A short visit to Oxford, a beautiful city in Oxfordshire, England
Highs & Lows
Walking around Addison’s Walk in Magdalen College and going to The Perch for a Sunday dinner.
the city centre can get very crowded on the weekends, especially if the weather is nice!
Oxford is a beautiful city in Oxfordshire, England. Whilst best known for its University it has so much more to offer. We spent one day of the weekend exploring the city itself, and the second day relaxing at Port Meadow. Both locations are very central so you will only need to sleep in one place.
On the first day, we saw some of the city’s historic sites in the morning , mainly by just strolling around the city centre and enjoying the beautiful architecture, cobbled streets and varied shops and cafes. Most of the main buildings are close together and so easy to reach on foot. We didn’t use a tour guide as we had local with us, but there are many tours around the city that are popular with tourists. These include general tours, university tours, Harry Potter tours and ghost tours. We also shopped and ate at the famous Covered Market, before looking around some Oxford University colleges in the afternoon.
The second day involved a trip to Port Meadows— a large water meadow in the North of the city— which we reached by foot by walking along a canal. We spent the day just enjoying the scenery and relaxing on the meadow before having an amazing meal at The Perch. This pub was one of the highlights of our weekend and is definitely worth visiting, even if just for a drink in their gardens.
We were only in Oxford for a weekend so there were a lot of things that we did not get to see this time around. Some of these include the Ashmolean museum, the Pitt Rivers museum, seeing a show at the Oxford Playhouse, or enjoying some of the Oxford nightlife. If you happen to know an Oxford student, it is also worth asking if they can take you to one of the formals. These are three course formal dinners, often with a black tie dress code, inside an Oxford college dining room alongside students, faculty and guests. These can be a great experience depending on the College— I recommend Magdalen on a Sunday if you can get tickets!
We stayed in Mercure Oxford Eastgate, located just off the High Street near Magdalen college . This hotel is well situated to explore the City, and is near the Botanical Gardens.
Our first day was spent walking around the city centre which is packed full of historic buildings, libraries, shops, restaurants, museums and green spaces.
We walked up the High Street, which is beautiful in itself- it is lined with colleges, Churches and other historic buildings. The architecture is stunning and there are lots of windy roads and alleys going off the high street that you can explore — for example, you can do a detour down Rose Lane from near Magdalen College to get to the Sheldonian theatre, Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library. These are all iconic Oxford buildings that are worth seeing - you usually can’t get in without a student pass, but you can take great pictures and chill at the many cafés and pubs in the area.
There was also an enormous pop-up vintage / second hand sale on in the Exam Schools (right next to the hotel) - this building on the High Street is where students sit their exams during exam season, but at other times of the year it can be home to different events including art and clothing sales.
We then went to the Covered Market — you can access this from the High Street and it js full of independent shops, cafes, hairdressers, florists and more. If you want to shop or have a leisurely browse, I recommend avoiding visiting at lunchtime, especially during term time as a lot of students come here to eat.
We had lunch at Georgina’s, which is upstairs in the Covered Market. This is one of Oxford’s hidden gems (it’s easy to miss the sign!) and a favourite spot for locals and students alike. This is a relaxed restaurant serving amazing Greek food - the food is delicious, the portions are big and the prices are very reasonable.
In the afternoon, we explored some of the University colleges. Every college is different in terms of size, atmosphere and entry cost (if you know a student there, you can get in for free!). We picked Worcester, Christchurch and Magdalen College. Worcester has large grounds with a great mix of traditional architecture and beautiful landscaping - you can easily spend ages wondering around the gardens looking at the trees, flowers, ponds, wildlife and even areas for growing fruits and vegetables. It reminds me of a large Country estate and the buildings for studying / living are really impressively designed. Christchurch is more central and is most famous for its dining room, which is the filming location for the dining scenes in Harry Potter. It is an enormous college that backs out on Christchurch meadows, a public green space surrounded by the River Cherwell and home to some lovely cows.
We then went to Magdalen College - I recommend getting to Magdalen around an hour before sunset to see it at its best. Magdalen is huge, with the grounds being the most impressive of any Oxford college. It has amazing cloisters, multiple different quads and lawns, a beautiful chapel and so much more to explore. It is also home to the famous Magdalen tower, which is one of the most notable landmarks of the Oxford skyline. It’s biggest attraction, however are it’s two deer parks, home to the college deer. The deer may be in either park depending on the time of year, but the most beautiful part of the college is Addison’s walk, a mile long tree-lined walkway with the River Cherwell on one side and the water meadow (filled with long grass, trees and the deer depending on the time of year) on the other. If you’re there in summer, you’ll probably see people punting along the river as you walk (you can also rent punts from just outside Magdalen if you would like to try it yourself). The loop extends at around the halfway point, where you can cross a bridge and walk around the Fellow’s Garden. If you are there in spring or summer, you can see an amazing array of flowers and wildlife (you can see wild deer, otters and badgers if you are very very lucky!!).
We also went to the Botanical Gardens — these are just across the road from Magdalen and are the oldest in Europe. They were really beautiful , home to a range of tropical plants in their greenhouses and surrounded by people punting on the river
After seeing Magdalen, we had a rest at our hotel just across the road and then walked a few minutes up the Cowley road. This is home to a range of restaurants and independent stores. We went for dinner at Spiced Roots, an amazing Caribbean restaurant and my favourite in Oxford. The food, vibe, and service are all outstanding and I highly recommend it!
We explored the green spaces of Oxford from the same accommodation, but this day offered a contrast from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
We walked up to Port Meadows along the canal from Pacey’s Bridge. This is a cute canal side walk which takes around 30-40 minutes depending on your pace. The walk is lined by house boats and on the other side of the water you can look into the gardens of beautiful, old houses often complete with decks leading straight onto the water. Some of the houseboats were selling artisanal items, so keep an eye out for this.
We followed the sign to Port Meadows, which is a huge water meadow that stretches out as far as the eye can see straight ahead, with the river on one side and more greenery on the other. The meadow is home to loads of horses, birds, and even rabbits (if you go to Burgess field). This is a favourite spot for locals and students; if the weather is nice you’ll see people lying in the grass and having barbecues.
We spent the day relaxing here, playing music and people watching. There were also a lot of people wild swimming and paddle boarding in the river; we didn’t do this, but bring a swimming costume and towel if you would like.
We crossed the bridge over the river and followed the walk up for around 20-30 minutes to the Perch. This is one of the nicest pubs in Oxford; whilst more on the expensive side, it is definitely worth it. It has a huge, beautiful outdoor seating area filled with trees and fairy lights and it looks out onto the meadow. The food was also delicious, serving a range of dishes so there will be something for everyone. We stayed here as the sunset and the vibe was amazing.
We then walked back to the city centre through Jericho. This is a lovely part of the city with loads of cute houses, bars and restaurants. We stopped at Freud— a stone church that has been converted into a bar / café / event space— for a drink. It’s a really unique building, so I recommend stopping by or seeing if there is an event on whilst you are there. We then headed back to the hotel for a good nights rest.
Q & A
Anything go wrong during the trip?The town gets SO busy during the weekend in the summer. It can be hard to get around because of foot traffic on the high street, and the best restaurants / cafes filled up quickly around peak times. I’d visit during the week if you can - either during the Summer or on a sunny winter’s day.
Restaurant recommendations?Spiced Roots - Caribbean Food on the Cowley Road The Perch - a beautiful pub (bit more expensive) Georgina’s - Greek food in the Covered Market Alpha Bar - healthy salads and hot dishes in the covered market. Amazing value, extremely delicious and caters perfectly for vegetarians / vegans / gluten free Najar’s - Middle Eastern wraps near St John’s College. The value and choice is AMAZING and the portions are huge. This is a student favourite so be prepared to queue around lunchtime (it is cash only too) Taylor’s - gourmet cafe’s all around the city with a range of sandwiches, baguettes, salads and amazing baked. Be sure to try one of their melt sandwiches on soft focaccia-like bread and their salted caramel brownie. I honestly think about their sandwiches all the time and ate them almost every day as a student!
Transportation Tips?You can get pretty much everywhere in Oxford on foot, so bring shoes that are comfy to walk in— to get there from London take the Oxford tube - it’s a coach service that takes less than two hours. Or, you can easily take the train.