An A-Z Guide to Oxford

Oxford England Radcliffe Camera

I feel like we have a thousand people coming to visit from now until we move home at the end of June, and we're so excited to play host and show those of you who are coming a fun time in our temporary town. For those of you who can't make it to see us before we leave, I HIGHLY suggest making a trip here one day, especially if you're going to be in London at any point. It's about an hour and a half bus ride at the most... and well worth it.

Since we've been in planning mode for all of our upcoming guests, I figured I'd just put all of my favorite places and things to do in a post in case you want to plan your own trip one day. I used the A-Z guide template as a way of not getting too carried away. It helped me edit my suggestions down--but of course, if you want more, email me!

Ashmolean - This museum of art and archeology has collections acquired since 1683. It's got some pretty great things including the world's largest collection of Raphael drawings. Best of all? Admission is free!

Bury Knowle Park - This beautiful park was developed in 1930. The playground would make any American kid green with envy: it's got a zipline and a swing that gives even me butterflies when I'm on it.

Colleges - Oxford University isn't like a university as we would know it. It's made up of 38 colleges. Students can live at their colleges, and they'll study and take classes there, but they'll take their exams through the university. Each college is beautiful in its own way, and visitors are permitted to stroll around some of them. Many Harry Potter scenes were inspired by or filmed at New College and Christ Church (definitely worth a visit if you're into HP!)

Christ Church College Oxford
Christ Church College
Double-Decker Buses - Most of the city buses feature the traditional UK style of two floors. The best seat/view in my opinion is in the very front on the 2nd floor.

English Breakfast - Baked beans for breakfast sounded kind of weird when I first moved here, but I'm obsessed with it now. It also typically comes with sausage, bacon, toast, grilled tomato, and a mushroom. My personal favorite is at Jacobs and Fields in Headington.

Farmer's Markets - You can find delicious fresh locally grown food. Here's a good list of when and where to go.

Greenery - Even in the winter, the grass is still green. The landscaping is beautiful, especially around the parks and city centre. I've heard the best time to come for scenery is in May. (Since we moved here in July, we haven't had a May yet, but I'll let you know in a couple of months if they're right.)

High Table Dinners - If you're lucky enough to be invited to one, go! We've been to two this year and they've each been so amazing. Here's a previous blog post about our first experience.

High Table dinner at Trinity College
Intelligence - Everyone here is so ridiculously smart. But even if you're not as academic as many of them (like, sometimes I have to bite my tongue when I think an Ariana Grande reference might be relevant in a convo I'm having), you can still mingle and soak up a lot of knowledge from them. There are often free lectures open to the public (I've seen Nobel Prize winners speak) and events to attend (right now, there's a literary festival going on with tons of authors from around the world participating.)

Jamie's Italian - This is one of our favorite restaurants in the city (it's associated with famed chef Jamie Oliver). If you go, order the Italian Nachos (fried ravioli) and Carbonara. Oh. My. Gosh.

Jamie Oliver's Oxford
One of my favorite meals in Oxford
Kettles - Brits love their tea. My favorite spot to get a cup is at The Grand Cafe on High Street.

Lager - Brits also love their pints. I've noticed that a beer here is often around the same price as a Coke at restaurants and pubs.

Market (Covered) - This place has everything: fresh meat, veggie stands, bakery, barber shop, flower stand, restaurants, clothing stores, accessories, art, and more. Be sure to check out The Cake Shop. I could stand outside the glass window and watch them make those things for hours.

Christ Church Cake in Oxford
A cake at The Cake Shop. Recognize what it is? (Hint: Look at the pics above!)
Neighbourhoods - Most of the action for visitors happens in the city centre, but if you get a chance, venture out into some of the other sections of the city. The Headington Shops has good second-hand shopping, Cowley has amazing restaurants, and Summertown is lively.

Old Parsonage Hotel - While this hotel is probably the most expensive to stay in, it's worth a visit if you're in the mood for a luxury dinner. If you get seated in The Pike Room, you'll feel like you're in a cozy cottage.

Punting - This is a must-do in the warmer months. It costs £20.00 per hour for up to five people, and is totally worth every penny. Here's a previous blog post about our experience.

Punting on the Thames
Quiz Nights - Most pubs have these (aka "Trivia Nights") every Tuesday. We did this once and were horrified at how badly we did compared to the other teams...I'm blaming the British pop culture questions.

Rain - It rains a lot here. One minute it can be bright and sunny, the next, pouring rain. If you wait it out a few minutes, it usually ends. I've stopped carrying an umbrella with me and just make sure I always have on a jacket with a hood.

Sheldonian Theatre - This gorgeous historic building designed by Christopher Wren was constructed in the 1660s. It is where the students have their academic ceremonies. But it's also used for public lectures/panels/speeches. If you're lucky, you can find a free lecture that takes place there. It's worth just going and having a look inside!

sheldonian theatre, oxford
A snap from a lecture we attended
Turf Tavern - This is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford, so make sure you have a pint there. Fun fact: it's also where Bill Clinton "didn't inhale."

University Parks - From what I can tell, this is kind of like NYC's Central Park in the way that it's so, so pretty and peaceful, plus everyone hangs out there. I wrote about discovering this place last week, and it's officially one of my favorite spots in the city.

Taking a stroll
Vino (1855) - We've spent many date nights at 1855, a cute wine bar in Oxford Castle. Sit at the bar and chat up Alistair if you get a chance. His wine knowledge will blow you away.

White Hart - This is our favorite pub in town, conveniently in our neighborhood. What I love about this place is that it feels super authentic (most of the pubs around town have been bought up by chains so the menus feel a little cheesy.) The burger is amazing, but the pies are probably more traditional English fare. Tip: Grab a board game from their stash and play while you sip on pints.

pub scrabble
This is what date night looks like most weeks

Xerox? Xylophone? - Okay, can anyone actually come up with an X word that could be used here? ;)

Yellow Flowers- These little flowers have been popping up all over town, and I'm obsessed!

yellow spring flowers
I love, love, love these flowers!
Zzzs (Great Hotels) - While I've never stayed in it, I've been telling people who aren't staying with us to book their rooms at Old Bank Hotel (it's in the same family as Old Parsonage but a little less expensive. Plus it's right in the center of everything on High Street.) There are also a ton of bed and breakfasts around town.

Have you been to Oxford? Let me know in the comments if I missed your favorite part!

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