The occasion of Adam’s birthday gave us a great excuse to visit some of our favourite places in Oxford. Having Oxford as our local town is really a great privilege and we take every opportunity we can to wander the breath-taking streets of Oxford and visit our favourite places. I wanted to share our favourite places with you to help you make the most of your visit to Oxford…
Oxford has many beautiful and awe-inspiring places and buildings, many of them are out-of-bounds except for the privileged few (privileged not just financially one assumes but in the determination and dedication that they must have in order to have the honour of studying in such a wonderful university town). However although you will see plenty of private, no entry, closed signs…
We have been locals for several years now and have our favourite places in Oxford. We never tire of it; we are always finding new favourite places and we still meander the streets, looking up to be sure to see the true beauty of the city its wonderful historic architecture and amazing vistas and skylines.
There is no denying that Oxford is a transient town, a place for tourists. Every day of the year the streets are packed with throngs of visitors and rightly so it is a stunning and fascinating town.
The city of Oxford changes throughout the seasons as visitors and students come and go the city, its colours, feel and appearance change with the seasons but our favourite places in Oxford remain the same.
You will see our favourite places in Oxford are a little biased to places to eat and drink however they are also all great places to sit and watch the fascinating world of Oxford for by.
The first of our favourite place in Oxford is really an activity enjoyed in numerous places; walks along the River Cherwell, through University Parks and Christchurch Meadow. I recommend getting away from the town centre and enjoying the paths by the rivers. In Christchurch Meadow (behind the Botanic Gardens) the Thames and Cherwell rivers meet.
There are many paths along the river Thames but the prettiest and easiest are along the River Cherwell. You can’t follow the river directly as much of the land is owned by the university but with an OS map it is easy to pick up the paths any quickly get away from the hustle and bustle.
Through University parks, north of Oxford town centre, you emerge on Parks Road and are quickly back in town along St Giles to find one of our favourite places The Ashmolean. Established in the 16th century and refurbished in 2009 a mesmerising museum in a breathtaking building with exhibitions to inspire and amaze.
We have visited numerous times and still not seen everything. Since our privileged sneak preview of prior to the reopening in 2009 The Ashmolean remains one of our favourite places in Oxford. Its only downside is that it is not open on Mondays which has disappointed some of our family and friends on extended weekend visits to Oxford.
Before heading to the town centre perhaps head out of town a little for a spot of lunch at one of two of our favourite places to eat in Oxford. First Gees restaurant is part of a local, privately owned group of restaurants each of which is very individual. Gees looks very decadent and pompous from the outside but venture in and it is a very relaxed environment with quirky decor, attentive and friendly staff and great food from local produce. Adam and I have turned up in walking gear on a late Saturday afternoon and stayed all evening but also enjoyed, slightly, more formal evenings there with family and friends.
A little further out of town but worth the walk (or taxi ride) is The Cherwell Boathouse, it’s hidden away in a quiet spot by the river and worth the trek for a special treat. The week day lunch menu is great value for wonderfully creative and delicious food thought the wine list may still damage the wallet a little. If you are in Oxford in the summer then you should book in advance, this goes for most places in fact.
On your way back in to town, just north of Gees, have a wander down North Parade, it’s a lovely little street for a mooch with an eclectic mix of cafés, restaurants and shops. Carry on straight ahead to reach Woodstock Road and turn left to head back to St Giles and Oxford centre. If you get thirsty on the way you can stop for refreshments at another of our favourite places The Royal Oak pub. Being out of town it is a more of a locals place and is a good place for a beer and nibbles.
refueled and re-energised you’ll be ready to tackle the Ashmolean or save it for another day and continue the exploration of our favourite places in Oxford with a food and drink theme…
Not so easy to find The White Rabbit, behind the Oxford Playhouse near to Gloucester Green, is a quirky and friendly place. The young owners pride themselves on their pizzas (which for me are ‘ok’) but the main thing is it’s a lovely little place to while away a little time, watch a diverse range of students, locals and tourists come and go and enjoy a pint of ale in this tiny and stylish place.
Often packed with tourists, because it is easy to find in the heart of Oxford on the corner of Broad St and Holywell St opposite the Bodleian Library, but with an equal mix of locals The King’s arms it’s a great place for a good pint of ale, some very tasty home made pork scratchings or a spicy scotch egg and a good people watching spot if you can grab a seat outside in the sunshine. We’ve spent some wonderful afternoons there watching the world go by.
If you wander through Christchurch meadow from behind the Botanic Gardens you come out at the other end through a grand gateway on St Aldates, turning right back towards the centre and Carfax Tower and you’ll find another of our favourite place in Oxford. It’s another pub! St Aldates Tavern nice atmosphere, friendly staff, a quite usual menu (unusual in that the menu is hidden inside old hard back books but also in that it ranges from pork pie and pickle to Mozzarella and tomato salad or ham, duck egg and chips to fresh pasta). Needless to say they have great beers too in a great atmosphere so it makes a good place to escape the crowds for a while.
Talking of crowds I suppose you have to visit The Bear Inn, the oldest pub in Oxford and a quirky little place. Their website describes as ‘a hidden gem’, and granted it is tucked away but everyone finds it so it is not a place for quiet pint, nice relaxed meal or catch up with friends. The interior, with its wood panelled walls adorned with the neck ties of previous visitors is worth popping in to see and experience but it is not one of our favourite places in Oxford.
On past The Bear and over Magdalen Bridge towards St Clements and Cowley to the last of our favourite places in Oxford; you guessed it another pub! The Cape of Good Hope on the corner of Iffley and Cowley road on the roundabout at St Clements is another wonderful people watching place particularly in the summer when you can spill outside and enjoy your pint of local ale. The staff are always friendly and knowledgable about the guest ales and always offer a little taste before you decide.
The very last of our favourite places in Oxford is not a specific place but a general area. A wander down the Cowley Road at any time of day or night is always entertaining and we have spent many afternoons, evenings (and on into early mornings!) doing just that. On every block there is a great place to eat, we have our favourite places for Chinese, Nepalese, Greek and Indian food as well as our favourite place to dance into the early hours The Hi-Lo. It’s a place you should discover for yourself though and find your own favourite places. Do be sure to venture out away from the tourist and historic centre of Oxford and explore.
I hope that you find our favourite places useful when you visit Oxford and that this blog helps you make the most of your time in our wonderful town.
I know many of you must have your own favourite places in Oxford so do please comment and add your favourites too.