The Dreaming Spires of Oxford refer to the ancient colleges that dominate the town. The picteuresque buildings set in the countryside of Oxfordshire make this a great place to visit. One should definitely go to at least one museum, visit at least one college and if possible hear one of the world class college chapel choirs. Just outside of Oxford is Blenheim Palace, which is well worth a visit if you are passing it by car.
There is a train station in the city and park-and-ride services in the surrounding area. Trains run regularly here from London, Birmingham and Manchester. If you are visiting these cities, it is worth stopping here for a couple of days. There is also a coach service from several useful places (particularly the London-area airports) to the Gloucester Green coach station, which is right in the city centre. A recent addition to the Oxford travel scene is the Megabus service, with fares as low as £1 each way from central London. Otherwise, you may use the Oxford Tube bus service from Victoria station, with stops in west London.
You cannot generally drive through the city centre; the Oxford park-and-ride system is excellent, however. Everything in Oxford is mostly within walking distance, and there are buses that run regularly.
Tours of the city are available on foot or by bus, with live commentary talking about the history and tradition of the university and city.
Locals either walk, or use bicycles.
- Oxford University. Oxford is made up of many beautiful old colleges. Many are closed to the public, particularly during term times, however some are not. Christ Church (the college of "Brideshead" fame) is mostly open, and has the added bonus of having a (small) cathedral attached, where excellent music is performed at Evensong everyday. Some of Christ Church's buildings are used in films such as "Harry Potter". Other colleges of note are Magdalen (pronounced 'maudlin'), which has a deer park, and those along the High Street, all of which have an impressive list of alumni. Shelley fans must go to University College. Former women's colleges such as the pretty Somerville (Woodstock Rd) further to the North of the center are interesting to get a feel for the range of colleges in Oxford. The University has some amazing buildings, including The Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian Library.
- Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street (between Worcester and St. Giles), +441865278000. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 2-5PM. Vast and impressive, the Ashmolean is Britain's oldest public museum, having been founded in 1683. The collections feature ancient and medieval art from Europe and Eastern cultures. Free. http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/
- Bodleian Library. http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/
- Pitt Rivers Museum, Parks Road. Oxford's museum of anthropology and ethnology. Still largely arranged in Victorian style, making this a rare museum experience. Requires time and effort but gives great satisfaction. http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/
- Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Parks Road. Situated in the same building as the Pitt Rivers, this museum holds a collection of zoological, entomological and mineral specimens. It has some big skeletal structures which impress children, and is free. There is a pleasant Cafe, but the museum is only open from 12-5.
- Bate Collection. This is a small and charming museum of musical instruments. http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/BCMIPage.html
- The Oxford Story. Museum popular among tourists. http://www.oxfordstory.co.uk/
- The Museum of Oxford. http://www.aliceinoxford.net/Museum.htm The museum tells the tale of the growth of the city and University.
- The Bodleian Exhibitions. A museum.
- Covered Market, High Street. Oxford has the oldest covered market in England. Unusual small shops, including a chocolate shop, cake shop, fine butchers, hat shop, florists, glassware, and charming cafes. http://www.oxfordcity.co.uk/shops/market/
- Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street. A free entry art gallery often showing temporary exhibitions of art and photography by renouned comtemporary artists, which are accompanied by well designed talks and workshops.
- The Sheldonian Theatre This was Sir Christopher Wren's first major commission. At the time he was a Professor of Astronomy at the University. There are a series of busts outside the theatre all with strange expressions and facial hair. It is not symbolic of anything but is instead a 19th century study in beards. http://www.sheldon.ox.ac.uk/
- Punting, Magdalen Bridge (for punt rental). In the summer, punting is an ever popular activity, involving propelling a wooden boat along the river with a pole. You can also hire someone to do the punting for you, although it is easy and fun to do it yourself). Bring a bottle of wine and good balance along for a more interesting trip (Though it helps to have a sober crewmember along!).
- Cinema. There are 3 cinemas, showing mainstream and art films, though none have very late showings in the evenings.
- The Oxford Playhouse. Worthwhile plays. http://www.oxfordplayhouse.co.uk/
- Apollo. Worthwhile plays.
- The Sheldonian Theatre. Recently voted the most uncomfortable concert hall in England, the Sheldonian never has a shortage of both professional and amateur classical music concerts.
There are many cafes and restaurants of all cuisines in Oxford city centre, and along the Cowley Road. More restaurants are found in the Jericho area. There are also kebab vans which appear in the evening; these are only advisable once drunk. If vegetarian or vegan, you are well-catered for in Oxford, given the "alternative" lifestyles of many Oxford residents.
- Randolph Hotel. Excellent but expensive. Predominantly English cuisine, with a la carte or fixed price menus. The bar is also lovely, with a wide selection of drinks including some rather extortionate champagne! http://www.therandolphhotel.com/
- Quod, High Street. Convenient in its location and of good quality. Emphasis on grills and fish, great desserts. Popular and a bit noisy and exposed, but well worth a visit. http://www.quod.co.uk/pages/Oxford.html
- Gee's, Banbury Road. This is a stunning restaurant in a Victorian Conservatory simply oozing opulent charm and elegance. A mix of British/Mediterranian cuisine, quite the place to go.
