Take a break in the historic city of Oxford and discover ancient treasures, impressive architecture, great shopping, truly tempting eateries and fabulous nightlife
Museum and gallery highlights
The beautiful university city of Oxford is home to a fine selection of inspiring museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. Kids will enjoy the atmospheric Pitt Rivers Museum, which houses three floors of truly unusual artefacts from around the world. Collections include totem poles, dinosaur bones, shrunken heads and a section curiously entitled ‘Treatment of the Dead’! The entrance is via the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, home to thousands of intriguing specimens from the animal kingdom, and the world’s best-preserved remains of a dodo.
The Ashmolean Museum is one of the most popular places to visit in Oxford. Set in one of the city’s finest buildings, its world-famous collections range from Egyptian mummies and Anglo-Saxon treasures to pre-Raphaelite paintings and Renaissance bronzes. If you’re a fan of cutting-edge art, stop off at Modern Art Oxford, internationally renowned for its programme of ambitious exhibitions which have previously included works by Yoko Ono and Tracey Emin.
The centre of Oxford offers an irresistible array of specialist independent retailers and high-street names. The chains are concentrated along Cornmarket Street, Queen Street and in the city’s two shopping malls. However, if you’re looking for something a little bit different, Oxford has some real hidden gems to explore. Antiques On High is an Oxford institution; a maze of collectables, books and prints. In the 18th-century Covered Market, you’ll find small boutiques and specialist outlets alongside traditional food stalls. And if it’s fashion you’re looking for, head to trendy Walton Street and Little Clarendon Street in Jericho. For a good read try Blackwell’s bookshop, and if you enjoy a really good rummage then visit the country’s first ever Oxfam shop – you’ll find them both on Broad Street.
A breath of fresh air
If you’re looking for a change of pace, visit the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, which is situated on the banks of the River Cherwell and lays claim to being the oldest in Britain. Originally created for the study of medicinal plants, the garden’s herbaceous borders now provide year-round interest, and its glasshouses include exotic plants from all over the world. University Park and Christ Church Meadows border the river Cherwell and provide plenty of space for a riverside stroll or an enjoyable picnic with family or friends.
Boating trips along the river are another popular activity in Oxford. Traditional punts and rowing boats can be hired, and are a great way to view the city from a different angle. And if you’re not too sure about your own punting skills you can always hire a chauffeur!
Fine food from around the world
Take a little time out from shopping and sightseeing to enjoy a spot of lunch or afternoon tea at the Ashmolean dining room, with its stunning views across the city, or in the atmospheric Vaults & Garden Café of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. Oxford’s restaurant scene offers a varied selection of international cuisine, traditional fayre, fine dining and great-value eateries. For a special occasion try the Cherwell Boathouse, which combines fine dining with wonderful views across the river. Gee’s is another local favourite, and serves modern European food in a splendid Victorian conservatory. If you prefer something a little spicier, try Oli’s Thai, a canteen-style café which has another strong local following. You’ll also find seafood at Loch Fyne, great value dining options in trendy Cowley Road and a wide range of international restaurants scattered throughout the city. Choices include Japanese, Mexican, Indian, Moroccan and Tapas.
Oxford has some great traditional pubs serving real ales and craft beers. Try The White Horse (as featured in TV’s Inspector Morse) or the Turf Tavern, tucked away down a narrow passageway by the city walls. The Bear Inn is one of the city’s oldest pubs and is popular with locals and tourists alike. The city is also home to many lively bars and nightclubs.
Oxford is well known for its thriving music scene. The O2 Academy is the city’s largest music venue and features a host of big-name acts, while The Jericho Tavern showcases emerging talent and holds a legendary status in the world of indie music – having hosted both Radiohead and Supergrass in their early days. Other Oxford attractions include the Glee club, where you’ll find established comedy acts as well as up-and-coming performers, and the Oxford Playhouse, which presents theatre, music and literary events. You can also see regular classical music performances from prestigious performers at the Town Hall, the Sheldonian Theatre and the Holywell Music Room.
So if you want to see the beautiful architecture and sample great food, then take a look at our hotels in Oxford.