Oxford is famed for its iconic stone buildings, towering spires and cobbled streets, all of which are steeped in history. It’s a beautiful city to visit at any time of year but the winter months certainly add to its magical atmosphere.
Whether you’re local to Oxford or are a visitor to the city, we’ve created a guide to the best things to do in Oxford at Christmas time, for a little inspiration on what you should add to your festive itinerary.
Exploring Oxford at Christmas time
There are plenty of Christmas events in and around Oxford during the run up to the holiday period. But there’s plenty of wintery charm on offer around the city to get you feeling festive too.
Oxford is synonymous with its architecture and historical buildings. However, there are plenty of green spaces to enjoy no matter the weather, and some scenic spots for a romantic, wintery walk too.
There are several greens and meadows to explore about Oxford, but Port Meadow tends to be favoured by locals (and often missed by tourists).
The meadow lies to the north of the city and is one of the largest open spaces that Oxford has to offer. With the river Thames flowing through the heart of it, Port Meadow is a lovely setting for a wintery walk (and there’s even the opportunity to spot the horses, cattle and wildfowl that call it home).
We recommend taking a hip flask of something warming and pitching up on one of the many benches along the river, watching the boats go by.
Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum
Whilst Oxford Botanic Garden is in full splendor during the height of the spring and summer months, a visit during the festive season is still very much worth it.
The Rainforest House is unaffected by the changes in season and can offer a verdant retreat from the wintery weather outside.
Throughout the borders, gardens and arboretum, there’s still plenty of winter interest to be appreciated and some local wildlife to be discovered as well.
Food and drink
The influx of Christmas markets means there’s plenty of festive delicacies to enjoy around Oxford, however, the city has its own established eatery and drinkeries that can be enjoyed throughout the seasons.
Vaults & Gardens
Nestled in the vaults of St Mary’s Church on Radcliffe Square, the Vaults & Gardens café not only offers a setting that is ‘quintessentially Oxford’, it has a delicious, seasonal menu that changes daily and truly celebrates the local produce that Oxfordshire has to offer.
A historic riverside pub that is a short walk from Port Meadow. The pub site of The Perch boasts 800 years of history, but has undergone a more recent renovation, making it a great bolthole for enjoying seasonal food and drink (which is highly recommended after a stroll around the city and meadows).
The Oxford Artisan Distillery
We take great pride in the artisan spirits that we create, many of which are inspired by the rich history of Oxford and are crafted using ancient grains that are grown in fields in the surrounding countryside.
Our story is certainly a unique one to tell and we think taking a behind the scenes tour of our distillery is a great way to hear it.
Get up close and personal with our spectacular stills, Nautilus and Nemo, and learn all about the unique, ‘seed-to-still’ process that goes into each bottle that we create. What could be more festive than discovering (and tasting) our fine spirits?
Christmas markets and fairs
Whether it’s exploring all the exciting goods that the independent vendors have to offer, hunting down unique Christmas gifts or simply enjoying the food, drink and atmosphere that’s on offer at seasonal markets and fairs, they can make for a great festive day trip.
The great news is, there are plenty of options in and around Oxford for festive fairs and markets.
The Oxford Christmas Market
Hosted in the heart of Oxford, The Oxford Christmas Market is making a return this year and is set to fill one of the city’s most historic streets, Broad Street, with charming wooden stalls and a vibrant festive atmosphere.
The Oxford Covered Market
You don’t need to wait for Christmas time to enjoy The Oxford Covered Market. Open all year round, the market is a must-see when visiting Oxford and is bustling with local and artisan traders.
During the festive period, the covered market can offer a welcome retreat from the chilly weather; wander round and soak in the unique atmosphere of the historic market (and treat yourself to something delicious whilst you’re at it).
Special Christmas events
Some of the most iconic landmarks in Oxford and Oxfordshire have a whole host of extra special events that can be enjoyed during the festive period.
Oxford castle and prison
The castle and prison site boasts towers to climb, panoramic views of Oxford city, candle-lit crypts to descend into and prison cells to explore. Parts of the site have 1,000-year history and, in the run up to Christmas, you can discover all that the Oxford Castle and Prison has to offer by a lantern-led tour.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace
Spectacular in its own right, Blenheim Palace has an enticing selection of festive events across November, December and January.
Hosting their own Christmas market, set against the grand backdrop of the palace, there is also a dazzling light trail to be enjoyed throughout the grounds and an exquisite reimagining of the story of the Nutcracker, set inside the palace rooms.
If you’re looking for some gift inspiration for the whisky lover in your life, we’ve put together a Christmas gift guide to help you find the perfect present.