We all need a little get away now and then, where we can combine relaxation and exploring into one. Usually our minds instantly turn to sun, sea and sunburn, or in my case, anywhere overseas. I love a city break or a last minute getaway as much as anyone but sometimes getting that relaxing, holiday feeling doesn’t quite mean you need to jump on a plane and I think Oxford gives you just that. Minus the weather 9 times out of 10.
Oxford: The Little Gems.
Now I’ve lived in Oxford for just over two years now. At face value, it is a historic university city whose reputation is second to none and to be honest, a whistle stop-tour around this place in a day or two really does deliver you just that. Now as a local, which I guess I can kind of call myself now – I think once you know the names of all the local takeaways off by heart you have every right to call a place your home. So I would say that I, a local, can give you some pretty good places to see in Oxford that aren’t on the city sightseeing bus stops and are just as worth seeing. As well as some of the other city sights on offer that are just less than an hour from Oxford.
So first of all, disclaimer: I got to Oxford Brookes University. I am not studying at Oxford or any of its colleges. Yet, I feel that I really get the best of both worlds being in this city. My university parties like no other but still maintains many of the same opportunities that an Oxford student would have living in this city – just with a slightly easier entry level. I really feel like I get an experience like no other. I can apply to use the Bodlein Library during my dissertation and I can go to Oxford Union talks. Either way, I think I get to see this city and more in the best light. Also, bare in mind that I am a twenty year old student. My idea of a good evening in Oxford may not exactly be the same as your 70 year old grandparents or your Harry Potter obsessed sibling who may be accompanying you on a day visit. However, I do think Oxford offers something for everyone.
So, you are in Oxford, you have looked round every college; what now? Well, I would say time for a coffee stop and a spot of lunch. For that, I highly recommend Cowley Road. Aside from being widely popular with students, the choice of international restaurants is insane and you could drink your weight in dirty chai lattes with a side of cake just hopping from café to café. The artistic graffitied road itself is weird and wonderful but you are never too far away from a pastry, so its all good, right?
Later on in the day, you have scaled the floors of the Ashmolean and the National History Museum – you are probably gasping for a drink! So now you just need to find a cocktail bar. Well you do not have to really look far for happy hour here. My personal favourite and probably everyone else’s is, The Varsity Club. The bar is made up of a mountain of 5 five levels which may feel like a steep hike, but are worth it for the exceptional rooftop terrace at the top. This is the only place you are going to get the magnificent views of Oxford’s towering skyline with a drink in hand.
Like I said, getaways are ultimately about relaxing and so, relax is what you’ll do, Since there are about 20 spa destinations in Oxfordshire, you are never too far away from a session of pampering and cucumber infused water. With the Cotswolds just a short ride away too, you can always venture out for even more serenity. I would personally recommend a trip to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock which is not too far from the city centre. You can go for a walk in its impressive gardens or indulge in a afternoon tea in its gorgeous orangery. It is a must visit when you come to little old Ox.
In terms of location, I would say Oxford is perfectly situated. With cheap and easy day trips to London on your doorstep and the likes of Reading, Bath and Bristol just a train ride away. You really are not short of history and city life.
Now lastly, it would never be a post on my blog if it did not include something about shopping. Westgate is Oxford brand spanking new shopping centre and it really is full of everything you can think of. Plus, we are getting a three-story Zara and god help me, that will be a tough one to stay away from when it opens. Not only is Westgate home to shops that rob me blind though, it also houses even more restaurants and bars. With some being restaurants like Tommy’s Burger and The Breakfast Club being exclusively out of London for the first time. Lucky us! You can also find Junkyard Golf Club here and if your eyes aren’t already lighting up at the thought of mini golf because you are a big kid like me. Then the fact that their are cocktails involved surely will.
So, there is my run down on how to spend a relaxing day or two in Oxford and its surrounding area. Again, I love living here and feel lucky to be studying here everyday. Here is a little quick list to finish off of some further recommendations from me to you.
George Street Social (ironically found of George Street) – great for brunch and avocado cravings.
Rick’s Café – a cosy, café in Cowley and the best French toast ever.
The Covered Market – an under cover markets with an array of stalls, small restaurants and cafes inside. No specifics, just try them all.
Mowgli – found up on Westgate’s rooftop terrace, the best Indian street food ever.
The Trout – sits just outside of Oxford next to the river and is great for pub grub.
Victors – weather you just pop in for a drink, this place is serious Instagram goals.
The Varsity Club – You know the drill.
Under The Shop (pictured above) – aesthetically pleasing and great for cocktails.
The Baron – another Cowley destination. The cheapest drinks but the tastiest.
The Alchemist – yes, its a chain but its rooftop surroundings make for a better drinking experience.
GET THE LOOK