TOP 18 Things to see in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Located in Oxfordshire, Abingdon-on-Thames is one of the most beautiful towns in this part of England. From stunning walks alongside the river & beautiful historical buildings – there are so many great things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames!

The South of England is well-known for its market towns in unique locations, and Abingdon-on-Thames is a perfect example of what Oxfordshire has to offer.

If you are looking for a perfect day trip from London then head out to Abingdon-on-Thames!

So, what to do in Abingdon, Oxfordshire? Read our post to find out the main attractions you should see when to visit Abingdon-on-Thames!

Where is Abingdon-on-Thames?

Part of Oxfordshire in the South East of England, Abingdon-on-Thames (commonly shortened to “Abingdon”) is located to the south of Oxford, just off of the A34.

Where is Abingdon-on-Thames
Where is Abingdon UK?

What is Abingdon famous for?

Now, we want you to know that we’re being completely serious here. Abingdon is most famously known for two things: Bun-Throwing and the election of their Mock Mayor of Ock Street.

The Bun-Throwing ceremony is a 400-odd year-old tradition which takes place every time there is a special event to celebrate. For example, the most recent Bun-Throwing ceremony was in 2018 and took place to commemorate the year that World War I ended.

Other Bun-Throwing celebrations have included the coronation of several Royal Family members, a few jubilees, the year of the Millennium, and Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday.

Buns are baked specially for this ceremony, where around 4000 currant buns are thrown at the gathered crowd by the town’s Councillors (in their full ceremonial robes, no less!).

As for the Mock Mayor election, well, that’s been going on for a number of years. The election takes place on whichever Saturday is closest to the midsummer solstice, which has suggested to many that the election has some very old roots, indeed.

Though the elected Mock Mayor has no real power, the celebration bursts through the streets of Abingdon with music, Morris dancers, and more.

Is Abingdon the oldest town in England?

Although Abingdon-on-Thames claims to be the oldest town in England, thanks to having proof of the town developing on its site for thousands of years, the oldest confirmed town is actually somewhere else.

In 2014, Amesbury in Wiltshire was confirmed as the oldest settlement in the UK. If you’re struggling to put a place to the name, Amesbury is where you’d go to visit the illustrious and mystical Stonehenge. Experts have found that this area has been occupied since 8820BCE.

How to get to Abingdon-on-Thames?

Let’s start with getting to Abingdon from Oxford. Going via the A34, it’s just 13 minutes from Oxford to Abingdon by car. However, if you aren’t travelling by car, you’ll need to hop on a bus at Westgate and ride for between 41 and 45 minutes.

From London, your journey will become a little longer. It’s around 1 hour and 22 minutes when travelling by car via the M40. For public transport, you’ll want to take a train from Paddington Station to Didcot Parkway, and then a bus from Parkway Station to Abingdon. This should take no more than 1 hour and 45 minutes.

When travelling from other places in the UK, it’s always easier to get to a major train station city like London and go from there. You might find travelling via London a bit cheaper, too.

Abingdon on Thames postcode

The postcode for Abingdon-on-Thames is OX14.

Things to see in Abingdon-on-Thames Oxfordshire
Abingdon UK

Accommodation in Abingdon on Thames

Abingdon-on-Thames has a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Here are a few examples:

  • The Crown and Thistle: The Crown and Thistle is a historic coaching inn that offers stylish and comfortable accommodation. The rooms are individually decorated and feature period features, such as exposed beams and fireplaces. The inn also has a restaurant and bar that serves a range of local and seasonal dishes.
  • Dog House Hotel: The Dog House Hotel is a family-run hotel that offers comfortable and affordable accommodation. The rooms are modern and well-appointed, and the hotel has a bar and restaurant that serves a range of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Oxford Abingdon Hotel: The Oxford Abingdon Hotel is a modern hotel located on the outskirts of Abingdon. The hotel has comfortable and spacious rooms, as well as a restaurant and bar that serves a range of international dishes.
  • The Upper Reaches Hotel: The Upper Reaches Hotel is a charming hotel located on the banks of the River Thames. The hotel has comfortable and spacious rooms, as well as a restaurant and bar that serves a range of classic and contemporary dishes.

