- For other places with the same name, see Oxford (disambiguation).
Oxford is the oldest university city in the United Kingdom, some 50 miles (80 km) to the west of the capital London in its own county of Oxfordshire, on the rivers Thames (the section of the Thames in Oxford is known as "The Isis") and Cherwell. Together with Cambridge (the second oldest university city and Oxford's great rival), Oxford has long represented the English academic establishment and élite ("Oxbridge"), a haven of tradition and endeavour. Oxford's famous "Dreaming Spires" refer to the medieval churches and colleges that dominate the bustling modern town in all their Gothic splendour. Picturesque architecture and a vibrant modern life (driven by students, light industry and technology) set in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire make this a great destination.
Oxford was first occupied in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxanforda". The settlement began with the foundations of St Frideswide's nunnery in the 8th century, and was first mentioned in written records in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 912. By the 10th century Oxford had become an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by the Danes.
The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th century and therefore constitutes the oldest English-speaking university. Oxford, like Cambridge, differs from many other universities in that there is no 'campus' as such, and no central university building. Instead, the University consists of approximately 40 colleges and associated buildings, such as the Exam Schools (on the High Street: closed to the public), the world-famous Bodleian Library (main buildings in Radcliffe Square, off the High Street: limited access to the public), and several world-class museums. Each college has its own individual character, some date from the 13th century, others are merely a few decades old. Many of the colleges are closed to the public, particularly during term times, but some are open at different times. For example: Christ Church (the college of "Brideshead" fame) is mostly open, and has the added bonus of having a (small) cathedral attached, where excellent music is performed at Evensong everyday; it also has an excellent art gallery. Some of Christ Church's buildings are used in films such as Harry Potter. Other colleges of note are Magdalen (pronounced 'maudlin'), which has a deer park, and those along the High Street, all of which have an impressive list of alumni. Shelley fans should visit University College. Former women-only colleges such as the pretty Somerville (Woodstock Rd) further to the north of the centre are interesting to get a feel for the range of colleges in Oxford.
During World War II, Oxford was spared from the German carpet bombing that levelled many other British cities, making it one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the United Kingdom. The city has a population of 150,000, and the metro area 244,000.
Central Oxford is built around two intersecting throughfares which cross at Carfax:
- the High Street, or "the High" — running east–west, this is the main road coming in from Headington and the London road
- running north–south is another road, essentially continuous, but with separate ancient names for its various stretches — St Aldates and St Giles, separated by Cornmarket (now a pedestrianised shopping boulevard)
One of the best online resources for planning a visit to Oxford is the Virtual Tour of Oxford, hosted by the university's chemistry department.
Oxford is linked to London by the 50 mile (80 km) south-eastern stretch of the M40 motorway. The journey takes 50–90 min, depending on traffic, which can be heavy. The north-western continuation of the M40 conveniently links Oxford with England's second largest city, Birmingham, and the West Midlands.
Parking and access restrictions are very stringent in the narrow streets of central Oxford, policed by both wardens and cameras, with heavy fines applicable. The one-way traffic systems are circuitous and confusing, making it difficult to get around by car. Visitors driving to Oxford from the south have easy access to the Westgate multi-storey car park on Oxpens Road near the city centre, which is handy but expensive. An alternative is to use one of the five municipal Park and Ride services which are located in the city outskirts on all sides of Oxford (these are well signposted). They offer free parking and, on the park and ride bus, take about 12 minutes to reach the city centre. However £2 is charged for the return bus trip to the city centre. Forget about using the Thornhill Park and Ride on weekdays, it is invariably full.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Oxford has a large railway station immediately west of the city centre and south of Jericho. Fast First Great Western trains run to and from London Paddington every half an hour, the trip taking about an hour. Commonly, these trains call at Reading, Slough (for Windsor Castle), and Didcot Parkway, though not all trains call at each of these stations. Without a railcard, tickets to London cost £20 off peak and £40 at peak times, although you can buy tickets for about £4 if you book in advance online. There are also stopping services to London calling at a large number of stations, which run every hour and take about 90 min. First Great Western also runs approximately hourly trains on the Cotswold line to Worcester and Bicester.
Cross Country Trains run through Oxford, mostly running to/from Manchester and Southampton. These trains run approximately half-hourly in both directions until about 9PM. All of these trains stop at Reading going south, and Leamington Spa for Warwick and Warwick Castle, and Birmingham going north.
Frequent and comfortable coach services run from several convenient bus stops to Gloucester Green coach station in Oxford, normally starting at London's Victoria Station, running westwards via Marble Arch, Notting Hill, Shepherd's Bush and Hillingdon, and then onwards to Oxford. Stops in Oxford include beside others Thornhill Park and Ride station, Headington, Brookes University, St Clements, High Street (Queens Lane) (which is best for daily visitors, as it is right in the middle of the majority of University Colleges) and finally Gloucester Green, which is also well situated. Bus services between London and Oxford include Oxford Tube run by Stagecoach, X90 run by Oxford Bus Company, and the low-cost Megabus.com (which one must book in advance via the website or by phone. The service uses the infrastructure of the Oxford Tube). The Oxford Tube and X90 both run very frequently and journey time is usually 100 min (longer during rush hours).
Prices for the Oxford Tube and X90 are £14 adult one way, £17 for an adult same day or next day return ticket, and £20 for an adult return that lets you return at any point within three months. They take slightly different routes in London, so the place that you want to go to/from may influence where you board the coach. If you wish to travel late at night, only the Oxford Tube runs 24 hours a day; the X90 doesn't run between 2.30AM and 6.30AM.
