CITY GUIDE: A guide to Oxford.
When your visa is on the countdown (t-minus a few months), you start to panic book trips. Spontaneous travels become the norm, and you slowly realise how little you’ve seen of the very country you moved halfway across the world to live in.
CUE, Oxford. I don’t have time for a large-scale roadtrip around the UK, but I do have spare weekends where no time shall be wasted. Oxford has been high on my list for yonks – the punting, Harry Potter filming locations and the famous university were just too much to resist.
We rented a car with Virtuo, and decided we’d spend a full day in Oxford. We left at 8am, and were there by 9:30am. It’s an easy drive, and you’ll be there before you know it. We parked in the Worchester Street Car Park, and it was pretty expensive at £30 for 8 hours. In saying that, it’s very centrally located, secure and this is pricing for a Saturday. Below is my guide on where to eat and what to see and do in Oxford. I really did love this town, and I hope you do too!
Where to Eat
Breakfast: The Handle Bar Café. A really cute café that is bright yellow – you can’t miss it. Sit upstairs to have a rooftop littered with bicycles, and choose the corners to be in leafy green heaven. We both ordered the smashed avocado (surprise, surprise) and it was delicious. Really well priced café that offers a warm, cosy interior and super friendly service.
Coffee: Quick pit-stop for what’s been labelled ‘Oxford’s best coffee” at Missing Bean café. It was a very busy café, that was jam packed with people. It was so cold outside, and so warm inside, that the windows were covered in condensation! The coffee was definitely really strong, so if you appreciate a strong cup of Joe (ha!), then this is the place for you.
Lunch: Visiting the Turf Tavern is an absolute must. It’s THE pub where Bob Hawke infamously downed a yard of ale in 11 seconds, where Stephen Hawking hung out between classes and Emma Watson came after filming Harry Potter. The menu is expansive, and very traditional English pub food. Highly recommend the lamb shanks if you’re starving – they were delicious AND massive.
Afternoon Tea: When in Oxford, go for a stroll through the Covered Markets. It’s still the original set up from 1774, and there is SO MUCH FOOD. We picked up some doughnuts, but there are various meats, cheeses and more to choose from.
Dinner: We ran out of time for dinner, but the number one place recommended to us was White Rabbit for pizza. After stalking them online, I can confirm it looks drool-worthy. Hint – make a booking as it can get super busy on the weekends!
What to see:
University of Oxford: It’s the main reason most visit, and you’ll be blown away by the magnificent campuses. Starting from 1096 with some form of teaching, Oxford is the oldest English-speaking university in the world. There are several campuses you can see, and they’re all so special in their own way. You can walk the very grounds where Stephen Hawkings, J.R.R Tolkein and former presidents Bill Clinton and David Cameron all went to university. It’s truly breathtaking and you can easily spend the day exploring.
Harry Potter Walking Tours: There are several locations throughout the university where Harry Potter was either filmed, or gave inspiration to. You can find self-guided tours online, but if you’re a fanatic like me, go the full way and do a tour, you won’t regret it!
Bodelian Library: Over 400 years old and with 12 million books, the Bodelian library is an absolute dream. The historic architecture on the outside and magnificent interiors makes this a must-see for any history/architecture lovers. IT’s been featured in several famous films – see if you can work them out when you’re there!
Ashmolean Museum of Art and History: If you’re trying to save money and love history (don’t we all), this is a really interesting museum. Set across 5 levels, it was founded in 1683 and is filled with incredible artefacts. From Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, the Ashmolean was a real highlight of our trip and is open till 5pm from Tuesday – Sundays.
Christ Church: Perhaps my favourite destination of all, Christ Church is one of the original colleges and located on the edge of town overlooking the local fields. It’s known as a famous Harry Potter film location, but it offers so much more. The halls are not open between 10am-2pm to the public, so make sure you visit outside of these times for a full tour!
Where to stay
As we only did a day trip to Oxford, we had no need for a hotel. I’d loved to have stayed for the weekend, and have done some research on where to sat in Oxford. Here are my favourites, and they all have great reviews from Tripadvisor!
Malmaison Oxford Castle: Ever dreamt of staying in an old jail? Decked out with their own cocktail bar and brasserie, Malmaison is only a 5 minute walk to the middle of town, and is a very cool option if you’re looking for something outside of the norm.
Vanbrugh House Hotel: Small and intimate, the Vanbrugh house Hotel has 22 rooms that fuse eclectic design with historic features. Except the unexpected in this 18th century masterpiece.
Oxford Country Cottages: If you’re after a countryside escape, then a cottage is non-negotiable. The Oxford Country Cottages consist of 5 self-catering cottages that share a courtyard garden and tranquil space. They’re only 5 miles away from the city centre, yet will give you that breath of fresh air you’ve been craving.
Have you been to Oxford? I’d love to know where to head to next time, or if you visited any of my suggestions!