These are just a few examples of the accommodation options available in Abingdon-on-Thames. Whether you’re looking for a historic inn, a modern hotel, or a charming riverside location, you’re sure to find a place to stay that suits your needs.

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames

From pubs to theatres, historical walks to shopping-filled afternoons, there’s more to do in Abingdon than meets the eye.

1. The Nag’s Head

Looking for places to visit in Abingdon-on-Thames? The Nag’s Head is a charming establishment that can be found on The Bridge in Abingdon. The business describes themselves as a “little piece of paradise” and we couldn’t agree more. The Nag’s Head runs as a restaurant and a pub, and guests can also benefit from their riverside garden.

Why not try The Nag’s Head’s Grazing Board for a great brunch with your family or friends? The board comes with olives, houmous, and flatbread, but has a huge range of other options that you can add on for a small cost.

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - The Nag's Head
Things to do Abingdon – The Nag’s Head

2. Almshouses in Abingdon-on-Thames

What to see in Abingdon-on-Thames? In older times, almshouses were used by various religious orders to feed and shelter the poor. This is a practice that can be dated all the way back to the medieval period. Today’s existing almshouses are usually run by various independent charities, providing a safe and secure place for low-income individuals to stay when they have nowhere else to go. They aren’t quite homeless shelters, per se, more low-cost housing solutions.

I. Brick Alley

The almshouse that faces St. Helen’s churchyard is that which is called the Brick Alley Almshouses. This almshouse has history that dates back to the early 15th century, when Geoffrey Barbour left money for an almshouse to be built in the area.

The current almshouse that stands at Brick Alley is not the original one. It was rebuilt and completed back in 1720. Today, it is a Grade I listed building.

II. Long Alley

Like Brick Alley, Long Alley Almshouse was used as a hospital. It was constructed just a couple of decades after Brick Alley, once a new charter gave the townsfolk of Abingdon the right to set an almshouse up for the sick.

The central hall is open for viewings on Heritage Days.

III. Twitty’s

Twitty’s Almshouses have a different story to the other two famous almshouses in Abingdon. When Charles Twitty, a senior official who worked in the Exchequer, passed away, he left funds to build the Twitty’s almshouses.

Unlike Brick Alley and Long Alley, Twitty’s is a Grade II listed building. It isn’t as old as the other almshouses, but it still holds significant history in Abingdon.

Places to visit in Abingdon-on-Thames - Almshouses in Abingdon-on-Thames
Abingdon England – Almshouses in Abingdon-on-Thames

3. East St Helen Street

Top Abingdon-on-Thames sightseeing? Noted as one of the earliest streets in Abingdon, East St Helen Street is full of houses with medieval cellars, with many properties dating back to the 13th to 15th centuries. The beautiful thing about this street is that it’s a timeline of history. Many of the houses have been dated back to different decades in different centuries, with several holding various pieces from years gone by.

It’s a walk through time.

What to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - East St Helen Street
Abingdon town – East St Helen Street

4. Abbey Gatehouse

Best Abingdon-on-Thames places to visit? Spanning across the road which was used as the entrance to the old Abbey, Abbey Gatehouse was built back in the 15th century. The gatehouse has been in constant use for a huge number of years and remains a strong piece of architecture in Abingdon.

5. Abingdon Abbey

Whats on Abingdon Oxfordshire? Once a monastery that was known as St Mary’s Abbey, Abingdon Abbey was founded in the late 7th century – or that’s the best guess that historians have. During the time of Henry VIII, the Abbey had the sixth largest income of the country and was one of the greatest landowners in Berkshire.

Today, only two groups of the Abbey’s buildings remain. One, which contains the Gateway, St Nicholas’ Church, and some of the Guildhall. And the other, which has the Long Gallery, the Checker, and the Unicorn Theatre (as it’s now known).

