48 hours in Oxford
Oxford is home to England’s oldest university and makes for a perfect weekend break. It’s easily accessible by rail from London, the Midlands and the north of England, and manages to pack a wealth of history, tradition, and modern living into a relatively small area. Follow in the footsteps of literary greats, legendary academics, and discover Oxford’s atmospheric universities, medieval streets and incredibly diverse dining and entertainment venues.
It’s best to explore on foot so leave the car behind and get ready to immerse yourself in the city of dreaming spires.
Soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Oxford with a stroll around the city. There is a vast selection of dining options to choose from however Oli’s Thai is highly recommended. Its popularity is well-known so booking ahead is a good idea if you can, although they do have walk-in bar space. Alternatively, Arbequina is a social and fun tapas restaurant with an open kitchen.
Get your Saturday off to the perfect start with a hearty breakfast. The Vaults & Garden Restaurant is hard to beat, especially if you like to eat with a view. If the weather is kind, grab a seat in the garden and soak up the wonderful vistas of the iconic Radcliffe Camera.
For an insider’s glimpse into Oxford’s hidden secrets, book a private guided walking tour with one of the city’s fabulous guides. They’ll open your eyes to this remarkable city and include little gems, like the door and lamppost in St Mary’s Passage that are generally regarded as inspiration for CS Lewis and his Narnia chronicles. Fans of JK Rowling’s fantasy wizarding world can book Harry Potter themed tours too. Alternatively, board one of the hop-on, hop-off open-top double-decker buses that thread their way around the city streets. There are 20 stops around the city, and you can jump on and off to your heart’s content over 48 hours.
Other must-see experiences include the Pitt Rivers Museum, Ashmolean Museum, a visit to Christ Church College and a wander through the Oxford Botanic Garden.
For a lazy lunch, pop into one of Oxford’s famous pubs. The Turf Tavern is hidden away from the bustle of every day. To find it, follow St Helen’s Passage (entrance just under the Bridge of Sighs) to the end, and you’ll find this atmospheric pub with plenty of history within its walls. The Bear Inn is also worthy of a visit, simply for its standing in Oxford history alone. Serving Oxford scholars since 1242, this tiny pub (seats just two dozen inside) offers a warm welcome and a great selection of real ales.
If you want to flex your wallet, Oxford also has some excellent shopping including the Westgate shopping centre. This is home to more than 100 stores featuring international brands and the best of the British high street.
As you would expect, Oxford has an abundance of vibrant bars, music venues and entertainment. However, for something a little different, head to Thirsty Meeples – the board game café. It’s open until midnight and will keep you entertained with a library of more than 2,700 board games.
The Oxford Playhouse showcases a huge array of performances often with big names but without London prices. If you crave a night at the cinema, take a look and see what’s showing at the Ultimate Picture Palace – think cosy, intimate and art deco, rather than a night at the Odeon!
After a leisurely brunch at Quod head to the river. You can’t truly say you have experienced Oxford if you have never set foot in the iconic flat bottom boat, known as a punt. Head to the Cherwell Boathouse to punt yourself, or the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse if you’d prefer an experienced punter to chauffeur you.
If you decided on breakfast rather than brunch and are craving for a good old Sunday roast, then head to the Magdalen Arms, which serves up platters to share. The Perch, a 17th-century pub on the banks of the River Thames, is where traditional Sunday lunches come with a backdrop of velvety smooth emerald green lawns leading down to the river’s edge.