- Petit Blanc, Walton St. Raymond Blanc's Oxford French brasserie is full of charm. It is small and intimate, and the food is unquestionably marvellous.
- Joe's Cafe, Cowley Road. Not far from Magdalen is this trendy cafe, which does brunch during the day and turns into a popular restaurant at night, even if the menu is a little restrictive. Main courses approx £10. A good list of cocktails, perfect for couples wanting a not too posh intimate meal.
- G&D's. Offer superb ice-cream, and have an endearing love of cows. Located on St Aldates and Little Clarendon Street. Try the chocolate brownies!
- Jamal's, Walton St. Cheap Indian in Jericho perfect for those on a budget. Bring along your own alcoholic beverages.
- Cafe Zouk, High St. This is an Indian found centrally along the High Street. Meals are unusually presented, and perhaps more authentic. http://www.cafezouk.co.uk
- Savannah. Close to the train station, this restaurant provides lovely food at a more reasonable price than the Randolph, and you get to see it cooked in front of you too! Can do large parties. http://www.savannah.co.uk/
- Zizzi, George Street. Chain pizza restaurant, more upmarket than Pizza Express, with reasonably priced wine list. Good pasta too.
- Alpha Bar, Covered Market. This place serves organic, fairly traded and much vegetarian and vegan food and is great for a bite to eat at lunchtime.
Oxford has many old pubs, as well as newer nightclubs.
Pubs and Bars
- Eagle and Child, 49 St Giles. Also known as "the bird and baby", this pub was the frequent haunt of the Inklings, a group of Oxford literary dons that included CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien
- Turf Tavern, New College Lane. Well-hidden pub, but also well known by locals.
- The Bear, Blue Boar Street. Small pub, but curiously full of old school ties.
- King's Arms, opposite the Broad Street and the Sheldonian Theatre. This is a maintstream popular pub where prices are a little high, food takes for ever, but people just keep on returning. Its central location may play a large part in this.
- Hobgoblin, St. Aldates. Small and traditional but with adequate seating, with drinks varying in price depending on how early you get there.
- Bookbinders Arms, hidden in the backstreets of Jericho (go down Great Clarendon Street, turn right into Canal Street). Has excentric decorations, but friendly and with lots of beers.
- Frevd's, Jericho. Pronounced 'Freud's', this bar and restaurant occupy a grand church building producing a unique, slightly austere atmosphere. When buzzing with people, this becomes a great place for an evening out; the restaurant area is cleared to become a dance floor later in the evening. They serve a range of cocktails from about £3 upwards.
- Raoul's, Jericho. A trendy and upmarket cocktail bar. Often very busy at weekends.
- The Beat Cafe, Little Clarendon Street. Adjacent to the much loved G&D's, this small bar offers an extensive range of seriously potent cocktails from about £4. Happy Hour until 9pm.
- The Duke of Cambridge, Little Clarendon Street. Fashionable for young students wanting great cocktails with some cheeky bar staff. Swisher than you might expect.
- The Bullingdon, Cowley Road. Lively and unpretentious with a mixed clientele. Live music and club nights in the back room. Jazz club on Tuesday nights.
- Half Moon, St. Clement's. Ignore the plastic faux-Irish outlets in the city centre and head out along the High St and over Magdalen Bridge and enjoy the relaxed vibe in this small, friendly pub.
- Angel and Greyhound, St. Clement's. Popular with Friday evening after-work crowd, letting their hair down. In quieter moments good for board games. Food is average.
- Head of the River, Folly Bridge. Perfectly located, right on the Thames. This place buzzes on summer evenings, when the large garden gets extremely busy. The interior is pretty miserable, so avoid if the sun isn't shining.
- The Bridge. Nightclub frequented by students. Two floors - R&B on one, dance on the other. Plenty of acceptable seating, long bars and quite importantly clean bathroom facilities!
- Maxwell's, 36-37 Queen Street, (01865) 242192. 11:30AM-2AM every day. Bar and restaurant by day; cocktails and nightclub by evening. Claims to have the longest bar in Oxford. £3-£5 cover (after 10PM). http://www.maxwellsoxford.co.uk/
- Park End, 37-39 Park End Street, (01865) 250181. M-W 9PM-2AM, Th-Sa 9:30PM-2AM. Nightclub frequented by students and locals. Oxford's young and beautiful meet here to drink heavily and dance to uninspired pop tunes. £1-£5 cover, £3 pints, £3 mixed drinks (some nightly drink specials). http://nightclubnetwork.co.uk/parkend/
- Filth. Nightclub frequented by students. Watch out for the sticky floors. Situated above Sainsbury's in The Westgate Centre, go here for pure cheese.
- The Zodiac. Live, usually loud, music and eclectic, fashionable nightclub. http://www.the-zodiac.co.uk/
- Po Na Na's, 13-15 Magdalen Street. Don't be put off by the inconspicuous entrace- below is a relatively small, mysteriously decorated (apparently its Moroccan), funky cave, with great not-too-loud music, and an unusual and relaxed atmosphere. Cocktails 2 for 1 between 9 and 10:30.
Oxford has a large number of B&Bs and guesthouses, located both centrally and in the city suburbs. Check the website of the Oxford Association of Hotels and Guesthouses to get some ideas of available options.
Most hotels in the city centre are pretty expensive, and you pay almost London prices.