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48 Hours in… Oxford


Wednesday 15 Mar, 2017

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The historic city of Oxford is known worldwide as home to the University of Oxford, one of the world's oldest and greatest universities. Comprising of 38 independent colleges spread across the city, this prestigious centre of academia is a major tourist attraction. Many colleges open their doors to non-students at least a few hours every day, giving visitors an opportunity to marvel at their ancient quadrangles, chapels and dining halls. A variety of guided tours are also available.

With their world-class collections, Oxford's famous institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Library are stimulating places to visit. Outside of lectures and tutorials, students can be seen picnicking on Christ Church meadows, punting on the river, and socialising in the city's excellent pubs and restaurants - visitors should follow suit and enjoy these and other leisurely pursuits.

Oxford is also known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Victorian poet Matthew Arnold in recognition of its magical skyline of towers and church spires. As well as inspiring countless writers and poets over the centuries, Oxford is a favourite location for film and TV crews, providing several iconic locations for the Harry Potter films amongst others. So let this city and its spires inspire you too.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN:

A smart Georgian property with contemporary décor and eclectic artwork, the five-star Old Bank Hotel has 42 luxury bedrooms, many with unrivalled views of Oxford's famous landmarks.

Designed by award-winning architects, Urbane Apartments offer six serviced apartments with one or two bedrooms in the heart of Oxford, creating a spacious and stylish home from home experience.

Providing four-star guest accommodation at a purse-friendly price, The Buttery is an historic property with 16 comfortable, newly refurbished rooms, located close to all the major attractions.

 

DAY ONE:

10:00 TAKE 99 STEPS TO SEE OXFORD'S SKYLINE

Numerous places in Oxford provide views of the city's dreaming spires, but none can surpass Carfax Tower. Standing at 74 feet (23m) tall, no building in central Oxford may be built higher than this historic tower, which is all that remains of a 12th-century church. Climb 99 steps to the top and gaze over Oxford's majestic skyline.

 

11:00 DISCOVER OXFORD'S HONEY-HUED LANDMARKS

Wander around cobbled Radcliffe Square, which is lined with some of Oxford's most recognisable landmarks. These honey-hued buildings include the Bodleian Library, the Christopher Wren designed Sheldonian Theatre, and the Hertford College bridge which is often called Oxford's "Bridge of Sighs". At the squares heart is the circular Radcliffe Camera library.

 

12:30 ENJOY MARKET FRESH FARE

Dating back to the 1770s, historic Oxford Covered Market has stalls selling everything from household goods to haberdashery. It's also a great place to try street food from all over the world as well as sample local fare such as Oxford Blue cheese.

 

13:45 GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE TO HARRY POTTER'S WORLD

2017 marks 20 years since the first Harry Potter book was published. With some of Oxford's most iconic buildings featuring in the films, the city is a magical place for fans of the boy wizard. Departing from the Oxford Visitor Information Centre, the two-hour Harry Potter tour visits several of the University of Oxford's most notable landmarks, which also happen to be part of Harry Potter lore. These include New College whose cloisters featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library, which served as Hogwarts' infirmary, and Christ Church College, whose spectacular Tudor dining hall inspired Hogwarts' Great Hall. Christ Church and the surrounding meadows also inspired another popular book and film tale, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, adding a further literary dimension to the tour.

 

16:00 TAKE A PUNT ON THE RIVER

To see Oxford and Christ Church meadow from a different angle, hire a boat or traditional Oxford punt from the Salter's Steamers boathouse on Folly Bridge. You may even treat yourself with a chauffeured punt, plus other indulgent extras like a picnic hamper or champagne. Lined with college rowing clubs and inviting old pubs, the riverside is truly charming.

 

18:00 HEAR THE JOYFUL SOUND OF CHORAL EVENSONG

Choral Evensong performed by one of the famous college choirs in a vaulted college chapel is a joyful experience. Several of the University of Oxford colleges hold beautiful evensong services, including New College and Worcester as well as Christ Church with its renowned Cathedral Choir.