Places to visit in Abingdon-on-Thames - Abingdon Abbey
Abingdon in Oxfordshire – Abingdon Abbey

6. Abingdon main square

Top things to do in Abingdon Oxfordshire? The main square of Abingdon, also known as Market Square and Market Place, can be easily located in the centre of the town, right where all of the action is. At Market Place, you’ll be able to find a range of cafés, various markets, and more.

Abingdon’s main square is right next to the high street, too, which makes it the perfect location for a shopping trip.

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Abingdon main square
Abingdon town centre – Abingdon main square

7. Abbey Meadow

What is there to do in Abingdon-on-Thames? Abbey Meadow links directly onto Abbey Gardens, the whole area is extremely charming. Along with the various flower displays scattered across the gardens, Victoria’s statue, the ruins, and the nearby church, this area is a bit of a tourist hotspot.

For a relaxing afternoon, take a moment to venture down one of the paths or the 2.5-mile circular walk.

8. Abingdon County Hall Museum

Where to go in Abingdon-on-Thames Oxfordshire? An establishment that has long recorded the history of Abingdon for the public to view. Abingdon Country Hall Museum is known for making the town’s historical information as accessible as possible, in the hopes that they can educate and excite their visitors.

You can enjoy a virtual tour of the museum online, as well, which could be helpful in planning your visit and figuring out what parts of the museum you want to see.

Places to visit in Abingdon-on-Thames - Abingdon County Hall Museum
Things to do in Abingdon on Thames – Abingdon County Hall Museum

9. St Helen’s Church

Where to go in Abingdon Oxfordshire? St Helen’s Church has been Abingdon’s principal church since its construction. There has never been a time when this architectural wonder hasn’t been at the forefront of all churches in the town. St Helen’s was likely founded around the 7th or 8th century, although the first mention of it in written record doesn’t appear until the 10th century.

Over the many, many years that this church has stood in Abingdon, it has undergone rebuilding, extensions, and renovation. The last major extension has in the 16th century, which included the area of the outer south side of the church.

Abington on Thames – St Helen’s Church

10. St Helen’s Wharf

Best Abingdon-on-Thames day out? Directly next to St Helen’s Church, St Helen’s Wharf overlooks the Thames and is a great area to watch boats, feed ducks, or just sit down for a relaxing afternoon. There’s a lot of trading history at the Wharf, and there’s also the Gardens, which are right by the Wharf and are gorgeous in the warmer months.

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - St Helen's Wharf
Abingdon on Thames area – St Helen’s Wharf

11. Abingdon flood level sign 15 Nov 1894

Must see places in Abingdon-on-Thames town? There’s a fair bit of history in this little tourist spot in Abingdon. Right by the River Thames, you’ll be able to spot at old flood level sign that was placed on the 15th of November 1894 – or that’s what the sign tells us, anyway.

These signs were vital during times of flooding, giving the townspeople and authorities more of a warning about the state of potential floods in the area.

What to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Abingdon flood level sign 15 Nov 1894
Abingdon Oxfordshire England – flood level sign

12. Cycling in Abingdon

What to do in Abingdon-on-Thames? Cycling enthusiasts will find plenty of trails to ride down in Abingdon. Which one you decide to try depends on how far you want to go and how long you’re planning on cycling for.

One of the longer cycling routes is the Wallingford – Abingdon loop, which is over 30 miles and takes almost three hours to complete. Although it’s lengthy and takes some time, the route is mostly paved areas and suitable for all cyclists.

For a shorter route that stays in Abingdon, try the Abingdon Bridge loop. It’s just 6.37 miles and take a little over half an hour.

What to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Cycling in Abingdon
Abingdon things to do – Cycling in Abingdon

13. The Old Anchor Inn

Best places to see in Abingdon-on-Thames? Dating back to the 19th century, The Old Anchor Inn can be found on St Helen’s Wharf in Abingdon. It’s a cosy, riverside pub that serves lunch and dinner, and it has a kid’s menu! Their main dishes include some great pub dishes, such as steak and chips, beer battered fish and chips, burgers, and more.

