Oxford is a city to see on foot, but hire a bike and you'll see much more in the time you have. Do not even think of looking around Oxford by car. Despite the fact that this was a car-manufacturing city Oxford is one of the least car-friendly places I know. And that pleases me.
We had an American relative staying recently who had not ridden a bike since he was ten. Maybe the best advice I can give is practice cycling before you arrive in case the adage is wrong and you really can forget!
I would urge visitors to avoid shopping while in Oxford. We have adequate shops but you can shop just as well in far less attractive cities. Immerse yourself in history if you want to get the most out of Oxford - there is so much! Oxford has been at the centre of English and European politics more than you might expect given that it has only occasionally been a capital city.
Our museums are good. Our architecture is stunning. Keep looking up and take side roads. You'll be safe and who knows what you may discover. Finally, try punting; even if you get it wrong you'll end up laughing.
How I’ve picked my things to do:
I've chosen the things that delight me about Oxford. Many are obvious and would be on any tourist's wishlist but I've also added some more offbeat places. The Phoenix Picture House is well worth getting to know if you are in Oxford for a few days. The university parks are gorgeous in the summer and contain some surprises (including Parson's Pleasure). I would even include some of the pubs I've mentioned in the food and drink section as things to do. The Eagle and Child, the White Horse, King's Head and Turf Tavern are all well worth visiting, even if you don't imbibe. For the same reason the little sofa room inside Blackwells café, with its view of the Sheldonian, is a priceless piece of Oxford and so is our Pizza Express in Corn Market.
What Oxford is famous for is, of course, its colleges (more than the university itself). One could easily write a guide to each of the historic colleges but I've restricted myself to two; Christchurch, with its Harry Potter connection, and All Souls, my architecural favourite. But don't let this stop you trying others if there is no "COLLEGE CLOSED" sign warning you off.