'I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.'
William Butler Yeats
The very first time I visited Oxford I was 12. I remember the city being incredibly green for early May and I laughed at all the 'Keep off the Grass' signs till my belly hurt (because why wouldn't you walk on the grass - it's grass!). Fast forward 15 years out of which 9 I've lived in England and all I want is to stand there with a stick waiving at all the buggers to get off the bloody grass (because it takes ages to make it this soft & fancy and you're ruining it with your dirty shoes!). Oxford is a gorgeous little city which has got everything - the people, the architecture, the atmosphere - and even the best cake I've ever eaten (even better than this sweet & crumbly blueberry cake, honestly!). The very last time I visited Oxford was 2 weeks ago - Shaun & I went for a day trip and we had the best of times.
What to do in Oxford when you only have a couple of hours?
🗺️ You have to see the view!You already know that I have a soft spot for views. Be it city views, hilly views, views into little crooked alleyways with cobbled stones, or just views from the top of a forest path. To get a good look at the Oxford cityscape the obvious would be to jog up their little view tower. I say no. Instead of spending your money on the entrance fee and then bashing elbows with the next person trying to get a nice picture from the top, I recommend you pop to the Varsity Club. Located just off the High Street (at the entrance of the Covered Market), the Varsity is a 4-floor cocktail bar with a stunning rooftop view of the city. Grab a winter warmer (the sloe gin punch is just!) and snuggle up on a cosy sheep skin with a blanket over your frozen feet.
🗺️ JerichoTo get the real local feel you gotta go to Jericho. The historic suburb of Oxford where aspiring Bohemian novelists sit in cosy cafes typing away their life stories, where locals wear long coats and top hats and lit fireplaces in their fancy townhouses and where the community spirit is at the forefront of an every-day life. There's even a pub where Radiohead played their first gig! Jericho is a local synonym to Bohemian, quirky and homey.
🗺️ The Covered MarketOxford's Covered Market is nothing like the market - say in Birmingham. It's located just off the High Street, in a historic building dating back to 1770s and the whole place certainly carries the heritage and spirit. From proper butchers chopping up beef legs and pheasant heads off right in front of you and a dainty stall with fresh daffodil bulb to a neat little shop selling fancy leather brogues and Marvis toothpaste. And the pies, the pies!
🗺️ The university walkWhen in Oxford you most definitely cannot miss the Bodleian Library, the Bridge of Sighs and all the bicycle clad roads threading the city centre like an intricate embroidery. Peek through a gate here and there to see the greenest grass you've ever laid your eyes on, admire all the creepy looking gargoyles portraits of Ancient historians and writers. And if none of this charms your pants off then the uniformity of building material (local sandstone) will most certainly draw your eyes to the majestic walls around you.
🗺️ Cowley RoadIf you decide to venture a little further from the centre then Cowley Road in East Oxford is the perfect spot to explore. This part of the city is well known for it's diverse population - it's a mix of various ethnic minorities (Afro-Carribean, South-Asian, East European and more) together with a large chunk of Oxford's academic population and political activists. The road itself represents this mix more than accurately - pop into a Mexican Casa or Greek Taverna for lunch, grab a snack at Polish Zubr sklep or the newest quirky Vegan place. There's plenty of gigs playing at the O2 Academy situated right in the centre plus in summer you get to see the Cowley Street Carnival!
Have you been to Oxford before?
What's your favourite place to see when visiting the city?