There are regular bus services between Oxford and London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports with The Airline, run by Oxford Bus Company.
There is also an X5 bus between Oxford and Cambridge, taking approximately 3 h 20 min, as well as buses to Bicester and Banbury run by Stagecoach. There are also several coaches to other parts of the country that are run by National Express.
Oxford Airport at Kidlington is used mainly for private and charter aircraft and has only intermittently had scheduled airline flights; it is useful only if you fly your own plane, or are able to charter a small aircraft.
Heathrow is the closest major airport, followed by Gatwick in terms of size and popularity. Road access from both Heathrow and Gatwick (fastest) is by M25 (heading north and west respectively) and then the M40 to Oxford's outskirts (follow the signs).
Oxford Bus Company runs several airport bus services to Oxford Gloucester Green bus station (running in from Headington and up the High with several convenient stops: check web pages below):
- between London Heathrow and Oxford , £23 single, £29 return, frequency: generally every thirty minutes
- between London Gatwick and Oxford , £28 single, £37 return, frequency: hourly 6AM–8PM, less frequently thereafter
National Express bus company runs airport bus services to Luton Airport and to Stansted Airport.
Birmingham International Airport has fewer destinations compared to the London airports (it still has quite a lot), but it is the closest to Oxford in terms of public transport travel time. Birmingham Airport has its own railway station, which is connected to the airport terminal building via the free AirRail Link cable car shuttle, taking 1–2 min. From the railway station, trains depart to Oxford every hour between 06:14 and 22:14 and take about an hour. A non-advance, non-rail card single costs £25.50, a return £28.80 off-peak or £51 any time. You could do a lot cheaper by booking an advance ticket though (but be careful as tickets are valid only on the booked train, so if your flight is late and you miss the train, you will have to buy another ticket).
Oxford city centre is very compact and easily walkable. Many areas of the city centre are pedestrianised, and all major tourist sights are well signposted. The main hazard is that less-considerate cyclists will routinely ignore pedestrian crossings and often take shortcuts along the pavement. Remember to look both ways when crossing the road, though, as pedestrians suddenly striding out into the road from places other than designated crossings equally constitute a major hazard for cyclists.
That the narrow streets of the city centre are pedestrian-friendly, difficult for cars and full of beautiful buildings that will draw your attention upwards (rather than onto a more horizontal plane) does not mean that the roads of the city are overspill pavements. You will find most cyclists quite forgiving on this point as they are used to it and are often themselves pedestrians tempted to do the same as long as you suppress the urge to pass comment on any near-misses actually arising from your standing in the middle of the road.
The preferred mode of transport for the university student is the bicycle and like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Beijing, there are hundreds of them. Most trains into Oxford allow bicycles to be carried for free. Fortunately, there are cycle lanes on virtually every street near the centre, however you will sometimes be sharing the road with other motorists. Though the bus traffic can be daunting, the familiarity of cyclists to local drivers makes cycling safer than it seems at first. The best option is to follow the locals as they know what they are doing. It is illegal for cyclists to run red lights (although many do) and you must use lights at night, local police frequently set up checkpoints and there is a fine for cycling without lights. Bike parking is available everywhere, but make sure you get a strong lock as bike theft is common. Avoid cable locks as they are cut through frequently.
Avoid driving in central Oxford. Traffic is heavy, the one-way system is very confusing, the streets are often very narrow with restrictions, and parking is very expensive. Use the park and ride system, or forget the car and come in by public transport. If you have a motorcycle or a scooter, things are a little easier.
Local urban buses are mostly operated by the Oxford Bus Company and by Stagecoach. Fares are expensive and are charged by distance (pay the driver when boarding: change is available), but if you plan on making more than two trips in one day, buy an all-day pass to save money. The main hubs for local buses are the rail station and St Aldates. If you are in town a while, there is also a rechargeable smart-card that gives discount on bus fares.
Park and ride
Buses operate from Pear Tree, Redbridge, Seacourt, Thornhill, and Water Eaton. The buses operate from 06:00 to 23:30 on weekdays and Saturdays. Return fares start at £2.40 per adult, and children travel free when accompanied. Parking charges apply at Pear Tree, Redbridge, and Seacourt.
Oxford has both metered taxis which can be flagged down from the street or taken from taxi stands located around the city as well as 'minicabs' which must be ordered by phone. Meter taxis are quite pricey but are convenient for short hops if travelling in a big group. Minicabs are much cheaper for long-distance journeys; the fare should be agreed over the phone when booking or should be bargained with the driver – never get in a minicab without agreeing the price.
Visitors to Oxford should definitely visit at least one museum, visit at least one college and – if possible – hear one of the world-class college chapel choirs. A walking tour (see 'Do' below) is a good way of achieving this.
- Bodleian Library. The main research library of the University of Oxford, the Bodleian is one of the oldest libraries in Europe (opened in 1602, based on the collection of Thomas Bodley), and in the UK is second in size only to London's British Library. The Bodleian now possesses numerous branches throughout the university; visiting bibliophiles will be most keen to peruse the central site, which includes Duke Humfrey's Library above the Divinity School, the Old Schools Quadrangle with its Great Gate and Tower, the Radcliffe Camera, Britain’s first circular library, and the Clarendon Building.
