Ten things to do in Oxford this summer


Trinity is finally here. The sun will come out soon, and with it, a bunch of opportunities to have a great time in Oxford! In order to help get ahead of the coming term, here is a list of the best things to do so that you can make the most of these busy 8 weeks!

Go on a (River) Cruise

Let’s start with the obvious: Punting. Punting is one of those stereotypical “Oxford” experiences that no self-respecting Oxford student can miss. It basically involves repeatedly thrusting a long pole into the riverbed in an attempt to push the boat forward whilst simultaneously trying to avoid falling off the punt. If you decide to cop out and take a passenger seat, you can laugh while watching one of your friends do this. To make the most of your punting experience, go with a group of friends (max five to a boat), bring some music, buy some picnic food and Pimm’s, and have your own miniature boat party. For the more lazy or clumsy amongst you, you may want to hire a chauffeur to do the punting for you. Alternatively, if you feel like spending a little more, you can enjoy an afternoon on Oxford’s rivers by booking a spot on a river cruise!

Play Croquet

Speaking of quintessentially “Oxford” experiences, Croquet is very popular among many Oxford students as a way of putting off their next essay or problem sheet. As one of those experiences you probably can’t get anywhere else (at least not without social judgement), it is well worth your time to pick up the mallet and knock some balls together. Each college should have its own equipment and croquet lawn available for use by its students. Free introductory lessons are provided at University Parks at 5-6pm Tuesday and Thursday in Weeks 1-4, so there is no reason not to give it a go!

May Day

May Day is an Oxford tradition tracing back over 500 years. On 1st May each year, thousands of people, students and locals alike, gather by Magdalen College at dawn to listen to the Magdalen College choristers sing from the Great Tower. This is followed by the Great Tower’s bells ringing out over the city to mark the coming of Spring, along with folk singing and Morris Dancing throughout the city. For many students, the coming of Spring is celebrated with an additional festivity: staying up clubbing and drinking the entire night before. To aid in this endeavour, a wide variety of pubs, restaurants and cafés will open early on May Morning, with The Cape of Good Hope and Turf Tavern open from 4am, and the Tick Tock Café and Jimbob’s open all night!

Go on a Tour of Oxford Colleges

Trinity Term is the perfect time to get around to actually visiting the other 37 colleges, just as you’ve planned since you matriculated. With your bod card, you can visit most other colleges for free, and requiring a relatively low time commitment, it couldn’t be easier to take a quick library break to confirm that your college is the best, just as you had always thought.

Go to an Open-Air Movie Screening

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend a cool summer’s evening is at an open-air movie screening. Cult Screens runs what they describe as “the country’s most luxurious outdoor cinema experience”, screening both modern films and cult classics alike. This summer, the movie screenings will take place in a variety of locations throughout Oxford, including the Oxford Castle yard and outside the Natural History Museum. Alternatively, for those of you who have accommodation in Oxford throughout the summer vac, you may wish to attend one of the open-air plays performed by the Creation Theatre Company. This summer, they will be performing in the Westgate Centre and University Parks. In the past, the company have even performed on the roof of the Said Business School!

Visit the Botanic Gardens

Oxford’s Botanic Garden (free entrance with your bod card!), which can be found opposite Magdalen College, is a sanctuary of nature in our city centre, and is one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world. Inside, you can lose yourself among the variety of sights and smells, or just relax at a quiet bench and appreciate the sun along with the surrounding plants.

Climb the University Church Tower

Pick a clear, sunny day and pay £4 to climb to the top of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin (on the High Street) to get a breathtaking view of Oxford’s skyline. From the top, you can see all of the landmarks you have grown to love from an all new angle, more than making up for the effort of the climb. Alternatively, you can visit the Sheldonian Theatre (free for Oxford students!), which gives you access to the main auditorium and the cupula at the top of the building, from which you can get a similarly beautiful view of our city.

Lounge in a Park

There are a number of great parks in Oxford which are perfect for chilling out at with some friends, but which you have probably mostly ignored in your time thus far in Oxford. Trinity Term, with its occasional rays of sunlight, is a great time to remedy this. There are plenty to choose from; popular options are University Parks, South Park, Port Meadow, Christ Church Meadow, and of course your college gardens. Lounging in a park on a sunny summer’s day with some picnic food, Pimm’s, perhaps mixed with a game of frisbee or croquet, is a great way to spend relaxing afternoon and let go of your revision / exam stress. If you feel like getting more in touch with nature, you can feed the ducks in Uni Parks or Christ Church Meadow.

Go Outdoor Swimming

When the days get hot enough, pack your swimsuit and head down Abingdon Road to the Hinksey Outdoor Pool – a heated outdoor pool just outside the city centre. For the more adventurous, ‘wild swimming’ in Oxford’s rivers is a common occurrence in the summer, with the Isis by Port Meadow and the River Cherwell by LMH being popular locations for taking a dip.

Cool off with some Ice Skating

For those days when you are too hot to do anything else, head over to the Ice Rink on Oxpens Road (behind the Westgate) for a great way to cool off and have some fun. The Disco Skate sessions (Thursday & Friday, 8:00-10:30pm) are a guaranteed recipe for a good time. Go with some friends, or alternatively you can meet some new Oxford students at one of the Oxford Ice Skating Society’s (OxIce) private sessions (Sunday, 8:00-9:30pm).


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