I’ve taken 5+ trips to Oxford this past year for work, and each time a little more charm rubs off on me. I adore this scholarly college town, and the history that comes along with it. If you are planning a vacation to London, and want to include the countryside, I highly recommend including Oxford in the itinerary. I always think of Oxford fondly as the place which inspires me to sit by the fire at one of the small pubs, write my life’s masterpiece manuscript, and then throw it in the fire and walk away smiling. There is so much academic inspiration in this small town, I simply adore it. Below are a few of my highlights.
HOTELS: I’ve stayed in a bunch of different hotels in Oxford, each one with its own benefits. I booked through hotels.com so as to receive rewards.
- Malmaison – Really cool ambiance. Old prison turned into a hotel. I have stayed in the main building (“cell” rooms) and the detached building. I prefer the main
building as the rooms are larger and layout is better. The hotel is a short walk from the main drag in town, but everything is walkable.
- Old Bank Hotel – LOVE this hotel. Great room setup and excellent location. It was hard to get to driving myself (I am not familiar with high street traffic regulations). The restaurant in the hotel was a nice surprise and I enjoyed the free walking tour that the hotel was able to set up for me (tip your guide!).
- Old Parsonage Hotel – beautiful, high end hotel. It has an intimate charm to it and is close to most of the campus and some historic bars. A must visit, even if you don’t stay there.
- Macdonald Randolph Hotel – I loved the bathtub in my room. Afternoon tea is wonderful and the hotel has a vintage feel that is welcoming.
- Vanbrugh House Hotel – My first room was too noisy due to a campus event, but the hotel moved me without an issue. The reception desk was very friendly and accommodating. Good location and less expensive than the others.
RESTAURANTS: Most of my meals were on the run there, but here are a few spots that stood out to me:
- Turl Street Kitchen – wonderful farm to kitchen food. Everything is seasonal and the menu is changed constantly. Warm atmosphere and in the heart of campus.
- The White Rabbit – great pizza and bar scene. Lots of college kids having beers and pizza. I ordered for takeout and was happily surprised by the pizza.
- Isis Farmhouse – lovely outdoor seating along the Isis River (River Thames). You have to walk down the river path a bit to get there, and their hours can be funny (check online first), but worth the adventure.
BARS: A good drink is always appreciated.
- Eagle & Child – a cozy, quaint pub, deeply rooted in Oxford’s history. This rustic little pub dates back to the 17th century. It is best known as the meeting place of the Inklings, a literary group including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who would regularly meet in the Rabbit Room at the back of the pub to discuss their own and other works of literature.
- Turf Tavern – tricky to find (down a narrow winding alleyway) but another fun spot to have a drink and some fish & chips. The pub has a long list of famous patrons, from the fictional, (Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse), to the real, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Bill Clinton.
- The Head of the River – excellent place for a casual meal and pint on a sunny day. They have an outdoor beer garden facing the Thames River.
- The Bear Inn – simply cool place to have a beer. The ceilings are low in Oxford’s oldest surviving pub, whose history can be traced back as early as 1242. It’s in a dark
corner along some side streets. The spot is also known for its bizarrely large collection of old ties, representing sports teams, colleges and university clubs, etc. Their Sunday roast is awesome too.
- Old Bookbinders Ale House – Another traditional pub – cozy yet quirky, full of character. Located in Oxford’s trendy Jericho area, the food is french-inspired and quite tasty.
- The White Horse – GREAT English pub food. The bar is full of nooks and crannies and the menu is very reasonably priced. Yet another must-visit!
ACTIVITIES/SIDE TRIPS: Just a few fun things to do around campus and in the neighboring towns.
- Christ Church Cathedral Choir Sing – a must. The music is heavenly and completely captivating.
- Old Bank Walking Tour (contact the hotel for details and signup). There are a number of other free walking tours there as well – just google.
- Harry Potter walking tour, if that’s your thing. Here’s one: TOUR
- Tours of other film locations (you can explore any of these on your own too). LOCATIONS
- Drive to Bath. This town is adorable to explore for a day and there are roman baths to enjoy.
- Stonehenge – because you sort of have to if there.