- Hertford Bridge (Bridge of Sighs) (Hertford College). A quaint pedestrian bridge for the students of Hertford College which has popularly become known as the "Bridge of Sighs" of Oxford.
- Sheldonian Theatre, Broad St. This unusual building was Sir Christopher Wren's first major architectural commission. At the time he was a Professor of Astronomy at the University. There is a series of busts outside the theatre facing Broad St with strange expressions and facial hair.
- Taylorian Institute (also known as the Taylor Institution), St Giles', OX1 3NA (corner of St Giles' and Beaumont St, opposite the Randolph Hotel). The University's centre for the study of modern European languages and literature, established in 1845. Its library contains the largest specialist collection in its field in Britain. It is in a neo-classical building designed by Charles R. Cockerell and erected between 1841 and 1844 by the University to house the Institution and the Randolph Galleries (now the Ashmolean Museum).
- University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High St (entrances from the High and from Radcliffe Square), ☎ +44 1865 279112. Some of the best views of Oxford are afforded from the tower of the church, dating to 1280. The church itself, rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries (with various additions after this time), is full of architectural and historical interest. The church has a coffee shop, The Vaults and Garden, now re-opened under the management of Will Pouget (already known for his 'Alpha Bar' in the Covered Market) and specialising in organic food and fair trade tea and coffee.
Many Oxford colleges allow tourists to visit their grounds during certain hours and certain seasons, although some are closed to tourists at all times. Those that do open are generally closed to tourists during certain times of the year, especially University terms (approximately October/November, January/February and May/June), particularly in May/June, which is when exams are taken. It is advisable to visit the College's website before visiting, or to enquire at Oxford's local tourist information office to be certain you are not disappointed.
Each college has a unique history and something interesting to offer in terms of striking architecture or historical notoriety.
Balliol, University, and Merton Colleges each claim to be the 'oldest' in the University, with founding dates in the 13th century, although the exact year may be unclear or contested. They are fine examples of the collegiate Gothic architecture for which Oxford is renowned.
Exeter College on Turl Street is an example of one of Oxford's smaller colleges. Built in 1314, it is also one of the oldest and in its front quad exemplifies collegiate architecture in Oxford. The Victorian neo-Gothic chapel is modelled on the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, and houses 'The Adoration of the Magi', the famous pre-Raphaelite tapestry by William Morris. The Fellows' Garden neighbours the Divinity School and the Bodleian Library and offers one of the best views in Oxford, over Radcliffe Square.
New College on Holywell Street is interesting for being the only college to be built straddling the ancient city wall, which cuts through the center of the grounds.
The Queens' College along High Street, founded in 1341, is renowned for its grand 18th-century Classical style architecture for which is unique among the ancient (medieval) colleges, which have otherwise each been rebuilt or expanded over the years in a largely Gothic or neo-Gothic style. Tourists are not admitted to this college.
All Souls, also along High Street, is famous not only for its striking towers, but also in that it does not accept undergraduate members, but rather elects only two graduate fellows each year based upon their performance in what has been described as the 'hardest exam in the world'.
Finally, two colleges (some of the largest and most famous in Oxford) that have somewhat established themselves as tourist destinations are Magdalen and Christ Church. You're as likely to see a tourist inside as a student, but they do offer regular visiting hours, tourist facilities, meticulously manicured and beautiful grounds, and ticket booths for charging admission fees.
- Christ Church, OX1 1DP. The college of Brideshead Revisited fame, Christ Church is an Early Modern period college founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey as "Cardinal College". Noted for associations with Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and was a location for the filming of the first Harry Potter film. The Christ Church Meadows south of the college is a beautiful green space offering nice views of the spires and quiet corners to relax. Admission is expensive at adults £6; seniors, children and students £4.50.
- Magdalen College, eastern end of High St, ☎ +44 1865 276000. 1 October–21 June 1PM–6PM or dusk (whichever is earlier), 25 Jun–30 Sep noon–6PM, closed 22–24 June. Founded in 1458 by William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, Magdalen (pronounced Mawdlin) is frequently the first college seen by many visitors if coming into Oxford on the London Road, its high tower serving as a much-loved landmark. A must-see is the glorious deer park and the gothic chapel. Significant Magdalen alumni include CS Lewis, Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney and Edward Gibbon. Visitor gift shop and afternoon café. Maximum 20 people in a group. Adults £5; seniors, children, students £4.
Museums and galleries
- Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St (between Worcester and St. Giles), ☎ +44 1865 278000. Tu–Su 10AM–6PM. Vast, impressive, and recently undergone major redevelopment, the Ashmolean is Britain's oldest public museum, having been founded in 1683. The museum displays ancient art from Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome, a fine collection of Western art and artifacts and a sizable Eastern Art collection. Highlights include the Amarna Princess Fresco and the Alfred Jewel. A restaurant and gift store also feature. Free.
- Christ Church Picture Gallery (entrance via Oriel Square), ☎ +44 1865 276172. Houses an internationally renowned collection of Old Master paintings and drawings – some 300 paintings and almost 2000 drawings. The paintings include works by Carracci, Tintoretto, Filippino Lippi, Van Dyck and Frans Hals. Christ Church’s collection of Old Masters drawings is one of the most important in the country and includes work by major artists such as Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Durer and Rubens. For reasons of space and conservation, it is not possible to show the entire collection but a selection of drawings is always on view. £3/£2.
- Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke St. An art gallery often showing temporary exhibitions of art and photography by renowned contemporary artists, which are accompanied by well designed talks and workshops. Excellent cafe with cheap and great quality eats. Free.
- Museum of Oxford. The museum tells the tale of the growth of the city and University.
- Museum of the History of Science, Broad St, OX1 3AZ. Tu–F 12–5pm, Sa 10am–5pm, Su 2–5pm. Located in the Old Ashmolean building and housing an unrivaled collection of early scientific instruments. The Old Ashmolean building is the world's oldest surviving museum-purpose building. It is a department of Oxford University as well as a public museum. Their website offers an online database of their collection. Free.
- Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Rd (opposite Keble College), ☎ +44 1865 270949. Closed in 2013 for roof restoration. Normally daily 10AM–5PM except for Easter and Christmas. Houses the University's scientific collections of zoological, entomological, geological, palaeontological and mineralogical specimens, accumulated in the course of the last 3 centuries. The exhibits occupy a large central court with elegant Victorian cast-iron columns supporting the great glass roof, and surrounded on four sides by upper and lower arcades. They are devoted to the history and diversity of life on Earth and the rocks and minerals that form it. Highlights include the famous Oxford Dodo, the largest display of dinosaur remains outside London, a great collection of skeletons, and the nesting swifts in the Museum's main tower. Free.
- Oxford University Press Museum, Great Clarendon St, OX2 6DP, e-mail: email@example.com. M–F 10AM–4PM; closed on Bank Holidays and between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day – it is essential to contact the Museum in advance to book a visit. This small museum explains the history of the University of Oxford's involvement in printing and publishing from the 15th century to the present day. Among other things, the exhibitions show the OUP's buildings, printing equipment, the first publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and how the Oxford English Dictionary came to exist. Free.
- Pitt Rivers Museum, South Parks Rd. Daily noon–4:30PM. Oxford's museum of anthropology and ethnology, still largely arranged in Victorian style, making this a rare museum experience. The Pitt Rivers requires time and effort but gives great satisfaction. Look out for the shrunken heads! (Entrance to the Museum is through the Oxford University Museum Natural History (OUMNH) on Parks Road – the entrance is at the far side of the lobby from the main entrance to the OUMNH; visitors therefore need to walk across the ground floor to reach it). Free.
Parks, gardens, open spaces
Many of Oxford University's colleges have parks and gardens to walk through that are open to the public.
- University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Rose Lane and the High St (opposite Magdalen College), ☎ +44 1865 286690. Daily 9AM–4PM (Nov–Feb), 9AM–5PM (Mar/Apr/Sep/Oct), 9AM–6PM (May–Aug), last admission 45 minutes before closing. £4.50 for adults, £3 concessions during peak season, free during weekdays out of season.
- Oxford University Parks (entrances at Parks Road, Norham Gardens, and South Parks road, near Linacre College). Closing times vary according to the season. Large expanse of park along the Cherwell River with paths running from Marston to the City Centre.
Walking tours, that last about two hours, from St Aldates, near the centre, are an excellent way of visiting some of the more famous colleges, such as Christ Church and Merton. A number of independent general and ghost tours also start nearby in Broad Street.
The only Oxford-based Harry Potter walking tour is offered by the Oxford Tourist Information Centre. Like all the non-Oxford-based Potter tours, Duke Humfrey’s Library is not included (only Bodleian Library staff can lead visitors into this hallowed space). Harry Potter Places Book Two—OWLs: Oxford Wizarding Locations guides Potterites through the decision-making process required to enjoy all Oxford Harry Potter sites, including Duke Humfrey’s Library.
Sport and recreation
- Oxford United FC. The city's professional football team, who play at the Kassam Stadium on Grenoble Rd, 3 miles southeast of the city centre. They are in League Two, the 4th tier of English football, and won the League Cup in 1986.
- Punting. In the summer, punting is an ever-popular activity, involving propelling a wooden boat along the river with a pole. You can also hire someone to do the punting for you, although it is easy and fun to do it yourself. Bring a bottle of wine and good balance along for a more interesting trip (although it helps to have a sober crew member along!) Punt rental available at Magdalen Bridge , from Salter's at Folly Bridge, and from the Cherwell Boathouse in North Oxford.
- In the summer, check out the nesting swifts (birds) at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. These elegant little birds have been nesting in ventilation flues in the tower of the University Museum for many years, providing a wonderful opportunity for scientists. Visitors to the Museum between May and August can watch live pictures from three of the nests in the tower on a television monitor.
Stage and screen
Oxford has four city-centre cinemas, screening mainstream (Odeon) and art films (Ultimate Picture Palace, Phoenix Picturehouse). The latter sometimes has showings at 11:30PM for night owls.
Oxford also hosts a number of London productions on tour, as well as playing host to a large number of student productions each year. Oxford has a lively student-drama scene. The following theatres put on amateur student productions during term-time, which are often very good value for money:
- Burton Taylor Theatre — tickets sold at the Box Office of the Oxford Playhouse (see above)
- Old Fire Station Theatre (OFS), George Street
- The Oxford Playhouse. Worthwhile plays
- New Theatre — popular shows, musicals and ballets.
- Oxford Show Details. Show Details
- The Sheldonian Theatre. Recently voted the most uncomfortable concert hall in England, the Sheldonian never has a shortage of both professional and amateur classical music concerts, but though it is 'uncomfortable', it cannot be denied that its baroque majesty is truly beautiful.
