Our guide to Oxford
One of the world's most famous university cities, Oxford is a privileged place that only the academic elite gets to go to. The city has so much culture and history in its veins and the beauty of the old university colleges and churches is unbelievable. Although the city is known for it's history and classic ways the city also has a young and energetic feel to it. Oxford is a university city and thus it has a feel and pulse of a much younger town. You'll find trendy cafés, hip restaurants, cocktail bars indie movie theaters and basically anything else that a young student could possibly ask for in a city nowadays. The eclectic mix of old and new makes Oxford a really interesting city to visit, as there is much to see for history buffs as well as young people who want to explore the city life. The fantastic old colleges are scattered throughout the city and mix in with the newer parts of Oxford life. It's possible to see big parts of Oxford on a day trip, but we would recommend having 2 days in the city to explore the museums, cobbled streets, colleges, great restaurants, coffee shops and neighbourhoods.
Tips! Want to see more photos from Oxford? Visit our Oxford photo gallery.
➳ WHERE TO HAVE DINNER in oxford
Oli's Thai: Locals love it, reviewers love it, everybody loves it. This is the best Thai place in Oxford - and one of the best restaurants overall. Located a 25 minute walk from central Oxford this is the real deal. Mains are between 6-12£, which is very reasonable. Real authentic Thai place and one of the best Thai places we've been to. Very popular, so book ahead.
Nut Tree Inn: Great if you have a car, as it's located a little bit outside of Oxford. The Nut Tree Inn has been awarded a Michelin star and serves up a sample menu, as well as a la carte. Food is modern-British and the ingredients are sourced locally.
Pizza Artisan: Pizzas. Made from the back of a truck. In front of Christchurch Cathedral. Is there anything about this that isn't amazing? Go grab a pizza and sit outside and enjoy it!
Pierre Victoire: French Bistro. Here you'll find all of the French favourites such as Moules Mariniere, Steak Frites, Moules Frites and a bunch of other tasty seafood dishes. Can't go wrong here!
Kazbar: A mix of Spanish and Moroccan tapas dishes. The decor in this place is so cool and it truly feels like you're in Morocco when you enter this bar/restaurant. Go for some of their classics like babaganoush and mix it up with some Iberico ham, olives and lovely bread.
Magdalen Arms: Lovely little pub/restaurant that serves up a mixed range of dishes from various cuisines. The Magdalen Arms has been awarded a Bib Gourmand by the Michelin guide. They serve up lovely dishes with a fair price tag. We had the moules, mackerel, tagliatelle and grilled sole. A real treat.
➳ WHERE TO HAVE LUNCH in oxford
Turl Street Kitchen: Situated on Turl Street just by the City Centre this place is a must-visit for great local food. It’s not overrun by tourists and the food was spectacular. Turl Street Kitchen serves up simple and delightful British dishes. They have a very simple menu (which is always a good thing) and everything is cooked up fresh. The place serves up dishes like Steak, ale & mushroom pie, celery and potato soup & Braised free range chicken, roots, white beans. They also have a small menu of lovely desserts. You can’t go wrong with lunch here and you’ll be eating like a local.
Big Society: A great place for students to hang - great wings, burgers and hotdogs. If you're in the mood for grabbing a couple of beers and mingle with some locals then this is a great place to go.
Atomic Pizza/Burger: The name kind of gives it away. There are 2 restaurants in Oxford and both of them serve up great burgers. The walls in these places are plastered with 80's comic book pages, star wars memorabilia and anything else 80's. If you have kids going with you then this will surely be a hit. We had the Sci Fries (clever) and the Dead Elvis burger.
St. Giles' Café: This place serves up classic breakfast/lunch. Full English, pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Fish plates, sausages and mash and salads for lunch. Great, simple food.
Green's Café: The healthy option. Green's Café serves up great food and also has really tasty organic vegetarian and vegan options. For lunch try out one of their pastas, soups or salads.
➳ WHERE TO HAVE TEA/COFFEE in oxford
Missing Bean: This was the first café we stumbled upon in Oxford. These guys know their coffee. You get to choose from various beans/roasts and then how you want the coffee prepared. Really tasty and relaxed setting just off Turl street.
Keen Bean Coffee Club/Truck Store: Actually this is a record store/café. Get a cup of coffee or tea, sit down and listen to some tunes. If you're into vinyl this is a great place to go.
Jericho Coffee Traders: These guys have a mobile coffee shop that drives around + a small coffee shop in central Oxford. Great coffee, trendy interior and staff who love their coffee. A must-visit.
Taylor's Coffee: This small family owned deli has a couple of shops around town. Great place to get a sandwich and coffee to go.
➳ WHERE TO STAY in oxford
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons is a luxury hotel/restaurant in the village of Great Milton near Oxford, in Oxfordshire, England. It's recommended that you have a car if you're staying here, as it is situated a little out of town. It is located in an historic manor house and the style is very classic luxury. It's on the expensive side, but if you want the best then this is a pretty good choice.
