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15 Fun Things to do in Oxford for Adults

Oxford is a beautiful city that draws thousands of visitors from around the world every year.

And with its reputation as home to one of the world's top universities, you might be forgiven for thinking it's all a bit serious.

But in fact, there are loads of fun things for adults to do in Oxford - and we've picked 15 of the best: 


1.  Try Punting on the River Cherwell

© Sara Price via Pixabay

One of the most fun things for adults to do in Oxford is to try your hand at punting on the River Cherwell.

You can hire a punt from the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and get a unique perspective on the city as the beautiful River Cherwell meanders past meadows and playing fields.

Propelling and steering the punt while standing up with just a long pole is tricky at first, but you'll soon get the hang of it.

© Sara Price via Pixabay

Punts can take up to 5 people including the punter, and there's the option of a chauffeured service for groups of up to 4 passengers.  You can even pre-order a picnic hamper with a chauffeured punt.

If you think the punt looks too tricky, you can choose to hire a rowing boat or a pedalo instead.



2.  Climb the University Church of St. Mary's Tower

St Marys Tower
© AboutBritain.com

If you've watched any of the TV series set in Oxford, you'll have seen the beautiful views of the High Street from above and of the Bodleian Library, and you may have wondered how they were taken.

If you climb the tower of the University Church of St Mary you will immediately recognise the famous views from the top, and you'll be able to take some amazing photos of your own.

St Marys Tower
© AboutBritain.com

Access to the tower is via 127 steps of the medieval spiral staircase which dates back to 1280 and is beautifully decorated with gargoyles and grotesques.

On your way up you will pass the bell-ringing chamber and the Clore Old Library. 

St Marys Tower
© AboutBritain.com

Tickets to climb the tower are only £5, so it's an experience you don't want to miss.



3.  Dive into Outdoor Swimming at Hinksey Lido

© Hinksey Lido

Whether you're a serious swimmer or you just enjoy a casual swim now and then, there's something about swimming outdoors that an indoor pool can't match.

Problem is, outdoor pools can be pretty chilly in the UK, and there aren't that many around.  So it's a bit of a treat that Oxford has a large heated outdoor pool at Hinksey Lido.

© Hinksey Lido

There are lane swimming sessions open to adults only, so you won't have to avoid families and kids.

You can book aqua classes where you move to music in the pool.  They're great fun and gentle on the joints too so they're perfect for fitness or rehab.



4.  Channel your Inner Torvill and Dean at Oxford Ice Rink

© Oxford Ice Rink

Ice skating is always a fun activity, whatever your level of ability.

If you didn't learn to skate as a child, you may be a bit wobbly at first, but you'll soon gain confidence and get a real sense of achievement when you begin to glide across the ice.

More experienced members of your group will be happy to help the beginners and perhaps take the opportunity to show off a bit!

© Oxford Ice Rink

Oxford Ice Rink offers skate hire when you book a skating session, so you won't need your own skates.



5.  Puzzle your way Clue the Looking Glass

Clue The Looking Glass
© Solve The City

A great alternative to an escape room, Clue the Looking Glass is an immersive outdoor adventure where you can solve tricky puzzles and explore the city at the same time.

Clue the Looking Glass draws on Oxford's connection with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass to provide a themed experience you'll love.

Use the app on your phone to receive clues and submit your answers.  It's not all phone-based though - you'll also be interacting with the environment, with people you meet along the way, and you'll need to use exciting props too.

Clue The Looking Glass
© Solve The City

The mystery takes between two and three hours to complete at a leisurely pace.

Feeling competitive?  Try solving it quickly enough to get onto the leaderboard!



6.  Enjoy an Afternoon Tea River Cruise

Afternoon Tea River Cruise
© John Cairns

What better way to enjoy Oxford than a relaxing afternoon cruise on the River Thames, with a delicious afternoon tea served en route?

Embarking at Folly Bridge in the heart of the city, your cruise follows the University Regatta Course past Christ Church Meadows and the University College Boat Houses down to the often bustling Iffley Lock.

Once through the lock, the cruise passes through the peaceful water meadows that Oxford is famous for, with ample opportunity for nature spotting.

The boat will turn for home at Rose Island - a favourite haunt of Lewis Carroll and Alice Lidell when they enjoyed afternoons on the river.

Afternoon Tea River Cruise
© John Cairns

Your Afternoon Tea is created by the team at The Folly so you can be sure of the quality.

Expect a selection of Finger Sandwiches, Homemade Scones with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam, and a selection of Cakes, Tarts and Petit Fours, all served with a lovely cup of tea.

The cruise lasts about an hour and a half.



7.  See Oxford From the Top Deck of a City Sightseeing Bus Tour

© City Sightseeing Oxford

City Sightseeing's Hop-on Hop-Off bus tour is a great way to see and learn about all of Oxford's main attractions and also an excellent way to get around the city.

With stops near Oxford Castle, Christ Church College, Carfax Tower, The Radcliffe Camera, Magdalen Bridge and the Botanic Gardens, The Sheldonian Theatre, The Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum and more, it's a fantastic introduction to the city.

© City Sightseeing Oxford

The Bronze Tour from £17 has 20 stops and offers recorded commentary in 14 languages, free headphones, and a bonus walking tour called "Stepping Through Oxford" that lasts 45 minutes.

The Silver Tour from £23 includes a 1-hour Town and Gown walking tour, and the Gold Tour from £28 includes both walking tours.



8.  There's a Club if You'd Like to Go

© A Club If Youd Like to Go

The unusually named "A Club if You'd Like to Go" offers comedy events in various venues across Oxford.

There's a twice-monthly show at The Castle Pub opposite the Westgate that features a selection of the funniest stand-up comedians on the first and fourth Friday of each month.