- Covered Market. High Street. Oxford has the oldest covered market in England. Unusual small shops, including a chocolate shop, cake shop, fine butchers, hat shop, florists, glassware, and charming cafes.
A large number of shops in the city centre specialise in selling the ubiquitous Oxford University range of souvenirs. One is official, the others less so, but all do a roaring trade in T-shirts, sweaters, calendars and paraphernalia:
- University of Oxford Shop, 106 The High Street, ☎ +44 1865 247414, fax: +44 1865 724379. The. M–Sa 9AM–5.30PM, Bank Holidays and Sundays in June 11AM–4PM, Sundays in July and August 11AM–5PM. Since 1990, the official outlet for university souvenirs and gifts.
Unsurprisingly for a university city, Oxford is noted for both antiquarian, specialist and new books.
- Blackwell's Books, 48–51 Broad Street (opposite the Sheldonian Theatre). Founded in 1879, Blackwell's main Oxford shop is a veritable tourist attraction in itself, the vast 10,000 square foot Norrington Room excavated beneath Trinity College Gardens laying claim to being the largest space dedicated to book sales in Europe. Another 9 speciality branches of this Oxford institution dot the city.
- Oxford University Press Bookshop, 116 High Street, ☎ +44 1865 242913, fax: +44 1865 241701. Stocks a wide variety of books published by Oxford University Press.
- Alpha Bar, 89 Covered Market, Avenue 3, ☎ +44 1865 250499. 9–5(ish). One of the healthier options inside the Covered Market, Alpha Bar serves up organic, fair-trade food. Sandwiches are reasonably priced, at around £3.50, and you can choose from their many interesting fillings, including baked tofu, seaweed and roasted vegetables. Their salads are priced by the pound and you can fill your recyclable container with good-for-you grains. A favourite among students for lunch, but make sure you get there early — they tend to run out of the more popular ingredients by around 3:30. £.
- Ben's Cookies. 0915-1730. Great little shop right in the centre of Oxford, and much better quality than some of the other, over-priced coffee shops. Popular with Oxford University students!
- Dosa Park, 25 Park End St, OX1 1HU (next to station), ☎ +44 1865 791197. Tiny South Indian restaurant/café/takeaway next to City Centre bus stands and train station, whose appearance belies its quality — some of the most mouth-watering authentic South Indian food out there, and dirt cheap too! Well worth a stop if travelling through Oxford Station and needing a snack or meal. Cheap.
- G&D’s (George and Davis), 55 Little Clarendon Street, OX1 2HS, ☎ +44 1865 516652. 8AM–midnight).
- G&D’s (George and Danver), 94 St. Aldates, OX1 1BT, ☎ +44 1865 245952. 8AM–midnight). £.
- G&D’s (George and Delila), 104 Cowley Road, OX4 1JE, ☎ +44 1865 727111. 8AM–midnight). The original G&D’s was opened in Little Clarendon Street by an Oxford University student and soon became an Oxford institution. No other ice-cream themed shop has survived long in Oxford due to the fierce loyalty of G&D’s customers. Popular flavours include ‘Oxford Blue’ (blueberry), Crunchie bar, Turkish delight and InLight Delight (white chocolate with chocolate chip cookie dough). G&D’s also offers bagels, salads and baked goods, all extremely reasonably priced and extremely tasty. £.
- Café Zouk, 135 High Street. 12 noon – 2:30PM; 5:30 – 11:30PM. Café Zouk serves up authentic, traditional Indian and balti dishes at fair prices. Starters are generally between three to five pounds, with mains priced between five to ten pounds. Service can be unpredictable, but the food is good enough to excuse the occasional offhand waiter. £.
- Georgina’s, ☎ +44 1865 249527. Mon–Fri 9–4.30, Sat 9–5. Georgina’s is tucked away on the upper floor of the Covered Market, and this small café has a fairly groovy, hippy-ish décor and atmosphere. You’ll pay more for your sandwiches and wraps here than you would at other places, but portions are huge and, for the most part, healthy. An exception to the latter is their loaded potato skins, which are slightly spiced and come with a heaping of sour cream. Delicious! £.
- The Nosebag Restaurant, ☎ +44 1865 721033. Tuesday–Thursday 9:30AM–9:30PM; Friday–Saturday 9:30AM–10PM; Sunday 9:30AM–8:30PM. An Oxford institution, The Nosebag is a favourite among students who come for the huge portions of their tasty, wholesome food. It’s worth paying the extra couple of pounds for the leftovers you’ll be heaving home – the varied menu includes Hungarian goulash, served with tagliatelle and green salad, spanakopita, pea, asparagus and salmon risotto, and blackeye bean curry. Or you can just pick up one of their delicious cakes. £.
- Noodle Nation, 100–101 Gloucester Green, OX1 2DF, ☎ +44 1865 201400. Mon & Tues: 11.30AM–10PM; Wed–Sat: 11.30AM–11PM; Sun: 12 noon–10PM. A cheaper, less ubiquitous version of Wagamama, Noodle Nation is useful for its location on Gloucester Green, near the bus terminal. A blend of Japanese, Chinese and Thai cuisines, the menu is almost overwhelmingly large and dishes are fully customisable. 10% student discount with card. £.
