If you’re looking for a beautiful and historic city to visit, Oxford should definitely be on your list.

The stunning architecture, fascinating museums, and lush green spaces make it the perfect place to explore.

And the best part? The city center is small enough to explore on foot and is just a few minutes walk from the main rail and coach stations.

There are also all kinds of free activities for students and tourists. So, let’s go ahead and explore all the fun activities waiting for you in Oxford.

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A Brief History of Oxford

Oxford City View
Oxford City View

Welcome to Oxford, the city of dreaming spires! As the county town of Oxfordshire, Oxford is famous worldwide for its prestigious university, which is the oldest in the English-speaking world.

The University of Oxford is first mentioned in the 12th century, although the exact date of its foundation is unknown.

The University expanded rapidly from 1167 when King Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris, and the returning students settled in Oxford.

Today, Oxford is a vibrant city with industries including motor manufacturing, education, publishing, information technology, and science.

“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.”

WB Yeats

Visiting Oxford as a Student

Oxford Camera Library
Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera Library

If you’re a student planning to visit Oxford, you’ll be pleased to know it’s a proverbial nirvana as long as you take your student card with you.

Over 25,000 students are attending the prestigious university alone, not to mention all of the other educational facilities scattered around the city and its suburbs.

While it’s true that many students are living on stipends, local businesses still vie for their trade and offer amazing discounts if you can show proof that you’re a student.

And you can’t visit Oxford without touring Oxford University. Plan accordingly and take advantage of the many buildings open to visitors, including academic departments, colleges, and halls.

Christ Church Oxford University
Christ Church College

Make sure you visit the iconic buildings in Oxford, including the Radcliffe Camera, a reading room for the Bodleian Library, and Christ Church College where many Harry Potter scenes were filmed.

Keep in mind that each building may have different opening hours, fees, and rules for groups.

To make the most of your visit, be sure to grab a map and leaflet containing information on opening times. 

Free Things To Do In Oxford

There are lots of free things to do in Oxford, so if you’re on a tight budget, which everyone knows in student lingo translates to being broke, you’ll be able to do much more than window shop or trudge around Christ Church Meadow with your hands in your empty pockets.

Oxford is perfect for walking around and exploring the city’s history, myths, and traditions.

Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes and drop your bags off at a Bounce luggage storage in Oxford before you start exploring.

Now that you’re ready, let’s begin:

Oxford Bridge of Sighs
Oxford Bridge of Sighs

Free Walking Tour

Wandering around the streets of Oxford, as attractive as they are, can get boring when you’re on your own.

One way of meeting up with others visiting the city is to take a free walking tour. Footprint Tours organizes two-hour long, student-led walking tours twice a day, seven days a week.

Learn all about the history and culture of this beautiful university city. You can find the student guide waiting at the meeting point on Broad Street at 11 am and again at 2 pm.

Oxford Covered Market

If the weather doesn’t treat you favorably, then one place you can go to get out of the rain is Oxford Covered Market.

This characterful Victorian-era-built arcade in the city center houses numerous unique stores and offers some great photo opportunities.

No, they don’t give stuff away for free, but looking costs nothing, and if you want to pick up a souvenir of your visit, then Oxford Souvenirs is the place to be.  

The market has a long and interesting history. If you want to know more about the building and the traders who have operated there over the past two hundred years, check out the market’s story. It’s fun and informative.

Ashmolean Museum

If you’re into art or archeology and don’t have money for admission fees, then the Ashmolean Museum is the museum in Oxford for you.

Admission to this huge museum is completely free, and you can easily spend half a day, at least, looking around.

It’s not the only free museum in Oxford either.

Oxford Museum of Natural History

The following Oxford museums are free too:

  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History
  • History of Science Museum
  • Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Museum of Oxford
  • Bate Collection of Musical Instruments

Where To Get Student Discounts In Oxford

Westgate Oxford

If you don’t have much time but want to make the most of the businesses that are offering student discounts, head for the Westgate Shopping Center.

This indoor mall is crammed with stores, restaurants, and even a cinema that will be only too happy to see your student identity card.

If you’re not thinking of going shopping, don’t dismiss it. At Westgate, everything is under one roof, so it’s another ideal place to keep in mind as a backup should the British weather decide to dampen your sightseeing enthusiasm.

Here are some of the businesses in Westgate that offer student discounts:

  • Dr. Martens – 10%
  • Moss Bros – 10%
  • Calvin Klein – 10%
  • Urban Outfitters – 10%
  • Bobbi Brown – 10%
  • Superdrug – 10%
  • The Body Shop – 15%
  • Levis – 20%
  • Jack & Jones – 20%
  • Itsu – 15%
  • Pho – 15%
  • Benito’s – 20%

Those discounts make visiting Oxford worth it even if you only go to stock up on essential clothing and toiletries.

Then treat yourself to a cheap meal while you do it.

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Eat and Drink On The Cheap

City of Oxford
Where to Go and Eat in Oxford

If you’re staying overnight in town, then you’ll definitely want to hit the student social scene in Oxford.

There are some amazing bars where you can get drinks at prices much lower than normal and places that frequently have special promotions just to attract the student drinking crowds.

The OXO Bar

The OXO Bar is a cocktail bar on George Street where you can sip on the good stuff served at two-for-one prices. Choose your poison from a special student cocktail menu with cocktails cheaper than a Starbucks latte.

Quod Brasserie and Bar

The Quod Brasserie and Bar on High Street looks after students all day long by offering 10% off the bill whether you go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an afternoon drink. They care about students’ livers too, so there’s no discount on drinks.

Falafel House

When you’re out and about in Oxford city center and want to grab a quick bite on the cheap, check out Falafel House on George Street.

From this kiosk-style takeaway, you can grab a giant wrap stuffed with whatever takes your fancy for next to nothing.

The great thing is it’s not all meat as they have an entire range of vegetarian fillings you can choose from.

Falafel House gets rave reviews from Oxford students, and the reason for that is that it’s seriously good and seriously cheap. That’s an unbeatable combination.

Sasi’s Thai

Who doesn’t love a good Thai? Aside from Pho in the Westgate Shopping Center which gives a 20% discount, Sasi’s Thai is where most Oxford students go to get their fix of Thai food.

Sasi’s is in the Covered Market, and while the place’s décor is about as basic as it gets, the food is exceptional, the portions are generous, and the prices are about as low as they can be without being free.

When you’re hankering after a pad thai or an authentic green curry, this is the place to be. You may need to be patient, though, as there’s nearly always a queue waiting to be served.

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Oxford is a vibrant city that celebrates its past and present.

A visit to this remarkable city is an opportunity to be inspired and immerse yourself in history, culture, and knowledge.

Plus, all the free activities and student discounts are an added bonus. Come and discover the city of dreaming spires for yourself!

About the Author: Denisse Romero is the founder of As a frequent traveler, she’s always looking for student travel opportunities to share with her readers.

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