After our trip to London in 2015, we didn't have high hopes for another experience in one of England's bigger cities. However, we were completely surprised by how nice everyone was and were swept away by the city's quirky history and identity rooted in its colleges.
1) Without a doubt, our favorite part of our time in Oxford and our #1 recommendation is to take a Footprints free guided walking tour. Our guide, Spencer, was really knowledgable, funny and told us some really incredible stories about the history of Oxford.
-Did you know that Alice in Wonderland was written from a story told to an 8-year-old girl while "punting" down the river?
-Did you know that Oxford University is actually made of 38 colleges, which all have pet tortoises? Each year they race them, and in years past, they were the cause of some pretty brutal pranks between rival colleges.
2) Pitt Rivers Museum - This museum is a collection of memorabilia from around the world donated by travelers. It has a bit of a gloomy, creepy feel since thousands of artifacts are huddled together in class cases, which look like a maze from above (the shrunken heads don't help the creepy vibe either). There were some really cool exhibits, but it was overwhelming at times because of the sheer number of artifacts being displayed. The layout of the museum and heavy cultural emphasis were different from your typical museum experience.
Touristy & Pricier Attractions:
1) Oxford Castle Unlocked - Our first night in Oxford, we walked through an alley and stumbled upon a castle. Thinking we were somehow incredibly brilliant and had discovered something off the beaten path, we decided to come back to visit when it wasn't raining. That plan had two flaws: 1. It never stops raining here 2. Turns out it was Oxford Castle, an incredibly popular tourist destination.
We did make our way back and pay the $12 student price for a guided tour, which was really interesting. Our guide was dressed in period appropriate attire (1500s) and took on the character of one of the prisoners who had been condemned there. We were shown old cells, toured the crypt and walked all the way up to the tower for a spectacular view of the city. The stories that accompanied our tour up and down the death trap they call stairs kept us interested and entertained.
2) Magdalen College - Since this ranked pretty high on TripAdvisor and in our guidebook, we decided to give it a try. While this wasn't an overly expensive place ($6.50 for a student ticket), we were a little disappointed with what our money got us...pretty much a tour of a garden. There were no classrooms to look into, no library access, no auditorium access, and don't even try to walk on anything because that's off limits too. The grounds were incredibly beautiful, so if taking a look around the grounds, a small walking trail, and a deer park are worth spending a few bucks, then definitely check this one out.
1. The Yellow Submarine was right next to our hostel, cute, supported a good cause, and most importantly, was cheap :) We're talking $3 for a pastry and drink guys!
2. GBK - We stopped here for a burger one night, and it was good, but a little pricier. About $15 for a burger, side and drink.
3. The Vaults & Garden - This is way more touristy since it's located right near the Radcliffe Camera. We would mostly recommend it if you have dietary restrictions because they had a lot of healthy & gluten free options. However, during rush hour the service is pretty slow & you have to pretty much fight people for a table outside.
**We ate for under $10 most meals. Breakfast ran about $5 per day.
We stayed at the Central Backpackers Hostel on Park End St.