- Combibos Coffee, ☎ +44 1865 250072. 7AM – 8PM. Doing its best despite the location of a Caffe Nero just a few doors down, Combibos is an excellent place for a cup of coffee and a pastry. Sandwiches are not special but the pictures of rock ‘n’ roll stars and quotations on the walls provide a hip setting for a chat with a friend. £.
- Meltz, ☎ +44 1865 202016. 7AM – 8PM. Great for sandwiches – their hot toasties come with salad, dip and tortilla chips, and other lunch options are large and tasty, including pastas, baked potatoes with all sorts of fillings and spaghetti and meatballs. £.
- Jamie's Italian, ☎ +44 1865 838383. Monday – Friday 12noon – 11PM; Saturday 10AM – 11PM; Sunday 10AM – 10:30PM. Offering traditional, simple Italian food at reasonable prices, Jamie Oliver’s venture opened recently and has been a huge success. One drawback is that no reservations are accepted, so be prepared to put your name on the wait-list and endure a growling stomach. Favourites include the crab spaghettini, wild mushroom ravioli and the exquisite truffle tagliatelle. You can order a starter-sized portion of any pasta dish, and mains include grilled steak, yellow fin tuna salad and, unusually, lamb chop lollipops. Nothing on the menu is over £17 and most dishes hover around the £10 mark. ££.
- Brasserie Blanc, ☎ +44 1865 510999. 11AM – 11PM. Raymond Blanc’s French brasserie is intimate and full of charm. Considering the quality of the food, prices are extremely reasonable – a rack of lamb, potatoes and cabbage will set you back £17.50, and for vegetarians the grilled Crottin goats’ cheese and beetroot tart is an exquisite choice. A great place for a date or to bring your mother. ££.
- The Grand Cafe, ☎ +44 1865 204463. 9AM – 8PM. Lunch options include Waldorf salads, oak smoked salmon and varied sandwiches, but the real draw here is the afternoon tea. For £16.50 you get a couple of sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, handmade chocolate truffles, tea or coffee and a glass of champagne. True extravagance! ££.
- The Alternative Tuck Shop, 24 Holywell Street. One of the best sandwich shops in Oxford. Cheap, lightning-fast service, high-quality food. Offers a great selection of sandwiches (warm and cold), panini, pasties and cakes. Friendly and efficient staff. £.
- The Mission, 8 St Michael’s Street (off Cornmarket), ☎ +44 1865 202016. Delicious California style burritos for about £5.
- The Mission (King Edward St), 2 King Edward Street (off High St.), ☎ +44 1865 722020. The King Edward St. location of the Mission chain. Delicious burritos at a low price.
- Spice Lounge, 193 Banbury Road. Oxford Spice Lounge has a delicious Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine with a very friendly staff. They offer a lunchtime buffet on Sundays from 12 noon to 3pm. At the Spice Lounge the emphasis is on organic and creative dishes. Ethnic recipes are used to provide a diverse, unusual menu, while focusing on healthy eating.
- Gees Restaurant (Gees), 61 Banbury Road, ☎ +44 1865 553540. Gee's is an Oxford restaurant serving traditional British food with an emphasis on seasonal food, simple, good cooking and value for money
- Quod Brasserie, 92–94 High Street, ☎ +44 1865 202505. Quod Brasserie & Bar on the famous High in Oxford, with its terrace and bar forms the hub of The Old Bank Hotel
- The Mitre, 17 High St (the corner of High St and Turl St, city centre), ☎ +44 1865 244563. Su–Th 10AM–11PM, F–Sa 10AM–midnight. One of the oldest and biggest pubs in the city centre, it has been serving the public since 1261. It is a listed building with a pub and restaurant on three levels with lot of nooks and crannies which allow guests to have some privacy if they wish. Main courses are predominantly meat (succulent steaks, mixed grill, ribs), but the menu has something for seafood lovers, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. A fantastic deal 5.99 on some meals before 6:30PM (including famous and popular rump steak with chips and salad).
- Carfax Chippy, 135 High Street, Oxfordshire, OX1 4DN. Oxford original and traditional fish and chips. The interior is similar of a school canteen. Very fine fish and chips. Prepared and cooked the traditional way from the finest freshest fish and potato that you can taste it. The chef personally prepares and serves the food and beverages, very friendly and kind. Best value for money in Oxford.
- Combibos Coffee, Gloucester Green (by Gloucester Green bus station). 8:00–18:30. Probably Oxford's best coffee shop, has a very loyal following, is family run and unusually for a coffee bar, offers table service. A very mixed crowd of students and locals choose here as it has a number of tables outside. Lyrics and poems on the walls make it quite a cool place. It was recently featured in the Independent newspapers' Top 50 Coffee Shops. They also serve a fantastic Full English cooked breakfast every day, before 11am.
- The Missing Bean, 14 Turl Street (only 1 minute's walk from the main quadrangle of the Bodleian). 8:00–18:30. Hidden halfway down Turl Street is this little gem of a coffee shop; it only opened in October but already has a reputation for the best coffee in Oxford. Laid-back atmosphere & friendly staff. Ask for the famous flat white!
Pubs and bars
Oxford has many old pubs, as well as newer nightclubs.
- Turf Tavern, 4 Bath Place (off New College Lane), ☎ +44 1865 243235. 11AM–11PM, Su 12 noon–10.30PM.. A well-hidden pub, but also well known by locals. Good range of beers. Nice beer garden with coal fires where you can roast marshmallows on chilly evenings in spring and autumn. This ancient pub (a favourite with Inspector Morse) is an unmissable Oxford institution that many consider to be the best pub in the city — in the summer watch out for drenched students enjoying the end of their exams. Pint £3.50.