 

20:00 ENJOY FINE BRITISH COUNTRY HOUSE CUISINE

The Old Parsonage is a wisteria-clad luxury hotel with a country house ambience. The Parsonage Grill, its fine dining restaurant, offers modern British dishes including devilled lambs kidneys, rabbit and leek pie, or mushroom and pearl barley risotto - wherever possible, ingredients are sourced from the owner's Oxfordshire farm.

 

22:00 HAVE A NIGHT OUT IN JERICHO

Stay out late and enjoy historic hostelries such as The Bear Inn, Oxford's oldest pub dating back to 1242. Don't miss the city's bohemian quarter, Jericho, where recommendations include another historical pub, the Old Bookbinders Ale House, dating from 1869. For something really quirky, Freud is a cocktail bar and live music venue located within an old Greek Revival church complete with Ionic columns and stained glass windows. Another Jericho hotspot is Raoul's Bar & Liquor Store, a buzzing late night lounge bar.

 

DAY TWO:

9:00 REFUEL WITH A GRAND ENGLISH BREAKFAST

Standing on the site where England's very first coffee house was established in 1650, The Grand Café is an opulent, marble-pillared choice for breakfast. Or try Turl Street Kitchen, a popular breakfast haunt amongst University of Oxford students.

 

10:00 EXPLORE THE WORLD'S OLDEST PUBLIC MUSEUM

The world's oldest public museum, the Ashmolean is home to the University of Oxford's impressive collection of art and archaeology. With objects dating from 8000 BC to the present day, from Egyptian mummies to contemporary art, this diverse treasure trove represents most of the world's great civilisations. Admission is free.

 

13:30 TAKE A ROOFTOP LUNCH BREAK

After working up an appetite exploring the Ashmolean's galleries, head up to the bright and airy Rooftop Restaurant. The traditional British and European dishes use fresh, seasonal ingredients from local Oxfordshire suppliers, with mains such as roasted woodpigeon, lamb tagine, and lentil and yam stew. During summer months, diners may sit on the outdoor roof terrace. It's also a great spot to enjoy anything from afternoon tea to evening cocktails and live jazz.

 

15:00 HEAR LEGENDARY TALES OF OXFORD CASTLE

Join a tour of Oxford Castle - Unlocked and listen to a costumed character guide regale stories of the castle's 1,000 year history. There's plenty of tales to tell: from the very top of St George's Tower, one of the city's oldest buildings, all the way down to the dark and eerie 900 year old crypt. Afterwards, visitors may explore the wider site, including the castle's prison, at their own leisure.

 

17:00 SAMPLE LUXE PRISON LIFE

After visiting Oxford Castle, explore the surrounding Oxford Castle Quarter with its numerous bars and restaurants. Enjoy an aperitif at 1855 Wine Bar or do time at Oxford Malmaison, a boutique hotel located in a converted prison - its jailhouse-chic bar and brasserie restaurant are so inviting that it'd be a crime to escape.

 

18:00 SEE THE SUN SET OVER OXFORD'S DREAMING SPIRES

A brilliant way to see Oxford's dreaming spires is from the rooftop of The Varsity Club at sunset. With canopies, heated seats and blankets, the panoramic rooftop of this stylish cocktail lounge is geared up for all weather, and is open all year round. It's advisable to arrive early to secure a spot on the roof - and once here, why not enjoy drinks plus a sharing artesian board or two? The cheese board includes local Oxford Blue, with the fish board featuring homemade mackerel pâté, smoked salmon, crispy whitebait and caperberries.

 

HOW TO GET HERE:

Oxford is in Oxfordshire, less than one hour by train north-west of London. The nearest airport is London Heathrow Airport.



For more information contact:

  • VisitBritain Media Team





Related Images
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Carfax Tower  - Exterior of Carfax Tower
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Malmaison - Interior of Malmaison, the converted prison hotel in Oxford
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Oxford's 'Bridge of Sighs'  - The Hertford College bridge which is often called Oxford’s...
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Oxford's spires - A view of the Oxford Spires from the rooftop of The Varsity Club.
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Oxford's Punts - Moored punting boats on the Oxford Canal