14. Unicorn Theatre

What’s in Abingdon-on-Thames? With tickets to showings costing as little as £8, the Unicorn Theatre has been a family theatre for around 70 years. You can find it on Checker Walk, just a short walk from St Helen’s Wharf and the Thames.

Places to visit in Abingdon-on-Thames - Unicorn Theatre
Abingdon what to do – Unicorn Theatre

15. Thames Path

Nice places to visit in Oxfordshire? The Thames Path is a walking route in Abingdon that starts in the town and runs all the way to the village of Sandford-on-Thames. There are several miles of countryside on this route, and you’ll also cross near the railway bridge – you might get lucky and be in the area the same time a train is passing through!

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Thames Path
Things to do in Abingdon this weekend – Thames Path

16. Abingdon Bridge

Crossing the River Thames, Abingdon Bridge allows traffic to go from Abingdon to Dorchester with ease. The bridge, itself, is listed as Grade II, and is actually two bridges that are linked together by Nag’s Head Island.

Things to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Abingdon Bridge
Visit Abingdon-on-Thames – Abingdon Bridge

17. St Nicolas’ Church

Another of Abingdon’s wonderous churches, St Nicolas’ Church can be found in Abingdon’s Market Place. St Nicolas’ Church became a parish church back in the late 14th century, though it was built around the late 12th century. 

18. Boat trips on the Thames

This is the perfect activity for anyone visiting Abingdon that wants to get out on the river. There’s a company called Salter’s Steamers that offer a river cruise from Oxford to Abingdon, starting at Oxford’s Folly Bridge, and ending at Abingdon Bridge.

What to do in Abingdon-on-Thames - Boat trips on the Thames
Abingdon, Oxfordshire – Boat trips on the Thames

Abingdon on Thames town history

Abingdon-on-Thames is a historic market town located in the county of Oxfordshire in the south of England. The town has a rich and fascinating history that dates back over a thousand years.

The earliest recorded history of Abingdon dates back to the 7th century, when a Saxon abbey was founded on the site of the present-day town. The abbey was an important center of learning and culture, and it played a key role in the development of the town.

In the Middle Ages, Abingdon became a thriving market town, thanks to its location on the River Thames and its proximity to London. The town was also known for its wool trade, and many of its buildings date back to this period.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Abingdon played an important role in the English Civil War. The town was a Royalist stronghold, and it was the site of several key battles and skirmishes. After the war, the town became a center of commerce and industry, and it continued to grow and prosper throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today, Abingdon is a vibrant and bustling town with a rich cultural heritage. It is home to a wide range of historic buildings, including the Grade I-listed St. Helen’s Church, the 17th-century County Hall, and the medieval Abingdon Bridge. The town also has a thriving arts scene, with a number of galleries, museums, and theaters, as well as a popular annual arts festival.

Pubs in Abingdon on Thames

There are several pubs in Abingdon-on-Thames, offering a range of beers, wines, and spirits, as well as food and live entertainment. Here are a few popular options:

  • The Kings Head and Bell: This historic pub dates back to the 14th century and has a cozy, traditional atmosphere. It serves a range of real ales and classic pub food.
  • The Brewery Tap: This modern pub is located in the heart of Abingdon and offers a wide selection of craft beers and ciders, as well as pub snacks and light meals.
  • The Nag’s Head: This family-friendly pub has a large beer garden and a menu of classic British pub dishes, as well as live music and quiz nights.
  • The Broad Face: This spacious pub has a large bar area and a separate dining room, serving a menu of classic British dishes and international cuisine.
  • The Punch Bowl: This traditional pub has a warm, friendly atmosphere and a menu of classic pub food, as well as regular quiz and music nights.

These are just a few of the many pubs in Abingdon-on-Thames – there are plenty more to explore depending on your preferences and interests.