- the Eagle and Child, 49 St Giles. Popularly known as "the bird and baby", this pub was the frequent haunt of the Inklings, a group of Oxford literary dons that included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Very atmospheric, with a great range of ales and the best pork scratchings you've ever tasted!
- The Jericho Tavern, Jericho. Great place for a drink and maybe some food. Also famous for being the place that Radiohead played their first show.
- the Lamb and Flag, 12 St Giles, +44 1865 515787. A big old pub, long, with lots of nook and crannies
- Royal Oak, Woodstock Road (opposite Radcliffe Infirmary). Graduate and North Oxford local, offers Schneider Weiße from Germany, popular with scientists and doctors working in the area.
- The Bear, Blue Boar Street. A small pub, but curiously full of old school ties. The oldest pub in Oxford by its own description, founded in 1492, and probably has the lowest ceilings of any pub in Oxford.
- King's Arms, (opposite Broad Street and the Sheldonian Theatre). A popular student pub — selection of beers and reasonable food although perhaps prices are a little high. Excellent location.
- Hobgoblin, St. Aldates. Small and traditional but with adequate seating, with drinks varying in price depending on how early you get there.
- Royal Blenheim, 13 St Ebbes, ☎ +44 1865 242355. Quirky, friendly place with good beer and food. Check out the Chuck Norris quotes in the gents.
- Hobgoblin, Cowley Road. Lively student pub. Staff are friendly until 11PM, at which point you'll be rudely kicked out.
- The Old Bookbinders' Arms, hidden in the back streets of Jericho (go down Great Clarendon Street, turn right into Canal Street). Has eccentric decorations, but friendly and with lots of beers.
- Freud's, Jericho. This bar and restaurant occupy a grand church building producing a unique, slightly austere atmosphere. When buzzing with people, this becomes a great place for an evening out; the restaurant area is cleared to become a dance floor later in the evening. They serve a range of cocktails from about £3 upwards.
- LJ's, Jericho. Trendy cocktail bar with a happy hour.
- Raoul's, Jericho. A trendy and upmarket cocktail bar. Often very busy at weekends.
- Sugar Brown's, Jericho. Cocktail bar.
- The Duke of Cambridge, Little Clarendon Street. Fashionable for young students wanting great cocktails with some cheeky bar staff. Swisher than you might expect.
- The Bullingdon, Cowley Road. Lively and unpretentious with a mixed clientele. Live music and club nights in the back room. Jazz club on Tuesday nights. Blues on Monday nights.
- Half Moon, St. Clement's. Ignore the plastic faux-Irish outlets in the city centre and head out along the High St and over Magdalen Bridge and enjoy the relaxed vibe in this small, friendly pub.
- Angel and Greyhound, St. Clement's. Popular with Friday evening after-work crowd, letting their hair down. In quieter moments good for board games. Food is average.
- Head of the River, Folly Bridge, +44 1865 721600. Perfectly located, right on the Thames. Follow St Aldate's down past Christ Church college until you reach the river (the pub's on the far bank). This place buzzes on summer evenings, when the large garden gets extremely busy.
- The Gardener's Arms, Plantation Road. Very pretty with a beer garden, and an excellent all-vegetarian menu.
- The Fir Tree, on the corner of Bullingdon Road and Iffley Road. Good beer, open till 2AM most nights, friendly atmosphere.
Certain weeknights are student-only at some clubs, so you should probably check before going.
- The Bridge, 6–9 Hythe Bridge Street, ☎ +44 1865 242526. Nightclub frequented by students. Two floors — R&B on one, dance on the other. Plenty of acceptable seating, long bars and quite importantly clean bathroom facilities! Drinks can be a bit pricey: bottled beer £3 (no draught), double vodka coke £2.70, entry £4–£5. VIP room.
- Maxwell's, 36–37 Queen Street, ☎ +44 1865 242192. 11:30AM–2AM daily.. Bar and restaurant by day; cocktails and nightclub by evening. Claims to have the longest bar in Oxford. £3–£5 cover (after 10PM).
- LavaIgnite (aka Park End'), 37–39 Park End Street, ☎ +44 1865 250181. M–W 21:00–02:00, Th–Sa 21:30–03:00.. Nightclub frequented by students and locals. Come here to drink heavily and dance to uninspired pop tunes. £1-£5 cover, £3 pints, £3 mixed drinks (some nightly drink specials). Monday is Brookes student night, Wednesday is OUSU student night (many bottled drinks £1.50). Student ID required for both.
- The Varsity Club
- O2 Academy Oxford (previously Carling Academy and The Zodiac'). Live music venue and stop-off for many a band's UK tour, turned nightclub after hours.
- Po Na Na's, 13–15 Magdalen Street. Don't be put off by the inconspicuous entrance — below is a relatively small, mysteriously decorated (apparently its Moroccan), funky cave, with great not-too-loud music, and an unusual and relaxed atmosphere. Cocktails 2 for 1 between 9 and 10:30.
- Thirst, 7–8 Park End Street, ☎ +44 1865 242044. M–W 18:30–02:00, Su 18:30–01:30.. Cocktail bar, drinks from £1.75.
