in the alley beside St Mary’s which is said to have been the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’ bestselling series, the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
11 – Day trip to Blenheim
If you’re staying in Oxford for more than a couple of days, Woodstock village makes the perfect half-day trip. Home to the famous Blenheim Palace, Woodstock is just over a 30 minute bus ride away from the town centre. Though the Palace costs a whopping £20.90 concession fare to enter, the grounds are extensive and free to explore. After tiring yourself out at the palace, Woodstock itself is a charming village that is well worth a wander around.
Cost: £4.20 bus: 24 hour return fare to Woodstock from Oxford
12 – Moo Moo’s Milkshakes
Located on the edge of the Covered Market in the centre of town, Moo Moo’s is an Oxford favourite, serving crazy milkshakes and smoothies that will get you absolutely addicted. The menu is so long that it takes up an entire outside wall of the stall; but you will probably have some time to decide as there’s usually a bit of a queue. Once you’ve made the tough decision between what seems like every treat under the sun, service is pretty fast and you’ll have your shake in no time, despite the line up. Though you really can’t go wrong, Moo Moo’s is worth a few trips just to test out the different options you can have!
Cost: £3 for a regular shake
13 – Blackwell’s Bookshop & Cafe
A haven for a rainy day, Blackwell’s bookshop and cafe is located right in the centre of Oxford. I spent hours in here to escape the cold, entertained by two floors of books. The cafe means Blackwell’s is a great place to meet up with friends or escape to on a work break for a much needed coffee. What’s more, if books aren’t your thing, then the Blackwell’s Art & Poster shop across the road is well worth a browse. With everything from a colouring-in poster of all the pubs in Oxford to beautiful prints of classical works of art, this shop was my go-to for Christmas and birthday presents!
also Blackwell’s Art & Poster shop which is worth a browse across the street!
Cost: £2.50 for a coffee
14 – Punting
If you’re in Oxford in summer chances are you’ll see the river crowded with punting boats going in every direction. Each boat fits four people, which means the cost of hire, though over £15, can be split four ways to just £5.50 per person. Definitely make time to hire one of these boats as not only is it an Oxford tradition, but it is a unique and enjoyable way to see and experience the city. Afterwards, why not go into a pub for a jug of Pimms (a classic summer cocktail in England) to watch the punters go by.
Cost: £22 for one hour hire on weekdays (£5.50 per person)
15 – Oxford Haunted Walk
If you’re getting a bit lost around town, the Haunted Walk is one of the best ways to get to know the city. Starting at the Oxford Castle, ‘Bill Spectre’ will lead you on a ghostly tour around the city at night. The tour is not only entertaining, but also super cheap, and beats an ordinary walking tour during the day. It does get pretty cold by the time you’ve made your way around the centre of town, so my recommendation is to stop off at a cafe for a hot chocolate, or even better warm up in a pub afterwards!
Cost: £9.00 for tour
The Ghost Trail