With a Friday off work, and an urge to explore, a friend and I decided to spend the day in Oxford. We got on a bus from Victoria station, and headed north-west, into the green English countryside. It felt good to leave the grey chaos of London behind, and slow down from our usual walking pace. We wandered through one of the most visited cities in England, though trying to appear as local as possible.
Christ Church: The most famous of Oxford University’s 38 colleges, this is the same one that inspired the Hogwarts Great Hall in Harry Potter. It’s been around since the seventh century, and costs around £8.50 to visit. The grounds are beautiful, with the War Memorial Garden on one side and Meadow Walk on the other. St. Aldate’s Road. Oxford OX1 1DP
Oxford Colleges: Double check beforehand which colleges you want to visit, because we found out the hard way that most of them close save for a couple hours a day (aside from the fact that not all of them have free entry). For a list of the colleges open to the public, check out the university website.
Bodlein Library: Aside from being the biggest library in the UK, it is also where Oscar Wilde, C.S Lewis and JRR Tolkein chose to hang out from time to time. If you visit the library, you can’t miss the Radcliffe Camera, which is also Oxford’s signature dome-shaped building.
Radcliffe Square, Oxford OX1
The Vaults & Garden Cafe: Just in front of the Radcliffe Camera is this little cafe, where we stopped for lunch. It’s no surprise they were already hiring for the busy summer months coming up, as one of the best features of this place is their outdoor terrace and garden which looks directly onto Radcliffe Square. If you can manage to wait for a later lunch, there’s 20% off all food served after 2:30 pm. Their menu changes daily, but there is a good variety of fresh, homemade-style food. University Church, High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
George & Delila: The ice cream and coffee place that’s open later than many pubs! They close at midnight every night, which would be incredibly dangerous if I lived in this town – considering my love for ice cream, and late night study habits. 104 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JE
Turl Street Kitchen: They get their ingredients from local farms, and offer a daily changing menu of fresh, seasonal food. The restaurant is also a social enterprise, where all profits go to their sister charity the Oxford Hub. A great place for a relaxing dinner after a long day of walking.
16 Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DH
Botanical Gardens: While there is plenty of countryside surrounding Oxford, if you want to take a walk and stay close to the town’s center, the botanical garden is a nice alternative. There were very few people when we went, and it was nice to travel through the Mexican desert and the tropics as we walked through the greenhouses. Rose Lane, Oxford OX1 4AZ
Oxford Punting: This is obviously the visiting tourist’s past time of choice. We avoided it, as it’s better to rent a boat in a big group, and in better weather. But if you’re here only once, you may as well pack a picnic and take advantage. You might see buzzing kingfishers if you go early enough. Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, High Street, Oxford OX14AU
The Ultimate Picture Palace: A good independent movie theater; the kind you rarely find anymore. Fridays host late-night screenings, and sometimes they show silent pictures accompanied by a live quartet. A must for film lovers who are in Oxford for more than a day. Jeaune Street, Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1BN
Ashmolean Museum: There are several free museums in Oxford, but we chose this ancient art and archaeology museum which boasts a huge and impressive collection. Their painting collections are just as good, such as the current exhibition on Cezanne and the Modern Masters (until 22 June 2014). Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH
Addison’s Walk: Opposite the botanical garden, through Magdalen’s College, is the beginning of this circular path that takes you along the river Cherwell and further away from the busy High Street. Along the way there is a deer park, and the path ends at a water mill. If you want the storybook, fairy tale walk, this is it. Magdalen College, High Street, Oxford OX1 4AU
Covered Market: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of markets. So obviously this was one of our first stops in Oxford. The Covered Market has been around for 200 years, and while most of it is dedicated to fresh produce, there are also cute cafes, small gift shops, and an amazing cake shop with huge glass windows so you can see the bakers icing the elaborate cakes right there in front of you. Market Street, Oxford OX1 3DZ
Truck Store: We went in here by accident and I’m so glad we did. A great record store, with hand-made dividers, posters on the wall, and wooden crates filled with vinyls. They have a bright, tiny coffee shop adjoined to the shop, and the staff were genuine and friendly. I wish this place was around the corner from my house. 101 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1HU
Indigo: A sustainable fashion store, with beautiful, comfy basics and original trinkets from all over the world. Given my recent appreciation for more ethical fashion ventures, I loved this shop’s story, and had to include it on this list. 62 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JB