Oxford has a large number of B&Bs and guesthouses, located both centrally and in the suburbs. Check the website of the Oxford Association of Hotels and Guesthouses to get some ideas of available options.
Most hotels in the city centre are pretty expensive, and you pay almost London prices. Be advised to book in advance if you are travelling in summer since free accommodation can be rare during high season. The tourist information office in the city centre can help find available accommodation for a small fee.
- YHA Oxford, 2a Botley Road, ☎ 0870 770 5970 (high cost number), +44 1865 727275 (outside UK), fax: +44 1865 251182, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Housed in newish, purpose-built building next to the railway station and minutes from the city centre, prices from £20.50 adult, £15.50 under 18s. Prices are a bit steep, and unfortunately no longer include breakfast. Location is convenient although avoid getting a room facing the train station as the sound of passing trains and station PA announcements can become annoying after a while.
- Central Backpackers Hostel, 13 Park End Street, ☎ +44 1865 242288. Only recently opened and situated close to the city centre. Clean and airy. From £14.
- Oxford Backpackers, 9a Hythe Bridge Street, ☎ +44 1865 721761, fax: +44 1865 203293, e-mail: email@example.com. Cheap and a little dingy. Conveniently located for both the rail and bus stations (2 mins walk). Dorm beds from £13.
- Victoria House Hotel. Popular hotel located in the heart of Oxford on Georges Street.
- Dial House, 25 London Rd, Headington, OX3 7RE. Bed and breakfast from £91.
- Remont Boutique B&B Oxford Hotel, 367 Banbury Road, OX2 7PL, ☎ +44 1865 311020, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Oxford University Rooms, some of the colleges rent out rooms out of term time, providing a B&B like experience,
- The Old Bank Hotel, 92–94 High Street, ☎ +44 1865 799599, e-mail: email@example.com. £150 (single).
- Burlington House Hotel, 374 Banbury Road, OX2 7PP. £157.
- Weston Manor, 135 Northampton Road, Weston-on-the-Green, OX25 3QL.
- Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Beaumont Street, ☎ +44 844 879 9132, fax: +44 1865 791678. Oxford's only 5* hotel. Plush English accommodation, located directly opposite the Ashmolean Museum, could be hired for conferences. Temporarily closed due to a 2015 fire.
- Malmaison Oxford Prison Hotel, Oxford Castle, OX1 1AY. Set within the old prison this modern quirky 4* hotel also allows pets!
- Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons
- The Old Parsonage Hotel, 1–3 Banbury Road. Modern luxury hotel in Oxford only five minutes from the city centre
- The Old Bank Hotel, 91–94 High St. This chic hotel is within walking distance to the cities theatres, museums and gardens.
- Oxford Spires Hotel, Abingdon Road, ☎ +44 1865 324324, fax: +44 1865 324325, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3pm, check-out: 11am. Close to the city centre but set in a large garden area. There's an indoor pool and spa treatments are available. ₤79-₤229.
Although perceived to be a very affluent university city, there are also some areas that suffer from unemployment and poverty. It is not unheard of for areas of Oxford to report higher rates of violent crime than many larger cities in the UK.
Blackbird Leys, a suburb of Oxford, is possibly the best-known crime hotspot. The area suffers some instances of drug dealing and anti-social behaviour, although it is no worse than any other large housing estate across the country.
Street crime in the center of the city, with the exception of bicycle theft, is low, though proper precautions as would be followed in any other city should be taken. Avoid getting caught up in drunken revelry or street fights, and, remember, traffic is on the left (so look both ways). Oxford has a large number of student cyclists, especially during term time (January, February, April, May, October, November), making hearing alone insufficient for checking whether a road is clear.
Oxford has a relatively high rate of not only street performers but also beggars (though still a low number of the latter by international standards). Police advise not handing over money to those who expressly ask for it unless threatened.
Oxford has a small gay scene and a gay area, which is accepting and friendly. The city is surprisingly gay-friendly for Middle England, evidently helped by a huge student population (and when compared to places like Birmingham and Coventry). The city's LGBT population is not as high places like Manchester, Brighton, London, Blackpool; but it is safe and comfortable feeling for gay visitors.
Oxford public library in the Westgate Shopping Centre has free internet available. The hostels near the train station all provide the Internet to residents.
There are also internet cafes in the city. One to try is located above the baguette (sandwich) shop on the far south end of New Inn Hall Street (the little lane running perpendicular to George Street, right across from Gloucester Green bus station and immediately parallel to Cornmarket Street). They also offer international telephone calls, international fax, and printing.
- Blenheim Palace — located 8 miles north-west of Oxford in the picturesque and historic town of Woodstock on the A44 Evesham Road — well worth a visit
- Bicester — 10 miles north of Oxford, a nice little town with last season's designer shopping at discounted prices from the outlet stores at Bicester Village.
- Waterperry Gardens. Gardens & Garden Shop 10.00–17.30 (March–October)/10.00–17.00 (November–February). A lovely wander through manicured gardens. Adults £4.95 (March–October)/£3.50 (November–February).
- Goring-on-Thames — a small, typically English village on the Thames, with beautiful walks through the nearby Goring Gap, where the Chilterns meet the Berkshire Downs. Take the stopping service to Reading from Oxford railway station.
- Gloucester Green — this bus station offers buses to locations all over England and make it very convenient to get out of Oxford. Buses leave from here to London, Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and other national destinations. Most buses do not take credit cards so make sure you have enough cash.