A friend an I are going on vacation in Oxford (UK) next week, with an option to stay longer and travel through England. What places should we visit/things should we do under all circumstances?
Our current plan is to stay in Oxford for three days, and "go with the flow" for the next four. In Oxford, we have a few plans, but still a lot of free time. For the remainder, we have no fixed plans other than to do the WB studio tour in London. Mobility wise we are pretty much entirely free, though ideally public transportation as opposed to renting a car would be good.
Do you have any suggestions for what we should do in those free days?
What are your plans for Oxford so far? Make sure you go punting (if the weather permits). It's a bit harder than it looks but fun trying to get yourself unstuck.
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You could find all of these from any tourist guides, but these are all trips I took friends on when they visited the UK when I lived in Oxford.
Possible (historic) day trips from Oxford:
I've been to both Bath and Stonehenge. Very cool places. Make sure to go to a bathhouse if you visit Bath. They still having working plumbing in some of them. It's very cool.
If you're in Bath you must get yourself a Sally Lunn Bun as well.
Where are you from? What stuff are you into and what's your baseline experience of that stuff?
Say you're a Dutch person who likes the outdoors maybe some parts of the UK countryside are nice but if you're coming from BC or NZ you'll probably view it as all just a bit sad. :D
If you're an American who's idea of "Historic old thing" is 200 years then different again!
In Oxford I would definitely try and get a tour of the Bodlean library as that is a great intro to the origins and history of the Oxford University.
Funny thing about that. A UPenn student from Dubai once told me how neat he thought Philly's old buildings were, since so much of his city was built in the last few decades.
Hmm, if you're going to Oxford you should definitely check out the Cotswalds too if you have enough time!
Also, as /u/super_james said the Bodleian Library is pretty cool. As far as other things go there are a few museums you can see, like the Ashmoleum (it's the oldest museum in the UK!). The botanical gardens are nice from what I remember too. Oxford is a pretty small Town-City so it's easy enough to see most of it in a day or two.
In London, the British museum is worth checking out, as well as the Science + Natural History museums in Kensington (not far from central, ~20 minutes). As for places to go out, Close to central (Victoria) I'd check out Knightsbridge/Belgravia for a drink since it's very close.
I'd also recommend Kensington (Portobello Road is nice to sit down for a bite to eat and a bit of shopping if you're inclined), Camden for the same reason too; it's nice to chill by the canals.
If you're into nightlife (stay away from Chelsea unless you want to pay £10+ a drink :p) and want to go to find some music, I highly recommend checking out stuff first! London is a busy place ;-)
As a Brit, I'd not bother with all the really touristic stuff like Stonehenge (you can drive past it) as they're usually really busy or expensive. The London Eye (never really appealed to me, plus it's expensive from what I remember. If you want a really good view of London you can go up the Shard for a bite to eat at The Duck and Waffle).
Just make sure that if you go down South-west way (Cornwall) to check out the Eden Project! Bath is beautiful too. That's all I can think of off the top of my head ;-)
Stonehenge isn't worth it but the general West Country Ancient Stuff trip is. Avebury is pricey and busy but not so much as Stonehenge but it is much better, Glastonbury Tor (and a stroll around the Abbey and the village in general), West Kennet Long Barrow and as you're in the area, Wells Cathedral too. Wells is nicer than Bath imo, although The Roman Baths in Bath is a really, really good museum.
Just remember if you do go to the Eden Project to please wear shorts and T-shirt.
Bletchley Park and the attached Museum of Computing are both fabulous if you are at all into things technical. I was lucky enough to be shown around Bletchley by one of the women who had actually operated one of the Bombe machines, and I got to touch and "use" an original WWII Enigma. If you can get there when there are talks then that's a bonus.
But everything depends somewhat on your background and interests.
If you like science-y things, there's the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. They have tons of scientific instruments going back to the Middle Ages, like telescopes, navigation equipment, and prototype parts for a Difference Engine (I believe).
The Oxford Covered Market is also fun to wander through. As a kid I liked getting things like sausage rolls and pork pies there. (My memories of it are usually at Christmastime, with things like pheasants hanging up at the butchers.)
Some touristy things in the surrounding area that I haven't seen mentioned yet include: Harcourt Arboretum (part of Oxford's Botanical Garden), Warwick Castle, and various Roman ruins such as Chedworth Roman Villa which has really cool mosaics.
Go to a Premier League match or a match in the lower divisions (the Championship, League 1, or League 2). Even if sports don't interest you, the environment is second to none. Tickets are pretty affordable for the smaller premier league clubs too, you just have to have the time on a weekend since that's when virtually all league games in all divisions are held unless it's one of the cup competitions (League Cup is currently going on) or home Champions League matches (both typically midweek).
When I was in London last (3 years ago), we saw Aston Villa play at Crystal Palace in south London - I think it was £20-30/ticket for second row seats near the halfway line. I also saw Manchester United play at West Ham (west London) back in Dec 2007 and went to Monaco at Nice for a Ligue 1 match during the same trip where I saw Villa/Palace. All very cool experiences.