Abingdon on Thames tourist information

Abingdon-on-Thames is a charming town with a rich history and plenty of things to see and do. Here is some tourist information to help you plan your visit:

  • Historic attractions: Abingdon has a number of historic buildings and landmarks, including St. Helen’s Church, the County Hall, and the Abingdon Bridge. The Abingdon Museum is also worth a visit, with displays on the town’s history and culture.
  • Outdoor activities: The River Thames runs through Abingdon, and there are many opportunities for boating, fishing, and river walks. The town also has several parks and nature reserves, including the beautiful Abbey Gardens.
  • Arts and culture: Abingdon has a thriving arts scene, with several galleries and theaters, as well as the annual Abingdon Arts Festival. The town is also home to the Unicorn Theatre, which hosts a range of performances and events throughout the year.
  • Shopping and dining: Abingdon has a wide range of shops, from independent boutiques to larger chain stores. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants, and pubs, serving everything from traditional British fare to international cuisine.
  • Festivals and events: Abingdon hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Abingdon Airshow, the Abingdon Food and Drink Festival, and the Abingdon Carnival.
  • Location: Abingdon is located in the heart of Oxfordshire, just a short drive or bus ride from Oxford city center. The town is also easily accessible by train, with regular services from London and other major cities.

Abingdon on Thames coffee shops

There are several coffee shops in Abingdon-on-Thames that offer a range of hot and cold drinks, as well as light meals and snacks. Here are a few popular options:

  • The Brew House: This coffee shop is located in the heart of Abingdon and offers a range of artisan coffees, teas, and hot chocolate, as well as cakes, sandwiches, and salads.
  • Costa Coffee: This popular chain coffee shop is located in the town center and offers a range of hot and cold drinks, as well as sandwiches and cakes.
  • The Old Anchor Coffee House: This independent coffee shop is located on the river Thames and has a lovely outdoor seating area. It serves a range of hot and cold drinks, as well as breakfast and light meals.
  • Throwing Buns: This bakery and coffee shop is located in Abingdon’s Market Place and offers a range of artisan bread, cakes, and pastries, as well as coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
  • The Old Bookbinders Ale House: This historic pub also serves coffee, tea, and cakes during the day. It has a cozy, traditional atmosphere and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.

These are just a few of the many coffee shops in Abingdon-on-Thames – there are plenty more to explore depending on your preferences and interests.

Abingdon on Thames shops

Abingdon-on-Thames has a variety of shops that cater to different interests and needs. Here are a few popular options:

  • Bury Street Antiques: This antiques shop offers a range of items, including furniture, ceramics, and jewelry. It’s located in a historic building and is a popular destination for antique collectors and enthusiasts.
  • Mostly Books: This independent bookshop has a wide selection of books across different genres, including fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and local interest titles.
  • Abingdon Market: The weekly Abingdon Market offers a range of local produce, as well as crafts, clothing, and other items.
  • The Bookstore: This bookshop specializes in academic and non-fiction titles, and also offers a range of stationery and gifts.
  • The Gifted Magpie: This gift shop offers a range of unique and quirky gifts, including homeware, jewelry, and accessories.

These are just a few examples of the many shops in Abingdon-on-Thames. There are also several supermarkets, clothing stores, and other types of shops throughout the town.

Places to visit near Abingdon-on-Thames:

Is it worth visiting Abingdon-on-Thames?

For those who are considering a quite day out near the countryside, who enjoy the history of old towns, religious architecture, and cycling or walking routes, Abingdon is a great place to visit.

It’s not a town that you would need to stay in for more than a day or two if you want to see everything, and it’d be a good idea to visit during the Abingdon Heritage Festival to get a little more excitement out of your trip.

You could also very easily combine your journey with Oxford by using the river cruise option and explore two towns at once!

If you liked our article about Abingdon, then please check out the below posts too:

Things to see in Abingdon Oxfordshire
What to do in Abingdon on Thames?

Articles you may like: