Must-Dos in England’s Most Scholarly City: Oxford
By Kaelie Piscitello
In Oxford, England, multi-color double-decker buses speed by carrying families while students march around in their black ties. People drink many pints of alcohol at distinguished university dinners and then stay out at clubs until dawn.
Later, you’ll find them still in their suits at McDonald’s. The next day, many wake up and visit the bustling Gloucester Green market for a cheap but delicious lunch.
Prim, studious Oxford continues to produce some of the world’s brightest scholars and boasts fantastic architecture that makes a prestigious statement about the city. However, there is more to Oxford than Oxford University.
Authors C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll all famously found their footing in Oxford. The city’s scholarly side shines through the many notable pieces of literature written there.
C.S. Lewis was known to ponder in Port Meadow where cows roam free, and the Thames River blissfully runs. Oxford residents today enjoy picnics in the green fields and take in the stunning scenery surrounding them.
Lewis also supposedly drew inspiration from a wooden door located in St. Mary’s Passage, an alley located a stone’s throw from the Radcliffe Camera. Fans of the Narnia series will recognize characters from the books including a lion and two fauns etched into the wooden frames.
Alice in Wonderland fans might feel surprised to learn Alice was a real little girl who lived in England.
Lewis Carrol worked as a Christ Church lecturer and based his stories off of a colleague’s daughter.
Alice enthusiasts can view “The Alice Door” in the Christ Church cloisters where a second doorknob was installed for her to reach, and visit Alice’s Shop, a store the real Alice visited as a child that now sells Wonderland merchandise.
J.R.R Tolkien also resided in Oxford and frequented The Eagle and Child pub with C.S. Lewis and their writing group, “The Inklings.” Though The Eagle and Child were closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, book lovers can still take a picture with the establishment on St. Giles’ Street.
Additionally, many of the Oxford University colleges take on a double meaning for Harry Potter fanatics with many filming locations located around the city.
For example, Christ Church features Hogwarts’ grand staircase and dining hall, and New College and the Divinity School also showcase Hogwarts classrooms and courtyards.
Oxford at Night
Though much of Oxford’s nightlife gears itself toward university students, Oxford has a vibrant set of going-out activities for people of all ages due to its wide variety of pubs.
University students favor Oxford’s nightclubs, including trendy ATIK, popping Plush, and the lively Bridge. At these popular party scenes, young adults can dance, enjoy a drink, and listen to today’s top hits arranged by flashy DJs. ATIK, Plush, and Bridge all offer special student-discounted nights making the club scene more affordable in Oxford than in London.
For those looking for looking to adventure outside the clubbing scene, The Mad Hatter cocktail bar offers Alice in Wonderland-themed beverages, live music, and Thursday night karaoke. Additionally, visitors from all over the world flock to Oxford’s “best kept secret”: The Turf Tavern.
Though the secret is out, travelers can enjoy a round of fish and chips and cider from this 12th-century pub where many celebrities including Emma Watson and Stephen Hawking have dined.
Music lovers will appreciate evenings in Oxford because of its many opportunities to enjoy live music. For example, the O2 Academy hosts talented acts almost every night.
People can also visit the Oxford Retreat for Saturday Night Fever or Friday Reggaeton nights packed with energetic Latin music.
Veteran travelers will enjoy The Harcourt Arms, a traditional pub that hosts open mic nights, occasional live music, and a homey atmosphere. Between the lively clubs, exuberant pubs, and other socialization opportunities, Oxford’s nightlife has something for everyone.
Oxford’s Endless Eats
London is known as the most diverse food hub of England, but Oxford also offers a comparable variety of flavors. For example, Summertown’s Spice Lounge presents a flavorful array of traditional Indian cuisine. The staff’s service is impeccable, and their chicken saag cannot be beat.
People looking for a strong cup of coffee will find solace in a steaming mocha from Colombia Coffee Roasters in Summertown. In addition to its delicious beverages, the shop also offers tasty bread loaves and pastries.
Speaking of pastries, Barefoot Bakery has the most interesting array of cupcakes with a sweet cake base and savory frosting on top. Those looking to quench their sweet tooth can stop for brownies, cruffins, and other treats in both the North Parade and Jericho locations.
Of course, a trip to England is not complete without experiencing high tea. Located across the street from each other, both The Rose Cafe and The Grand Café call themselves Oxford’s oldest tea house. However, it’s up to the visitors to decide which experience they prefer.
In addition to restaurants and bakeries, Oxford also has a multitude of markets to visit.
The Gloucester Green Market has a wide selection with delicious bao buns for £1, Mexican street food, and many other tasty options. In addition to food, shoppers can also find fresh produce, clothing, and trinkets at this popular local spot.
Those staying close to Summertown can also pop by the Summertown Farmer’s Market on Sundays for lunch. There are also several small pop-ups around the city for people to enjoy.
Additional Oxford Highlights
The Ashmolean Museum
Of all Oxford’s museums, the Ashmolean is certainly the most impressive. It houses a large quantity of artwork, and visitors can lay eyes on the famed Alfred Jewel.
Any artist will feel at home observing The Ashmolean’s stunning array of original art from all over the world. You can plan your visit to The Ashmolean here.
Magdalene College’s Deer Park
Magdalene College has stunning grounds that offer refuge to those seeking peace. In the spring and summer, the park is in full bloom and many wild deer roam around. Even if one does not have time to tour the full college, they should try to stop in on the deer park.
The Bodleian Library
It’s not a trip to Oxford without visiting one of Europe’s largest libraries. The library’s main building has three gorgeous gothic floors; however, it is just one of 26 libraries people can tour. Library die-hards can explore as many as they please, including the Radcliffe Camera, the Old Library, and the Education Library.
University Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Those looking for an unforgettable climb and view should dare to make the trek up this traditional English tower. The church’s interior hosts stunning architecture, and the tower’s viewing platform presents unmatched sights of The Radcliffe Camera. You can learn more about this historical tower here.
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