Old Bank Hotel: This old bank turned boutique hotel is in a beautiful Georgian building situated right in the city centre. You can't get a much better location than this for your stay in Oxford.
MacDonald Randolph Hotel: This 5 star hotel is located in the city centre and has an amazing restaurant and the hotel has been frequented by quite a lot of celebrities during its time. The hotel also has a spa and fitness if you need that during your stay.
Old Parsonage Hotel: Old-school charm meets luxury. This hotel has been ranked as one of the best hotel in Oxford, has a lovely terrace, a cosy bar and the food here is great.
Malmaison Hotel: Set in a former prison within a medieval castle, this sophisticated hotel which has recently been modernized is a good place to stay at if you a quirky and cool boutique hotel (the whole former prison thing is pretty cool).
➳ WHAT TO SEE AND DO in oxford
The city of Oxford is full of things to do because of its history. It's actually possible to do quite a lot of the activities in Oxford in just a day or two (if you're energetic). The activities below are what we recommend that you do and see when visiting Oxford.
Bodleian Library: Oxford's Bodleian Library is one of the oldest public libraries in the world and quite possibly the most impressive one you'll ever see. Casual visitors are welcome to wander around the central quad and visit the exhibition space in the foyer. For £1 you can also access the Divinity School, but the rest of the complex can only be visited on guided tours (check online or at the information desk for times; it pays to book ahead).
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology: The Ashmolean Museum (in full the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) is the world's first university museum. The Ashmolean has a quite wide array of collections so there's something for everybody's taste. If you want to visit a museum during your stay in Oxford then this should be the one you go to.
Go on a walking tour: As in many other cities there are several options for walking tours in Oxford. Great way to see the city, as you will have a guide that can go in-depth with the history of the city and take you to all of the must-sees.
Radcliffe Camera: The Radcliffe Camera was built in 1737 as a library. Between 1909 and 1912 an underground book store of two floors was constructed beneath the north lawn of the library with a tunnel connecting it with the Bodleian (the library right next to the Radcliffe Camera, invisibly linking the two library buildings. The Camera now has reading rooms and an underground library with more than 600.000 books.
Bridge of Sighs: The Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful passageway/link between 2 buildings. It's a city landmark for its beautiful architecture. Doesn't take much more than 5 minutes to see this, so if you're visiting the Bodleian or Radcliffe Camera you should stop by, as it's 30 seconds from there.
Go Punting: Head down to River Charwell. This is where you go can go Punting (sailing down the river in small boats). To go punting costs about 20 pounds and is something that a lot of tourists do, as the river takes you through Oxford and is beautiful ride. You follow the river bend and it's a fun activity for kids. You can get a 'chauffeur' for an extra 5 pounds.
Christ Church Meadow: This beautiful park/meadow stretches all along the river in Oxford and is a great place to go for a peaceful walk during your stay. There aren't as many tourists here as central Oxford and we really enjoyed how unkept the park was.
The colleges of Oxford: The city of Oxford is famous for its beautiful colleges and these are a must-visit if you're going. There are a lot of different colleges that each have their own individual charm. Since there are so many of them we recommend that you Google some of them before hand to choose which ones you want to see as you probably won't be able to see all of them in one day. You should definitely stop by Worcester College. Arguably one of the prettiest colleges in Oxford. Take a stroll through the gardens and see the old buildings and get an idea of what it would be like to study in Oxford. Christ Church is also quite magnificent. Many of the colleges have been featured in movies (Harry Potter, Golden Compass etc.) Make sure to check their opening hours for the public as this varies from college to college.
Visit Jericho: Jericho was our favourite neighbourhood in Oxford. Everything here just seemed cool and trendy and you didn’t have tourists everywhere, as you do in central Oxford. Jericho is a great place to grab an afternoon drink and do some shopping. Our favourite stores here were Cowboymod Emporium, Illyria Pottery, Uncle Sam’s vintage. If you want a really cool and out of the ordinary experience then have a drink at Freud. Freud is an old church turned cocktail bar. The place plays great music and just seeing the church from the inside is an attraction in itself. A very cool experience that will make you feel like a local.
➳ Where To Shop in oxford
Objects of Use: This tiny shop is full of quality household items from all over the world. The shop focuses on durable designs. Go in here and you're bound to find something to bring back home - whether it's forged iron skillets, French linens or Swedish soap.
Cowboymod and Son: This small shop in Jericho is a hair salon / photo gallery / guitar shop / clothing shop. Going into this shop is like going into a rock and roll museum (where you can buy the things). Really cool shop.
Illyria Pottery: Beautiful pottery created by one artist, just below the store. The things here are incredible - jewellery, tea pots, cups and amazing plates. A must-visit if you want to bring home something special.
Toast: Womenswear, menswear and home. This shop has a bit of everything. Really cool clothes, accessories and small things for your home.
Brora: Scottish cashmere chain that sells quality clothing with modern designs. Colourful classic designs. Good place to go to if you want to bring home something nice.