Being fortunate enough to live about an hour away from Oxford, it sadly gets overlooked for more exotic lands that can be reached by plane in an hour. However, I arranged with dear friends a staycation in the painfully stunning city of Oxford to have a weekend explore. I’m going to share with you my 6 Unusual Activities To Do In Oxford. This is a list of activities I did on my recent visit and I think you would enjoy too, as well as not being your usual tourist spots. Is there anything you would add to my list?
Sit at Will & Lyra’s Bench
For those who have read the masterpiece trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, you will be well aware of the significance of a certain bench in the Oxford Botanical Gardens. If you haven’t, and I implore you to do so, but the next line might be a spoiler, the two main characters are not able to stay together as they come from parallel universes, so choose to visit the same bench that exists in both their worlds on Midsummer’s Day to be close to each other in some way. The real-life bench has a stunning view of the botanical gardens. I also liked seeing if people were searching the benches for somewhere to merely rest and take in the late autumn sun or fans of His Dark Materials looking for the bench to have a connection to these amazing characters. I believe there has now been a sculpture erected behind the bench so you won’t have to hunt for it as much as I did!
Spotting Chocolate in the Glasshouse at The Botanical Gardens
Now, you’ll not necessarily be able to spot a completely made and wrapped bar of chocolate in the glasshouses, but you can see the delicious ingredients growing to make a very small bar of chocolate. Growing in 300-year-old glasshouses, are cocoa trees, sugarcane and a host of spices to flavour chocolate like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger to flavour you’re very tiny bar. The other glasshouses are super fun to explore too, including the carnivore house with an impressive venus fly trap collection.
Breakfast in an Old Jam Factory
Heading back in time to a site seeped in sugary history. Frank Cooper’s famous marmalade was produced on-site between 1903 – 1958 hence the name The Jam Factory. A lovely space, a mix of art centre and gallery, bar and restaurant, with live music and drawing classes. We found this lovely space for a drink as not too far from our hotel and the next day a definite stop off for a breakfast and for the FacMUFFIN, Pork & Sage Pattie, Free Range Fried Eggs, Aged Ford Farm Cheddar, to start your day right and recover from the night before, with this flavoursome filling muffin. Lovely to wander around the gallery while waiting for your breakie. They also open for lunch, dinners and Sunday lunch.
Stroke a Black Bear at Natural History Museum
I love a Natural History Museum and the Oxford one is a prime example of a fine one. Founded in 1860 and housed in a stunning Victorian neo-Gothic design building with an iron and glass ceiling housing a wonderful collection of specimens including dinosaur fossils, preserved floral as well as a host of insects, minerals and a range of tactile exhibits to get up close and personal with nature. Including a magnificent black bear, otter, fox and brown bear. It’s not every day a museum encourages you to touch the exhibits! As you can tell from my picture, I wasn’t too convinced!
Lose Yourself In Another World at Pitt Rivers Museum
The entrance to Pitt Rivers Museum is actually through the Natural History Museum, so you’re getting two exciting visits for the price of one! Both are free to enter regardless, what can only be described as a vast display of the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford in England, covering all aspects of life from far-flung corners of the world. We spent five hours exploring here and only saw a small proportion of what is on display. There are shrunken heads, carved figures from New Zealand, seal gut waterproofs from the Arctic, blow darts, Georgian silk clothing, jewels from glittering and gleaming. Found in 1884, and with 500,000 objects, photographs and manuscripts, you’ll be kept in wonder for days to comes!
Marvel in Beauty of Scientific Instruments
With approximately 20,000 objects cover almost all aspects of the history of science, from antiquity to the early 1900s, the History of Science Museum, as a wonderful collection of astrolabes, sundials and early mathematical instruments, together with apparatus associated with chemistry, medicine, and communications. Check out the beautiful Roman pocket sundial or even the blackboard Albert Einstein worked on during a visit to Oxford. It’s a wonderful space to soak in the lifetime body of works of some incredibly smart people. Also, make sure you don’t miss the massive 5ft detailed pastel and crayon drawing of the surface of the moon which was completed in the 1790s. You won’t believe it’s not a modern photograph.
Where’s on your list to visit in Oxford?
Rose Ln, Oxford OX1 4AZ
Tel: 01865 286690
The Jam Factory
4 Hollybush Row, Oxford OX1 1HU
Tel: 01865 244613
Natural History Museum
Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3PW
History of Science Museum
Broad St, Oxford OX1 3AZ
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