The founders of A Club if You'd Like to Go, Jay and Ash, felt there were more great local comedians than there were venues booking them - so they decided to do something about it.

© A Club If Youd Like to Go

So if you want to check out the Oxford stand-up comedy scene and see some of the best local comedians before they become famous, check out A Club if You'd Like to Go.



9.  Take in a Movie at The Ultimate Picture Palace

The Ultimate Picture Palace
© Ian Wallman

Oxford's oldest cinema is also its only independent cinema.

Run by a passionate team of staff and volunteers, and housed in a beautiful art deco building dating from 1911, seeing a film at The Ultimate Picture Palace couldn't be further from the modern multiplex experience.

The Ultimate Picture Palace shows an eclectic range of films - some mainstream, but also foreign language, independent and classics of the silver screen.

© Ultimate Picture Palace

There's a small bar inside the auditorium where you can buy drinks and snacks.

The cinema doesn't show ads, so your film will start after a couple of trailers - much closer to the advertised time than at other cinemas.



10.  Explore Morse's Oxford on an Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Tour

Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Tour
© Britmovietours.com

If you're a fan of the Inspector Morse TV series and its spin-offs Lewis and Endeavour (or even Colin Dexter's books that inspired the TV shows), you'll love an Inspector Morse tour of Oxford.

Lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes the tour takes in many famous locations that feature in the TV series including the Bodleian Library, Broad Street, Sheldonian Theatre, Exeter College and many others.

Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour Tour
© Britmovietours.com

Your guide will also share interesting stories about the shows and characters, as well as historical information about the colleges, streets and pubs (very important locations for Morse!) seen in the show.

Children under 15 are not permitted on this tour and under 18's must be accompanied by an adult.



11. Enjoy Contemporary Art at Modern Art Oxford

© Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford is one of the UK's leading contemporary art spaces.

They aim to harness the power of visual art to create social change through inclusive education programmes.

So Modern Art Oxford is more than just a gallery where you view exhibits.

They also offer educational experiences and activities which encourage creativity and participation.

© Modern Art Oxford

There's a café offering fresh, seasonal food, homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, coffee, tea and alcoholic or soft drinks.

There's also a Modern Art Oxford Shop, which has an online version if you can't get there in person.

Check out what's on now and coming soon at Modern Art Oxford.



12.  Be Scared Witless on an Oxford Ghost Tour

Oxford Ghost Tours
© Oxford Walking Tours

Oxford has a long and illustrious history as one of the world's foremost university cities.

But there is another side to the City of Dreaming Spires - because sometimes dreams turn into nightmares...

Departing from Trinity College gates in Broad Street, and lasting 1 hour 15 minutes, the Ghost Walk is an unsettling journey through the horrors of Oxford's past.

Oxford Ghost Tours
© Oxford Walking Tours

Hear about "The Thing" in Trinity Chapel, how numerous students (and tutors) have met with grizzly ends, and see the spot where Bishops Ridley, Latimer and Archbishop Cranmer were burned alive in the 16th century.

The Oxford Ghost Tour combines the fun scary stuff with some of the most interesting parts of Oxford's history so it's both an educational and entertaining way to see the city.



13.  Get Into High Spirits on an Oxford Artisan Distillery Tour

© Oxford Artisan Distillery

Go behind the scenes at the Oxford Artisan Distillery and see the care and attention that goes into making their award-winning Rye Whisky, Gin and Vodka.

You'll learn the importance of the heritage grain used in their spirits and follow the process step-by-step from seed through to bottle.

The Distillery Tour lasts an hour, costs £20 and includes a tasting of the craft spirits.

© Oxford Artisan Distillery

You may also be interested in the Whisky Tour which costs £40, lasts for 90 minutes and includes a tasting of four different whiskies and the opportunity to ask questions about whisky and distilling.



14.  Enjoy Amazing Views with Lunch at the Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant

Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant
© John Cairns

When it's time to stop for lunch, eating at the Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant with its spectacular views over the city will really add to the fun.

With an indoor restaurant area with huge windows and an outdoor terrace, both with amazing views, you won't need to worry about the weather.

The lunch menu offers a soup of the day served with bread and butter, as well as delicious dishes such as a Crab, Lemon & Chives Tart or a Goat's Cheese & Spinach Quiche or a Roasted Lemon & Thyme Garlic Chicken Breast, Sautéed Courgette & Mint.  You could also have chips!

Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant
© Benugo and Ashmolean Museum

There's also a good range of wines as well as craft beer or cocktails.

The restaurant is open for lunch from 12 to 4.30 pm, and every purchase helps to support the Ashmolean Museum



15.  Explore as a Pirate with Treasure Hunt Oxford

© Treasure Hunt Oxford

Why wander aimlessly around the city when you could be on a treasure hunt instead?

Treasure Hunt Oxford gives you tricky clues to solve and treasure maps to follow as you take a carefully designed route through the city that makes sure you see all the best bits.

You'll see all the main sights like the Radcliffe Camera, Sheldonian Theatre, Bridge of Sighs and Bodleian Library, as well as explore hidden alleyways and discover fascinating stories from Oxford's past.

Treasure Hunt Oxford is a self-guided experience that uses your phone, so you're free to go at your own pace, and stop for lunch, a snack or a pint of beer whenever the fancy takes you.

© Treasure Hunt Oxford

You won't be on your own though - pirate Captain Bess is on hand with friendly banter and a clue if needed.

Treasure Hunt Oxford is a fun way to explore the city.



As you can see, there are loads of fun things to do in Oxford for adults: Swimming, skating, punting, fascinating tours, great places to eat, a tower to climb and lots more.

Whatever activities you choose, we hope you have a wonderful time in Oxford.

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