If you’ve never visited Oxford before, I strongly urge you to book a trip! It’s one of the prettiest, most interesting cities in the UK and undoubtedly one of my favourites. As well as being home to arguably the world’s most famous university, Oxford unsurprisingly has more published writers per square mile than anywhere else in the world. With plenty of gorgeous historical buildings, cultural artefacts, and lots to do, it’s a great mini break destination. If you’re visiting in spring or summer, one of the best things to do is to go punting in Oxford.
Walking Around Oxford
There’s no architecture like Oxford’s anywhere else in the world. The city itself would have served as Hitler’s capital if he’d conquered England, which is why it avoided being bombed during Second World War. Nowadays, it’s home to the quirkiest, cutest shops, cafes, and bars, and you stumble upon some amazing things just walking around. That’s why I’d always recommend walking around the city wherever possible, and it’s pretty compact so it’s easy to do. I often park in the affluent suburb of Jericho and walk into the city from there. You pass lots of gorgeous homes, independent boutiques, and restaurants along the way.
We walked past the impressive Radcliffe Camera on our way to go punting in Oxford. It’s one of the city’s landmarks, and is a circular library. Perhaps one of the most impressive libraries in the world, don’t you think? ‘Camera’ actually means ‘room’ – and nowadays it’s a glorious reading room that belongs to the Bodleian Library.
Just a short walk from the Radcliffe Camera, you’ll find the stunning entrance to Oxford University’s Queens College. One of the most beautiful colleges, you could spend a whole day wandering around the others and choosing your favourite.
Punting in Oxford
Our primary reason for visiting the city was to go punting in Oxford. It was early May and a beautiful day. My friends Matt and Jo and I had always fancied going punting, so with the sun high in the sky, that’s what we did. Uniform compulsory, of course.
The ice creams were also compulsory on such a beautiful day. To get started on punting, we went to the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse. From here, you can hire traditional punts, rowing boats, or pedalos to enjoy cruising along Oxford’s River Cherwell.
We hired the punt for an hour, and the idea is you take a route along the River Cherwell before turning around and heading back after half an hour. If you’re not too confident in your punting skills, you can also hire somebody to take you out instead. These are often Oxford University students. We felt brave, so Matt took the lead whilst Jo and I chilled in the boat, soaking up the scenery.
Dodging trees and banks most of the way round the circuit, Matt dropped his hat in the water once, much to everyone else’s amusement.
It’s much more difficult than it looks! You also get a paddle to help steer, which came in very useful for our journey.
You may be surprised at how many people you meet on the way around. We even had a collision at one point. The scenery is lovely, and many punters take bottles of champagne to pop midway round. It’s truly the perfect summer activity.
Somehow, we made it all the way round within the hour. Time for snacks and a wander round the city.
Relaxing in Oxford
We set off in search of Oxford’s best bites. This brought us to the Bridge of Sighs, which joins two parts of Oxford University’s Hertford College. Legend says that a survey was traditionally carried out on the health of the university, and Hertford College students came out as the heaviest. For this reason, the bridge was closed to encourage them to use the stairs instead!
We stopped off for lattes at the super cute Turl Street Kitchen. Pop by for sandwiches and homemade cake if you’re near. It’s the perfect place for settling down with a good book or some work along with everyone else.
Finally, we visited my favourite spot. The Varsity Club boasts one of the best views across Oxford. There’s a good reason why Matthew Arnold nicknamed Oxford ‘the city of dreaming spires’. They even have heaters and blankets in the winter if it’s a little chilly for you. Another dreamy day in beautiful Oxford.
Have you been punting in Oxford? What other activities do you like to do when you visit the city?